Self Publishing

Go Read This | Hugh Howey’s Report On Author Earnings

A smashing example of how data can both clarify and obfuscate. On balance this is a fantastic piece that brings much-needed information to the discussion and what is more provides a free download of that very data. That’s almost unheard of! On the downside, I have some misgivings about the section dealing with income estimates based on unit numbers which are themselves estimates. This is further compounded by the fact that the royalty split is never as easy to assume as the current model assumes, for instance non-US authors may not earn 70% on all sales that would appear to be 70% sales for a variety of reasons. Even allowing for these complications the data gathered is very impressive indeed.

One of the most fascinating sections though is this conclusion here:

Our first thought was that top self-published authors can put out more than one work a year, while Big Five authors are limited by non-compete clauses and a legacy publishing cycle to a single novel over that same span of time. Indie authors are most likely earning more simply because they have more books for sale. Was this skewing our results? We ran another report to find out, and to our surprise, it turns out that only the handful of extreme earners have this advantage. Most self-published authors are, on average, earning more money on fewer books:

The_Data_-_A_Look_at_Author_Earnings_pages

This suggests that the earnings discrepancy will grow greater over time, as self-published authors develop deeper catalogs.

via The Report | AuthorEarnings.com

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Some Thoughts On B&N’s Nook problem

The news from B&N’s Nook division is bad:

The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories), had revenues of $125 million for the nine-week holiday period, decreasing 60.5% as compared to a year ago.  Device and accessories sales were $88.7 million for the holiday period, a decrease of 66.7% from a year ago, due to lower unit selling volume and lower average selling prices.  Digital content sales were $36.5 million for the holiday period, a decline of 27.3% compared to a year ago due to lower device unit sales and lower average selling prices.

via Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

I’ve got more sympathy for B&N than some, indeed I think we should be thanking it for spending so much of its investors money to discover some important things for us.

For a time it seemed to me that Nook was a success. Perhaps that was naive of me, but it seemed like a good match, dedicated book people selling digital content to dedicated book readers. The lurch towards tablets was probably not a good one, prompted as it was by the iPad and the Kindle Fire, it might have seemed like a fabulous strategy, but in truth (but sadly in retrospect) it was too expensive and too long a game for B&N to ever win against its much better funded and positions rivals.

The big question for B&N is whether there is a profitable ebook and digital content business to be pulled from the mess of Nook. The shocking drop in digital content sells in the holiday period is blamed on two things, lower device sales and lower average selling prices.

Taking those one by one the device sales driving content sales suggests two things which would be clear to anyone looking in on Nook. For too long, the digital content side of the business has been a slave to the device side. Too little effort has been made to open content sales to those without devices, too little effort on gaining ground on smartphones and tablets other than Nooks.

If the digital content side is to thrive then B&N will have to encourage readers to buy Nook content everywhere and anywhere they can connect to the web regardless of device and to do so more easily than they currently can (which probably means rethinking the company’s current DRM strategy). In some ways the failure of the tablets (and note, I laud even what might be termed a failure here. B&N has still sold a LOT of devices) probably makes this a likely development anyway. Hopefully it will be a rapid one too.

The second issue is a bigger one in many ways. Average selling price is falling across the ebook space (or, at least, it would appear to be). Only increased unit sales will make up for that. However, if B&N is suffering more from this problem than others, not even unit sales will suffice to push it along.

What’s more, if unit sales don’t increase in line with the market, B&N will begin losing market share (if it hasn’t already). It’ll have to either increase its stock of exclusive content (which sounds like an impossible task given Amazon’s attractiveness in this area) or get market share back through converting customers of one platform to Nook readers, or grow quicker than the market as a whole, or by slowing down the flood of exclusive titles that Amazon is building somehow enabling them to capture some of that value.

I’ve written several times about the value of the KDP platform for Amazon and how valuable such a platform could be to the other ebook retailers yet how each of them in their own way has relatively closed policies with regard to them. Since I first wrote about this back in 2011, only Kobo has opened up in a real way. We are seeing the power of Amazon’s foresight in this space now. The giant added 200,000 exclusive ebooks through KDP in 2013, a perfectly avoidable situation.

B&N succeeded in selling nearly $4,000,000 worth of digital content a week in the holiday season, which is nothing to sniff at. I just hope it can push harder and increase they sales in 2014 opening up to wider audiences and starting to challenge Amazon’s exclusivity advantage with self published authors, that would be good for the wider industry as well as for itself.

Go Read This | Fast-Paced Best Seller: Author Russell Blake Thrives on Volumes – WSJ.com

There’s so much in this piece I have to take two extracts. This quote in particular is incredible:

“Being an author is like being a shark, you have to keep swimming or you die,\” he says. “People don\’t want to wait a year and a half for the next book in the series, they want instant gratification.”

But there’ lots more, like this section:

To ward off the sloppiness that inevitably comes with such speed, Mr. Osso pays two editors and a proofreader to comb through his books for errors and typos. His content editor, Dorothy Zemach, a freelance editor who used to work for Cambridge University Press, says it can be taxing to keep up. “There are evenings when my husband says, ‘Don’t check your email, there will be another book from Russell,’ ” she says.

via Fast-Paced Best Seller: Author Russell Blake Thrives on Volumes – WSJ.com.

The trend towards author services is so unstoppable now that it I becoming increasingly important that those providing the service are accredited and capable. This has got me thinking lots again about the author/publisher/agent triangle and how things might change in the years ahead.

 

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 The Media Show

I recorded a piece about ebooks, digital change and self publishing for the media show last week. It’s right at the top of the show and I think it went pretty well:

There’s also a fascinating piece with the editor of the Irish Independent talking about the digital change going on at Independent (kicks off around 13.00 mins or so) and Brian Fallon from Distilled media talking about TheJournal.ie and the other brands in that group.

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!.