As I reported last week, as we went to press I was just finishing talking to a group of 30 publishing MA students about self-publishing. I wanted to take that up again in my introduction this week, because it was a wonderful experience. Not just because it’s always wonderful that a publishing course has a week devoted to self-publishing (we talked everything from Wattpad to Author Earnings to the Chuck Tingle Title Generator), but because the students themselves were universally receptive. Not only did they seem to take it as read that Indieland was a valid part of their map, but they felt that was something wholly healthy. And they were incredibly engaged – one of this week’s stories came from them! And, because their university pays for tickets for them, we may see some of this next cohort of the publishing world at London Book Fair. Keep an eye out for them – they’ll be the ones with open minds.
Indie Author Fringe
For the next two weeks, the top item goes without saying. The clock is ticking towards the next Indie Author Fringe, which happens on March 18th. I have spent a hugely rewarding weekend in the ever-stimulating company of Rohan Quine producing the video footage for our session on how authors and editors work together, and I’m incredibly excited to see what else this year’s event has in store. Do head over to the dedicated Indie Author Fringe page for full information of the sessions and speakers as well as this fringe’s fantastic competition.
I talk a lot about weeks when news items cluster round one particular angle, but this week has to be the par excellence of that phenomenon in my year here. Everywhere you look, the news is about bookshops. So let’s get started. This week’s “story you couldn’t avoid” saw Woman in Black author Susan Hill withdrawing from a signing because she took against the political stance taken by indie bookstore Book Hive. There were lots of who said what? Who did what? aspects to this story which saw an author very publicly tell a bookseller what booksellers shouldn’t do, and then want to stop talking about it when it all got out of hand. One of the things we made a cornerstone of our Opening Up To Indie Authors campaign here at ALLi was making it clear to booksellers how we go out of our way to be good to work with. Just saying. More controversy came when leading UK chain Waterstones opened three unbranded stores that were dressed out to look like indies – draw what conclusions you will! The chain’s owner, James Daunt, has defended the action, and made it clear he wants all his shops to act like independents – let’s see what that means for indie authors (editor’s note – my personal experience is that in the past 6 months Waterstones has done a complete volte-face to become very indie friendly – at least, that’s the case for my home store).
Less controversial news was the continuing decline of Barnes and Noble, whose third quarter revenues for the 2017 fiscal year saw a fall of 8%. More gloomy news as, Waterstones’ efforts notwithstanding, the number of UK independent booksellers decreased for the 11th year in a row. Some more positive news to end on though. Just a week or so after Neil Gaiman talked up the future of indie comics, a great piece on Lit Reactor outlined the ways mainstream bookstores could learn from comic shops. As Gaiman’s interventions over the years have intimated, this isn’t just about booksellers, it’s about the flexibility to think of new ways of pleasing your customers that being indie gives you.
Perhaps the least surprising news this week is that sales of colouring books are falling away. In more bookstore-related gloom, this is bad news for bookshops, but whilst colouring books are fabulous and still represent some interesting opportunities for indies, one thing we self-publishers are used to is the way gold rushes develop and then decline.
New Writers in India
This is the story I picked up whilst in class last week, a good three days before Publishing Perspectives ran this piece on it, thanks to a student with a background in the book trade in India. There is a growing appetite among publishers, it seems, for signing extremely young debut authors. Penguin Random House have several 15 and 16 year old authors with books out, and this seems to be a growing trend. What’s interesting from an indie-watching point of view is what this says about the commercial potential for this kind of YA fiction, which in the US and UK may be more frequently associated with YouTubers and Wattpadders rather than a direct to market approach.
Read an Ebook Week
An “I feel old” post to end with. I was part of Smashwords’ very first Read an Ebook week back in 2009. The event is now in its 9th year! It runs until March 11th and offers a number of opportunities for indies.
Self Publishing Salon
ALLi Director Orna Ross and Advisor, Joanna Penn, have been discussing other aspects of the month’s news for self-publishers in their Self-publishing Salon. Tune in for news of the latest Author Earnings report, launch of Kobo’s subscription service, Kobo Plus, in the Netherlands and other moves and changes affecting your life as an indie author.
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