I type this on what a seat of the pants thriller would romantically call the red-eye shift. To you and me that's the late and slightly licentious coach back from London to Oxford. Which is where I'll be spending my nights this week, because for 10 days at the end of every August London hosts the Mind Sports Olympiad, where mind athletes gather to compete at everything from creative thinking to poker. I've spent today engaged in competitive memory, and tomorrow I'll be multiplying 8 digit numbers in my head. But the most interesting event of the week is the World Speed Reading Championships (6.45 on Thursday at the JW3 centre in Finchley – do come along – the last time I competed, 19 years ago, I got to read an ARC of Stephen King's Hearts of Atlantis). Interesting because speed reading always raises some hackles. You can't do a book justice if you simply skim, some will say (to give you an idea, the winner will probably read the book in around 2000 words a minute). Whatever happened to slow culture, others will add. And still others will decry the disrespect it shows the author. Which always makes me wonder why we, as authors, are so, er, quick, to jump on “how to write books faster” advice.
Kindle Page Views
Rumblings among authors about the Kindle Unlimited programme are about as par for the course as my fellow Brits' mutterings about the weather. But recently (cf David Gaughran's post last week) it feels as though the reasons not to “go wide” have been yielding somewhat. And the news that whilst July's funding pool is up $1m to $19m the per-page-view rate has fallen 20% this year looks as though it is coming close to being the straw that breaks the camels' back for many authors. Anecdotally, I am seeing fewer big names advocate Amazon exclusivity, and as services like D2D and Pronoun increase the ease with which we can distribute far and wide, I wonder what Amazon would need to do to win that loyalty back.
New From Smashwords, and B&N
Talking of other platforms, there are announcements this week of new services from Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. Smashwords Special Deals essentially creates a shopfront within the Smashwords store for all the books you have with them that are on sale, on the premise of offering readers a one stop shop for the best deals whatever their device. Smashwords are understandably bullish about the use this is likely to receive. it will be interesting to see how much of that confidence is borne out.
B&N, meanwhile, is trying to recruit indies for Nook First Look, a service that will enable them to make books available to B&N readers two weeks before wider release. I start most of my B&N stories, it feels, with “you've got to feel sorry for B&N but” but actually, well, read the article and you'll see Nate Hoffelder at his withering best about why they are losing the plot.
The Cost of Covers (and editing)
We are always hearing the importance of having our work professionally edited and having professional covers made for our books, but in some circles it's still seen as worrying to talk about cost (as yesterday's great post here showed, people are still nervous of vanity publishing, but paying for professional services is not that). So this compilation of pricing data from author-provider interface Reedsy is incredibly helpful. The headline figures – median cover design price is well north of $500, median developmental edit only just shy of $1000.
W3C Publishing Summit
I have talked about this a lot, it feels, but that's because W3C's first dedicated publishing summit is A. Big. Deal. A very big deal. W3C are basically the people tasked with making the web work. If the World Wide Web is Tim Berners-Lee's legacy, then W3C is the executor of his will. And making the web works includes things like making sure that the underlying platform that runs Epub works, and remains pan-compatible. so when they decide to think about the future of publishing, we need to know what they're thinking. Well, this week we have got to see the W3C Publishing Summit programme. And unlike many “Future of Publishing” conferences, whilst there are industry reps there, this is not being led by people crawling into the last century. Keynotes include Tim O'Reilly, and have topics like “The Future of Content”. This is the first time I've been genuinely excited about an ideas-conference in a long long time.
We are always hearing that Audiobooks are the next big thing. Well now, if you have $200 to spare, I can see nothing in the terms and conditions preventing indies from storming the industry standard awards, the Audies.
This is a month old but I have only just found it and it is utterly delightful. We are always hearing that language is evolving. And in the internet age we sometimes see new languages altogether forming. Step forward Keith Broni, who was recently appointed to a position as the world's first ever translator of the language of emoji. Yes, you read that right. See you next week!
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Writers Digest Conference, Aug 18-20 [New York] Definitive Hands-on Guide for Indie Authors, Aug 20-25 [various UK]
Bloody Scotland Crime Festival, Sep 8-10 [Stirling, Scotland] Singapore Toy Game and Comic Con, Sep 9-10 [Singapore] Indiepalooza, 15-17 Sep [Houston] Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival, Sep 23 [Fredericksburg] Self-publishing masterclass, Sep 23 [London] The Bookseller Children's Conference, Sep 27 [London]
20 Books London, Feb 3-4 [London]
Self-publishing Conference, Apr 28, [Leicester]