This week has been all about Frankfurt Book Fair for many in book business land. For others among us, it has seen the ultimate mystery/thriller/quite possibly road movie, as the Nobel committee tried to track down, without success, its latest literary laureate, after Bob Dylan disappeared following last Friday's gig with the Rolling Stones, prompting visions of he and Keith Richards stashing a month's supply of bourbon in the panniers of a Harley and hitting the road to nowhere whence they will surface at an open mic night at a small motel in the South Dakota Badlands, stumble – giggling – through a few Joni Mitchell covers and disappear forever into the desert in a hybrid of Bodhi form Point Break and 2666's Archimboldi. Literature really has become the new rock and roll.
Indie Author Fringe
There is one big item of news this week of course for indies. And that is that tomorrow it is Indie Author Fair time. ALLi’s scouts have been at Frankfurt Book Fair the past few days, and will be filing their reports soon, but Indie Author Fair is ALLi’s 24 hour online spectacular adjunct, and this time round the theme is running your business. Full details of the sessions and when to join them can be found here. You even get to see me performing a poem I wrote especially for the occasion.
Author Earnings and the Worrying Trend for Indies and BookBub
There is other news, of course. Huge thanks to Mark Williams for pointing out an annexe to the latest Author Earnings Report posted by Data Guy in the comments on the original report, which contained this very interesting graphic showing the decrease in indie representation in BookBub campaigns – possible further evidence that indies’ most fruitful avenues of discoverability are drying up. And on the subject of author earnings, the annual UK author wage survey shows that traditionally published authors were earning an average of £12,500 per year from writing, just 55% of the national average, with only half making most of their living from writing.
Ebooks: from Big Five Regrets to what's new at KDP
Penguin Random House's MD, Joanna Prior, has issued one of those “Gerald Ratner reflects” type statements lamenting the various mistakes the group made in committing so heavily to ebooks before the market was ready, and more notably in committing to some very bad platforms for them. The Digital Reader has an interesting take on this, pointing out that PRH wasn't entirely guilt-free in the agency pricing affair that may have played a part in driving down demand. I was also struck by the timing of this in relation to the sausage factory of news stories we've been seeing about the fall in ebook sales. It feels like one of those wonderfully well-meaning things publishers do from time to time (“Hey, look, it's not really that the ebook market is weak…) but don't quite think through (…it's just that we were ****!”). Meanwhile, Amazon has launched a new, updated set of guidelines for publishing to Kindle, which comes as a pdf. I will confess I haven't yet scoured them to see exactly what's new, but watch this space.
Still Haven't Found What You're looking For?
Metadata is super duper important for discoverability. We all know that. But one really interesting item that popped up in the news this week concerns a new search tool from Catholic bookselling website Our Sunday Visitor that uses the book's contents as well as its metadata to drive the ranking of search recommendations' usefulness. From what I understand the algorithm is based on both frequency of use of key terms and on density (because 27 uses of a term over a book might just be allusions, whereas all 27 in a chapter probably means the book has a chapter on that thing). It sounds like a very interesting model.
What's better than a final story about tech? A final story about writing about tech, that's what! The Nine Dots Award is offering a $100,000 prize for book proposals that answer the question “Are Digital Technologies Making Politics Impossible?” That's my kind of challenge!
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Vancouver Writers Fest, Oct. 18-23 [Vancouver] Frankfurt Book Fair, Oct. 19–23 [Frankfurt, Germany] Frankfurt Indie Author Fringe Oct. 22 [online] Surrey International Writers Conference, Oct. 20-23 [Surrey, BC, Canada]
Fourth International Conference for Independent Libraries and Mechanics’ Institutes, November 3-7 [San Francisco] Building Inclusivity in Publishing, Nov 15 [London] Bizarrocon, Nov 17-20 [Oregon]
Futurebook, Dec 2 [London]