In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at disabled writers' call for book festivals to stay hybrid.
Do listen to October's Self-publishing News podcast here. We talk about Amazon's recent change in returns policy and take a deep-dive into BookTok. This week's #indieauthorchat is in its usual Wednesday slot, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be guiding us through the best software for authors.
Breaking: Penguin Random House Takeover of Simon & Schuster Blocked
That's it. After months of judicial ding dongs, we have a ruling. Penguin Random House, for now at least, will not be allowed to buy Simon & Schuster. We will see what the implications turn out to be.
Disabled Writers Call for Hybrid Events
The Bookseller recently published its second disability special issue. It featured pieces from disabled members of the book world working in all capacities. This week, the publication has a really clear call from disabled and chronically ill writers for one particular change to the book world. #KeepFestivalsHybrid calls for events that take place “in person” to have a hybrid element where at all possible. The campaign produced a guide earlier in the year. Now it has produced a survey for event organisers to tell people about hybrid events they are running.
I found it interesting that Mark Williams chose as part of his headline for a particularly fascinating article, “the most important event at frankfurt 2022 is available to watch on video.” I would recommend you head to the Frankfurter Buchmesse YouTube channel. There you’ll be able to catch up with streams from several of the event’s panels.
There are many ways in which hybrid events are more accessible than those only held in person. And, it shouldn't be forgotten, they are more accessible for some than those only held online. In many ways, in-person only book fairs are like the parts of the publishing industry that revolve around London and New York. That limiting of location narrows down the numbers who can participate. Often, those excluded are disabled. But this also cuts across socio-economic status, gender, and other categories. Whether it’s time resources, financial resources, or physical and mental resources, not everyone can get to events limited to a place. If we really want to open up the business of books, we need to rethink how, and crucially where, that business is done.
Creator Funds Under Pressure as Some of the Largest Digital Platforms Struggle
Several forms reported on their earnings this past week. And one of the things that’s been really interesting in following these reports has been spotting a noticeable trend. Revenues for some of the world’s largest digital platforms are down. That matters for us as creators in different ways according to the platform.
Amazon Paying More for New Customers
First up, Amazon. The behemoth has had a less than stellar year, posting a loss of nearly half a billion dollars in the US in the third quarter of the year. In the same quarter last year, they made nearly a billion in profit. What seems to be the case is that Amazon is spending more money to generate income. Rings of Power is just one example of that. Other big acquisitions like NFL rights also aim to keep Prime members coming.
Compared to Rings of Power’s $1bn budget, creator payouts to Kindle Unlimited and Audible Plus creators might seem small potatoes. But if the squeeze is going to come in some aspect of creative acquisitions, expect pressures everywhere.
YouTube Losing Ad Revenue
YouTube, meanwhile, has seen its ad revenue slump by nearly 2%. For YouTube creators, a share of ad revenue is a major income stream. In a fascinating article, podcaster Amanda McLoughlin argues that this is not the beginning of the end. She cites the increasing trend for those who support creative producers to do so directly, through Patreon, for example. This provides a longer term and more secure income base.
Snapchat Cutting Payments to Creators
Snapchat seems to be bucking the trend. It saw Q3 growth of 6%. But that hasn’t stopped it cutting its creator payment pool. The Spotlight creator fund is its equivalent of the Kindle Unlimited pool. It divides funds between the scheme's leading creators. Anecdotal evidence from creators is that income has, to put it mildly, tanked. From tens of thousands to just a few dollars in many cases. And even the site is now claiming to distribute millions of dollars a year, rather than a day.
Twitter Thinking of Charging $20 (or $8) a Month for a Blue Tick
And then, of course, there's the huge elephant in the room, which I didn't mention last week. Interestingly, one name for a giant elephantine creature is mastodon. Which is the platform millions of Twitter users are migrating to now that Elon Musk has finally bought the company. He has already caused considerable upheaval, firing a hole bunch of executives. But one of the most eye-catching changes that may be ahead is the suggestion Twitter will charge $20 a month for blue tick verification. The blue tick is a controversial thing, of course. For some, it is an essential way of proving that an account is theirs, and stopping scurrilous trolls making tweets in their name. For others, it can be somewhat of an ego boost. But whatever the reason for having a blue tick, for many whose income doesn't necessarily match their internet fame, $20 a month will be a step too far. Of course, Elon Musk being Elon Musk and making things up as he goes, it now looks like the charge will be $8 a month.
Shutterstock to Sell AI-generated Images
I’ll finish with an update on one of the stories that’s been ongoing for a few weeks. AI-generated art has been concerning artists, including book cover artists, for a while. The images AIs like Midjourney and DALL-E 2 generate are trained on artists’ work. Those artists can’t always withdraw consent to have their images used for that training. They don’t get paid, no matter how much their images are used, how similar any end results might be, or even if people use their name as one of the prompt words. Yet anyone can use the images that come from those prompts for commercial ends.
This week saw another turn in the story. Shutterstock, the image-selling giant, will start selling AI-generated images. This is part of a deal with DALL-E 2. What's interesting, and potentially worrying for artists, is perfectly captured in this quotation from the linked article:
Self-publishing News: Disabled Writers Call for Festivals to be Hybrid in 2023 Click To Tweet
Shutterstock’s A.I.-generated images will offer a competitive alternative to the very photographs (and their photographers) used to train DALL-E
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