There's no getting away from that word ‘new' as just one week into 2016 and already a lot is happening in self-publishing related news.
Whether it's initiatives from the London Book Fair 2016, a global letter-writing campaign for better contracts for author earnings, or a fresh (we live in hope) start for a controversial self-pub services company now under new ownership, Valerie Shanley gets the lowdown from ALLi partners and friends.
New Year, New Author Solutions owner
ASI was sold on December 31st to an un-named affiliate of US private equity firm, Najafi Companies. According to reports, terms of the deal were not disclosed “but analysts said the price was likely to be a fraction of the $116m (£74m) that Penguin paid for Author Solutions in 2012,”said the Financial Times.
ALLi Director Orna Ross told the FT that Author Solutions' business practices were problematic, contrasting them with Self-publishing’s Big Five: Amazon, Apple, Ingram, Kobo, Nook and distributors like Smashwords, Draft2Digital and PublishDrive.
“The lesson for publishers is to be more author-centric, rather than trying to sell expensive and unnecessary services,” she said. “Penguin lost more than money on this deal; they lost reputation within a considerable segment of the author community.”
ASI was the subject of two class action US lawsuits settled out of court last year. The whiff of controversy has never been far from the company over its failure to deliver and fears among affiliates of being tarnished by association.
The Authors Guild, America’s leading writers organisation, terminated its partnership with ASI last May. Others who did similar were Bowker in the US and in the UK, while many other organisations remain in partnership.
As such, the company continues to be on the radar of the ALLi Watchdog, Writers Beware , and author David Gaughran who has dug deep into ASI’s practices on his blog and urges authors to “remain vigilant.”
That scepticism as to whether ASI will change it’s practices is unlikely to disappear.
“It remains to be seen what will happen to the company,” says Orna Ross. “But at least now it won’t be brandishing ‘A Penguin Random House' company on its masthead and uninformed authors won’t be given the impression that they are being ‘published' by PRH.”
Read the full report by The Bookseller here.
Fair author contracts a matter of principle
The International Authors Forum (IAF), of which ALLi is a member, has started the new year with a mission.
Following concerns in 2015 about the drop in earnings, authors from a number of countries this week released open letters asking publishers to reconsider the contract terms they offer authors and outlining the parts of publishing contracts where, from the author’s perspective, reform is urgently needed.
With many authors being both self-published and also having a trade publishing contract for some of their work, it’s as important as ever to look at the small print.
To find out more about what authors should look for in a fair contract, visit the 10 Principles For Fair Contracts page on IAF’s website. You can also read the open letters from The Society of Authors in the UK, the US Authors Guild the Irish Writers' Union and The Writers’ Union of Canada, and follow and support the campaign using the Twitter hashtag #betterbookcontracts.
Are authors paying a high price for free and discounted e-books?
The Wall Street Journal reports this week that daily emails offering books for free or heavily-discounted is not only the way to entice readers to buy full-priced titles but could also “jump-start stagnant e-book sales”. (Their words, not ours – Orna Ross set the record straight on that score in her recent post here “No, Ebook Sales Are Not Falling : the Self-publishing Author Perspective”.)
Several publishers have adopted this strategy, but the WSJ focuses on BookBub.com. According to the report, the company sends out more than 7 million emails pointing consumers to e-books that cost as little as 99 cents each, as well as free titles, by both trade and self-published authors.
The risk for publishers and authors (who pay a fee to the companies to have their titles included in the emails) is that readers will eventually only buy works when they are on sale. BookBub CEO Josh Schanker told the WSJ that overall sales are not compromised as these deals target consumers who otherwise wouldn’t buy the discounted books at full price.
“What publishers are saying is that they’d rather you read our book than play Angry Birds. It’s a cluttered landscape with more and more titles. Price promotions give publishers the ability to get a large group of people to sample their books.”
One estimate claims nearly 5% of digital books purchased in 2015 were discovered through daily deals offerings, adding that the percentage was “much higher” for self-published writers.
“Nobody needs to buy a book,” says Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road, which promotes its titles via EarlyBirdBooks.com. “You have to make it appealing, and one of the best ways to do that is price.” Read more comments in the full WSJ report here.
Indie book reports to BRAG about
Planning to read and write more in 2016? Consider indieBRAG and their invitation to Alli members to join their group of readers of self-published fiction. BRAG is the acronym of Book Readers Appreciation Group, bringing together individual readers and book clubs in the US and 10 countries worldwide. Their plan for 2016 is to double their readership, currently just over 200 globally.
Book submissions are due to open up soon, giving indie authors the chance to promote their work for free. For the readers, free e-books are gifted with the invitation to read as many or as few as desired. Once a book is read, the reader is asked to fill out a quick “report card” which is averaged from all the readers reading a particular book and then provided to the relevant author. Sounds like just the thing for ALLies in bringing attention to the best in self-published books.
Find out more here
Write Now with the LBF in Bath
The London Book Fair (LBF) has expanded its programme for authors for 2016.
First up is a residential weekend of informative talks and workshops focusing on women’s fiction, curated in partnership with HarperCollins’ digital-first imprint, Carina UK.
The location is Bailbrook House Hotel, Bath over the weekend of 23rd and 24th January 2016. Aimed at aspiring, new and hybrid authors, the focus of the weekend will be on enabling each attending author to find the right route to publication for their work. For details and booking, check here.
Another initiative is the Author Club offering a range of LBF benefits and networking opportunities throughout the year.
Getting attention with your content marketing
As self-published authors know, marketing involves being savvy about consumer tastes, what works and what doesn’t. ALLi member and author Roz Morris, who also teaches on The Guardian’s writing programmes, put it succinctly in a recent blog post.
“Producing the book is just the start. The problem is getting noticed and building a readership. This is why it’s such a gamble to make a business out of an art, because no one can predict what will be successful.”
The business side of things is daunting, but there is plenty of good advice out there. Our own ALLi commissioning editor on this blog, Debbie Young, posted a great quick ‘n’ easy piece earlier this week (check it out again here).
Other sites too are looking at marketing strategy to promote your work.
According to Digital Book World, ad campaigns do not work as well as they used to when it comes to marketing products. Content marketing is where it’s at, and while social media channels are important in establishing trust, they are not strategies in themselves. The report goes on to advise on the ingredients of a marketing strategy, which you can read here.
Dates for your Diary
Self-Publishing Summit: Jan 16 2016 [London, UK ] Rock & Read Vegas Author Event: Jan 15 – 17 2016 [Las Vegas, USA] Writers in Paradise: Jan 16 – 23 [Florida, USA] Annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway: Jan 15 – 18, 2016 [New Jersey Shore, USA] San Diego State University Writers’ Conference: Jan 22 – 24, 2016 [San Diego, USA]
Pub West Conference: Feb 4 – 6, 2016 [Sante Fe, NM, USA] Coastal Magic Convention: Feb 4 – 7, 2016 [Daytona Beach, FL, USA] Karachi Literature Festival: Feb 5 – 7, 2016 [Karachi, Pakistan] Amelia Island Book Festival: Feb 18 – 20, 2016 [Florida, USA] San Francisco Writers Conference, Feb. 11-15, 2016 [San Francisco, USA] Alabama Writing Workshop, Feb 19 [Birmingham, Alabama, USA] Perth Writers Festival (as part of PIAF): 19 – 21 Feb [Perth, Australia] Adelaide Writers Week 2016: 27 Feb – 3 Mar [Adelaide, Australia]
Mountains to Sea – dlr Book Festival: Mar 9 – 13, 2016 [Dublin, Ireland] Love is Murder Conference, mainly for mystery and romance writers: Mar 11 – 13 [Chicago, Ill.] The Tucson Festival of Books: Mar 12 – 16 [University of Arizona campus, Tucson, AZ, USA] Tampa Writers Conference, Mar 25 [ Tampa, FL ] Fort Lauderdale Conference for Writers: Mar 26 [Ft. Lauderdale, FL]
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: 9 – 10 Apr [Los Angeles, USA]
Okanagan Valley Writers’ Festival,; 8 – 10 Apr [Penticton, BC, Canada]
London Book Fair: 12 – 14 Apr [London, UK]
Indie Author Fringe: Apr 15 [Online, Global] – brought to you by ALLi
Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference; Apr 15 – 17 [ Colorado Springs, Colorado] Story Circle Network Women’s Writing Conference; Apr 15 – 17 [ Austin, TX] Writer’s Institute; Apr 15 – 17 [Madison, Wisconsin] Las Vegas Writers Conference; Apr 28 – 30 [ Las Vegas, Nevada]
(The above list may not include all the major events; please feel free to email me with any important ones we've missed out.)Handy #indieauthor news roundup #selfpub news by @vshanley Click To Tweet