When you start out in any business, there's a period of time where you make do. You find quick fixes, do things cheaply and patch jobs the best you can because everything is frantic and chaotic and there's a million things that need doing. But eventually the patch jobs fray, the quick fixes don't match your branding and the cheap solutions create more problems than benefits. This week, the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team dives deep into business integration, and how to deepen, polish and strengthen your author business foundations.
What if a Hybrid Publisher Wants to Charge me a Ton of Money? That’s among the questions answered in this month’s Members Q&A and Self-Publishing News Salon with Michael LaRonn and Sacha Black (filling in for Orna Ross), followed by Dan Holloway’s news roundup.
Other questions this month include:
- What rights do I have for a short story and what are all the different things I can do with it?
- How long should my book chapters be?
- Which service is best for paperback publishing?
- How can I make sure my book doesn’t get flagged for quality or copyright reasons by KDP?
Also, News Editor Dan Holloway updates us on the Internet Archive’s controversial National Emergency Library, audiobook sales in the lockdown era, and the #booksareessential campaign.
Listen to the #AskALLi Members Q&A: Hybrid Publisher
Don’t Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify.
Watch the #AskALLi Members Q&A: Hybrid PublisherClick To Tweet
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.
Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha has been a long-time resident writing coach for website Writers Helping Writers. She is also a developmental editor, wife and mum.
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: Hybrid Publisher
Michael La Ronn: Welcome to the AskALLi Member Q&A podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. My name is Michael La Ronn and, normally Orna kicks these things off, but she is unable to make it today. So, standing in, pinch hitting at the last minute is Sacha Black. How are you, Sacha?
Sacha Black: I’m good, thank you. And thank you for having me as well, it’s always an honor to stand in.
Coping with Home Isolation
Michael La Ronn: Well, thank you for being here. We appreciate it, and the show must go on. So, we’ve got some really, really good questions. But first off, how are you coping with home isolation?
Sacha Black: Yeah, I mean, I think it is about survival rather than expecting to still be able to deliver the same amount of productivity that you normally do. So, I always find it very difficult to be kind to myself in these situations because I like to achieve things. But I think that really is the ethos that I’m trying to go with and recognizing that this is a crisis and you cannot deliver the same amount of words or books or whatever, in this situation.
But what about you? How are you coping.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I’m kind of in the same boat. I’m just, you know, day by day. I’m still writing and still producing content, and so to me, that’s a win. I was telling my wife yesterday; this is an introvert’s paradise and an extrovert’s worst nightmare.
All the introverts I know are cracking. I don’t know how they’re doing it.
Michael La Ronn: So, all right, let’s move to our first question. Our first question comes from member Terry and Terry is working on a manuscript of about 74,000 words and is a little uncertain how to divide it into chapters. What is the average number of words each chapter should contain?
So, the general question is, how long should the chapters in my book be?
Sacha Black: Shall I go first, or would you like to go first?
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely, you can go first, or I can jump in to.
Sacha Black: Okay, cool. So, I think, one, there’s lots of ways you can approach this. The first one is to say, well, how long do you feel that it needs to be?
What is the natural conclusion to each scene? So, every chapter or scene needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. It should be asking some kind of a metaphorical question, you know, will they get the sword that they need in this chapter or not?
I think the important thing is not to necessarily assume that every chapter must be the same length. When you do that, you slow the pace of your manuscript, and actually that is quite a common misconception. People think that all of their chapters need to be a similar length and they really don’t. For example, longer chapters would be chapters where you might have a really emotional scene. Typically, emotional scenes require a bit more description, a bit more depth. That takes more words. Therefore, naturally it will be longer. A scene where you might have high pace and action, might be shorter, because obviously you’re using less words to describe action. Typically, you’re telling more in these action scenes.
So, I don’t think there is one answer for this. Another way to gauge is to read in your genre. How long are the chapters roughly that you’re seeing with books in your genre? I get that you probably wanted a figure, but I just don’t think there is a figure that we can place on that. But what do you think?
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree with that 100%. I also think, something I always learned that was kind of silly, but if you ever watch cartoons as a kid, and they always end on cliffhangers before commercial breaks. Like, I think about Duck Tales. When I was a kid, I used to watch Duck Tales and, you know, they would always end like this dramatic Uncle Scrooge just hanging off a cliff, you know?
I always remembered; it was always where I would take a gasp. So, if you think your reader is about to take a gasp, that’s a good place to start ending your chapter. But, yeah, you’re totally right on the pacing.
Sacha Black: Yeah, don’t tell them the answer, like lots of good chapters end with something open, you know, oh, but will they, I don’t know, defeat the villain? Don’t, whatever you do, answer that question the minute you start the next chapter or at the end of the chapter, because you want open loops at the end of your chapters. So, yeah, you want to keep people moving on. Yup.
Michael La Ronn: Yup, keep stringing them along. It’s the only time in life where it’s a good thing to string people along.
Sacha Black: Treat them mean to keep them keen, as they say.
Hybrid Publisher Charging
Michael La Ronn: Exactly. So, our next question comes from David. And David asks a very specific question, he’s got a publisher that is wanting to charge him to publish his novel and the publisher apparently is a hybrid publisher who wants to charge him £2000 to publish his novel, is that legit?
Sacha Black: No. Are they in the Watchdog? That would be the first thing to say is to check the Watchdog list, which you can get on the ALLi member site under the Watchdog tab. But, the whole point of being published by a traditional publisher is that they front the costs. And the likelihood is that if you were to publish it yourself, you could get covers and editing probably for less than $2,000 anyway.
So, I mean, I’ll defer to you on this one, but my instinct is no, absolutely not. Run a mile.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, certainly check the Watchdog, I think that’s, that’s great advice, Sacha. I would also clarify that a hybrid publisher is a little bit different. They offer a mix of services, like you pay them, and they may also help you market the book, and it’s a very new kind of business model, and I think the verdict is still out on whether it is legit or not. So, definitely check the Watchdog, but yeah, I mean, is this publisher going to help you do what you can’t do for yourself, or is this something that you can learn to do yourself?
Because $2,000 is a lot of money. You can publish a fair number of books for $2,000 instead of paying one company to do one book. So, you know, ALLi, just look up on the resources that we offer. Value is another thing that we look at with the Watchdog, are they actually providing you value or are they not?
You have to make that decision for yourself, but it’s been our experience that you can do a lot of that stuff yourself as an indie and retain your rights and retain your profits and that sort of thing.
Best Bet for Paperbacks
Michael La Ronn: So, our next question is from member Keith, and he asked, does ALLi have any advice on using Barnes & Noble Press or KDP or IngramSpark?
So, which is better for paperback publishing?
Sacha Black: Well, ALLi has a policy on this and they always recommend that you go through Ingram Spark and through KDP Print. The reason is that, with Ingram Spark, you get a hugely expanded distribution. I forget the figure. It’s something crazy, like 36 thousand stores, distribution places or something crazy like that.
Whereas, KDP obviously will distribute through Amazon, the advice is not to have expanded distribution on KDP, if you want to use Ingram Spark. And the other thing is that you do need your own ISBN if you want to publish or distribute through Ingram Spark.
Michael La Ronn: Yep, you said that is as best as I think I could say it. So, yep. KDP Print and Ingram Spark. I don’t have much experience directly with Barnes and Noble Press so, I’m going to punt that football today. I’m not going to comment on that, but, I’m sure that our Watchdog has published that. So just certainly search for Barnes and Noble Press on our site, and I think you’ll find more informed opinions on it.
How to Avoid KDP Flag
Michael La Ronn: Next question also comes from member Keith. Member Keith is hot today with questions. So, he’s got a bit of a long question, so I’m not going to read the whole thing. I’ve kind of summarized it and hopefully I do the question justice. There are actually two questions here.
The first is, what can I do to ensure my book doesn’t get flagged by KDP for quality or copyright reasons? I can take this one or do you want to take it, Sacha? Okay. Yeah, so essentially, every once in a while, you’ll get, you’ll get an email from KDP and they’ll say something like, we’ve detected quality issues in your book, so on, so forth.
So, they’ll say, you know, a member has reported an issue with your manuscript, or something like that, or sometimes maybe they’ll find copyright issues or whatever. So, there really is no rhyme or reason to how this stuff happens.
Sometimes a customer will click a button and they’ll report it, and then there’s an algorithm somewhere that decides whether or not to act upon it. Sometimes it’s based purely on the Amazon algorithm. So, think about it like this. There’s lots of books out there with typos. You don’t get an email every single time amazon finds a typo in your book. So, as long as you’re using, I would say, best practices for formatting. So, you know, we’ve got lots of different articles on our blog about formatting. I think all of them are sound. As long as you’re not doing anything really crazy with your formatting or having images that are gigantic compressed into your file, and as long as you don’t have so many typos that it’s irritating readers, I think you’ll probably be okay. And even if you do get that email that’s flagged, they give you an opportunity to rectify it and you can usually, I think it’s either you click a button that says that you fixed it or you have to reach out to Amazon and let them know that it’s fixed.
By no means would I let this be something that would keep me up at night.
Different Rights and Permissions
Michael La Ronn: So, the second question that Keith asks is, are there different rights/permission/publication legalities for eBooks versus paperbacks? So, what are the different things that we need to consider for eBooks versus paperbacks, I think is the question.
And the honest reality in my mind is that, while there are some differences, eBooks are, from a legal perspective, not really for publishing your book, right? So, if you publish an eBook, the rights that you have, like, when you think about your book, your book is a bundle of rights.
So, you have an eBook right. You’ve got a paperback right. And that paperback right, would consist of your trade paperback and hardcover, and any other kind of book that you want to do with it. But I would just consider them separate from a publishing perspective.
So, whatever you do with your eBook is different. So, a question that often comes up, if I go to KDP select, can I publish my paperback anywhere else? And the answer to that is, yes.
So, your KDP select is exclusive to Amazon and exclusive for your eBook only. They don’t make you abide by any exclusivity rules for your paperback, for example. So, I hope that that answers that. I think that gets at the spirit of your question, but if there’s any other additional questions, feel free to reach out. Anything you want to add, Sacha?
Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question here is from Russell. Russell has booked a writer’s retreat in April. Do you have any advice about how to get the most out of it? And Russell, I certainly hope that your event wasn’t canceled, but with all the social distancing stuff now, it’s a terrible time to have an author event.
What do you think about this one, Sacha?
Sacha Black: Oh, so many things. I suppose it depends whether it’s more of a retreat or a conference. But, it’s funny, my dad gave me some advice before I went to my very first London Book Fair. My dad’s very charming, you see, and I was like, you know, how do you network so well, dad? How do you create all of these relationships and these contacts?
And he said, there is only one secret to it. And I was like, okay. And he said, you smile, and I was like, oh! Okay. I hadn’t really considered that smiling might be the way that you make a lot of friendships and a lot of connections. And actually, I went into the conference and I smiled, and it sounds so simple, but actually you brighten your face and you make yourself more appealing.
So, you’re more likely to encourage people to come and say hello to you. And when you go and say hello to people, if you are a smiling face, then people are going to be more receptive. I think, if it’s a retreat, then don’t necessarily set any expectations for the level of words you’ll get because, yes, you will get some words because everybody is there to get words. But, actually, I suspect lots of people will also be there to be meeting other writers. So, it’s okay if you don’t write five chapters or whatever you’re expecting when you go.
It’s always useful to take business cards to conferences or to retreats. One tip my dad also gave me was to have the back of your business cards plain, and this is so you can write additional information on. Sometimes, if you’re meeting lots of people, it can get overwhelming to try and remember who everybody is and what everybody looked like. So, he will often write one or two features about that person so that he can then remember what they looked like at a later date, which I always thought was quite a good trick.
The other thing is to plan ahead. So, if your conferences have lists of people who are going to be in attendance, then research them. So, for example, I know the London Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair do have lists of people and distributors and people who are going to be showing there, on their website.
So, it’s always worth doing your research before you go, and seeing who’s there, and then just reaching out. If there’s somebody that you think you might want to talk to, then reach out. These people are all going for the same reason. They are going because they want to network, they want to meet people and they want to make connections.
So, I know lots of introverts are probably freaking out and thinking, I can’t possibly reach out to these people. But actually, that is the purpose of these events. People want to make these connections. And the other thing to say is for those who are introverted, know that it’s absolutely okay to go and have an hour by yourself.
So one thing that I do when I go to conferences, less so than retreats, but when I go to conferences, I will schedule my day so that I have blocks for networking, and then either a block where I go and sit and listen to somebody in a session so that I don’t have to be talking or giving out energy.
And then also, I will go and have lunch by myself or I’ll go and have half an hour just in a corner somewhere. So yeah, planning those bits of time too. So, I hope that gives a few ideas.
Michael La Ronn: Oh, yeah, that’s a super comprehensive answer, I love it, and we’ve got some comments that are joining in on your response as well.
So Purabi Sinha Das says, oh yes, a smile goes a long way. And Dale L. Roberts says, I include my pretty mug on my business cards for that very reason, people will remember me better. Very smart idea. And then Jacqueline Maude says, a welcoming smile, yes! Speaks volumes.
So, yeah, being intentional about your networking is super important.
So, I was at an event once. Do you know who John Goodman is, the actor? He’s like a super big American actor. I sat in front of him for two hours and didn’t even know who he was. And, this is something, I know him, I know I’ve watched all his movies, but I didn’t recognize him.
So, think about an author retreat. What if you were sitting next to Stephen King, like Stephen King’s kind of a silly example, but like your favorite bestseller, and you didn’t know what they look like. You feel awfully silly afterward, right? So, knowing who’s going to be there, I think is a kind of an important thing.
Sacha Black: Yeah, absolutely. The other one that I would just add is, if you have branding, for example, you might have a series or a podcast, make a jumper or a t-shirt or something with your branding on it, and wear it, because it is a conversation starter, often people will be like, oh, what’s that? Or what brand is that, and that’s often a way to start conversation as well. So, I always think that’s a good way to network.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, good stuff. And, Ruth Weal says, great comment about giving yourself time when you’re an introvert, couldn’t agree more.
How to Publish an Audiobook
Michael La Ronn: Our next question actually is a question from our chat. So, Jacqueline Maude asks, I’m thinking about making my published memoir into an audiobook. Have you any suggestions on how to proceed?
I can take this one really quick. Yes, absolutely. You know, with audiobooks, with memoirs especially, if you’re able to narrate that yourself, if you’re able to swing that, I think that is a huge selling point.
Not everybody’s able to do that, but that just was kind of the first thing I thought when you asked your question, Jacqueline. But best thing to do is make sure that, if you can use ACX or Findaway Voices, the key is to find a good narrator. And you can do that on either of those platforms.
You can audition. You know, set an audition, do a two/three-page audition script. Someone can find that, and then a narrator will audition for your manuscript, and they’ll read it. And you can kind of pick who you like. And I think the key is to find someone that’s got the type of voice and the type of style that you’re looking for.
And, Findaway Voices is great. ACX is great. You have to weigh the choice of whether you want to be exclusive or not to ACX. We’ve got a number of blogs on that and you can do some research on that. Basically, you’re going to be locked into a seven-year contract with ACX if you decide to go exclusive.
So, that’s a very, very long time, especially now that we’ve started to see some competition in the audiobook space. I would definitely think twice about exclusivity, especially for nonfiction, but that’s a choice that you have to make. But essentially you can choose whether to pay per finished hour with the narrator, or if you go exclusive, you can do what we call a royalty split, which means that you and the narrator share the royalty and it gets split up for every book sale that you make.
So, hopefully that helps answer some of your questions. But yeah, audiobooks I would highly recommend, especially now, this is a great time for audiobooks. Now that everybody’s home and they’re stuck home with a pandemic. My audio book sales personally have never been better right now. You want to add anything, Sacha?
Sacha Black: No, I don’t think so, other than there are lots of articles about audio on the blog.
ACX Outside the UK
Michael La Ronn: All right, and then our next question is from member Joan, how do I publish audiobooks on ACX if I live outside of the UK or United Kingdom?
Sacha Black: So, you can’t, but you can use Findaway Voices to distribute, I believe that’s correct, isn’t it?
Michael La Ronn: Yes, I don’t know of a way to do it outside of the US or UK. Kind of a selfish answer that I live in the US and Sacha lives in the UK, so it’s kind of hard for us maybe to have that perspective, but Findaway Voices is historically the method that I know most authors outside of those countries have used because they have international distribution and you don’t have to worry so much about where you live. So, I would definitely look into them. I use Findaway Voices, personally, I think they’re great. I’ve never had any problems with them. They make the process really, really easy and they’re adding new features and functionality almost every day. It feels like every time I log into their dashboard something’s new.
So, I would give Findaway Voices a hardy thumbs up.
Short Story Rights
Our next question, which is our banner question for the month is from member Suzanne, and, I’m just going to read the majority of her question. She says, I’d like to ask, what are the legal practicalities involved if I want to take a published short story of mine and work it into a novel/novelette self-publication, so on, so forth, what impact would that have on readers, and what can I do?
So, the spirit of the question is, what rights do I have for a short story and what are all the different things I can do with it?
And I absolutely love this question. It’s a great question because short stories are a great way, one, to hone your craft, two, to find new readers and, three, in some cases, to make a little bit of money. So, what I’ve always thought about with short stories is a short story is the same intellectually, like as far as intellectual property goes, it’s the same as a book.
You can take a story and do so many different things with it, right? You’ve got a bundle of rights. There are famous movies that were made from short stories, I can’t think of one off the top of my head. I’m thinking of Philip K. Dick. I think it’s, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was the basis of the Total Recall, I think, the one with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So short stories can absolutely be made into movies just as much as Books can. And generally speaking, you have two choices of what you can do with a short story. The first thing that you can do is you can choose to self-publish it, if you dare. But the second way to do it is, something that authors historically have done, and that is writing a story and then submitting it to literary magazines.
So, there are many different literary magazines out there that they take pride in publishing new authors, and so you can submit your story to them. There are many different types of markets out there. And, if they accept your story, some of those markets will pay and then they’ll publish your story in their magazine, and that magazine will go out to readers. And that’s a new way to market your work and bring in new readers into your work. And so, if you can find a paying market for your story, that’s really, really good stuff. So, short stories, basically the way it works is if a magazine buys your short story, they buy what’s called first-publication rights, and they basically pay you or are getting you to agree that they will be the first people to publish your story.
And then usually what happens is they publish your story and then, either immediately after publication, or for a period of like six months, for example, they’ll be the first people and have that exclusive right to publish your story. After that, the rights revert back to you to do with them what you wish.
So, for example, you could sell a short story to a magazine or license it, I should say, to a magazine, and then they publish it and then the rights revert back to you. So, then you could send it to another magazine, and then the other magazine could publish it and pay you for it.
Or maybe you get that story now into an audio version, right? Or then maybe you choose to self-publish it on your website. It’s really a great lesson in copyright. So, there’s so many different things that you can do with it. If you want to maximize your income from short stories, the best thing to do is to find a paying market for it first, get it published in a paying market, get the rights reverted back to you, and then if you want to self-publish it at that point, you could self-publish it or put it into a collection.
And that’s even another thing you could do, put it into a collection. So, there’s all sorts of really cool things you can do with short stories. There’s a really great book out there, it’s called, Playing the Short Game by Douglas Smith. I would highly recommend that book for anybody that’s interested in writing short stories, and it will teach you even how to make a living from short stories if you wanted to do that as well.
Well, those are all of our questions. Anything you want to add, Sacha, before we conclude?
Sacha Black: Just a few other ideas about what you can do with shorts. So, you can also use them as a reader magnet if you want to try and gain new subscribers onto your email list, then you can give it away.
Obviously, you won’t be getting paid for it because you’ll be giving it away, but the benefit is that you are gaining that reader’s email address, and you will be able to then contact them at a later date about other publications which are paid. You could also use it if, for example, you want to do a special edition hardback of your book, you could put it as a bonus story in the back of your hardback.
And, not only could you do your own anthologies, say if you have 10 to 15 of your own short stories, but you could also bundle it together with other authors doing short stories. And then you have the collective audience of all of those authors to then market that book. And obviously, then it’s a lead generation book for all of your other books.
So, yeah, just a few others that I wanted to add.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I’ve got experience in this area. I’ve sold short stories to a number of different magazines; I’ve been paid for it. I’ve been a part of some of those anthologies that you’ve talked about, Sacha, where a bunch of authors put together their short stories into an anthology, publish it on Amazon, and then share the royalties.
And that was a very lucrative thing for me. So, yeah, short stories can be as lucrative as you want them to be, and they’re going to help you get better as a writer too. So, it’s kind of a win, win situation. I think the struggle for me is just sitting down to write them.
It’s like, do I write a short story, or do I write a novel? Hmm. It’s kind of a tough question. Tough challenge.
Well, all right, that concludes this month’s episode of our AskALLi Member Q&A podcast. Thank you so much, Sacha, for standing in. It’s been a great time.
Sacha Black: Thank you for having me. It’s been fun.
Michael La Ronn: Absolutely, and don’t forget to leave a review. We will be back next month with more of your burning questions. Don’t forget that if you’re an ALLi member, you can submit questions via your dashboard. If you log in, just look for the link to submit your question and you just might hear it on the air.
So, with that, hope everybody stays healthy, hope everybody stays happy, stay sane amid all the home isolation and quarantine stuff, and we will talk to you next month.
SELF PUBLISHING NEWS
Howard Lovy: Now for news from the Self-Publishing world with ALLi news editor Dan Holloway, who like me, is trying his best to cope on lockdown. How are things over there in England?
Dan Holloway: It’s interesting times, as I’m sure it is for everyone.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, it’s like they say, may you live in interesting times, is the ancient blessing and curse at the same time.
Dan Holloway: Yeah. It’s quite interesting being based in Oxford because, most of the work that’s happening around vaccines and around testing in the UK, is happening in Oxford. And we’re, as a faculty, even in linguistics, we’re donating quite a lot of our computing power to several of the surveys and several of the studies that are going on to develop a vaccine so that sort of keeps things interesting.
Howard Lovy: Oh, that’s great. So, you feel like you’re doing something not just sitting there. That’s great.
Dan Holloway: What about you? What’s the impact been on editing, for example?
Howard Lovy: I’ve had more than a few clients tell me they’re going to sit on their money for a little while and avoid editing.
But I’ve also heard, sort of anecdotally, that now is the time where a lot of editors and a lot of writers are saying, let’s finish that book. So, I’m hoping that they’ll think it’s time for an editor now. And, I’ve also been getting quite a few referrals from Reedsy, which is a great kind of matchmaking service for authors to find editors and vice versa.
So, things are a little nerve wracking, but fortunately, through my work with ALLi, and I always have Orna Ross to thank for handing me the AskALLi podcasts, and through referrals from Reedsy and some word-of-mouth referrals for my editing business, I’m doing okay.
Things could always be better but we’re in the midst of a worldwide emergency, so I can’t complain. A lot of people are doing worse.
Let’s talk about how a lot of people are coping right now through reading and, something was in the news a couple of weeks ago that at first glance sounded innovative. Over here, National Public Radio reported on the Internet Archive’s, National Emergency Library.
Dan Holloway: The Internet Archive’s always interesting. It’s been around for well over a decade, and it has some amazing resources, for example, it’s the home of the Wayback Machine, which is one of the most important research tools that there is in the internet age, because it takes a snapshot of all the world’s most important websites, sometimes on a daily basis.
So, if you want to see, for example, how government advice has changed over the course of several months, you can go to the Wayback Machine and literally see on a day-by-day basis how the webpage has changed. So, they do some fabulous work.
They also run Open Library, which has been going for about 10 years and has always been controversial.
Open library, in particular, specializes in digitizing print books. They will say that it specializes in digitizing print books that are in the public domain, out of copyright, and hard to get hold of, and you have a digital form. They have always operated by only lending out as many digital copies of a book as they have physical copies. So, if they have one physical copy of a book, they will only ever lend out one digital copy of that at a time.
And what happened when libraries closed for lockdown, what they did was to suspend that arrangement. So essentially, as they put it, they eliminated their waiting list, which basically means that they are lending out as many copies as possible. It’s very interesting.
This is sold as being a fabulous thing. Authors have said, well, hang on, they’ve got copies of my book. They’re doing this with digitized copies of books that are very much in copyright, and this is hurting my sales very badly at a time when authors obviously are one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of our income.
There are all sorts of interesting issues around it. One of the interesting issues is it comes from the fact that they basically make PDFs of hard copy. One of the complaints has been they’re not actually very good copies. I’m going to remain neutral and just report on it.
Howard Lovy: Oh no, because that was my next question, Dan. Well, obviously a lot of authors think that this is definite overreach.
Dan Holloway: There is a takedown notice that you can send them on their own website if you want. If you think your book’s there and you don’t want it to be there. One of the things that has always caused controversy around them is that they can be slow in responding to take down notices. But there is an official take-down form there for any author who isn’t happy that their book is there. If you go to my column from a couple of weeks ago, you’ll find the link.
Howard Lovy: Okay. All right. Well let’s talk about another phenomenon, which is the competition between audio and eBooks and print books.
And, I understand that there are some various numbers going around since the lockdown on the impact on audiobooks.
Dan Holloway: Well, it’s been interesting. It’s not so much numbers, is it? It’s been interesting listening to people talking about trends. Nate over at The Digital Reader posted a fascinating thing from a big publisher in the US, and I know we were talking earlier and you said it had been on NPR over there, that audiobook sales were down and down quite heavily in the US because people tend to listen to audiobooks on their commute.
And obviously, no one’s commuting anymore, but that contrasts with some of the stories that are coming out of Europe around places like BookBeat and Storytel and subscription audio services, which are absolutely booming at the moment. For example, I think are reported a couple of weeks ago in Spain, in the first week of lockdown, their audiobook subscription service had 60,000 new subscribers.
There’s a lot of people who are, in Europe, clearly starting to listen to audio, obviously not on their commute. It might be an insight into different countries different reading habits, or it might be that the people reporting this in America, are the publishers. Whereas in Europe, it’s more about subscription services.
It might be around people wanting that kind of choice of material that you’d get with the subscription service. We’re quite lucky as Indies, IngramSpark has kept their print on demand service open. So, we’re still able to use that.
One of the big things that has emerged in the last few weeks is Amazon and Amazon’s policies around warehousing. So, in France, for example, it’s not just that they are prioritizing essential goods, it’s that they are only warehousing essential goods. So, books that have been warehoused with Amazon are no longer being delivered in some parts of the world and, in other parts of the world, they are going on a back burner and a slow waiting list.
So print is suffering a little bit from that. And also, from, I was reading just today, a shortage of paper, because a lot of paper comes out of China and at the moment, nothing’s coming out of China. So, there is a struggle to keep print going.
Howard Lovy: Yeah. I also do some freelance writing for Publishers Weekly, and I had asked for a book that I’m writing about, they sent me a PDF. And then suddenly, a day later, I got that actual physical book in the mail from the publisher and I was so happy, you know, dancing around the room, a book, an actual physical book. But we all agree, and this is a good segue into our next segment, we all agree that books are essential. And put a hashtag in front of that.
Dan Holloway: Well, we do and then as soon as you put the hashtag in front of it, it becomes a lot more controversial because obviously the word ‘essential’ has taken on a whole other meaning in the last month or so. So, yes, Publishers Weekly has backed this campaign called #BooksAreEssential to try and support the publishing industry and the book industry in America.
This started with James Daunt, and it started rather unfortunately with him; when non-essential shops were closed in the UK, he petitioned the UK government to have bookshops exempted from this on the grounds that bookshops were essential work. And this might sound fabulous but Daunt doesn’t have the best reputation for looking after his staff.
If you remember, I reported, probably a year back now, on the campaign from Waterstones staff to be paid a living wage because he doesn’t really pay his stuff very well, and the conditions aren’t necessarily perfect in his bookshops. And this was seen as yet another example of him putting his staff at risk by insisting that his shops stay open rather than operating remotely. So, this idea to have books classified as essential was Daunt’s way of keeping his bookshops open and obviously this applies in the US as well. He’s with Barnes and Noble, where I understand that, I don’t know if it’s still the case, but it was the case that most Barnes and Noble stores were operating on a click and collect basis only, and they would actually leave your book outside the front door of the shop where you could go and collect it.
Howard Lovy: Well, I thought it was just a cute little hashtag. So, I blindly went into it not realizing that there was a political issue behind it. So, I put on a silly hat and took some pictures of me reading books.
Dan Holloway: That’s always a good thing. I think we would all agree books are essential with a small ‘e’. It’s whether we would agree with whether it is the right moment to start saying books are essential with a capital ‘E’.
Howard Lovy: Gotcha. Okay. Well, I’m taking no official position on that part of it. I just think books are essential in general.
Dan Holloway: Yes, quite.
Howard Lovy: So, I guess we, we need to think about people who work in bookstores. It’s tragic that they’re closing, and people are losing their jobs, and I don’t know if they’re ever coming back.
Dan Holloway: The main thing is to keep them going and there have been quite a lot of campaigns. For example, City Lights, which is probably the most famous bookshop in the world, or it is if you’re a fan of the beat poets. I think they raised $450,000 in a very short space of time to keep them afloat.
Howard Lovy: Right. Yeah, I was very happy to hear that.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, and a lot of bookshops are doing this. There are a lot of campaigns. I know there was an issue that I reported on last week with GoFundMe. Bookshops were finding it difficult to get the money out of GoFundMe for some of these campaigns. I hope that will sort itself out, but yes, people are campaigning and doing things to keep bookshops going so that they can reopen safely in due course.
Howard Lovy: Okay. Well we’ll end it with that. Stay safe, Dan, and hopefully we’ll talk under better circumstances again next month, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be over next month. But stay busy, keep in touch with people who love you and, you know, call me, Zoom me, Skype me anytime you want.
Dan Holloway: Take care.