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About the Host
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, 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 Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Hotsheet Bestseller Lists
Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to the first Self-Publishing News of December from here in Oxford, where the students are literally packing up and going home all around me, ready to leave Oxford its usual deserted self over the festive period, full of tourists and twinkling lights, and market stalls selling bratwurst and other seasonal fare, which I will be needless to say, be partaking in aplenty.
It's also the time of year where we're starting to think about looking back over the stories of 2023. No prizes for guessing at least some of what's going to feature in my highlights and lowlights of the year when it comes to that particular task.
For this week, all the stories are new, but I do want to start with a couple of things that aren't in the news column.
Scammers Targeting Writers and Translators
The first comes from our friends at Obooko, which is a self-publishing platform. It's a story that they reached out to us to ask us to share. I'm very happy to do that. It's not quite a big enough story to make a news item on its own, but it's a really important public awareness announcement. Howard, I'm sure, will put a link to the complete post in the description on the podcast here, and we'll try and copy it into the transcript as well.
But they let us know about something that will be familiar to many of you out there, and that is scams that target people who work in the writing business. In particular, this is a translation scam. So, it's something that people are particularly vulnerable to on sites, clearly, they are not naming names, but the marketplace sites where you might sign up to offer your services for piecework, writing or translating. People get in touch with you and say, can you do this task for me, I will pay you whatever to do it. They send you a piece of work, you do the work, and then in an ideal world what happens next is you get paid the agreed rate for the work you've done.
What's happening in these scams is people are being contacted saying, here's a piece of work, we'd like you to do some translation for us. The amount that seems to be being offered is £3,000 for a work of translation. This seems to have been figured out to be the going rate for translating a novel-length book. You are then sent a PDF of a novel and you do the work; you send it back and then, surprise, there's been a hitch, we've got a problem with our system. We just need you to pay a small fee and then we can release your funds. You know how the story goes.
So, obviously this is like many scams where you think you're going to get something and then something happens, there is a planned last-minute hitch that means you have to send money to make the thing actually happen. Only of course it doesn't, all that happens is you lose your money.
Obooko seem to have got involved because the PDFs that people are sent when they are being asked to do translation work are PDFs of people's books that have been downloaded from sites like Obooko without the authors consent for using them for these purposes. The authors have no desire, or have expressed no desire, to participate in a translation operation like this. So, platforms that offer eBooks are being used to provide the raw materials for the scam.
So, obviously it's a reputational thing. It's really good that they have stepped up and pointed this out. If you are a translator, be aware of scams like this, and also keep your eyes open if you're asked to do legitimate work. It seems that the scammers in these cases aren't even hiding the fact that these are books that have got copyright notices on, they've got the names of the writers on, they've got the title of the book on. People really shouldn't be falling for these things.
They clearly are. So, be alert so that you don't get scammed, but also be alert so that you're not taking part in something which is damaging authors and doing reputational damage to the sites from which the books are being sourced. So, thank you to Obooko for reaching out and asking us to share that. I hope that doing so will have saved someone trouble and money.
New Alternatives to X
The other story that I want to cover, because I could speak for ages about Elon Musk, who has been obviously doing his best to self-destruct X, and saying ridiculous things that are clearly incendiary, but are getting lots of column inches. I'm not particularly interested in sharing any more about what he's been up to, other than to say that there are a lot of platforms out there who are really very keen to take up what I would call the ex-X users.
So, if you have been an X user and you are fed up with what's going on and want to find somewhere to migrate to, then there are lots of platforms out there waiting for you.
This week I focused on one of them, BlueSky, that has just announced it's launching an alternate system to help it avoid some of the reputational problems that X has had under Musk around the kind of content that has been allowed to go unmoderated.
It's a decentralized social network, or social platform, rather like Mastodon. It's not centralized, that means that it can be slightly complicated. It's not something that I would feel comfortable using because I love technology, I am a technophile, my executive function is also through the floor as part of my ADHD, which means that if it's too complicated, there is not a hope I'm going to manage to get my head around it. I'm certainly not going to manage to use it and then have the energy left to start posting, but I see a lot of people getting very excited about BlueSky, so best of luck to them.
If you want to look further into alternatives to X, then I linked in this week's column to a fabulous post from Chuck Wendig, author of many fabulous posts, of course, who unlike Elon Musk using obscene language simply for the sake of not being able to say anything else, Chuck Wendig obviously uses plenty of swear words but does so in wildly imaginative and humorous ways.
It's a fabulous takedown of the various different social media platforms out there, and also a really intelligent and informed look at the pluses and minuses of them for writers. So, I thoroughly recommend that you check that out.
Future of Spotify Unclear as 1,500 Jobs Axed
To digress, the story I want to look at instead of looking at X is one that came slightly too late to include early this week, and that's about another of the platforms I talk about quite a lot, and that is Spotify.
So, Spotify is obviously now a big player in the audiobook market. Daniel Ek has made it very clear he wants Spotify to become this sort of one stop audio shop that includes music, includes podcasts, includes news, also includes audiobooks.
But just like many other tech companies, things are not going particularly well when it comes to costs at Spotify. So, this week Ek has just announced that he is going to be axing 1,500 of the platform's employees. That is from a workforce of 9,000, so it's a sixth of the workforce. That's a considerable number, and it will obviously be concerning for those who thought that Spotify was going to be the all-conquering audio platform of the next few years.
What's really interesting is to look at some of his comments on the rationale. A lot of it's around cost in general, but in particular it's around the cost of podcasts. Spotify have, as you will probably be aware, been splashing out in the transfer market, for want of a better way of putting it. A little while ago, you'll remember that they engaged in a deal with Joe Rogan that saw, it was a nine-figure deal over three years.
For a company with 65 million in profits, when your deal with a single podcaster is hundreds of millions, that's clearly going to do something to your bottom line. Obviously, though Rogan with Spotify hasn't been free of controversy, but has been relatively successful.
Less successful have been other deals, such as the deals with Harry and Meghan, for which they paid $25 million, and according to the report that I have been reading this week, that $25 million got Spotify a total of 12 episodes in a two-and-a-half-year period. So, it's expensive. So, this level of spending has clearly taken its toll and now, like many other companies, the way they're tightening their pockets is by laying off staff.
Not necessarily a great day for Spotify. We've yet to see whether that's going to impact their moves into the audiobook market. Watch this space.
New Self-Publishing Bestseller List Launched
I will end though with some really good news for indies, and that is the news that the fabulous Jane Friedman, who publishes The Hot Sheet, amongst many other things that she does to champion the publishing industry and writers all over the world, they have just launched a set of three bestseller lists. So, that's always good.
It's in partnership with Bookstat, and the really interesting thing is that front and centre, the first of those lists is the 50 Bestselling Self-Publishing Authors.
So, that's really good to see a proper bestseller list that focuses on indie authors. There is a list of self-published eBooks, and a top 50 for self-published print books.
What is really interesting is that this falls into all the things that you would imagine. What you notice is that a lot of authors appear more than once. Obviously, we know that the best-selling authors tend to write in series, they tend to write lots of books, and they tend to make money because people buy one book, they love it, and so they go and buy everything else the author's written, and they keep buying books as long as they are produced. So, there tends to be this sort of factory system of producing books on a regular basis, and that is borne out by the number of authors who appear more than once in these lists.
The other thing that's really noticeable, which goes along with that, and the fact that fans of indie authors tend to be voracious readers who are loyal fans, is that most of the books are in the categories that you would imagine from loyal, avid fans.
So, in the eBook section, most books are in one or other romance genre. Print books, interestingly, are not so much in the romance genre, but they are, again, they are probably where you would expect. So, there's a lot of self-help non-fiction in there, which given I am bringing out later this month my own self-help non-fiction book, that's really interesting and a clear cue to make sure I get the book out there in print as well as in eBook format, because this is the kind of book that people buy in print format.
The other things are that there are lots of children's books, which again, the kind of illustrated children's books that you would imagine would be better suited to print.
So, thank you so much to Jane, she is a wonderful champion of indie authors always and continues to be, and long may this list and all the writers on it prosper. I look forward to seeing many ALLi authors appearing there over the years.
That said, I will say goodbye for now. I will speak to you again soon, and very soon I am sure, I will be bringing you the year's highlights. So, a very happy rest of December to all of you.