Authors

Go Read This | Erotic romance author turned down Amazon publishing deal | Books | theguardian.com

Hoisted on their own petard one might say. The forces Amazon has helped unleash are making it difficult for its own publishing operation to recruit self-publishing authors:

An editor for Amazon’s Montlake Press, which specialises in romance, spotted Me, Cinderella? among the thousands of self-published books on the site, singling it out for its “very clean” writing. Rose was offered $5k, with 35% royalties, a post by the author on Reddit confirmed . But that turned out to be “less than I had made in my first month of sales”, Rose wrote on her blog.

She added that Amazon “couldnt guarantee anything – from cover image to pricing to marketing … As I looked through the Montlake catalogue, I saw a mix of breakout hits and complete flops … And I would have to pull my book from every publisher except Amazon.”

via Erotic romance author turned down Amazon publishing deal | Books | theguardian.com.

Somehow I Missed This Incredibly Important detail of Kindle Worlds: MONEY

Five minutes ago I read a press release from Amazon about how it was expanding its Kindle Worlds project to incorporate new writers (and impressive ones at that). i was struck by how many of those new writers came from or were converts to the world of self-publishing and it reminded me once again how powerful and useful Amazon’s policy of accommodating self-publishers and small publishers has been in their development of a digital publishing platform (see my thoughts on this earlier in the week over on Medium).

And then I read these paragraphs and my brain exploded:

“Good storytelling for me starts with great characters, no matter the format,” said Kindle Worlds Archer & Armstrong author Scott Nicholson. “I’m thrilled that Amazon has been pushing the digital frontiers to open up even more sharing of ideas and building new communities around the most popular characters and stories.”

Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35% of net revenue. Amazon Publishing will also pilot an experimental new program for particularly short works—between 5,000 and 10,000 words. For these short stories—typically priced under one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20%.

Before I read those words, I thought Amazon Worlds was a clever piece of distraction from Amazon, a way to get more people on the Kindle platform, perhaps a mine for future talent and a stick to beat publishers with. After reading those two paragraphs I realised that Amazon Worlds is a whole new revenue stream for aspiring writers and established writers, it’s co-opting the edge and making it mainstream and crucially introducing a revenue model that work for everyone.  What’s more in this model, because they own the platform and delivery system they still keep a chunk of the revenue.

I’m annoyed at myself for missing the import of this earlier (I can only say in my defence that the original Kindle Worlds press release came to me while I was on holidays in spain and my mind was very far from business models and digital publishing.

Think  about this new model for a few seconds. Successful writers, who in genre fiction were already pretty supportive of fan-fiction anyway, now have an active reason to support and encourage fan-fiction that is licensed by Amazon. They have a reason to drive people onto the kindle platform because when they see stories based on their worlds and characters, they will profit from them.

Would be writers have a great reason to use the opportunities afforded to them by kindle Worlds to hone their skills, for one its free and legal, for another they might actually benefit by selling some copies of their work and finally they might get noticed by doing it. noticed by the original creator of the world they choose to writer in or about, or noticed by Amazon Publishing which can spot their talent (read sales data) and can snap it up before anyone else even notices that a new talent has emerged!

All round Kindle Worlds is a much bigger deal than I realised!

Eoin

On Developing Author Power

Back in July 2006 I wrote:

E-books will push this change even more. There is no reason why authors’ royalties should be the same on e-books as they are for paper books and in many ways there is no reason why the authors cannot sell e-books themselves rather than through a publisher. Why should you sell a paper publisher your digital rights when there is no need?

Authors Will Drive Change

And the change was forthcoming. The last six or seven years it has been rapid in fact. If anything marks that change more dramatically then the new that a once self published author doing a deal with a big New York house that did not include ebook rights, I don’t know of it:

In the end, it was Simon & Schuster who crafted a deal specifically to my needs, a deal for the print rights that would augment the success I was having on my own by doing what they do best: bringing out a book and getting it in the hands of booksellers. On March 12th, paperback and hardback editions of WOOL will become available to a wider audience. Soon, an entirely new readership will have an opportunity to sink into the world of the silo. They will get a chance to feel Holstons grief, follow Jahnss journey, and meet Juliette for the very first time. I couldn’t be happier about this deal. I am very appreciative of the opportunity I’m being given, appreciative of the readers who kept WOOL going long enough for a deal like this to come to fruition, and appreciative of an agent who was willing to say “No” with me even when it was against her best interests, all because she believed in seeing the same publishing future that I believe in.

via Hugh Howey: How WOOL Got A Unique Publishing Deal.

Philip Jones has a nice take on what publishers need to do to work with self publishers and much of what he says is valid, but I think the key point is that publishers must recognize that there has been a power shift on the field of play and the author is no longer without options.

Traditional Publishing isn’t going away because of this shift mind you, and importantly not every author has the market power to resist the demand to pass over ebook rights, but this does mark a new and important acknowledgment of the shift driven by digital and authors.

Go Read This | Random House Digital Imprints | It’s a duck!

No punches pulled by Mick Rooney here:

But what really pisses me off about all this is the amount of hours expended by pundits, experts and online commentators, with their heads stuck under the hood of self-publishing, happy to throw virtual shapes, pontificate and moralise on the cracks and leaks and woes of every self-publishing service provider. When in reality, over the last couple of years, some of the most egregious and contemptible entries into the world of self-publishing have actually come direct from—or under the guise and umbrella of—traditional publishers.

It is no wonder so many new authors want to completely bypass the traditional route of publishing when faced with the horrible deal on the table from Random House? As far as The Independent Publishing Magazine is concerned, Random House is now fully in the self-publishing arena in all but name.

via The Independent Publishing Magazine: Random House Digital Imprints | It’s a duck!.

On Publishing Mergers & Strategy

I have been mulling the Penguin Random House deal for some time now. In fact, I wrote most of this post about ten days ago or longer. I’ll be honest enough to admit that my failure to post my thoughts was as much due to work commitments as it was to a conscious decision, even so it has been useful to wait (as is often the case, we too often underestimate the value of inaction).

I’m glad I waited because it’s quite remarkable what you can discern when you stay out of the flow of an issue. Firstly it meant this post comes in the wake of Peter McCarthy’s wonderful piece When Elephants Mate: Thoughts on the Potential Penguin Random House which explores the merger in wonderfully telling detail and is a must for the interested. Secondly, it comes in the wake of this piece of news News Corp., CBS in Talks Over Merging Book Businesses. Both pieces have been useful in underlining my thinking.

I’ve felt, watching and reading the reactions of tweeters, journalists and thinkers, that there have been three clear waves of response to the news. The first wave of response was mostly surprise (not without some humour and a considerable degree of fun as people contemplated names for the possible merged outfit (my own was definitely Random Penguin). Some discussion pondered the sheer scale of the entity, the number of imprints, staff, buildings  books and authors it would encompass. Best described as the shock and awe stage I think.

The second wave echoed with fear; fear of the powerful combination that the first wave only began to consider, fear of reduced options for writers, agents and readers, and a fear of the changes this new entity would bring to an industry that seems of late to be in constant flux. The fear and loathing stage seems an apt description for this stage.

The third, more considered wave, saw discussion of the merits of the merger in terms of what it equipped the larger entity to do, the power shift relative to digital interlopers and other publishers not to mention the chances for success. In general this wave of discussion was an attempt to put the events in context, consider the implications and look to the future. The dealing with reality stage I pegged it.

To most of those discussions I felt I had little extra to add. One area however seems to have been curiously overlooked in the discussion to date, the fact that we are seeing two very different strategies in action here and strategies that are making value judgements on entire industries. And what are they?

Well the first is a clear strategic decision to move out (and definitively so) of the trade publishing industry. That’s what Perason has done. Make no mistake about it, it wanted shot of trade publishing, and saving the prize of the Penguin brand for use in other areas where it might be useful (like its educational publishing segments) it got shot of it (intriguingly it is also rumoured to be keen to sell the FT though those rumours seem to have been put to bed more recently). What interests me is that Pearson isn’t out of publishing, just trade publishing. So it made a decision based on its read of  its abilities, its resources and its weaknesses. Probably the likelihood of future profits and the environment of the sector had a large bearing too.

Pearson’s takeaway from that analysis was that even with the most recognisable brand in trade publishing, they’d rather be out of the game, than in it. When you let that sink in, the fear and loathing stage doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

Of course, in counterpoint, Bertelsmann made a very different decision indeed. Penguin Random House is now a Bertelsmann beast, majority owned by the company and, I suspect, likely to be wholly owned by it at some point. Bertelsmann has doubled down on trade publishing. As if to confirm the company’s strategic decision it purchased the remaining stake in Random House Mondadori. Bertelsmann sees value in trade publishing, so much value it has gone to the trouble of building the largest English language trade publisher in the world.

It begs the question, “Which one of these huge companies is correct?”

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a zero sum game. Both parties could well have made the correct decision for their own enterprises and simply assessed their abilities and their desired return on capital very differently. As we line up for the follow on round of mergers that the dealing with reality wave has suggested is likely and recent reports indicate are indeed in the works, we should be looking at what strategy the parents of these trade publishing giants are pursuing and how that will impact the shape of things to come.

We are living in interesting times, or whatever that means!

Amazon Steals Everyone’s Thunder Again (But Quietly)

Fascinatingly clever (if predictable in many ways) move from Amazon to extend the reach of its Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) to the UK, Germany and France. By doing so it demonstrates very clearly that it is Amazon who is really driving the pace of development in ebook adoption and ebook retail. What’s more, it is making clear that its rivals are struggling to match its services to authors and readers within their own ecosystems. As the focus of ebook growth moves rapidly beyond the USA (has moved already in truth), Amazon is making the case for giving it exclusivity even more compelling.

Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is coming to the UK, Germany and France later this month, bringing Kindle owners with a Prime membership over 200,000 books to borrow for free as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates. Independent authors and publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing KDP who enroll their books in KDP Select can be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library in the UK, Germany and France, as well as the US. With the new lending libraries launching this month, the KDP Select fund has been increased by $100,000 to $700,000 in October, with a larger increase anticipated in November. Authors will earn money every time their book is borrowed from any of the lending libraries – in September, authors earned $2.29 per borrow, which is more than many KDP books earn per sale.

via Amazon Media Room: Press Releases.

What amazes me the most about this move is just how dangerous it is for the ebook retailing rivals who have yet to open their doors to self-published content. In reality only Kobo has a fully functional platform for self publishing authors beyond the USA (Apple does too, but only to the extent that those who have a nice Mac can access their iBookstore, but not everyone has a Mac).

Nook’s platform is US only, though the talk is that this will change soon, the longer B&N & Microsoft exclude non-US citizens from the service, the longer Amazon has to lock in exclusive content for three months at a time. It’s not that the content individually is necessarily compelling, but given the wide field of talent in question, some is sure to be winning material, even if much of it isn’t great. The trick is, of course, that Amazon is armed with the tools to sort, grade and sift through this mass of titles and to promote, suggest and even work with the best (or just the most saleable, let’s not forget that the goal is money-making not literature spreading).

I’ve talked before about how important authors are to the success of an epublishing platform and ecosystem. Sometimes I think the retailers agree with me on this, other times I think they only pay lip service to the idea. Perhaps that’s a lingering snobbery regarding self publishing authors (which is foolish, idiotic and wrong-headed in an age when some of the biggest writers are rapidly moving towards self publishing, are already self publishing or have emerged from the self publishing space). Perhaps it is a desire to avoid dealing with so many small accounts and the headaches of customer service and platform development that entails. Who knows, but the longer these ecosystems remain closed shops to direct author engagement the larger a lead they allow Amazon to build up on them.

Every author Amazon signs up for KOLL is three months of exclusive sales for Amazon, three months lost revenue for their rivals. More importantly it is three months of sales data and analysis for Amazon that no-one else will have. That’s especially important when a title is loaded into KDP & KOLL for the first time, before getting a look in elsewhere. What will happen when one of those sign ups turns out to be the next EL James? What will happen is that Amazon will sign that author up directly, before the KOLL period ends and the game, for that author, is up for the other platforms.

It is not just dangerous to rival retailers though. If Amazon succeeds in convincing enough authors that KDP & KOLL are the way forward and along with them, exclusivity, companies like Smashwords and other aggregators of self published content will be put in the position of having to justify their offering. As long as a vibrant market for content persists of course (and despite this move, we do have a vibrant market for content) everyone has room to move and grow.

So yes, this move is illuminating, it suggests that Amazon is still the pace setter and is capable of moving faster and more aggressively than anyone else (still, after five years). Kobo has started something of a price war for self published authors though, by offering a higher royalty to authors who use their self publishing platform. If this keeps self publishing writers committed to an non-exclusive policy then it will have been a wise move. I’m sure it is a smart response from a smart company, even if it is one that admits to a certain weakness in terms of the capability of their platform, but then competition doesn’t (and indeed shouldn’t) always mean matching your rivals move, but finding clever and novel ways to best them where your strengths lie.

What that in mind, Kobo and other Amazon rivals would do well to pay attention to Baldur Bjarnason‘s piece on FutureBook about how Ebook publishing platforms are a joke, pay attention that is and offer some of the services he mentions to self publishers asap.

Go Read This | How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer’s Career – The Digital Reader

A smashing and important piece by Mark Coker here. There’s much to read and enjoy and think about. Worth noting though that while this is true fr MOST authors, for those authors that need scale or who need investment to get scale (the Fifty Shades kind of scale or even approaching it) traditional publishers can still offer quite a bit. The post even so has much merit to it:

If an author can earn the same or greater income selling lower cost books, yet reach significantly more readers, then, drum roll please, it means the authors who are selling higher priced books through traditional publishers are at an extreme disadvantage to indie authors in terms of long term platform building. The lower-priced books are building author brand faster.  Never mind that an indie author earns more per $2.99 unit sold ($1.80-$2.10) than a traditionally published author earns at $9.99 ($1.25-$1.75).

via How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer’s Career – The Digital Reader.