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What To Do About Shady Publishers? More Questions Answered; AskALLi Member’s Q&A With Orna Ross And Michael La Ronn; News With Daniel Holloway

What to do About Shady Publishers? More Questions Answered; AskALLi Member’s Q&A with Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn; News with Daniel Holloway

Has ALLi ever heard of certain shady publishers? That is among the questions answered this month on our monthly Member Q&A, where ALLi Members’ have their most pressing self-publishing questions analyzed and answered. Join your hosts for the Member Q&A: Partner Liaison and US Ambassador Michael La Ronn and ALLi Director Orna Ross.

Questions this month include:

  • I published my book with a publisher, the publisher did a bad job, and now I got my rights back.
  • I want to self-publish, but “used” copies of the original publication are still available. How do I market my book around the early edition?
  • Has ALLi ever heard of certain publishers that might be suspected of being shady?
  • If I make a change to my book, do I need to register a copyright for it again?
  • How can I find a children's book illustrator?

Also ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway joins Multimedia Manager Howard Lovy to discuss Digital Rights Management (DRM) and why indie authors are choosing not to encrypt their books. Also, they discuss the further rise of audiobooks through the growth of Storytel and other subscription services.

Here are some highlights:

Orna, on Keeping Control over Your Work

In order to maximize your control and your return, the best way to self-publish is actually to hire your own help and to put the book up yourself on KDP for the Amazon ecosystem, on IngramSpark for the wider print system and on, perhaps, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive or going directly also to Kobo.

Michael, on Republishing a Poor Version of Your Book

I think because it annoys you so much that that poor version is out there. I think you should reclaim it and feel good about it. Because presumably, a huge amount of your creative energy has gone into that book already, and it would be a shame to just see it disappear.

Dan, on Subscription Reading

One of the things (publishers) haven't really tackled is what's going to happen next subscription really takes off the way people read. And yet this seemed to be the thing that's really going to transform how we read. It's not going to be about whether you could actually read an ebook on your audio machine or anything like that. It's going to be about the fact that we read by subscription. So it's the sort of the Spotification of reading.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

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Show Notes

Has ALLi ever heard of certain shady publishers? Listen to our Member Q&A with @OrnaRoss and @MichaelLaRonn. Also, Self-Publishing News with @howard_lovy and @agnieszkasshoes. Click To Tweet

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines 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 on Kindle.

Read the Transcript

Orna Ross: Hello, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Member Q & A for October 2019. I'm Orna Ross, Director of ALLi and I'm here with the wonderful Michael La Ronn who is our partner liaison and our US Ambassador. Hi, Michael.

Michael La Ronn: Hi, Orna, happy October.

Orna Ross: October already, can you believe it? Two more months in this quarter and this year is done.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. The pumpkins are out. I took my daughter pumpkin painting yesterday and it's starting to get cold and rainy and I'm loving it.

Orna Ross: I like this time of year, I have to say, before it goes fully into the winter. It's a lovely time, very colourful and alive. So yay. We have lots of member questions for you. This is the show in which we invite our members to submit questions publicly so that we can answer them and help lots more members and followers besides those people themselves, because if you got a question about self publishing, chances are somebody else has that same question and is going through that same stage in the process too. So it's actually very helpful for you to submit your question to us, because not only do you get a direct answer, but also it helps lots of other indie authors too. So what have you got for us today, Michael?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Our first question is from Rainy and she asks, Does ALLi have any resources for an author who assumed to do her first author visit at a preschool and a little unsure of all that's required? So sounds like a children's book author, do we have any resources?

Orna Ross: Yes. Well, we have a living, breathing wonderful resource in the shape of Karen Inglis, who is our children's advisor. So children's publishing is unique. It's quite different from the general run of publishing, say adult fiction or nonfiction and there are lots of different things that you need to do. And one of the things that's very big for children's authors is school visits. And Karen is somebody who, through school visits, has sold thousands of books.

And you will hear people saying that self publishing does not work for children's authors, but it absolutely does. And in fact, is, is probably the only way that a children's author can make some money because if you are actually selling those books directly into schools and into libraries and preschools and nurseries, creches and so on, you're getting the income directly to you, as the author, whereas when it goes through the long publishing chain of retailer, wholesaler and so on, by the time it comes back to the children's author, though you've been doing all the work of marketing, you're not actually seeing a lot of the return from that.

So our advice would be that you get in touch with Karen and we will get you Karen's email so that you can do that directly, but also you will find her on the member forum. And if you were to put your question specifically about preschool visits, because I think that's really interesting and I think it's quite an unexplored territory for us, it's not something we've gone into in great detail and we would love to, in fact, build up our resources.

But she will certainly be able to help you in terms of how you approach a school, or creche or or nursery, preschool, whatever and you know, how you actually get people on side, how you make sure that the visit is worthwhile for you, how you prepare for it creatively and commercially. Karen will be able to help you with all of that and we might, I think, should, do a blog post specifically on this topic, because I think it's something, as I said at the beginning, that other people who are writing for this group are going to be interested in. I don't know if you're aware of any any resources outside of ALLi, Michael.

Michael La Ronn: No, I'm not. I know Joanna Penn has had people on The Creative Penn that have been children's book authors so that might be another place to check as well. I'm sure Joanna probably has a ton of resources on her site too.

Orna Ross: Joanna has resources on pretty much everything. So always worth checking out TheCreativePenn.com and I know Karen has been on her show but I do think this is an underexplored area of self publishing. It's something we'd like to work with you to actually help develop and get some answers and maybe put together one of our downloadable guides to school visits and preschool visits. So yeah, let's work on that one.

Michael La Ronn: All right. Thank you, Rainy, for your question. Now, our next question is from member Michelle. This is a long question. She's got a pretty long story here so I'm going to break this into a few chunks. Alright, so Michelle, originally was published by an imprint publisher so I don't know if this was one of the big five, or if it was a smaller publisher. They basically took care of the publishing of the book but unfortunately, the production of the book was riddled with errors and the publisher, I guess, they didn't do a good job. And so the author, and the publisher got together and said, “Okay, we're going to withdraw the book from the market.” So she terminated her contract. They went their separate ways. And so now she's in a position where she wants to rewrite the novel and go the self publishing route. But her problem is that the original book that was originally published is still showing up on Amazon and Goodreads, and they won't remove the book. The first question, there's a couple questions here with the first question is, can you have Amazon remove an old edition of a book?

Orna Ross: And the short answer is no. So in very, very, very exceptional circumstances, but not circumstances like yours, because there it's pretty common to be honest. So the short answer is no. The other part of that answer that I would say though is don't worry too much about it. Books being available, just you know, sitting there, you're very aware of that book as the author, but almost nobody is aware of that book unless some marketing is going on.

So the fact that it's there, available through used sellers, the chances of somebody actually buying it are slim, and particularly when you get your new edition up and running, that's the one that people are going to see. That's the one that's going to be front of house, if you like. So if you think of, you know, all the books that are out there in the world now, think of an iceberg and, you know, down at the bottom of that iceberg is the nether regions of Amazon and Smashwords, etc, etc.

It's not a very pretty place and then as you rise up through the iceberg, it's only at the top, really, that books are visible. So a book just being available online is not, you know, you just don't need to worry about it, I would say. Just carry on with the job of getting it back into print and ebook and hopefully audio book too.

Michael La Ronn: I think that's going to be a new phrase, the nether regions of Amazon, I couldn't let you get away with that. I agree with that. You know, another thing about this too is the more books you have, the further you will push that original book down. So, like, let me give you a perfect example. So I had a book my first year of publishing, it was a book called Moderation Online or it was originally called Eaten. It's called Season One and it didn't do very well.

It had a really not good cover and so I tried to pull it from the market and republish it, but the original book is still up there. And if you search for me and you go down far enough on the search results, you'll see this cover with this giant man broccoli on the front cover.

You know, and I got a lot of flack for that cover. It just wasn't very effective. There's nothing I can do about it, you know, for the rest of my career, that cover is going to show up in my search results. It's going to show up when you look for me on Google. But at the end of the day, readers are going to look for the most popular books, right? So they're not going to look at a book that's unavailable.

It's almost going to be invisible to them, the more books you have, so focus your efforts and your energy on getting reviews and making sure that your books are selling so that those are the ones that rise to the top of your search results and I think you'll be fine. It definitely does sting when you only have one book, though, so I can definitely empathize.

Orna Ross: Yeah, I had it too when I started self publishing because I left my trade publisher to self publish, reason being I didn't like the treatment, and one of the reasons being I didn't like the treatment of the books and the covers. And they're there forever and sometimes people happily tell me, “Oh, I bought your book,” and they've actually bought an old version of the book instead of my newly published one. But these things are outside our control. We just focus on what we can control and don't waste time and creative energy fretting about something that can't be done. But it's a very good question because it's one that an awful lot of self publishers come up against.

Michael La Ronn: Yep. It's a rite of passage in many ways. Okay, so the next question, the next part of this is okay, she's got a book up on Amazon that won't be removed. We've answered that. So the next question is, she wants to be sure that she's not wasting her money. So does it make sense to continue on with this book and rewrite it and republish it? Or should she just move on to the next project? And how should she know if she should move on to the next project?

Orna Ross: It's a question for you. It's a hard question. I would, if I were in your position, I probably would rewrite and put it out under new covers precisely because your publisher didn't do a great job. So you do a better job and with your own cover, plus you've got something to work with. So you've already got, okay, it's not a brilliant job, but it's arranged into chapters, it's had some form of editing, you know. So you're coming in at a stage of the process where a certain amount of the work has been done.

So you can get practice in putting the book out, and in marketing and promotion, because that's, you know, a very challenging part of the process as well, then you can, as quickly as possible, so I wouldn't spend a huge amount of time on this first book, because it sounds like you're itching to get on to your next project, and that's great. And so I would say, have it definitely in your schedule to do it, whether you do it first or not.

But definitely, I think because it annoys you so much that that poor version is out there. I think you should reclaim it and feel good about it. Because presumably, a huge amount of your creative energy has gone into that book already, and it would be a shame to just see it disappear.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. I mean, at the end of the day, I would almost view this as low hanging fruit, right? I mean, you've got a book that's done, really the only cost you're going to have to incur are the cost of the cover designer and the cost of the editor, and maybe a formatter if you don't have that skill. I would find the most cost effective, not the cheapest, maybe, but the most cost effective editor, most cost effective cover designer, and just get it out onto the market and then start working on your next project because if you don't, it's going to take up mental space, right?

Because you're always going to be thinking “I could have done this book, I could have done it” and how many writers are sitting on books that they've written that they don't proceed with, right? So you don't want that to be, Orna and I were just talking about this before we went live, you know, you don't want this to be a trunk book, right?

You've already put that time and effort into it. Just get it out there and then move on to the next project, it would be my advice unless, for whatever reason, you are so burned out, or you just can't pull yourself to work on the book for whatever personal reasons that might be. That's valid too. But if it were me, I would just go for it.

Orna Ross: Yeah, maybe if you are feeling that sort of way, you know, there's a bit of a kind of creative block around it if you like, one thing you could possibly do is do the first draft of the next project, you know, especially if it's an idea you're burning to kind of get going on. Do the first draft then tell yourself as soon as this first draft is finished, I'm going back to the old one. So you do the production then on the old one, and then go back and do your rewrites on the new one. And before you know where you are, you have two books on the market.

Michael La Ronn: Yep. Good old alternating.

Orna Ross: Good old alternating. Absolutely. That's my process. And I think a lot of people's is, you know, don't publish when you just finished your first draft. Put it away and go back to the previous book, publish that one, then look at the first draft in the cool light of day, having produced a different one with a whole different and you can kind of go back to it then and read it as a reader reads it. When you've just finished your first draft you're just a bit kind of either in love or in hate with it. You're emotional anyway, you're not in the right state for production and publishing.

Michael La Ronn: Yep, I agree. Okay, so our next question is from Stephen. And he's asking a very specific question here. So there's a specific question and there's a more broad question. So what is your opinion on Elite Authors? They are a self publishing company and claim to have worked with CreateSpace in the past, CreateSpace had published a few of my novels, and I'm searching for a self publishing company to provide cover design, interior formatting, and so forth on my books, should I consider this company or should I consider someone else. So the question is, what's ALLi's opinion on Elite Authors? And then the broader question is, what's ALLi's opinion on different service providers for self publishers?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I'm not going to comment personally on Elite Authors. Our Watchdog Desk is the part of ALLi that kind of looks at the various self publishing services that are available out there. And they are rated on our self publishing advice center. So you can look up any service that you come across there, it's selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings. You can go to that list and see. On the list there's caution list, approved ratings, our partner members, which I'll come to in a moment. And so you can you can get an idea of what a particular service is like. If they're not there, if any service is not on that list. It's a matter of just contacting [email protected] and he will put it on the list for review.

So that's a service that we kind of provide to the wider indie community, you don't have to be a member to tap into that. So have a look there is the first thing. But secondly, I would really recommend that you think about what you're doing here. So Elite Authors say that they have worked with CreateSpace in the past. Well, CreateSpace is now gone and it's now called KDP print. But everybody who produces a print on demand book or Amazon has worked with, CreateSpace so that's not an exclusive thing to do or anything that's, you know, particularly valuable.

There is no great value in that for you. You can work with them directly yourself. You wish to hire a service to look after the editorial and design, that's very understandable and there are a range of services that do that and we have a number of approved partner members who are good people to work with, if you feel that you don't have the time or the energy to do these things yourself.

However, in order to maximize your control and your return, the best way to self publish is actually to hire your own help and to put the book up yourself on KDP for the Amazon ecosystem, on IngramSpark for the wider print system and on, perhaps, DraftToDigital, PublishDrive or going directly also to Kobo, to Google and to some of the other big players, Apple and so on. Which choice you make there is going to depend very much on which is more valuable to you, time or money.

So if you feel that you don't have time or you don't have the will or the creative desire to do it yourself and to hire your own help then yes, you can find a good service in our partner directory, which you can download in the members zone. And I'd also recommend that you read this book here, which is, can you see that there? Choosing A Self Publishing Service, again by John Doppler who runs the Watchdog Desk.

It will give you everything you need, essentially, all the advice you need, in terms of how to choose the service that's right for you. So how to evaluate where you are as a self publisher, whether taking on a full service partner is the right thing for you or whether you haven't just considered your options enough. All your options are outlined in this book and also lots of services are are rated in this book as well. So I would recommend you to read it. For members, again, it's freely downloadable in the members zone and so you can get it there and then if any non members are listening and they're not a member of ALLi and don't wish to be, you can purchase the book online.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, great, great, nice robust answer to that. So our next question is from ES Lewis. And her question or maybe his, sorry, I don't know if ES Lewis is a male or female. So sorry about that. The question is, how can I update my books cover and synopsis on ALLi? So I presume they have loaded their books into the members section of ALLi, how do you update?

Orna Ross: You just edit your profile. It should be simple. So if you run into any problems with your profile, just email [email protected] but it should be a very simple matter to remove books, add books, change all your information.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. All right. So we have a question from Dan and it was pretty much the exact same question that Stephen asked about vetting services. So we'll skip that question. The next question is from Joe and it is “I had my first book copyrighted in 2015 but wanted to add a few illustrations and reviews. Neither are totally accomplished yet and I want to add a few more sentences to the book before publishing. Do I need to copyright the book again? So the question is, if I make a change to my book, do I need to register another copyright for it?”

Orna Ross: Another great question that a lot of people come up against. Now for small changes like the ones you've mentioned there, no, and I think the guiding, there is no strict rule here but there is a sort of guiding rule of thumb that 10 to 15% is okay, within you know, anything over 10% of the book, if you're changing it up, that kind of becomes a new edition. But if you're just correcting typos, adding reviews, changing the cover, there is no need to change the ISBN.

All the hassle that kind of goes with that and the copyright to the book will remain the year that you first published us. So, you know, if you find yourself making massive changes some years on then you might indeed want to upload a new version of that book and let the old one kind of sit there for posterity. But for the kinds of changes you're talking about there is no need at all, just make your changes.

And indies do this all the time. So when they get good reviews, good endorsements, they put them in. If a cover is not working, they'll change it. You know, this is one of the advantages of self publishing, doing your own self publishing with your own people is that it's relatively easy to hop on and make those kinds of changes whenever you need to.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. You know, in this example, you probably don't need to copyright it again. Like I said, I think Orna's advice is sound. 10 to 15%, as long as the book is not substantially different when you're done with it, but In the case of our earlier question, Michelle, had asked the question, she's thinking about rewriting her book and getting it re edited.

That's probably a situation where you might consider recopyrighting your book, because when you're done with it, the book is probably going to be substantially different. Right? So those are just, you know, just connect some dots. Those are two examples, when you would, almost the same question, but you would answer it differently based on what both authors are doing. So I hope that gives some color to it.

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think that that's sort of subtlety is very important. And very often for indie authors, there is that kind of subtle distinction, and that's why, you know, they're in this business. There are very few clear rules. So there may even be a scenario where somebody has changed more than 10% but essentially, it's the same book, you know, they've done quite a bit of tidying up on chapters or something but essentially the book is not that different, and so they feel okay about it.

There's also a distinction to be drawn between the copyrights and publishing. So traditionally, copyright was kind of registered on the moment of publication by your trade publisher. That's how it happens in the traditional system but John Doppler and I were talking about this during the week. And he was saying that actually, your copyright protection begins from the moment you write “The End.” And so again, here is, you know, sort of a gray area. I was saying to him, you know, the moment I write “The End” is really for me just the beginning. Iedit, and edit and edit.

So it's quite a different beast at the end of the day, but you might copyright the book and to you, the author, on the year where you feel book was actually finished. I've always followed the convention of copyright being the moment of publication because that's what I was used to, I didn't think about it, I just did it. So this is something that we will be thinking about, talking about a little bit more and kind of strip down into it. Copyright in the US is handled quite differently to everywhere else.

Here in the UK and in many European countries and other countries around the world. There is no need to register copyright, copyrights just happens. It's just a gift that's kind of given by the very act of putting pen to paper, by producing and creating something. In the US, the legal system is such that unless you can prove copyright in the event of a dispute, you know, in other words, you need to register a copyright in the US. I think that's pretty much the rule now, would you agree, Michael, as our US ambassador?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's the rule, unfortunately. Good old American legal system. Can't do anything without having to sue somebody. But yeah, you have to register it with the copyright office, and if you don't register your work within a certain amount of time after publication, then there are certain damages or certain amounts of money that you can't claim. So that's why it's really important to publish or to register your copyright as soon as you publish the book, or soon as you know you're going to publish it.

And then also, there's been some recent court cases where, you know, you can't even pursue someone for copyright infringement until your work has been registered and entered in by the copyright office. So it's pretty important and that's some areas where we differ, you know, across the pond. But copyright is complex, and it's difficult. So, you know, just follow those best practices that Orna just talked about and nine times out of 10, you're going to be fine.

Orna Ross: Absolutely.

Michael La Ronn: Alright. So our next question is from John. John is asking this question for his father who is an ALLi member, and his father is 86 years old and has written his first book, and they've worked on the project together, and it's been great. But when they got to the distribution, they've been having some difficulties navigating the IngramSpark waters. They're just trying to figure out what they need to do and what Ingram can do for them and how did they navigate that and is there a contact or a way that they can reach out if they have questions?

Orna Ross: Yeah, that's, that's great. The Ingram platform, it has complexities There is no doubt about that. And Ingram is actually in the middle of a five stage improvement of the indie author upload machine. Everything about it is essentially being getting an overhaul. And on the 15th of November, actually, there'll be the next, the first one's already gone through and the second phase is complete on November 15, so it should get easier.

However, the good thing about Ingram is that the support desk is really good. And definitely just contact Ingram support desk and they will help you through all sorts of challenges. They really are helpful. So that should work for you. If, you know, it doesn't then just drop us a line at [email protected], tell us the nature of your problem and we can hook you up with somebody who will definitely be able to help but you should find a support desk as your first port of call is helpful. Our members speak very highly of it.

Michael La Ronn: No, I agree. And I just have to give the member a shout out here. That's awesome. 86 years old publishing your first book. I mean, that's just that's really cool and really cool for you helping your dad do that. So just had to call that out. That is amazing.

Orna Ross: Kudos. 100%. My 92 year old cousin is just publishing his first book. I'm giving him a hand to do that and has just started podcasting. So these are the times we are living in, folks. We've a huge number of members who have left one life behind, retired, have started a whole new business and career as an indie author. And it's something you can do, on and on, right up to the end of your life. So yeah, it's fantastic. And I think it's something we need to kind of see a bit more. The young, cool and trendies get a lot of, you know, exposure and so on. But there are lots of older people working in the background and all that life wisdom is now becoming available to everybody and that's just a brilliant thing. I speak as an older person myself.

Michael La Ronn: And it's amazing how many emails I get on a regular basis from people who are over the age of say, 70, who find my YouTube channel and write me to say, “Hey, thank you for this.” I just think it's so cool. Like there's just not enough being highlighted around that. So-

Orna Ross: Yeah. Another one for our blog, I think. Yeah, absolutely.

Michael La Ronn: All right. Do we want to answer one more question here?

Orna Ross: Yeah, we can take one final one.

Michael La Ronn: Alright, so this one is a quick one. This is from Bill and Bill asked a similar question along the lines of children's book authors. But in this case, he's asking, “I need a very short children's story illustrated. How do I begin searching for artists and illustrators?”

Orna Ross: Well, again you find them, Bill, in the directory. We have a number of great illustrators in the member directory so make that your first port of call because they've all been vetted by the watchdog desk they've all been used by other authors. However, having said all the sauce and with no disrespect whatsoever to our wonderful illustrators, illustration's very, very personal, so they may not be the right ones for you.

And the thing about illustration you've got to get somebody who speaks to the heart and soul of the book, whatever that is. So I think you really do begin with a Google search. And you put in some keywords of what you feel you want those illustrations to encompass, what is the value, if you like, that you want. So, you know, are they going to be inspirational? Are they going to be amusing? Are they going to be, you know, whatever effect you want the illustrations to have on the reader.

So put in that keyword and freelance illustrators, see what comes up, scroll through the many hundreds of thousands of images that you're seeing. And, you know, make notes of some people whose work you like, go on to their website, look at some more of what they're doing, and do some reach out.

So begin with the directory. You might just find somebody there that you love. And then I'm sure there are associations of illustrations as well, where you can go and see you know, work presented in a sort of user friendly manner. So between that lot I think you should find somebody that you love.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. And then don't don't forget platforms like Upwork, I think, People Per Hour if that's still around that's one I think that used in the UK. So there are lots of different avenues and the nice part about those two is that you can actually post your job on those sites, and then the illustrators will come to you and then you can interview them and figure out what's important to you and kind of weed through them a little bit more, as opposed to being a little bit more on the offensive. Just a thought-

Orna Ross: Great advice.

Michael La Ronn: It's one avenue that you could go through and it's a way that you could find a bunch of illustrators fairly quickly and Reedsy, I think, would be another place. I think they have illustrators there.

Orna Ross: I'm sure they do because-

Michael La Ronn: I'm sure they do.

Orna Ross: They have everything that the author needs, I'm quite sure they do. And again, all of Reedsy's people are are approved. So-

Michael La Ronn: Right.

Orna Ross: They've done that part of the job for you.

Michael La Ronn: Yep. And they're high quality. All the folks I've seen on Reedsy are phenomenal. So those are just a couple more areas for you to pursue.

Orna Ross: So hopefully that helps.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah.

Orna Ross: Okay, so I think that's it for today, are we all out of questions?

Michael La Ronn: We are.

Orna Ross: So we were talking before we came on that we'd like to do a themed Q & A for next time out because it's Nanowrimo month, it's November, and we know that lots of you are going to be putting together some fiction, some novels for Nanowrimo. We thought it would be nice to focus our questions next month, just specifically on production. So writing, for a change, because we don't very often cover writing questions, we tend to focus on the publishing mostly, writing and the production end of the publishing process. So editorial but particularly illustrations, cover design, all that kind of stuff. So getting the book out.

And what Michael and I were saying was that a lot of people for Nanowrimo, you do it, you were carried along by the fantastic thing that is Nanowrimo and for those of you who don't know what it is Michael's going to explain it in a second, but then at the end of the month of November, often those manuscripts go into a drawer or a trunk, and then the holidays come and it can be forgotten.

So we'd like to help to ensure that, maybe it's a good thing to rest it during the holidays, as we were saying, but that they get taken back out early in the new year and actually turned into books not just left as TypeScripts on your computer or whatever.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, friends don't let friends put their manuscripts in a trunk. Right. So that's where Nanowrimo came from. Nanowrimo's National Novel Writing Month for short. It began as an effort for people to come together and sit down and write a novel in 30 days, right? And so it's become something of a phenomenon. It's now a nonprofit organization. And every year, in November and in July at Camp Nano too, people all over the world start writing novels to try to finish a novel in 30 days, right?

So on November 1, you sit down and you start writing. And if you write, I think it's like 1666 something words per day, by November 30 you should have a completed manuscript, assuming you write 50,000 word novels. if you write doorstop fantasy, then you're gonna have to write a lot more to get to that number, but it's a great initiative. When I first started I wrote my first book during Nanowrimo. You know, it's just a great way to start. If you're aspiring writer, it's a great way to light that fire.

And even if you've got a few books under your belt, I still think it's a phenomenal time to sit down and be disciplined and be intentional about getting a book out into the world. Nanowrimo is a great time, you'll see lots of things on Twitter, see lots of things on YouTube and so it'll be a really great episode for you to ask all of your Nanowrimo related questions. How do you draft? How do you edit? What kind of editorial decisions should you be making?

Anything is fair game if it relates to writing a novel, even if you're not participating in Nanowrimo, feel free to still ask any of those writing questions and we will answer them.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. That's brilliant. I look forward to that and I completely agree with you about Nanowrimo. It's fantastic. We know we have lots of members who wait until November because you get such an uplift from the fact that so many people are doing this all together and you can kind of tap into that as much or as little as you want and it's completely up to you. It's just you know, so many novels have seen the light of day because of Nanowrimo.

So many people now have an indie author career because of Nanowrimo, so we're great friends, we love what they do and I would encourage you to, you have two weeks to prep. I don't think it's a good idea to sit down in the first of November with no idea of what you're going to try and write a novel, but we have had people who've done that, and surprisingly, the creative wind can capture, you know, you never know in this world, but you do have two weeks to map out what you would write, what you'd write each day of the month of November and then try and keep to that, so-

Michael La Ronn: Yes, so to prep for the two weeks, right, I have another podcast. It's called writing tip of the day. It's available on your Amazon Alexa devices and on all the podcast networks. And that's actually what we're doing for these next two weeks. It's Monday through Friday, a writing tip every day, October 15 through November 1, I'm giving you a tip every day to help you prep for Nanowrimo so that you can actually hit the ground running on November 1. So you can find that-

Orna Ross: That's absolutely brilliant. Say it again where they find it.

Michael La Ronn: Writing Tip of the Day, authorlevelup.com/writingtipoftheday.

Orna Ross: Brilliant.

Michael La Ronn: So check it out, subscribe and we'll get you ready.

Orna Ross: Do check it out. Michael's YouTube channel is Author Level Up, and there's just so much there. And then /writingtipoftheday for that and specifically, and all of those addresses and links and things will be in the show notes for this show, which will go out on our selfpublishingadvice.org blog on Wednesday next, as a podcast in audio. So look out, if you're interested in anything that we've mentioned here today. There'll also be a transcript of the questions. So, you know, today, what we do is we just meet up, have this chat online on Facebook Live, but actually it goes out in a much more formal way next Wednesday on the blog. So look out for that on selfpublishingadvice.org and we'll have all the links there for you then. So thank you very much, Michael, as always a pleasure.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, thank you, Orna, talk to you next month.

Orna Ross: Okay. Take care. Happy writing. Are you Nanowrimoing?

Michael La Ronn: Every month for me is Nanowrimo.

Orna Ross: Oh, good answer. Good answer. All right then. Happy writing, publishing to everyone. Bye bye.

Michael La Ronn: Take care.

Howard Lovy: Now for Self-Publishing News with Dan Holloway, who today I think comes to us from the future, specifically, the future of reading. Hi, Dan, what's going on?

Dan Holloway:

Hi. Yes, earlier this month we had here in Oxford our conference on Future of Reading, which was incredibly interesting. One of our keynote speakers was telling us all that computers are going to be writing novels very shortly, which was interesting and something we've talked about many times before. But one of the things that was really interesting was some research on readers' attitudes to Amazon, and in particular, readers worried about privacy, and how those related to how they read on the Kindle. And it turns out that readers who are worried about privacy in general are only worried about privacy if they're reading on their Kindle.

They're not interested if they're reading on Kobo, or if they're reading on a Nook, if anyone actually reads on a Nook or anywhere else, they're not worried at all. They're only worried about what's happening to their reading habits if they read on a Kindle. So there's clearly a massive distrust of Amazon. And it also turns out that readers aren't worried about Amazon knowing what they buy.

They're only worried about Amazon knowing what they read, which is very interesting for me, because as we see more and more companies coming out using the blockchain, one of the main arguments on that is that it gives privacy for readers who don't want anyone to know what they're buying. But it seems that actually readers don't particularly care about people knowing what they're buying> it's only actually people knowing what they're actually reading so the page count and where they get to in the book and what they're pausing on.

Howard Lovy: Oh, that's interesting. That's too much information. So they don't care if the world knows that they're buying a book written by Dan Holloway, but they don't want to admit, you know, how far they got into it-

Dan Holloway: That they're actually reading it. Yes, yes. And so that's what I've been up to. What's life been doing to you?

Howard Lovy: Well, I've been rethinking a lot of my priorities. I seem to have learned everything the hard way. About a year ago, our fearless leader Orna Ross advised me to stop writing for these publications that pay very little. And my justification was that at least they give me the exposure I need for the audience I want to attract, which in my case is a Jewish audience. But now I'm working on more pieces for these Jewish newspapers that pay pennies, like most journalism pays pennies, and I'm wondering, you know, of course Orna was right.

Dan Holloway: Orna is always right.

Howard Lovy: Orna is always right and that's a good model to live by. Every article that I write for somebody else, I could probably be turning into at least a short book that I could sell by myself. So I'm slowly, as I interview other indie authors and Orna is advising me on my career that I'm slowly learning everything the hard way. It's just hopefully I can learn in time. That's what I'm doing.

So speaking about privacy issues, though, let's talk about digital rights management, which apparently is in the news. On the surface, it seems logical to prevent theft of your work, but it's not so simple. So help us understand what DRM is and why some authors have a problem with it.

Dan Holloway: Well, it's been in the news because it was International Day Against Digital Rights Management which is quite a confrontational thing to have an international day of. DRM is the way that the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it and they're not unbiased, obviously, they hate DRM is it's equivalent to the author sending the reader their story in an envelope, but someone else opens the envelope and checks that what you're reading is okay before you get to read it. It's a way of yes, in theory, preventing piracy by making sure that only the person who is authorized to read a certain kind of content gets to read a certain kind of content, but there are all sorts of reasons why authors don't like it. The first is the tip. And this is I think, Jo Penn's main objection to it. She's written a very good piece on the Creative Penn about-

Howard Lovy: Right, yeah, I saw that.

Dan Holloway: Why she doesn't like, why she recommends no one uses DRM, it annoys readers, is the first thing because it means that if you have bought a digital book, you can't read it on multiple platforms unless they've all got the same account on it. So you can only read it from a device where your, if it is a Kindle book, where your Amazon account is held. You can't transfer it to another device. It's sort of the equivalent of having a paperback and not being able to read it on the bus with you. You can only read it if you travel on the train. So that's slightly frustrating.

And so what happens is most readers find ways of stripping out the DRM, which is actually quite easy to do. That's one of the things that makes it essentially not useful as a protection against piracy. So the other thing is it's why you never actually own their own a digital book, you only ever license it because the DRM is the way that the person who publishes the book, and the platform that you published through gets to keep control of that book.

So there was a very famous case of Amazon removing 1984 from everyone's Kindle at a certain point, it was an unfortunate choice of books to do it on. But they can remove books from your Kindle, or they can change books on your Kindle. They can do things to your content without your consent because they still have access to your machines.

Howard Lovy: And we wonder why they don't trust Amazon, right?

Dan Holloway: Yeah, we wonder why they don't trust Amazon.

Howard Lovy: Yeah, I read Joanna Penn's column, you know, and she said, clearly, the availability of free copies doesn't necessarily hurt your sales. And I think of the old days, you know, I'm very old and I would read a good book and I would go to a friend and say, “Hey, did you read this?” And loan them the book.

Dan Holloway: Yes, there are things that you can you can do with a paper book that you can't do with a digital book because of DRM. Also, the technical reason why a lot of digital communities don't like it is because essentially, I think we talked about this before, it essentially creates the potential for a massive botnet. So as in, If someone's hacked into DRM, then they would literally have access to every machine that's got DRM enabled files on it.

Howard Lovy: Oh, then we get a Mr. Robot scenario here. Yeah.

Dan Holloway: Yeah. It's a massive point of vulnerability. It's part of the whole danger of the Internet of Things.

Howard Lovy: So what does, what are people doing about it? There's this day of, I guess, protest on DRM. Is that getting any traction?

Dan Holloway: Some publishers don't use DRM all. So Tor are the people who, they're an imprint of McMillan, they stopped using DRM. Interestingly, they are also the people who started metering the usage of libraries so they have a slightly conflicted view on on ebooks.

Howard Lovy: Interesting.

Dan Holloway: There's also watermarking. This is another sort of an intermediate technology between doing nothing and having full on DRM which is is the sort of the digital equivalent of, you know, on stock photos, where it says Alamy or whoever the person who owns the rights to the photo is stamped all over it. It's a way of ensuring that only the right people get to read the book but without retaining centralized control over it. So that's slightly more popular, slightly less dangerous technology, but I know a lot of indie authors, you have to think about it because if you put your book on Kindle, you have to tick or untick the box that says enable DRM. And I think Joanna's advice-

Howard Lovy: And you would advise?

Dan Holloway: I would advise that people don't enable it simply because it upsets readers and that seems like a bad thing today.

Howard Lovy: We'll keep following that. Meanwhile, an increasing number of readers are not using their eyes, but their ears to read and I think you have some news, several developments in subscription audio.

Dan Holloway: Yes, it's been an interesting and the breakthrough month, or breakthrough time for audio, StoryTel, the Swedish audio subscription company went through the million subscribers area for the first time, which was quite impressive. And yes, Scribd seemed to keep, in terms of subscriptions, Scribd keeps going. And they just launched a whole set of localized tailored content in Mexico. And in Africa, YouScribe has just surpassed 300,000 subscribers. So the subscription is clearly on the rise and audio subscription in particular.

And one of the things that's interesting is the way that publishers seem to be very worried about the future of ebooks at the moment. We've talked about DRM. We talked a lot in recent months about the dispute with libraries and we've talked a lot about Audible captions, but one of the things they haven't really tackled is what's going to happen next subscription really takes off the way people read. And yet this seemed to be the thing that's really going to transform how we read.

It's not going to be about whether you could actually read an ebook on your audio machine or anything like that. It's going to be about the fact that we read by subscription. So it's the sort of the Spotification of reading. I don't think that, really, they're not really thinking enough about it.

Howard Lovy: Now, something like StoryTel, they're growing. Is that easily available for indie authors.

Dan Holloway: Storytell, unlike a lot of people, they do everything locally. So they have a series of local store fronts. So if you want to get your book in front of readers in a particular country, it's a very good way of doing it. But they have to be somewhere where they have a storefront. So they've done a lot in Europe, they're based in Scandinavia. They're moving into new markets all the time.

It's really interesting following their progress on Mark Williams's column, the New Publishing Standard. That kind of platform is a very good way of making the most of multiple markets, basically like Storytell, Streetlib is a distribution platform. So if we're looking to go wide and if we're looking to help readers who are worried about Amazon, then this kind of platform is a very good thing to be thinking about.

Howard Lovy: Definitely things to think about as times are changing, almost in real time. So-

Dan Holloway: It certainly feels like that at the moment.

Howard Lovy: Until next month, when you'll tell us more about what's happening in the future of reading and audio, have a great month.

Dan Holloway: Thank you very much indeed.

Howard Lovy: Thank you, Dan.




Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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