This has been an incredibly sad week in my indie writing life, and for many in the community, so I will dedicate this week's column to my long-time friend, collaborator, and champion of indie writing and culture, Lisa Scullard, who died far too soon (we were about two years apart) on Friday night. Your stories will live on, and your commitment to the indie way lives on in all of us. Thank you for the words.
Goodbye, Mark Lefebvre
This month sees the end of what feels like a long journey undertaken with an old friend. Kobo Writing Life has always felt the most accessible and indie-friendly of all direct publishing platforms, and in large part that has been a result of the tireless work of Mark Lefebvre. Now Mark is stepping aside from his life at Kobo. We wish him well, and on behalf of indies everywhere we would like to say a massive thank you, Mark, for everything you have done.
A Bad PR Week for Amazon
Black Friday week should be all about how many Kindle Fires or Echo whatnots Amazon sold, right? Only this week, Amazon seems determined to make sure the news was focused on things about which they might be less proud. We have reported some strange activity around book promotions before, with Amazon getting twitchy about the validity of book rankings (specifically indie book rankings) driven by promotions, but this week we saw a consistent amount of activity aimed at indies who were using that most legit of all promotion platforms, Bookbub. I first noticed this when a friend who had just posted on Facebook in celebration of the ranking she had achieved through a Bookbub promotion posted a bemused “what's going on?” when she was stripped of that ranking. The ranking returned a few hours later, but the whole thing seemed very peculiar. And, it seems, she was not alone, this post outlining several accounts of the same thing.
Meanwhile, Amazon's new Seattle HQ has hardly been wowing many with the announcement that in return for locating there, Amazon will be able to decide how the income tax it generates is spent.
European Law: Geoblocking and Getting to Know GDPR
It's been a couple of weeks since I had a juicy story about the technicalities of law and tax to get my teeth into, but two have sprung themselves upon me this week. Geoblocking, which we have talked about before, is basically the practice of creating the same kind of territorial trade barriers in cyberspace that exist in physical space, meaning that you can't buy a product from one digital marketplace using money based in another digital territory. This has been a particular problem in the EU, which is in theory a single trade area, but hasn't functioned as such digitally. Now an end has been called to “unjustified” geoblocking within the EU. Watch this space for exactly what this means.
Another key piece of European legislation is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force next May, and which affects anyone who handles personal data. For authors this will mean mail lists, though if you use a client like Mailchimp or Weber they will probably handle compliance. But it may affect other things you do, so it is worth anyone in the EU familiarising themselves. In the UK, the Information Commissioner has just outlined what this means for us here. Essential reading, even if you're not a regulation nerd like me.
DigitalBookWorld's Lost Archives
As we announced recently, DigitalBookWorld was recently sold to Score Publishing. It appears that in the actual union, DBW's archives have been lost, meaning the removal of a stack of great material, and also of a public forum for stuff you might have written. This will affect a lot of us (I'm pretty sure it affects me). Fortunately Nate Hoffelder has info on how to get in touch with them to see what can be done. I know I'm always geeking out about digital sustainability, long-term formats and the like but, seriously, this stuff matters. And for those of us in a business like this where thought leadership counts double, an online CV of our work that doesn't degrade is essential – doubly, triply so with sites that require exclusivity. If I have done only one thing with my time on this column so far, I hope it's to make you care about this stuff a tenth as much as I do.
It is a trope among indies to say “there are bad things in traditionally published books“. Much of the time that's an unhelpful contribution to an unnecessary hem and us scenario. But once a year we can allow ourselves the pleasure, and that once a year is now, so here we are with this year's contenders for the Bad Sex Award!
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Literary Writers Conference, Dec 7-8 [New York]
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AWP Conference, Mar 7-10 [Tampa]
Book Expo, May 30 – Jun 1 [New York]
Digital Book World, Oct 2-4 [Nashville]