Welcome to AskALLi, the Self-Publishing Advice Podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it’s our monthly Member Q&A where ALLi Members’ have their most pressing self-publishing questions analyzed and answered. Join your regular hosts for the Member Q&A: Michael La Ronn and Orna Ross.
Questions this month include:
- Is it worth displaying my book at BookExpo?
- Which is better for book promotion: Bookbub or Goodreads?
- Which of the assisted self-publishing companies are best for marketing?
Also, News Editor Dan Holloway and Howard Lovy bring you the latest self-publishing news. They talk about the expansion of StreetLib, an Unbound book shortlisted for a Folio prize, and an update on copyright protections.
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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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: Hello everybody and welcome to our ALLi, Alliance of Independent Authors Members Q and A where Michael Laronn and I answer the questions that come through from our members on any aspect of self publishing as part of our Ask ALLi campaign. Hi Michael.
Michael: Good morning or good afternoon. Hello Orna.
Orna: Hello. Yes, we are global and we always have to be careful because you lovely people may be listening to this in replay, in some parts of the world it could be the middle of the night wherever you are.
Michael: Exactly. It’s hard to remember.
Orna: It’s hard to remember, but it’s morning where Michael is. He is absolutely dedicated to this show and gets up very early, is it midwestern US?
Michael: Yep, midwestern. Midwestern. Five o’clock in the morning. Just for you guys.
Orna: It’s 5:00 AM, no, we have to change this time. We have to talk about changing this time. That is crazy even for you and He’s an early riser but that’s nuts, okay. We’re going to talk about this. It’s very civilized here in London. It’s mid day, one o’clock, lunch time. And so we have lots and lots of member questions for you today. And we have John here and some other members who are joining in the conversation. So if you are a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and we have time, we will certainly also answer your particular question live here today. But first we have the questions from the people who submitted them to our Q and A forms. So what’s up first, Michael?
Michael: Alright, first up we have a question from Christina and she asks, “I am told no one makes money with a book today. Though my income income is not my goal, I’m not excited about spending another $3,000 for a substantive edit. Is this totally essential for a first time author? Especially since there’s no chance of any income from my first book?”
Orna: Right, This is of course the land of myths and sweeping statement. So there are lots and you will hear everything about self publishing from, you know, it’s easy to make a million on kindle all the way down to nobody ever makes any money on any book self publishing. And the truth, of course, as ever, with sweeping statements is somewhere in between. It is true that first book is not likely first out of the gate to make money for you. And even to think about it in that way is kind of to start in the wrong place. So the question for you really is, you mentioned that that money is not your name objectives. And so what is your objective here?
Orna: Is it reaching readers? Is it entertainment? Is it inspiration? What is your goal? If you know your goal, it could be much easier to answer that question. Substantive editing is necessary for a first author, as a general rule. Yes. First time authors need it most and need most editing and need to invest most in editing at the beginning when they’re not getting any return from their books. So, the short answer to this question is if you are going to go ahead and publish, it would be our advice that you would invest in editing. However, if you are looking to make a return on your book, you need to be thinking in terms of more than one book and that this investment in editing is something that you’ll take into your next book, the book after that. Editing is not just what’s done to your book, it’s what you learn as an author in the process. I’m sure you’ve got loads to add to this, Michael.
Michael: Yeah. You know, my opinion is a little bit different. You know, I’m, the more, the longer I do this, the more I realize that, you know, that’s a lot of money to spend on a developmental edit or substantive edit when you’re just starting off. I, personally, I struggle with that just a little bit. I do think that working hand in hand with an editor is absolutely necessary for your first book so that you can learn. It depends on what you’re writing, right? Are you writing something that is in the mainstream or are you writing something that’s more literary? If you’re, it depends on what your goals are, right? Because if you’re going to spend that kind of money, you might be better served investing in a copy editor instead, and then spending more money on your real estate, like your website or other things that are going to help you make connections with readers. Because again, you know, first books, it, it can be tough to make that money, right? And so, anything you can do to minimize that cost for your first book so that you can write more books, that will generate you a return, that might be a better option. So, I have a little bit of an alternative, contrarian view here, but it’s important to just recognize that.
Orna: I agree. I agree completely with with what you’re saying in the sense that you know, we need to know the goal here. So the question was clearly said the goal is not to make money, so what is the goal? So we’re completely aligned around that. Secondly, I would ask why, 3000 for a substantive edit? There are many ways that you could approach the need to develop your manuscript that might not be as costly as that. So that for if you get some good Beta readers who could help you with some other substantive and developmental work, then you could perhaps cut down on that bill. I’m presuming that you got in a quotation for that amount of money and again that it wasn’t just something that somebody said that’s what it was going to cost. Because editors come in all shapes and sizes and they charge very differently for different services because some of them find developmental editing very challenging and time consuming and some of them find it a lot easier and quicker. So the first thing is know your goal. And the second thing is shop around and think about how you can get the help you need, but editing is essential for a first time author, however you come about it. Also think about the self editing process and look at some of the books and courses that are available at that level also.
Michael: Alright, great answer. And so we have another great question from Nick and he asks, “I’m looking for pointers on a good sample of a license or contract between me as an author and me as my business or my imprint, my publisher. It seems like things might be like a standard publishing contract but I just, I’m not quite sure how this would look. Is there any resources you can point me toward? So he’s looking for a sample contract to basically sell his copy or licensed his copyright from him to his business to his LLC.
Orna: I understand. Or from from his LLC to him as an author-
Orna: Yes. Well, you can use the sample trade publishing contract which you’ll find in the ALLi member zone under legal and contracts. That is based on the best of typical trade publishing contracts. Having said that, the typical trade publishing contract is not all that author friendly. So yeah, as you are an author and you are actually going to be making this agreement with yourself, when you’re wearing your publisher hat, change some of those clauses and there is an actual explanation about what each of the clauses means and so on. So you can get a bit of clarity around that. And then if you have a further question, which I think you probably might have, you can bring it along next month.
Michael: Yeah. What I would say is just a couple things here. I would take the trade publishing agreement that we have and then I would look through it, look at, you know, cause we’ve vetted it, you know, it’s author friendly and then I would take that and basically strip it out and customize it to your needs. And another thing that you could do is you could check out, Helen Sedwick’s Self Publishing Legal Handbook would be a great resource for you to just to help you wrap your head around some of the legal concepts that you need to know when you’re working with contracts. And also, Christine Catherine Rush’s How to Close the Deal on your own Terms. I think it was formerly known as Dealbreakers. It’s a fantastic book that basically goes over all of the really important publishing clauses that you need to know about.
Michael: Understand those, most of those you probably won’t need in your own contract, but just basically helping you figure out, okay, what actually needs to be here. Right? And then just tailor it between you and yourself and that’s usually good enough. And depending on what country you live in, you know, when you go to attorneys, an attorney usually has a template and it’s like 89 pages, you know, and they just pull it to you and they give it to you. And it basically has everything that could possibly happen. If you wanted to do that, you probably could for a minimal fee, a contract with an attorney who can help you with that as well if you were really just wanting to make sure that everything was watertight.
Orna: If you do want to take that route make sure you use somebody who actually has experience in publishing, they’re a particular breed. And then all legal people don’t have that experience. But I agree with Michael that it’s not actually necessary. Take a look also at How Authors Sell Publishing Rights on our website. Sorry, yeah, it’s a book in our Successful Self Publishing Series and you can download it in the member zone as part of your membership as well and it will help you to some degree. And in fact, your question prompts me to think that we should actually include something around this in both our book and on our blog. So if you’d like to get in touch about that as well, then let’s deepen this conversation and find out is it necessary? And does it, you know, are there a lot of authors who would like to do this as reassurance or you know, why you might or might not.
Michael: Alright. So our next question is from someone who asks questions of the show of quite regularly as a podcast regular. And that’s Isabelle del Rio. And she asks, “Hello, I am planning to publish as an American author and I would like to know more about foreign rights, including the possibility of some short stories in a book being sold individually. I’m based in the UK. Where should I start?”
Orna: Again, start with How Authors Sell Publishing Rights. So UK and US, it’s not really considered foreign rights. Foreign rights generally refers to translation. So English language rights are increasingly being sold on a worlds rights basis. So the fact that the author is American isn’t really terribly relevant, particularly if they are prepared to give you as publisher their North American rights for the ebook. So it simplifies matters greatly if you can get world rights for the ebook because we can’t electronically split up the world. When it comes to the print book, that’s a slightly different thing. But again, with print on demand, depending on how you intend to distribute the book as publisher and perhaps world rights might be the most efficient objective or sorry, efficient way of doing it there. And Isabelle. So again, it depends as ever on exactly what your goals are and exactly what your author would like. I know you’re very author friendly company, so and that you want to do whatever they want. So there’ll be some negotiation around that. But traditionally in the traditional publishing model, subsidiary rights, I cover foreign rights, which generally means translation and English language rights covers all of the English speaking world, so hopefully that’s a useful distinction.
Michael: Yup. And if you’re interested in another, a great book to check out if you, cause you asked about short stories as well, Isabelle, is Playing the Short Game by Douglas Smith and it’s a fantastic book that basically goes into the marketing side of selling short stories. And so it’s very author friendly, but I think that you get some benefit from it. Just reading it as a publisher to see, “Okay, how can I start marketing the short stories of the author that I’m publishing and what are some of the terms if I ever wanted to create an anthology for myself of short stories, how would I set that up? It’s a fantastic book that would give you some great, some great guidance in this space as well.
Michael: Alright, our next question is from Tamsen Rush and the question is “A client would like to publish a book of poetry, which he found handwritten in an unpublished journal sometime around 1890. He has tried and failed to find the original author as it was written under a pen name. Can the company claim copyright of the published book?”
Orna: The copyright remains with the author for 70 years from their death so likelihood is that this book is now in the open domain. So in terms of copyright and you have no great problem there, no rights that are owed to the author. However, you can always assign the copyright to the author while trading in those as the publisher, if that makes sense. If you want to just give the author credit where it’s due.
Michael: Yeah, you could definitely give credit to be on the safe side. If it’s published, most countries have adhered to the same standards from a copyright perspective, which I think was the Berne Convention and it’s published before 1922 you really don’t have an issue. Now, is it possible, I suppose that, you know, if this person, you know, assign the copyright to another company or to, you know, to family members, you know, after the author passed, is that a possibility? Yes. So just, you know, do your due diligence and just try to search everywhere you can. Depending on the country you live in, you know, the United States, you might be able to do some sort of a copyright search. But yeah, you’re probably going to be okay and I would, I would err on the side of caution and just make sure you attribute everything.
Orna: Great. I would like to just pop back. We have a comment here on the first question about the editor and Regina Richards has helped him with a very interesting comment that I just like to kind of raise now if our questioner is still around and my recommendation is don’t hire an editor on your first novel until you’re finished writing your fifth novel, then hire that editor only after rereading your first and deciding if you actually do want to put that novel out into the world or if it’s better off left in a box under your bed. If it’s worth sending out, edit it yourself with your new enhanced skills that you’ve gained from writing the other four books, then do the betareader thing. Then maybe pay for an edit because it’s of value at that point, okay. It’s a view and I’m just kind of passing it on. Any thoughts on that, Michael?
Michael: Yeah. It’s a view. I have to, I have to push back and disagree with that a little bit. Be very careful about putting a book out without editing, right? Because that first 30, 60, 90 days is critical and people that read that are going to automatically see it and they’re going to form opinions about you and you’re never going to be able to reverse that. So wherever possible, if you can afford it, always make sure you publish a quality product, otherwise it could come back to haunt you and you could regret it. Yeah. It’s kinda like getting a bad tattoo. You know, you can’t, you can’t undo it, right. Without a significant amount of effort and time and money. And so just keep that in mind, you know, thinking long term, right. We’re indie authors and the, and the point here is to really make sure we’re thinking long term, just don’t, make sure you don’t make any decisions that you’re going to potentially regret or have to spend more money fixing down the road.
Orna: I think what Regina was, I don’t think she was saying don’t, she did say maybe pay for an editor in the end, but I think our main point was your first novel is not ready for the world and you know, no matter what you do with it, that you should go on, write four more books and then go back to the start, which I think is a big ask for most authors and it is an interesting view. It’s certainly what people have to do in the trade publishing world when you have to wait until somebody accepted you, I’m speaking from personal experience. Every time I got the book back with a no, the manuscript I should say, I never came back with a no. I will go back in and do another edit before sending it out again. And I definitely, definitely by the time it was picked up, it was a far different beast and a better, better manuscript than it was when I started. So however, there is great value, I think, in the publishing process and the putting it out there, readers coming back, you know, seeing your reviews, all those kinds of things also helped to develop. So there is no right way as we’re hearing and seeing. And that’s why offering Regina’s thought for your consideration as well.
Michael: Absolutely. And you know, do whatever works best for you. And I love the comments and I love all the rights questions today too.
Orna: Yeah, we’ve had a lot today.
Michael: All kinds rights questions and editing questions. It’s fantastic. So-
Orna: I think with the rights, it’s interesting to me just as you raised that, I think it’s a sign of maturity in the indie author space. I mean, two years ago our questions were all about production, making a book. Now we get far more questions about, you know, editorial, developing the books, becoming a better writer and rights questions as well. So I think it’s a really positive sign.
Michael: Yes. Alright. So we have a member question now. A membership related question. And this is from Claudette. She asks, “I would like to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair for the first time, and I was instructed to align myself with a national organization, ACS, CBE. IBPA to ensure that I can navigate the fair being a newcomer. Is ALLi considered a national associations such as these? And if so, what are your terms to partner with at a book fair like this? And if not, who would you recommend?” She’s interested in selling some book rights at the fair.
Orna: Sure. Well, ALLi’s a bit different, we part ways a little bit with some of our National Association colleagues on this, on how book fairs are best handled. So a number of the associations that you have named, will offer authors a package whereby they would bring their book to the fair display, the book at fair, and have conversations on your behalf. However, they generally bring lots and lots of books, as many, you know, sometimes hundreds. But even if it’s fewer, and the books go onto a booth at the fair. And to be frank, unless the organization is actively doing something with a rights expert about selling the rights in your particular book, it’s highly unlikely that your book is going to get exposure from that. So we don’t do it. We don’t think it has a lot of value, to be frank.
Orna: In terms of attending a book fair, we have a section in our book How Authors Sell Publishing Rights about that, but we have also teamed up with Pub Match, which is an online rights marketplace, which has been in existence for a while. We had a membership, sorry, a partnership with them a while ago, a few years ago and it kind of faded away because they weren’t really quite ready. Things have improved there now and we’re offering it as a way where our members can actually get together a rights catalog and some of the other things that you will need if you’re serious about selling your rights that I can’t go into on this show because it would take too long. But all the information is in that book, How Authors Sell Publishing Rights. So in terms of going to a book fair and selling your rights, the rights sales don’t happen down on the show floor where people buy, you know, where associations and publishers buy a booth for networking and connection.
Orna: They happen upstairs or in behind closed doors in the rights center. That’s where rights are bought and sold and they’re bought and sold by rights professionals, many of whom work for trade publishing houses, but also people who increasingly work freelance on behalf of authors and other people. So really what you need is either to become as good as those rights professionals, understanding the sale of rights and how rights are sold on bought in the digital age. Or you need somebody who has that level of expertise. Just turning up at the book fair, even turning up as part of an association, while there are lots of, you know, there’s lots of value in the networking, but you say your aim is to sell rights and it’s not very likely to achieve that goal for you.
Michael: Alright, I think you said it better than I could. So next question is from Kevin and he asks another membership question and that is can you display the ALLi membership badge in your books?
Orna: We have no objection if you would like to do that. I will say we’re just about to relaunch our website with lovely new badges, which will look even better in your book. So if you want to wait a week or two before you put it in. But we’ve absolutely no objection to doing that. We will be delighted and thank you.
Michael: Yeah, show that ALLi pride and absolutely show it on your website as well. I have my ALLi badge on all my websites, so that’s another great place to put it too. So, alright, so we have another question here. And this question is from Peter and he asks, this is a pretty important question. Should authors writing historical pieces get liability insurance to protect them in their work? Or does the publisher provide that in the publishing contract? With the nature of our book, we’re considering an LLC for our writings, present and future, and we’ve been advised to get liability insurance instead. Are we on the right path?
Orna: Well, there are two different paths, if you know what I mean. So they’re not mutually exclusive either. So let’s just take the public liability thing first, liability insurance for, sorry, not public liability, but I presume what we’re talking about here is libel, defamation that end of the law, a publishing contract will specifically push that back to an author. So there would be a clause in almost every trade publishing contract around liability and you and the publisher will be held responsible if there is a liability issue and somebody decides to take it to court. So your first responsibility around this is not the legal end of it is to ensure that you do not libel or defame anybody because I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do that.
Orna: And there are lots of different ways that you can get around that. Now obviously, clearly and often in the public interest, it is necessary to say things that can then be challenged under libel and defamation law and I’ve lived in the UK where this law has been misused very widely to stifle press freedom and publisher freedom. So I know what you’re talking about. There are times when we have to kind of cross that line, but there are lots of times when we don’t. And so I would like to kind of fly that out first. Sometimes we have authors who are saying things and they want to cover themselves with insurance when really what they need to do is go back in and say it better, say it differently. There are various ways to protect yourself against libel in terms of how you express the things you’re saying.
Orna: Again, which it’s too much to go into in detail there but there is a section again on a libel, Helen Sedwick has an excellent section on libel in her legal handbook and there’s lots of good information from, on the Internet and we can point you towards some of those sources. The other question of becoming an LLC is to my mind a different question, one doesn’t protect against the other. You either decide you want to become an LLC and not to trade as a sole trader and if you’re going to be doing highly contentious and controversial books, you know, as a principal going forward, then certainly it would be recommended that you don’t remain a sole trader because you won’t have the protection that you are afforded by becoming a company. So I’m sure you’ve lots to add on this, Michael.
Michael: Yeah, yeah. This is the, I love the question of authors asking about insurance because it’s something that we have not been talking about in the industry. So I think you did a great job separating out the issues. Right? There’s a big difference between the LLC in getting insurance, the LLC, you’re going to set that up to protect you from a legal perspective and to protect you and to give you some tax benefits, right? At least here in the United States. But this piece of insurance, you know, there really is not to my knowledge right now, an insurance product that really does justice for authors. Your Standard General liability policy does not cover slander, it does not cover defamation. That’s typically excluded, right? And there are what you can buy called media errors and omissions policies or media liability policies that provide some coverage.
Michael: Basically they’re intended for publishers, right? The problem there is that they’re expensive so you can get a quote. I mean, there are, I think trade organizations that, that have deals with a certain insurance companies that have this product, but they’re very expensive and so I think the question you have to ask yourself is, as Orna said, are there other ways for you to mitigate your potential liability from a libel and slander perspective? Or does this make sense, you know? And typically for the authors that are writing these types of things who want insurance, they’re so risky that insurance companies won’t sell it. So if you’re writing a biography or a memoir or a true crime, insurance companies are going to say, “No, I don’t want to want to write that” because those are typically the types of books that lead to libel and slander.
Michael: So the authors that actually need it the most, there’s really no policy or insurance coverage for them. So if you do decide on your path that insurance is the right way to go because we can’t tell you not to get insurance right, but if you decide that that is the right way to go, just, you want to definitely engage a licensed independent agent that maybe has access to a lot of different carriers and maybe knows the market and that can maybe help you provide something or help come up with something that will be a good solution for you.
Orna: Excellently said, the just one final thing that I would add is the policies that Michael is talking about are US and I think our questioner is US because he used the LLC term and that’s generally a giveaway, but I’m not sure where you’re located, perhaps you’re not in the US. And certainly there is no global policy for authors because we’re talking about an ebook. Of course, this ebook will be read and jurisdictions outside of your own. And so your insurance in your jurisdiction, you know, how usable is that even? Where does defamation begin and end in this digital age? These are questions to which there are no answers. Yes, we just haven’t caught up. The law has not caught up with what’s going on in the publishing space and there’s a lot of, you know, dancing around the heads of pins over here while the whole world of publishing is changing over here. And authors are, you know, not going, they’re not being provided with the sorts of protections that many of them feel they want. However, I do think it’s important that we recognize that our safety is in many ways in our hands and that we take as much responsibility as we can for that.
Michael: Agreed. Alright, so we have another question here and this actually, so we’ve got through the majority of our questions. This question is from Natalie and she asks, “How do I deal with Amazon keeping old editions of my paperback for sale on their site? Is there a way to completely remove one of my titles that’s out of print?”
Orna: Unfortunately, no. I would like to do that with some of mine but they’re there for the duration. Amazon sees itself as providing a sort of a library as well as it also functions as a retailer, so no, they don’t allow that.
Michael: Alright, and so the second part of her question, she asked two questions. But the second question is, can I have Amazon move reviews from the first paperback edition of my book to the Second Paperback Edition of my book?
Orna: You can try. We know members who have successfully done that and we know members who have asked for that and who have not succeeded in that happening. But certainly if you ever want Amazon to do anything, the first thing to do is ask their support desk. People, authors often are a bit scared of Amazon because it’s huge power and other reasons, but actually support desk can be helpful in lots of ways. So always begin there, just asking for the help that you want. And you may be pleasantly surprised that they will do what you ask. And if they can’t do it or won’t do it they will say so. They may not always explain why or explain why in a way that you can understand, but they always, that’s your first port of call. And as I said, you can be pleasantly surprised and certainly with this it’s definitely worth asking.
Michael: Yeah, definitely. And we have two comments that we should call out here. So Dale Roberts to the question of, you know, can you remove out of print? I believe he says, “I wish there was a way,” my good friend, Dale Roberts. Thank you, Dale, for your comment. And then John Betts, back to the editing question. So a lot of great comments on the editing here. John Betts says, “I use the free Grammarly for a first edit while writing before Beta readers and only after that do I use an editor.” So that’s a great, great comment.
Orna: Yes, it’s definitely worth having the free softwares to help you and that’s at the proofreading kind of line editing level, obviously Grammarly won’t help you about the structural substantive level, but I think we should all have one of those free software. Another very good one is the ProWritingAid, which, actually, Grammarly is designed for students and ProWritingAid is designed for authors. It’s really, I’ve shifted, I’ve always loved Grammarly but I’ve actually moved over and yes. Hello Dale. Lovely to see you here.
Michael: Yes. Alright, so-
Orna: Now we’re out of time, I think.
Michael: We are.
Orna: So hello and goodbye.
Michael: Yes. But we got through all of our questions this month, so thank you guys for sending in your questions and definitely keep them coming. There was a question offline about how to submit questions to hear us on the show. So if you’re an ALLi member, you know, remember that you can go into your dashboard, log into your dashboard and there’s a link to a submission form where you can ask your question and those take first priority. So we want to make sure we answer all the member questions that are submitted so we’ve cleared the decks on those. And then if you are happen to be watching us live be sure to put your in the comments and if we’ve got time leftover kind of like we did now we can get to those and make sure we answer your questions as well.
Orna: Absolutely. I’m finally just to say that some of the questions we receive are not covered on the show. It might be because we covered it last time or somebody else’s also asked a question about similar or for lots of different reasons, but they are all answered. So they will all be answered privately if not out loud here on the show. So that’s it from us I think for this month. And what are you up to this month, Michael? Between now and next time we meet?
Michael: I am moving houses so my wife and I bought a new house and I’m in the process of getting moved and I’m going to have a new YouTube studio. It’s actually going to be a studio. So I’m super excited to kind of get my hands dirty and start building that.
Orna: Fantastic. So you’ll be writing more books live for our delectation.
Michael: I will try. I will try. It took a lot of effort to do that but it was a great project.
Orna: I bet. I bet. Yeah. Good. Okay. Great.
Michael: How about you?
Orna: Happy writing, everybody and happy publishing and happy creating. See you next month.
Michael: Take care everybody.
Orna: Bye now.
Howard: Now for the news from the self publishing world with ALLi News editor Dan Holloway. Hello Dan. Good to talk to you again.
Dan: Hi, happy April.
Howard: Thank you. Well in your news updates online this past month, you write about the emergence of a publishing distribution platform called StreetLib and its growth. First, tell us what StreetLib is and what it’s doing.
Dan: Well StreetLib is part of, there are actually three really interesting platforms that I’ve been featuring this month. StreetLib is one of them. And what’s really interesting about all of them, the other two are PublishDrive and Storytell. What’s really interesting is the way that they’re taking on Amazon, not by trying to do what Amazon does, but by each focusing on a very particular niche. So Seth Godin was the keynote speaker at one of the big book fairs. I can’t remember which one it was. That’s really bad of me. And his point was that the big thing that successful authors and anyone in the publishing business was going to have to do in the next year was to find their niche and not try and do everything. And that’s what these three companies have done really, really well. So StreetLib, to take them, have made it their goal to have local portals available in every country in the world.
Dan: They already have them in more than a hundred countries. They’ve just announced their intention to have them in every country in Africa. And Mark Williams over at the New Publishing Standard has done a really interesting study on this, looking at the size of these markets. He says there’s currently, he estimates, 200 million Internet users in the Arab markets. The African book market will be worth $5 billion by 2025. The Indian publishing market is going to be worth $10 billion by 2020. And a lot of the people who are doing these things very generally like Amazon, aren’t really making much of an inroad into those markets.
Howard: That’s surprising. I thought Amazon was everywhere.
Dan: Amazon is absolutely nowhere in a lot of these markets. It’s just the Amazon global story. If you can get that and there’s nothing tailored to local markets and that’s what StreetLib is doing very, very well.
Howard: Now these are, these are self publishing platforms?
Dan: These are all self publishing platforms. Yes. So StreetLib is like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. It’s a company. You upload your book and then it pushes it out to different formats and different compatible ereaders. And then what Storytell are doing, Storytell are an audiobook subscription service. Again, it’s like Audible. You can upload your audio book to them. And again, they are focusing on a global market. They’re a Swedish company, but now they’re getting towards half the consumer base being outside of Sweden and they’re in markets where there isn’t really an Amazon presence and they’re getting a really big foothold there.
Dan: And they’ve never really gone head to head with Audible so far by focusing on individual markets, they’ve been able to grow very, very successfully within a niche. They added 65,000 new subscribers in quarter one this year. And then finally, there’s PublishDrive, a fabulous company whose niche, there, again, they are a distribution platform. So you upload your book, they push it out to every different shop and they’re innovative in a lot of ways, one of which is introducing subscription for authors, which I think we’ve talked about before. So as an author, you pay them a certain amount per month rather and then you keep all the money that comes to you through the shops so that they don’t take a fixed rate of royalty. They just take a subscription fee. So, so that’s one way they’re innovative, but the real thing they’re working on is artificial intelligence and machine learning and how that can help market your book. So they enable you to create more highly focused Amazon adverts using the correct metadata by having that artificial intelligence, which is called Savant, read your book. And it reads your book and predicts what the most effective metadata are going to be, and helps you tailor your Amazon adverts as a result, based on those metadata so that you’re not having to go through this endless iterative process that we’re used to.
Howard: So, right, in this case I welcome our AI overlords when it comes to selling books. And I know that you are a technology optimist like I am. So-
Dan: I am. Yes.
Howard: Well let’s move on to indie publishers finally getting more respect or the respect that we deserve. We’ve talked before about prize world and the latest is a book published by Unbound, which has been shortlisted for the Folio Prize. So tell us what the prize is and what unbound is and what’s been shortlisted.
Dan: Whether the book is called Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, it’s by someone who is called Alice Jolly, who is a hybrid author. So she’s traditionally published and she also self publishes and the Folio Prize is one of the biggest prizes in the UK. It was set up several years ago when it was, felt that the Booker Prize was getting too low brow. So a number of people objected to comments made by the book list judges that they were looking for books that were readable. Cause needless to say readable, it’s a quality that some of the snobs don’t think is a good one because that’s dumbing it down. So they set up the Folio Prize for serious literature. So it’s sort of a bit of a joke like that, but it’s also, he’s got a big, big prize fund, tens of thousands of pounds. But it does, what this does is to show that when it comes to critical seriousness as well as high sales, indie authors are starting to publish the sort of books to make people take notice. So it’s sort of a landmark moment in that respect.
Howard: And finally there’s new news from the copyright world, which I know is a topic near and dear to your heart. So-
Dan: I love copyright, yes.
Howard: Oh good, well you help us, you help the rest of us understand it. So tell me about the save the Internet bill and article 13.
Dan: Well, I will start as well with one of ALLi’s campaigns, which is an author’s bill of rights on copyright. So if you go, just go to the ALLi blog and search for it, you will find, I think it’s on April the first and it’s not an April fool, it just happened to be when it was published rather unfortunately, that there’s a really good article launching, calls for opinions from authors on what should be included in an author’s bill of rights when it comes to copyright. It’s particularly timely and this was was ALLi’s response to a call for consultation from the New Zealand government. But this month in Europe, article 13, the infamous article 13 finally got voted through and ratified by all the various stages it needed in the European Parliament.
Dan: So it will now, within two years, it will be framed in national law and all the member countries of the European Union.
Howard: What is article 13?
Dan: Article 13 means that every website will be responsible for the, for vouchsafing that any content it uploads, any content it shares, it doesn’t infringe on anyone’s copyright. It means in practice that a lot of websites are likely to adopt filters. So they will have pre-filters for material, which means that a lot of material won’t be able to be uploaded because it won’t get through the pre-filters. They’re also hugely expensive, which is going to be a disadvantage to small website owners. My particular worry is for author websites where we have guest blogs, for example, for blog tours, anyone who hosts a blog tour or who hosts someone else on their website with a post or with pictures, you have to, if that person turns out to be infringing someone else’s copyright, it’s your responsibility as the owner of the website.
Howard: Right. So it’s not, it’s not a coincidence that there’s the number 13 attached to this. It’s sounds like a bit of a horror novel, article 13.
Dan: Well, it’s really interesting because the author’s associations, the Society of Authors in the UK, and I think the American, the Authors Guild in America have both welcomed this. And one of the things I think is of interest that several of us in ALLi have been talking about is and also other self publishers online is whether the interest of the publishing industry are the same as interest of authors. It’s very clear that this is good for publishers, this is probably good for traditionally published authors. Is it necessarily good for indie authors, for people who do things themselves who have run their own sites and who who may be, again, if you have so little time is this another thing we’re going to have to spend a huge amount of time doing as part of our non writing life.
Howard: Well thank you very much Dan for another month’s worth of news packed into 10 minutes and I’ll talk to you next month.
Dan: Thank you. Have a lovely rest of April and beginning of May.
Howard: Thank you. You too.