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Self-publishing News: What Will A Vaccine Mean For Publishing?

Self-publishing News: What Will a Vaccine Mean for Publishing?

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at whether the prospect of a Covid vaccine will bring changes to the book world, and a new series feature from KDP.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

I had a fabulous time talking creativity on #indieauthorchat last week, and you can find the full transcript here. Don't miss tonight's instalment at 8pm GMT, all about the art of comedy.

Will a Vaccine Change the Book World?

Who would have thought last Wednesday that there would only be one thing people are talking about this week – and it wouldn’t be a certain election. News of progress towards a widely available Covid vaccine is obviously welcome on many levels. But I want to take a moment to look at how it might specifically affect us in the book world. We have, like other sectors, found many new ways of working and being. Our events have moved online. Book launches look very different. And the way we read and sell has changed. But no matter how much we have grown to love some of the new ways, we will not simply carry on as we are now.

The first story that struck me this week was the response of the financial markets to the vaccine announcement. It’s no surprise that the general reaction has been an uptick. But some areas have seen substantial losses. Some are obvious – Zoom for example. Indeed, after “wahey, yes!” my first reaction to the vaccine news was “someone at Pfizer will make a fortune short-selling Zoom.” (And then of course, I was lost in potential plot land!).

It’s interesting that another high profile casualty is Etsy. In large part, this will be because of the implosion of the crafted face mask market. Peloton is a really interesting one. The implication here is that the things we have learned to do remotely are things that we would rather do together. And that’s a potential indicator of events and bookstore prospects.

Which brings me to bookstores. We have had several stories about Bookshop.org, the app that lets you support your local store through online paper book orders. But recent figures about the growth of digital sales raise a fascinating question. What if there are no physical bookstores left to support?

When Bloomsbury announced recently that digital accounted for 30% of its sales, this felt like something of a landmark. But Philip Jones in The Bookseller seem to think it might be a very negative one. The danger as he sees it is that this is another nail in the fate of bookstores. If people don’t really think of bookstores as the places they go for their books, then no amount of apps like Bookshop.org will protect them. And like other trends, the worry is that Covid might have accelerated the demise.

And if they don't go to bookstores, where do they go? Obviously, for us it's best if they come to the author and not to a tech giant. The ALLi team is greatly exercised in thinking about this at the moment.

Latest from ACX-Audible Controversy

We reported last week on the current problem of ACX-Audible audiobook returns (See this terrific explanatory post from Susan May if you haven't kept up with what's going on) Like most authors' organizations around the world, ALLi has objected to this development in strong terms. We and many authors have received an email from ACX, the Amazon platform which indie authors use to publish audiobooks, which in summary says:

While this customer benefit is for active members in good standing and suspicious activity is rare, we take your concerns very seriously and are actively reviewing the policy with this feedback under consideration.
To show our appreciation for continued support of ACX, for the month of December 2020 we will pay an additional 5% royalty on all sales of ACX audiobooks through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
We know we’ve still got work to do – and are committed to doing so – and we want to reiterate our thanks for sticking with us through this challenging time.

ALLi has downgraded ACX's rating from “Partner” to “Pending” until this review of policy comes back with a satisfactory answer.
Such actions by service providers are one reason why ALLi recommends that authors publish widely, using a variety of outlets to distribute books (including our own websites, the only platform over which we have full control). Otherwise, we leave ourselves very vulnerable, particularly as subscription payment models come to dominate the publishing industry.

Amazon’s Adventures in Sweden

It’s always news when Amazon enters a new market. But when that market is Sweden, the news is far bigger for the book world than you might imagine if you didn’t know something about the situation in Sweden. Mark Williams noted that the one thing Amazon’s Sweden rollout didn’t include was a Kindle store. A piece in Wired this week goes into a lot of detail about the difficulties Amazon is already facing in Sweden. It notes that only 10,000 products on the whole store are from local suppliers. Sweden, it seems, has a really strong set of local digital marketplaces. And Amazon is going to struggle to convince consumers to leave them.

Of course, this really matters when it comes to ebooks and audiobooks. That’s because Sweden is home to Storytel, Nextory, and Bookbeat among others. All of them are strong and growing players in the digital book market. And the way the rest of Amazon is struggling to change the country’s habits suggests they might not be all that vulnerable either.

Lindisfarne Prize and London Book Fair

L J Ross and Sam Missingham are names that many of us know well. Now these two indie heroes are working together on the Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Fiction. The winner will receive £2500 and free ALLi and Society of Authors membership for a year. Indies are, of course, eligible.

Meanwhile, London Book Fair has announced dates for 2021. The very first time I started writing about Covid it was in the context of London Book Fair. Would they cancel or wouldn't they? What a lifetime ago that seems! Next LBF will run from June 29 to July 1st, the organisers hope as a physical event. The aim will be to return to March thereafter.

KDP Series

Many of you will, like me, have noticed that your KDP dashboard looks different. I noticed it because the first book on my shelf no longer had its cover showing. Without that, I wouldn’t have known what was happening before reading Nate’s post about it. What’s happening is that KDP has given us the ability to create series of books.

This feature allows you to do a lot of things, and the guidance page is full of useful information. You can decide whether a series is linear (one book comes after another) or thematic, for example. What I found it harder to ascertain was why I’d want to do all this. Maybe that’s because I don’t really write series. I’m sure for the many of us who do it will be something exciting to explore.

What a Covid vaccine might mean for the book world, and 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.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month


Panorama Project Webinar, 5 Nov
Society of Young Publishers, 9-13 Nov

Over to You

Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing the latest news, Dan, and for the heads up regarding Audible. It’s only too easy to get swindled out of sales…every warning regarding pitfalls is precious…and appreciated!

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