In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at new opportunities Overdrive, Pratilipi, and Substack offer for going wide.
In this month’s self-publishing news podcast, Howard and I ask why there are so few young indie authors entering prestigious awards for which they are eligible, and what we can do to change that.
Overdrive and Pratilipi: More Varied Options Now and in Future
To return to our original theme of going wide, this week sees major news from two large platforms. First up is Overdrive. As most writers know, Overdrive is the main platform that supplies ebooks to libraries. As we reported a while ago, Overdrive has acquired the video platform Kanopy. This week the acquisition finally went through. It means Overdrive will offer libraries Kanopy’s 30,000 videos.
But Mark Williams points us to the key statement from Overdrive about the acquisition:
We look forward to extending the value of the Kanopy content and service through their complementary content and technologies.
That is to say, Overdrive is thinking about the link between words and moving images. This is very much the approach of the likes of Wattpad, which now has its own studios. Or Fave, the platform that allows content creators to connect with their fans through live video. Going wide really does increasingly mean going as wide as your imagination will allow.
Overdrive is not the only platform whose expansion plans have been in the news this week. Pratilipi has just raised $48m. Like Overdrive, this has involved working with another medium. In this case the money comes from gaming giant Krafton. Pratlilipi is an Indian language platform that works like Wattpad. Writers share stories bit by bit, and readers find work they love, written in one of the many Indian languages the platform supports. And like Wattpad, the numbers are impressive. 30 million monthly users read on the site at present. This is a reminder just how large the Indian market could be.
The Book World Starts to Reopen
I’m very used to writing about opening up. I co-authored ALLi’s “Opening Up to Indie Authors” with Debbie Young, after all. But this week, several of the main news stories are about opening up of a very different kind. As Covid restrictions all but ended on Monday here in the UK, many of the parts that make up the book industry are thinking about what life after Covid will look like.
Three parts in particular are in the news this week. Bookstores, publishers, and book fairs have all taken the next step on their road to what life after Covid will look like. Bookstores first. Leaving aside the struggles for survival I’ve covered extensively during the pandemic, bookstores have had a turbulent time. And one figure has been at the centre of that turbulence: James Daunt.
As the government mandate requiring face coverings in shops lifted on Monday, Daunt has been the public face of a campaign for booksellers to retain their use. The Books are my Bag campaign has issued signage, and many stores, which find ventilation hard, have said they will retain mask recommendations, for the safety of their staff and customers.
Daunt, who runs Waterstones in the UK and Barnes and Noble in the US, has been in the news a lot for his staff relations. Just before the pandemic hit, Waterstones staff launched a campaign to be paid a living wage. And at the start of the pandemic, Daunt argued that bookstores should be counted essential retail and allowed to stay open, to the great concern of staff. Whether he has had a Damascene moment, or just seen a moment for some good publicity, who knows?
Meanwhile in the US Sourcebooks is the first big publisher to announce details of its future way of working. They will offer employees a variety of blends of working remotely and in the office. One of the issues publishing has been trying to address for years is its homogeneity – one of the factors that makes the indie route so attractive to so many of us. A large reason for publishing's diversity problem is the fact it is so heavily based in big cities. It is to be hoped that a return to the office for those who want to work that way will not just mean a return to everyone having to be based in the big cities.
Book Fairs are the other staple of the industry that may come out of Covid changed forever. While some publishers (Sourcebooks again) have indicated they might be willing to dip their toe back in the water of in-person attendance at fairs, there seems to be a fairly widespread indifference. Whether people are waiting until they feel safer, or waiting for something altogether new to emerge only time will tell.
Subscription Newsletters: A Steady Income Stream?
One theme to have emerged in recent months has been just how wide it is possible for those of us interested in “going wide” to go. And it’s no longer just a question of which platforms we want to host our ebooks – or even our audiobooks. It’s about how we relate to our readers, about what formats we write in, and about how we begin to imagine what it will look like to make a living in a world where readers are used to getting their culture through subscription. There is a really interesting piece in Publishers Weekly this week outlining how indies are using Substack to capitalise on this, and creating a consistent income.Overdrive, Pratilipi, and Substack offer new opportunities for going wide and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.
Comic Con, 22-25 Jul