Why Do I Need an Author Website? That's among the questions answered in this month's Members Q&A and Self-Publishing News Salon with Michael LaRonn in the co-presenter seat with Orna Ross, ALLi director, followed by Dan Holloway's news roundup.
Other questions this month include:
- Is 99Designs worth it for designing your book cover?
- Amazon price matches print books, but do any of the other big retailers do price matching?
- Will IngramSpark promotion for ALLi members continue in 2020?
- Do I need a different ISBN for each format of my book?
- Where can I find ALLi's Watchdog list of service providers?
- How do I vet a service provider that may not be listed in the directory?
- Is it worth entering my book for the London Book Fair Showcase in 2020?
- Does ALLi offer discounts for various worldwide conferences?
Also, News Editor Dan Holloway talks to Multimedia Manager Howard Lovy to update us on the Audible captions controversy, Digital Book World, and London Book Fair.
Listen to the #AskALLi Members Q&A for February 2020
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Watch the #AskALLi Members Q&A for February 2020
- The AsKALLi Ultimate Guide to ISBNs for Authors
- Check out the new 2020 Self-Publishing Service Ratings Directory
- Learn about Self-Publishing 3.0
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
About the Hosts
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Read the Transcript
Orna Ross: Hello, and welcome. Thank you for joining us live here today for the Alliance of Independent Authors, Member Q&A. I'm here as ever, with the man who has all the answers Mr. Michael La Ronn. Hi, Michael.
Michael La Ronn: Hi Orna. Aww that’s such a compliment, thank you. I don’t know if I have all the answers, but I certainly can make up some things if I need to. How are you doing?
Orna Ross: I'm doing really well, thank you. And but I tell you, I have just noticed that I don't have headphones in which is going to cause problems with our sound, isn’t it? So, can you hold on for one second, just do an intro to the questions that we're going to be doing, while I get my headphones thanks.
Michael La Ronn: Well, absolutely. So, first off, hello to all of our listeners who are listening live, and hello to all of our listeners and viewers in the future who are listening to the show. We have, I have to say, we had some amazing questions come in over the past month or two. So, if you haven't gotten your question answered yet, just remember that I do go through every question and I do make sure that we all get you an answer. So, even if we don't answer it on the show or answer it live today, you should still get some sort of email response from me, with your question. We may be a little backlogged so it may take some time for us to get to it, but just know that we do answer every question and I have to say we got some really good, really good marketing questions. We got some really insightful copyright questions, which I always loved copyright questions. We got some good rights questions. So, with that, I think, go ahead and dive into it. Are you ready Orna?
Orna Ross: I am ready, thanks there, thanks for your patience. So yeah, off you go, Michael, let's start.
Michael La Ronn: Okay, so our first question of the month comes from Faith. And she has an IngramSpark question. She asks …
Will IngramSpark promotion for Alli Members continue in 2020?
Orna Ross: Yes, is the short answer and the discount is up and running and it's in the members zone. So, it's just a matter of logging in, go to discounts and deals and you'll find it there.
Michael La Ronn: All right.
Orna Ross: And that entitles, sorry, for those who don't know, that entitles you to free setup and free revision, so it really is a very valuable discount. Now a lot of our partner members do great discounts and you know, a member can actually make their membership fees back in no time with the discounts that are available about that if you're interested in print at all. That IngramSpark is it is a really good discount.
Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. All right, we have a question from Thomas and Thomas has a, he's got kind of long question. So, I'm gonna, work my way through this here. So, Thomas has successfully uploaded his book to both IngramSpark and Amazon and the cost of printing and binding, apparently, he has a color book. So, the cost of printing and binding with Ingram and Amazon are slightly different. Like it's, there's like a $5 or $6 difference. So, he's got a couple of different questions. The first is he wants to publish both of them, naturally because of the expanded distribution. But …
What is the most ethical way of letting the public know that the price of both books are different …
… even though it's the same book because it's being distributed by Ingram and Amazon and they've got different printing costs? If that makes sense.
Orna Ross: Yeah, I do I understand completely, and this arises out of Amazon's determination to be the best value retailer and that doesn't just apply to books that's an Amazon policy. So, you know, they always price match or reduce price wherever they find us. So, it's always going to be the case that, your book on your own website or through another supplier like Ingram or your eBook too, it's not as this just as about print, Amazon will always price match or lower the price.
So, in terms of letting people know, the, I think what he's kind of getting at is he wants his readers to be able to purchase the lower cost edition if that's what they want to do. I think the best way to let them know is on your own website. And just say you know, that's they — point them in both directions, because price is very significant for some buyers, but it's far less significant for others. So, we would be aware of buyers who would rather not buy on Amazon and who are very, for whatever set of reasons in a political reasons could be whatever they don't like what online shopping is doing the world or whatever it might be. And so, I think it's just a matter of being clear with your information wherever you have control of that information, is all you can do. So, there is no perfect complete answer to this, but just do your best through your own website and list both prices and explain that both are available and then there's the reader and do their thing.
Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. Great answer. And we've got some great comments going on right now in our live chat arena here. So, Lorraine Turnbull says “hello”. Hello Lorraine. Hi from London, MC Vasiago. Dale L. Roberts is in the house. Hello, Dale.
Orna Ross: Mr. Roberts.
Michael La Ronn: Yes. And Dale says that, the when we were talking about the IngramSpark benefits that we get, that's the best part of Alli, one of the best perks, I have to agree. And Sally McGinty asks, “Are all today's questions already set?” Or can we ask related follow up questions as you proceed?
Orna Ross: Oh, please do Sally put your questions. I mean, the whole point of us doing this live on Facebook, it goes as a podcast anyway. But the whole point of us doing it live and you know, Michael and I are not recording it in a dark corner somewhere and is that people can turn up live and can ask follow-up questions or bring your own questions that are unrelated. If we have time, we'll get to those as well. So yeah, just pop your question into the comment box.
Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. Alright, our next question is from Sandra and this is the perennial ISBN question that we get on the show and Sandra has just published a book. And she's got gotten an email from Nielsen actually, saying that she needs a different ISBN for her different formats.
Is it true that you need a different ISBN for each format of your book?
Orna Ross: Yes, you do need a different ISBN for each format that is Alli policy as well. And can I just say that we have a “The Ultimate Guide to ISBN’s” went up on the blog yesterday with an extract from Michael's book, and pre publicity extract from the book that Michael is bringing to us in a couple of months time and all about ISBN’s answering all the questions that we've received on this show. Nielsen themselves are contributing to the post. We have a case history of an author who, you know, makes a very strong case as to why authors should have their own ISBN and so on. So yes, you do need a different ISBN for each format, each format being eBook, print paperback, print hardback, large print audiobook. Understanding, the need for different formats and so on is best understood, if you put yourself in the shoes of a bookseller or a library who wants to stock your book. They want to know what kind of book they're getting. If they're looking for the audio book, they don't want to the hardback turning open and in a box. So you need to kind of work out and just what formats are you producing in and do a different ISBN for each of those now, Nielsen and other ISBN sellers may try to convince you that you need a different ISBN for Amazon and a different one again for Google Play and a different one again for Publish Drive. That’s platform and that’s not Alli policy. One for eBook and the platforms are distributors. They're not publishers, you are the publisher. So just one per format. That's all you need.
Michael La Ronn: All right. And that is a wrap for that question. So, always a good answer, as always. But our next question comes from Karen. And Karen asks a very insightful question about 99Designs, book covers, has anyone use 99Designs book covers? And if so, how would you rate your experience? Thank you.
Orna Ross: Okay, so if there is anybody listening who wants to hop in who has used 99 wants to tell us about that? That's fine. And but, you know, the thing about book covers is you get the best book cover you can afford at the time and that varies. You know, what you're able to do is going to vary, very much depending on the budget you have, and so on. So, I have heard great things about 99Designs, I have heard terrible things about 99Design. And I'm sure the same can be said for every single designer out there because design is very personal on who you work with is very personal. And the result you get is, you know, a matter of all sorts of different factors come in there. So, have you used them Michael personally?
Michael La Ronn: I have.
Orna Ross: I thought you might have. Can you talk about your experience?
Michael La Ronn: Sure. So, I agree with what you're saying. I've heard mixed reviews for both of them. Here's what I'll say about 99Designs. 99Designs is great when you don't have a cover designer. You know, if you don't have a previous — prior relationship, and you want, you want to get a lot of different covers and a lot of different ideas, because maybe you have a book that's in a genre that might be a little bit more difficult to manage. There could be any number of reasons you would want to do it. I used it for one of my series and then I ended up backing out it because I wasn't happy with the results that I got. Overall, the platform is fine. I do think that you want to make sure you read the fine print.
There's some things in the terms of service that I wasn't, you know, crazy about, like exclusivity, there's some exclusivity, you know, with the with the designer, and you have, you're locked into their platform for a little while. At least that's what it was when I was there. So, you have to make your own decision on that. But I've seen some great covers come out in 99Designs, I really have. And I think that it's a place where you see a lot of beginning cover designers start as a way to build their portfolio, which there's nothing wrong with, I mean, at the end of the day, if you get a cover that you're like, great. If you pay for the bottom tier service, you're probably not going to get as good results as if you went for like the middle tier. So, I think a lot of people go to 99Designs because they think it's a way to save money. Personally, if it were me, I would go to 99Designs with the same mindset that I'm going to pay exactly what I would have paid a professional designer, one off and I think If you approach it with that mindset, you'll have better results.
Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly. And if I might say that we have our directory of designers who are partner members who are all vetted by the watchdog desk, and we have quite a list of designers there. So, they're some of them who are really working, you know, giving design book covers are really good rates. So, I would invite you to take a look at the Alli Services Directory, we've just brought out the 2020 edition. And we've done a lot of the work for you in the sense that every designer in there and indeed we've got editors and all the different services that you need. They have all got really good reviews from members that we know, you know, we've seen their stuff. It's been vetted by the watchdog desk. So if you are looking for a designer, the thing about your cover designer and your editor is, it's about finding a person that you have a great relationship with and you might have two or three designers that you'd like to work with on different kinds of genres and different kinds of books. But over time, if you can work together, you get to know each other's mindset. They know, they can bring in things, you know, that they wouldn't, can't do as a one off, but it's a highly creative process. So, there are absolutely no rules, you can just get an off the shelf cover that really pops and really works, that cost very little money. You can pay a fortune for something that somehow folds flat, but it's one of the most enjoyable I think, and one of the most creative aspects of being your own publisher. And it should be it should be something that you enjoy so kind of a mixed answer there and going around the field a little bit plus, yeah, good luck with your cover.
Michael La Ronn: Yep. So, nothing wrong with it. As with anything, just vet, vet your designers and make sure that they, get you design that you want. So, all right, JP asks, in spirit of his question essentially is Amazon price matches print books. But do any of the other big retailers do price matching as well.
Orna Ross: There is a whole issue around Google Play. And it's in transition. So, I'm not going to kind of go into that in a big way. The thing about it, I'm kind of wondering what's behind the question. So, it's kind of interesting, because you can have this scenario where, you know, if, if a lot of people were to stop price matching, suddenly, you've got this spiral to the absolute bottom. Yeah. So I think if I could kind of say no as a broad answer, and just come in and say that the most important thing about pricing, pricing is a very important tool as a self-publisher, and it's one of the advantages that we have as indie authors, is that we have the ability to play with price and to use it as a promotional tool and to maybe undercut other books in our genre though whether that works, ultimately is questionable. But pricing is important is what I'm trying to say.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, no, I agree. And that's it. The, he's just doing some research and he wanted to know, for example, if Amazon price matches a book, and then he lists it lower on Smashwords will Smashwords start discounting?
Orna Ross: Down and down and down.
Michael La Ronn: He just wanted to avoid that, that race to the bottom. And generally speaking, know that.
Orna Ross: He’s okay there.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, you'll be fine. Alright, so our next question comes from Paul. And his question is,
I want to create a second edition of my book, but I'm worried about losing my reviews and losing the credibility and the prestige that comes with time on the market. So, what can I do to bolster my new edition when I publish it?
Orna Ross: Yeah, it's a really good question. And in fact, and Sally has raised something similar. I just read hers out because it's essentially a similar question. College Board used the same ISBN for the first six editions of my book, so presumably they published it first. Sorry. And when I took over the publication rights, IngramSpark was fine, with the old ISBN but Pro Quest says it's required if the underlying publisher changes to change the ISBN she is confused. And she asks a new ISBN will wipe out my reviews, right? So same, same sort of question, and are connected. So yeah, if you're going for a new edition, and we have too, every so often as Alli, we're always kind of putting our new additions out there is a function whereby you can talk to Amazon and ask them to transfer over your reviews and mostly they do. And so, you don't necessarily lose your previous reviews. So that's something that I would definitely do, but I think you have to treat a new edition of a book we're guilty of not always doing this.
But in an ideal world, where you leave enough time and enough space to treat the new edition as essentially a new book. So, you do all the things that you would do when you're preparing to put out a new book for the first time, all the ideal things that you would do. You start planning out about three months in advance, you'd start and getting reviews, you know, sending the book out to be reviewed by people who will also hop in on the day of publication and do reviews for you, you begin to let people in that niche know about the book and all the various ways that you want to do that whatever your chosen, methods of marketing and promotion are.
So, essentially treat the new edition as if it is a new book because in a way it is. There isn't — there is some advantage in being a long time on a platform. But if unless the book is doing really well. If you've got a plan for a new addition and if the new edition is good. You should be able to with kind of your new knowledge and the growth of the niche since the last time you put it out as new book. So when it was completely new, you would presumably since then you've gathered in a lot more of the right readers for that kind of book, you're more in touch with them, you're better what you do, the book is better, and so on. So, the advantages of the new edition can often outweigh the disadvantages.
Michael La Ronn: Agree, I agree with everything you said. So, alright, so we have a important question from our member, Keith. I'm going to read his question, and then I'll summarize it. So our author websites really worth it? I mean, who actually sells any significant quantity of books via their website, or who tallies up a sizable email list with it? And not all writers find value in blogging for the sake of it, I get that we don't want Amazon to rule the Indie Publishing world. But while lousy boring websites are cheap, a good one is It's a significant investment in time and money to maintain an up to date, commerce capable site. I'm set to publish my first novel. It's finished through professional editing and book design today. But my author website, should that be a part of my marketing plan? Why not just rely on Amazon and Goodreads, and Page Reads, and Bookbub and all those sorts of things. I just don't understand why I need a website. So, the spirit of the question is, why do I need an author website? If the chances of selling books are so slim, and if it costs so much money?
Orna Ross: Okay, great question.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree.
Orna Ross: Yeah, I'm going to sort of talk a bit about it from, you know, the point of view of self-publishing 3.0 and the whole industry a little bit but also the individual author, over time. So, a one book author is starting out, and, you know, wanting to get their book out there, is not going to be served very well, particularly a novelist who doesn't have the ability to use search SEO to draw people to their website. It's going to be very challenging for somebody with one book to do anything, any action whatsoever on their website. Absolutely agreed. And for the same reason, you know, on their first book, some authors choose to go Amazon only. And you know, we understand that decision. However, we very strongly recommend that Indie Authors have not only website but, as you say, a commerce capable website, why? So, it's all about assets, creative assets, and the building of creative assets over time. So, what you're talking about in terms of getting your book going on Amazon, all that investment in other people's companies to advertise your book, to, you know, to get it up there to get it out there. You haven't at the end of that process actually built anything that you own yourself, you built your company on somebody else's land. Now that may be okay. But we are suggesting that for the majority of authors, it makes more sense to actually build your own website and over time, it's not something that happens immediately and not exclusively or not for a second, suggesting that all you do. But definitely you should have a situation that if somebody comes on to your website, and particularly if you paid money to gain that person through advertising, or whatever, that they have the ability to go on into your shop and buy your book, in eBook edition, so it doesn't actually cost a huge amount to have an e commerce capable website to sell audiobooks and eBooks, digital products. Yes, when you get into print, it gets more tricky. But when you when you turn up in Google, when you turn up in search, when people go to your website, if they want to buy your book and you're sending them off to Amazon. One part of it is that you get less money. But a more important part of it is, if they make a purchase on your book, you now have an email address, you now have a fan, you now have known follower, Amazon will never tell you who bought your book, you will never know who they are. They are using your creative talent to build their business, which is absolutely fine if that's what people want to do. And they sign up to do that, but we would argue strongly and there are a lot more reasons behind this. And it's teased out and explored a lot in our self-publishing 3.0 booklet, which is currently being updated for 2020. So, in a couple of weeks’ time, if you take a look at that book, I think it lays out the reasons as to why you do it. It's not about today. It's not about this first book that you're about to publish. It's about realizing that building and the creative assets of an author business is something that happens over time, step by step, asset by asset. And so, at the end of two years, three years, you've got something that's yours that you can rely on that nobody can take away from you. That's the logic.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I you know, I think I always think about it like this, I get it because hosting is not cheap. It's absolutely not cheap. The costs associated with being able to take credit cards and things like that through your website is not cheap, and you've got to constantly maintain it. So, I get it. I think about it like this. If you were running a business, like a brick and mortar business with a physical location, you can either choose to rent that location, or you can own it. Right. And you can rent for a time, because it might be cheaper, and you've got to get your expenses off the ground. Makes sense. But at some point, you're going to want to own your own building and the reason for that is because you don't want to be at the whims of a landlord. If landlord raises his rent, then you're going to, you're going to get screwed. If they build a highway or they, you know, do something with the highway, and then all of a sudden you lose your traffic, then your flower shop is going to have to do a whole lot of marketing. And it might even go out of business, right? So, it's better to own your own real estate, it's more expensive, but at the end of the day, nobody can take it away from you. So, just to put a finer point on what Orna said, and honestly, a good website, even if it's a brochure type website, that's a cost to play in the ballgame. You know, you they won't even let you in the stadium at this point. I mean, if a reader looks you up, do you want them to find your Amazon page? Or do you want them to come to your website where you control the branding? Because if you rely on Amazon and Goodreads, you don't control it? So, you know, just think about it like that. It's it. I've always seen it as more of a branding play. Yeah, sure. My website doesn't drive a high percentage of my sales, but the sales that it does drive those are probably my most engaged folks.
Orna Ross: Definitely. And over time it builds. And I think there's something here for the entire community. If we're all just selling our books on Amazon, and I get that the questioner gets this, but I just want to kind of, just say it for the sake of saying it. If we're all exclusively selling our books on Amazon and not on other platforms and not on our own, then we are training the readers to go buy there. If readers know that, hey, authors sell books on their own websites, and you get all these cool things and you can become a reader member. And you know, if your website is attractive, and you have lots of things going on there, that make your right reader get excited, then and that's become something that readers know happen. Readers really love that; they want to buy from you. They will buy not just your book, they'll buy other things, they'll buy your presence, they’ll buy you know you turn up to a small group of them and chat about the book, think about your own favorite authors, and what you would pay for the experience of having their time and so on. So, it's, it's about getting outside the mentality of the book being the only way we can get our mission, our passion, our influence our impact out there in the world. And understanding the power we have as authors and taking hold of that and getting a lot more creative around all of that. Now, I get us writing and publishing your first book and getting it up on Amazon. That's a big ask, and you've got enough to keep you going for now. But if you want to set up as you need to continue, then get yourself an e commerce website.
Michael La Ronn: Yep. And, you know, you may not sell any books for a while, you may only sell one or two books a year. And you've got to do the cost benefit analysis of that. So, you want to try to find a retailer, that's not you're not going to have to pay monthly, you know, that's probably not the best idea. Yeah, but you know, pay, integrate some sort of retailer that takes a cut of a book when you sell it that makes the most sense. And so, you know, just something to think about and, and like said it's a long-term play.
Orna Ross: Exactly.
Michael La Ronn: All right. Well, yeah, go ahead.
Orna Ross: No, no. Go on, we’ve got another question.
Michael La Ronn: Okay, those were all the questions that I prepared for this session. I thought we would end with kind of cleaning up any questions that are in the chat.
Orna Ross: Exactly. Let's do that. Because there are a few that kind of refer back to some of the topics we talked about.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah. MC Vasiago asks …
“If you have bought the copyright, for your book illustrations, how do you give credit to the illustrator in the book itself? Do you still say the moral rights of the illustrator has been asserted?”
Orna Ross: Yeah, great question. The moral rights of the illustrator have been asserted as a UK wording only outside of the UK that kind of refers to UK, whether it maybe some other places, but it's not you used everywhere is my point, sorry, it is some other places not UK only. Let me rephrase that. It's not used everywhere moral rights is an actual concept that I don't think is encompassed in American copyright law, for example.
Michael La Ronn: It’s not.
Orna Ross: So, what you need to do to credit your illustrator is on your copyright page, just say illustration and the illustrators chosen name and link it through to their website and the eBook, the Digital Editions. You can also in your acknowledgments, thank them personally, which is, at nice touch. It's nice, I think, as Indie Authors to recognize our fellow creators on the part that they played in in making the book because none of us managed to make our books on our own. So, it's good to credit them there. So, it just a simple copyright and, you know, and credit to the illustrator is all that's needed.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, because there's, different if I remember correctly, there are different moral rights, right. One of them is attribution. And that's absolutely how I would do that. So, if you want to include them on the Amazon page to in the byline, that might not be a bad way to at least send new work or new customers to your illustrator as well.
Orna Ross: Yes, absolutely. Your website anywhere you kind of want to and in a sense, it's in the act of doing that, that you are asserting their moral rights on their behalf.
Michael La Ronn: All right, Lorraine Turnbull asked first time self-publishing eBook and paperback on Amazon only. Would you buy an ISBN for the book or go free?
Orna Ross: Alli policy and recommendation is by your own ISBN’s that makes you the publisher of record, not another platform. So, take a look, Lorraine at yesterday's blog post it is I don't know about 4000 words on ISBN’s and the policy is up front. But essentially again, understandable why Indie Authors may choose not to purchase ISBN’s For cost reasons, but if you're intending to publish more than one book, outside of, you know, a family and friend group and you wanted to make a commercial and profit from that book, then yes, it is highly recommended that you own your ISBN’s.
Michael La Ronn: Yep. Agree, Sally McGinty asks “small print reading led me to a policy from Amazon, that if you have your eBook, or if you publish your eBook anywhere else first, you cannot put it on Amazon, ever. Am I reading that correctly?
Orna Ross: I don't believe so, Sally, if you have found such policies are always changing at Amazon. If you have found such a such a policy, and if you have a link and you could send it through to us we could have a look and see, is that the actual meaning or the words leading you to kind of believe that. But I'm certainly not aware of thought and I don't think it's something that will be in their interest. So, I can't really see why they will do that.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. I've never heard that before. So, you know, sometimes the legal ease and the terms of service, it doesn't make sense. And sometimes you just have — sometimes there's different interpretations of different terms and things like that. So yeah, so yeah, certainly if you if you see that send that our way.
Orna Ross: Yeah. And just to refer back Sally to your previous ISBN question. So we answered, the thing about reviews is that you can take over your reviews if there is this big question mark over your ISbN and it's giving you headaches and you're worried and wondering about the pro questing and versus the IngramSpark thing, getting in you and putting out a new addition might be the simplest answer. On the other hand, if you're happy about it, I would say that and using if the book is exactly the same as it was, and you haven't changed anything in terms of format or look or whatever, then using the old ISBN as you have already done that, for such a long time I think you're fine to, to leave there. If, however, you have substantially changed anything about the book, either in terms of its content, or how you know, the format, the cover the binding any of that sort of thing, you do need a new ISBN. So again, maybe refer to that blog post.
Michael La Ronn: All right, well, that is all of our chat questions as well. So, thank you, everybody, for such a lively chat this month. That's awesome.
Orna Ross: Yeah, brilliant. Keep those questions coming. We're always delighted to get them and it's in the member Q&A section in the members zone. And thanks to Michael for organizing everything and yeah, his book, “ Your Self-Publishing Questions Answered” is going to compile the best all of these and put them together into one publication in a short while, so we'll have more news on that next time. So, see you in a month. And yeah, happy writing, happy publishing, happy author business.
Michael La Ronn: Take care, everybody.
Orna Ross: Bye bye.
Self-Publishing News with Dan Holloway and Howard Lovy
Howard Lovy: And now for self-publishing news with Dan Holloway, who's injecting some creativity into science festivals these days. Hi Dan, how are you?
Dan Holloway: Hi, good to hear from me again, it seems to be the Science Festival, season in Oxford. So yes, I'm doing a lot of introducing medieval monks and their creative systems into otherwise scientific event.
Howard Lovy: Now is that something unusual for a Science Festival where people are talking about things that are that are a little more tangible, then creativity.
Dan Holloway: We're very lucky here and also there's a lot of interdisciplinary work that goes on. So, there's a lot of digital humanities, there's a lot of history of science. And so those edges, things, things blur nicely, so you get some really rich and rewarding. It's the indie equivalent of academia, I guess, getting out of our rigid silos that an industry would impose on you. And yes, just being free to preset what you want in whatever way you want, which is fabulous.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful, good, good. So, get them to think differently.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, so what are you up to?
Howard Lovy: Well, in addition to all the podcasts I've been producing, I'm still a book editor and more and more people are trusting me with their memoirs these days, especially people who are — have gone through some sort of horrible experience and came out the other side, recovered. Either alcoholics or people who've gone through some kind of spiritual crisis and, so they've heard about me and how I handle memoirs.
So, I've been doing that along with a subsection of rabbis. Apparently, rabbis have a lot of humorous fiction in them. And I last time, last month, I told you about one rabbi who won finalist position to the Jewish Book Award and he has a rabbi friend who wrote an apocalyptic comedy. So, I’m editing that too. So, it's always something new and different and I'm very much enjoying the book editing side of my work.
Dan Holloway: Excellent.
Howard Lovy: Alright, so let's talk about the news. And this is a story that we've been following for a few months now involving use or not use of Audible captions. Why don't you bring us up to speed on what the controversy was? And now what this, you know what the final result is?
Dan Holloway: Yes. So, the controversy came when Audible announced that they were introducing a new feature called captions, which would provide, on the screen real time text alongside people listening to an audio book. It's an accessibility aid for an audio book. It wasn't intended as an alternative to an eBook, but publishers didn't see it like that. They very much did see it as Audible trying to get into the eBook market without actually paying for eBooks, and without having signed a contract for eBook rights. They took all the Association of American publishers took Audible to court. We found out in the start of the new year that a settlement had been reached. And we have just discovered this week what the settlement actually covers. It's very short two-page document, which you can find on my news roundup from this week. It basically says that Audible will not make this feature — will not activate this feature unless publishers opt in, we understand that this applies to more than just the Association of American Publishers. So, it's Audible and making this a general policy. And because its general policy, it will apply to indies too. So, it will work pretty much like the way when you upload something to KDP. You have the option “Do you want to enable DRM?” it'll be the same sort of opt in principle.
Howard Lovy: Okay.
Dan Holloway: There’ll be a box to tick to say, “Do you want to enable portable captions?”
Howard Lovy: Can you give an example of a situation where Audible captions need to be used?
Dan Holloway: And it’s a basic accessibility tool. It's very good for people who might not be able to sit down with the books as an audio book might be what they're able to do because of where they are, and, but find it hard to follow just audio. So, find it easier to follow if they can, if they can read at the same time as they're listening. So, it's very similar like that to the use of captioning on television. And one of the ironies last year was that there was a, there's an industry report on the, how fabulous it was that places like Netflix were increasing the use of captioning on their audio-visual content. And that was so like the next item in the news story to saying how evil Audible were for introducing captions.
Howard Lovy: Right? I have to say, as an American who sometimes has a hard time understanding some, you know, thick British accents, I sometimes actually use captions on Netflix shows even when the language is English.
Dan Holloway: And it grew out of the textbook industry, they were the first people to push for this. Obviously, with textbooks, they tend to be heavier on exactly that kind of word, that kind of word that you might hear it and think what on earths that? Because its technical language, it might be language that you haven't heard before. I'm not necessarily representative of indies on this. So, whereas I think DRM is, by and large, not by and large, even is a pretty horrendous thing, I think this is a pretty good thing. So, I would certainly be opting into to enabling it. And again, this is this is one of those areas where as indies we can get a jump on traditionally published writers, just like we can, by using Overdrive to get into libraries in a way that publishers are not making it harder and harder to get into libraries, we can make it easier and easier. Likewise, if publishers want the same, they were going to make it harder to make things accessible. We can differentiate our products more easily and that seems like a it's a good thing, because it's a good thing, but it's also a good thing for us as Indies,
Howard Lovy: Right, okay, wonderful. Now, speaking of libraries, this is a good segue into our next topic, which involves this controversy of publishers versus libraries, and it's made its way into the digital book world. Can you explain what's happening though?
Dan Holloway: Yes, Digital Book World is the big cutting-edge industry conference, it was rebooted a couple of years ago, having sort of — it became a little bit tumbleweedsie and sort of fell out of use. But then it was given a big reboot and it's become the go to cutting edge industry conference. And Alli has, yeah, it looks really exciting and ally is sort of moved away from book expo towards this in terms of the conference in America that we really want to be dealing with because we think it's where that the value lies for our members. And in part because of the involvement of Guy Gonzalez, who was one of the original founders of digital, but world is now big in the library world. They have taken the step to ban Macmillan employees from having a platform at the conference which is obviously fits into a whole load of other issues that are going on in the news at the moment.
Howard Lovy: That's shocking though an actual ban, can you break down the reasons?
Dan Holloway: Yep, it's Macmillan, they were the first company to limit the access of libraries to eBooks. They did this initially through Tor, which is surprising, since they’re a very progressive imprint for people who know it. It's a science fiction imprint. It was the first imprint to release all its books without DRM. So, it's always been seen as somewhat progressive. But then Macmillan decided to put a six-month embargo on issuing library with eBooks. So, you can't get hold of the, of any of their eBooks through libraries for six months after they're released. And then they widened this sort of what's been seen as a battle against American libraries by introducing what’s known known as metered usage, contracts with libraries, which means they will provide a certain number of eBook copies of new releases at a very high price. And they can only be leant a very limited number of times after which you have to pay an even higher price to get a new license. So, you have to keep renewing, and keep buying them. At a lot higher than industry prices. And then there are very, very limited numbers of times you can lend them. So, waiting lists for eBooks from Big Five publishers have become very, very large at a lot of libraries.
Howard Lovy: So, during a time when budgets are cut back at libraries all across the United States, and yeah, access to books is really a problem. And this seems like it's making it harder.
Dan Holloway: It is and there was some alarming figures about libraries in the UK as well and libraries in a lot of places are closing at a rapid rate and need all the help we can give them digital book world has decided to help them by saying they will ban Macmillan employees from having a platform at their conference until such time as Macmillan rollback on this policy. So, they've got until September, which is when the conferences if they're all back on the policy before then then then they're free to come and speak if they don't, then they won't be allowed back until they do which is maybe it maybe it's the naughtiness in me but I think that's really kind of cool.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, it sounds like a tough stand. Let's hope Macmillan realizes the error of their ways, at least from my point of view, and, you know, speaking as somebody who owes libraries a great debt, in terms of my own literary development.
Dan Holloway: I think probably a lot of us do. If you were to go around writers in general, and people in general, think a huge amount of us owe an awful lot of libraries.
Howard Lovy: Right. And, and so the other big event that Alli is heavily involved with is the London Book Fair. And that's coming up pretty soon, isn't it?
Dan Holloway: It is. It's the 10th to 12th of March. It's always fun. There's always a big meetup of Alli members, including a fabulous party, which is sponsored very kindly by Amazon. I should say, that’s not why I'm being very favorable to my previous story. I'm usually very critical of Amazon, though I'm very happy to eat their finger food. So
Howard Lovy: Someday maybe they'll have a budget to fly in our Michigan correspondent to London, and I'll enjoy the food with you someday.
Dan Holloway: Excellent. That would be that would be superb. So the big thing this year at London Book Fair is the Front of Fair Conference, which is something they they've traditionally run a big high profile front of conference event that they're not having one tacked on to the front of the conference this year, but they are dedicating the first half day of the conference to what they’re calling audio HQ. Which is sort of an acknowledgement of the massive and growing importance of audiobooks. So, there's a program of speakers and events, tailored around audiobooks. If you're only going to go to London Book Fair for one day, that will probably be a really good day to go to. And then you can come up to author HQ and meet all the people. After you're done with that.
Howard Lovy: I know there's a lot of curiosity among Indie Authors as to how to record their audiobooks and whether they should do it themselves or hire a professional.
Dan Holloway: Or get someone like you to do it.
Howard Lovy: Or get somebody like me to do it. That's right. I wasn't going to say that, but I'm glad you did. HowardLovy.com, you can check out my work there. Well, I think that's all the news that fits today. I guess I'll talk to you on the next time on the other side of the London Book Fair.
Dan Holloway: Yes. Next time well be talking about London Book Fair and what has and hasn’t happened, there. And commenting on the quality of Amazon's finger food. Because I gather, we're moving to a new venue. So, it may be it may be better, it may be worse.
Howard Lovy: Anyway, have a wonderful month Dan, and I'll talk to you next month.
Dan Holloway: You to thank you very much indeed.