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.
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
Questions this month include
- Should authors get liability insurance?
- How to make a PDF.
- Can you display your ALLi badge on your books?
- Which self-publishing companies are reputable and provide effective service—especially in marketing and promotion?
Also, News Editor Dan Holloway and Howard Lovy bring you the latest self-publishing news. They talk about the first winner of the Selfie Awards and other news from the London Book Fair.
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 Transcripts
Michael: All right. Hello and welcome to the Ask ALLi Member Q and A podcast. It is March, 2019 and I'm your host Michael La Ronn here with our fearless leader Orna Ross, how are you Orna?
Orna: Hi Michael. Hey, I'm very well and hello everyone. You are so welcome to our Member Q and. A. We have lots of questions for you today.
Michael: Yes, welcome everybody. And since we've got so many questions, we're just going to jump right into it. So our first question is from, all right, first question is from Mary Roberts and she says, “I'm interested to know if TCK Publishing is a reputable company, I've heard a lot of companies being unreliable and would value your advice.”
Orna: Okay. TCK. So when we got this question in, Mary, we did what we always do with questions like this. We put them to our Watchdogs Desk, which is headed up by the inimitable John Doctor who you may know from the indie author community, a fantastic author and author friend and support in so many ways. And he's also the, he heads up the ALLi watchdog desk. So we have a lot of queries about services as you can imagine. And we also, in terms of answering questions like that, because this is a public broadcast, it's not something that we tend to do online, you know, in this way to give a feedback if you like about particular services. We are, unless they have already been vetted and been through our system. So yours is now with the Watchdog Desk and if you can send an email just confirming that you asked the question and we will then get back to you privately and we would put our public rating of the service on our ratings page, which you will find at a selfpublishingadvice.org, ratings and reviews. So, yeah, I hope that's helpful and you don't mind that we can't kind of go into it here, but until we have actually cleared a service it doesn't seem fair to them to actually give you an off the cuff.
Michael: Absolutely. All right. Next question is from Rob and Rob asks, “Is there an updated article or advice regarding the pros and cons of KDP and CreateSpace for print on demand? Most items I've read seem to be out of date,” so I think he's referring to KDP print and CreateSpace for print on demand.
Orna: Yes. And I impossibly he's also talking about the comparison between KDP print and IngramSpark. Maybe those that's not mentioned in the question because KDP print has actually taken over, so what was CreateSpace is mutating into KDP Print. Now, CreateSpace still exists but for you as an indie author you no longer need to think or worry about CreateSpace. You can drop that brand name from your mind and heaven knows we have enough of them to carry around. So it's good to be able to drop one. And so KDP, it's a little contradictory kind of term cause it's Kindle Publishing Direct and then kindle we think of as being an Ebook, but it's KDP Print is the one you need to think about at the moment. But you also need to think about IngramSpark. And the reason for that is publishing through KDP print is definitely the best way to hit the Amazon system.
Orna: So to get your book for sale on Amazon, your print book, you publish through KDP print, this means that you won't get a notice on your books saying that it won't be available for a few weeks, which is what happens to a book that is only published in IngramSpark. So you may say, “Well, why should I bother with IngramSpark at all?” Well, if you want to sell beyond Amazon, and there are places and a lot of authors forget is where Amazon doesn't sell. And as indie authors, we need to be cognizant of global sales, not just sales in our own territory. So when you think about trade publishing, you think about local and your own territory, you sell your rights in your own territory to a publisher. They publish within that territory. It's copyright protected, et cetera. An indie author doesn't think like that. An indie author thinks global.
Orna: And we think about getting our books into as many formats as possible and distributing them as widely as possible. And when it comes to print books, there is nobody to touch IngramSpark with regard to reaching beyond Amazon's shores. So they are have a presence in many countries around the world and they also have a very good system, which they can link in with local distributors and wholesalers in your territory. But they also have their own bookstore distribution system called Ipage. So when you distribute through IngramSpark, you reach all of those. And most bookstores and lots and lots of bookstores will not order an Amazon printed book. There are various reasons we won't go into that now, there are various reasons why that is. So, so they may not take your book if you haven't tied in with Ingrams. So our recommendation is as you upload your book to Ingram, you deselect Amazon, you do not choose Amazon as a distributor.
Orna: As you upload your book to Amazon, you de-select expanded distribution. That expanded distribution in the Amazon Dashboard is actually taken care of by Ingram for Amazon. So what you're doing is you're going direct to to Ingram, so direct to Ingram for rest of the world, direct to Amazon for the Amazon system. And there is a good blog on this, which is bang up to date by Debbie Yong in the Self Publishing Advice Center. So if you just go into selfpublishingadvice.org and if you just search for KDB Print IngramSpark, you'll get it, top of the list.
Michael: Absolutely. Absolutely. And there's another question that ties into this and almost, it's a great segue into this question and that is from our member Tom and Tom is talking about the ability of IngramSpark to get the book into bookstores. So he asks, “I self published a book in 2011 through CreateSpace and discovered that none of the independent bookstores in Seattle with stock my book. IngramSpark says they distribute to bookstores nationwide and also say the customers can buy books published by them through Amazon. But I've also read that if you publish through IngramSpark Amazon will mark your book out of print on Amazon, in other words they discourage people from buying a book printed by IngramSpark.” What is the truth about these claims and what resources do we have for them on that?
Orna: Fantastic. So I hope I've answered the practicalities of the answer to that question in the previous question. So just to sum up, you do both. It's not an either or. You actually use both services by deselecting expanded distribution on Amazon and deselecting Amazon when you upload to Ingram and the truth or otherwise the rumour is yes, it's absolutely right. These are two competitors. And so they are, Amazon is using its competitive advantage by owning the Amazon retail store, which is separate, a separate division from Amazon KDP print, which is where your book will be printed. It is using its competitive advantage to disadvantage Ingram books on the store. But you as an indie, this affects publisher is more than you, trade publishers. As an Indie, you have this fantastic ability to go direct to both.
Michael: Exactly. And to answer the question of bookstores, bookstores should be stocking whichever books to customers are asking for. Assuming you're going through IngramSpark, you should have no issues. Now if there's an issue with the bookstore not wanting to carry self published books, that's a totally different issue. And you know, I would just tell you to just move on, move on and, and you know, count your losses. You know, don't worry too much about that, but IngramSpark is a great partner. And yeah, and we have another IngramSpark question. Believe it or not, Orna. So how, Patricia asks how to make, “How do I make a pdf to send to IngramSpark when the book is mostly photographs with just minimal texts and is 40 pages long? Do I pdf each page and put them all together or what's the process for doing this if this is even possible?”
Orna: Okay, good question. And this is, while it's an IngramSpark distribution question, so you're going to use Ingram to distribute your book and hopefully Amazon too, having listened to the previous question. It is really a formatting question. It's really a design question. So you have two options here, Patricia and you essentially learn how to format and you get yourself a good pdf formatting tool of which there are a number. And if you look in the formatting section you will see advice around that. I currently, myself, my two favorite tools are Scrivener and Vellum. I use a Mac so vellum is a fantastic formatting tool, but there are lots of tools now which can do you have very sophisticated pdf. You don't do it page by page. You will need to as well as the 40 or so pages of your actual book, you will need to include title pages, front matter, copyright notice and after matter too, acknowledgements of the artists that you've worked with and so on and so forth.
Howard: So full advice on all of this in the design and formatting section on the website, you have a second option of course, which is hire somebody who's an expert in this. So it very much depends on whether you want more control and have the budget and sorry you want more control and have time, in which case you'll go for learning how to format yourself, finding the services that suit you, putting the pdf together and you know, learning as you go just as you learned how to write and you know, create the book. Alternatively, if you have money and time is tight and you would rather put your time into writing another book or whatever, you can always hire somebody to do this for you. And we have a list of vetted services in the members zone, which you can access there, a number of people who format and design at very reasonable rates and do a really good job.
Michael: Yeah, I would, yeah, I would add to that too that if especially if this book is images only, that's going to be a different kind of probably formatting experience, so Scrivener can certainly help you with that. I found that when you're using Scrivener for images, sometimes the size of your ebook can get a lot bigger and that's going to affect your delivery costs and things like that. So, if you can afford it, you know, it's the most expensive program out there, but in Adobe Indesign might be an alternative for, you know, doing PDFs or picture type books and then I think Affinity publisher is another program that is low cost. It's like a low cost alternative to Indesign and it allows you to do some of the print type layouts that you might need for this type of book. So, with 40 images and things like that, your book's going to get big pretty quick and you're probably gonna need a different kind of software to help you with that. And if you can't afford those programs, you probably, like to Orna's point, hire somebody, for a 40 page book to help you relatively affordable. So-
Orna: Should be. And even though, and thanks for that Michael on the tools because I don't do, the images that I include in my book, I'm mainly text and I'm not-
Michael: Images are a whole other beast. They are very, very complicated. So I definitely, definitely going to either want to invest your time and resources or, you know, investment in somebody to help you.
Orna: Yeah. Great. Thanks. Thanks for pointing that out. And I would say do think about the text to go around the images too because it is, you know, while you're very familiar with the topic and the subject of the book, you may have an introduction, perhaps, preface, small something to locate the reader so that they know what the book is about, your motivation for writing. It may be, you know, so do think a little bit about beyond the image as it were or maybe that's just my writer prejudice coming out. I don't know.
Michael: No, I agree. It's the whole package, right? So, all right, so we have another, believe it or not, we have another IngramSpark question. Well, it's IngramSpark related.
Orna: It's IngramSpark day.
Michael: It is IngramSpark day. It's our IngramSpark distribution day. So Shona asks “ALLi guidance points out that most people don't really understand discounts. I'm looking to publish for the first time and wish to use IngramSpark for print books.” Awesome. “I recognize that the 55% discount is needed if you want to get into bookshops, but what's the difference between 30 and 40% in relation to distribution? Or is there, is there a magic number here?”
Orna: Yeah, very, very good question. So if you are not specifically targeting bookstores, forget about the larger discount. That larger discount is there purely and simply for those authors who want a bookstore distribution. And to be honest, such is the nature of print on demand, but even if you get all of that right and you set your 55% in place, it makes it very difficult for you to make a decent profit on lots of books. There is a certain type of book, with a certain kind of, you know, size and structure of where you can get three books on the line instead of two and so on where you can actually get a better return for investment. But generally speaking for most authors is quite difficult to make a profit on print books if they are distributed through the bookstore. So if you're not thinking about bookstore distribution, then forget about that and go for the cheapest, go for the lowest discount level.
Michael: Okay, perfect. So this next question is, it's one we get frequently on the show and one I don't think we've had a chance to answer yet this year. So, Tob asks, in general, what are the best steps, what are the best steps and resources for an author to learn marketing. He's just published a book in Ebook and paperback, self published. It seems like he's getting a really good foothold on a book. There's a lot of interest, but just want some guidance and some essential steps and courses and resources that ALLi would be able to offer for an author who's just starting off, beginning of 2019 and help with marketing their book.
Orna: Fantastic. Okay, well this is a much bigger, a longer journey than “I've written a book, now I want to market it, then it's going to be a success.” That's the first thing to say. So very much, when it comes to marketing, the first thing most of us have to do is unlearn what we think about marketing, which is, you know, I write the book. If I get the proper marketing magic bullet and then I can just press that bullet and I'm going to sell books. So it isn't like that. And there's a lot of work to do before you should even think about marketing resources or tools that you would buy. So the first thing that we've done, we've spent a lot of time in ALLi talking about getting your, how you think about it right, first of all, before we talk about the actual specifics that can really help you because also every author is different and also every book is different.
Orna: So you're not going to market all books in the same way. So first let me just talk a little bit. And Michael, I will want you to hop in here because you're really good on marketing too, and it's such a huge question, but the first thing you need to kind of get is that you need to control the market as much as you possibly can. So you need to get on top of it. You need to actually set up some way by which when readers arrive to your website or to your landing page for your book that you collect data about them, you want, in short, their email address. So that's the first thing you need to do, but you need to understand the context. Why is that? Because Amazon won't tell you who buys your books. Ingram won't tell you who buys your books.
Orna: Nobody out there is going to actually put you directly in contact with your reader and you have in this wonderful day and age that we live in the ability to make that direct contact. So it must be your first thought, your first thought must be the landing page for that book and how it's going to actually, where it's going to bring people to buy the book and how you get people, how you get your data, their data by, not for this book, but for the next book. So as you're marketing this book, we're working on the next book and you're realizing that you're setting down a marketing platform of your own that's going all your future books are going to sit upon. So you should be concentrating on work that is likely to be able to be carried forward and then do a little bit of specific promotion for this book. First of all, lay down some structures whereby um, you get to understand three things.
Orna: The market out there for the particular book like this, where you fit in that marketplace, you know, what your book is for, who it's for, does it inspire, does it inform, you know, where would incision in a bookshop, who buys it, who else is selling in this genre, who is at the top and why, what is good about their books? You should, you know, use Amazon as a tool to actually investigate what's going on at the top of your genre and connect with other authors but mainly connect, you know, hover around reader sites of your genre, what people like to, you know, what they're looking for, what they're thinking about. You need to create this picture and this is the most important thing. The reader is King/Queen. You need to create this picture of them, who they are, why they would want your book and then how you're going to create, first of all, a marketing bridge between you and them and marketing is, we differentiate between marketing and promotion in ALLi. Marketing is about letting people know that the book exists and that you exist as an author whereas promotion is a specific drive on a particular title, which is short term, has a beginning and an end. Marketing is part of who you are as an indie author. It's part of how you put yourself out there. It will affect how your website looks, it will affect the covers of your book. It will affect absolutely everything that you do and all of the copy that you put around the book, what's written on the back of it, what's written in an ad if you take an ad and so on and so forth. Michael, I know you have lots to say here too.
Michael: Yeah. There's, there's so much to unpack on this. I mean it's, you know, we've done entire Self Publishing Salons on this. You know, there's a lot to talk about here, so everything you just said, perfect. I mean, you have to build that foundation, right? Over the last couple of years, I've learned that it, the best way to approach marketing is to make it as simple as possible, not only for you, but also for the reader. I've all, the way I've learned to think about marketing is in two ways, context and contacts. So how can you always be providing context to prospective readers that the book is for them? So your book gives off signals whether you like it or not, right? So your cover is going to give off certain signals. Your book description is going to give off certain signals. And so you have to know who your target readers are.
Michael: And there's ways to do that. That's probably outside of the scope of this episode. But once you understand who your target readers are, you can figure out what those signals are to them that you're giving them so that you can give them context that, “Hey, this book is for you because,,” right? And so it's not just saying, it's not just you saying, “Hey, you should buy this book” because it's often things that you don't think about, like the colors on your cover or you know, the orientation of your main character on your cover. If you're writing fiction, the headline of your book description, for example, if you're writing nonfiction, making sure that you're selling that value, right? Whether you have a Youtube channel or a blog or a podcast, if you're a nonfiction writer, all of that sends signals and all of that is marketing.
Michael: So that's the first part is the context is anytime you're doing anything, whether you're establishing a presence on your website or you know, you're coming up with a new book, or you're picking up keywords or categories for your book, always be asking yourself, how can I provide context to prospective readers that this is the book that they need to buy right now? And the second part of this is contacts, right? So how can you build your network? So Orna talked about a wonderful tip of collecting data of your readers, right? Every person that joins your gravitational field, how can you keep them there? And then how can you start building networks in inroads with other people, you know, through organizations like ALLi, right? So we were all on this podcast today. You know, maybe there are people in the comments, you know, our guests, maybe you write similar books, maybe you can build connections with each other so that when you have the next book, you have a bigger network of people that you can promote your book to and you're providing that context. So you're doing that work up ahead so that when you do get the book in front of people, they know, okay, this is the book I have to buy. Sorry, long winded answer, but this is a huge Pandora's box type question and we want to make sure we address it cause everyone has this problem, right?
Orna: Absolutely. And I think it is about, you know, how we come to it in the first place and because that sense of, you know, publishing is editorial design, you know, production, distribution and then marketing and promotion and that you can kind of tick those boxes in a similar way. But actually it's almost like after you've made a good book, you've got to kind of pause, it's almost like now I know what I've made, you know, that's a huge milestone. It's a huge milestone for a writer to finish writing the book. Then it's a huge milestone to have made a book that you like and that works for you and almost until that moment that you fully have done that process, you don't fully understand probably, and in fact you don't fully understand yet, but you'll know so much more about yourself, about this book and about you as a writer.
Orna: And the thing is you have made mistakes. I don't know who you are, but I know that you have made mistakes along that process because that is the process and it's going to be the same with marketing and promotion. How Michael Does his and how I do mine, this really became live for me when I started to turn to poetry AND thinking about poetry because I had a certain way of marketing nonfiction and I had a certain way of marketing my own fiction. So the non-fiction is generally for ALLi or for creative entrepreneurs, very clear and easy and a lot of that came instinctively to me, because I used to be a journalist. Fiction was something similar, but when I came to poetry I realized no, it doesn't actually work at all. And I unpicked everything I was doing marketing wise and broke out all the different funnels that I had so that the people who come who are interested in the nonfiction are not the same, or there may be crossover, in which case they can join both lists, but they're not the same people and they really needed to be spoken to in quite different ways.
Orna: So every sentence I speak to my poetry readers now is to them and them alone. And if somebody else wants to join in, that's great, but I'm going to the center of that group. And not just poetry readers or readers who read the kind of poetry that I write and so on. I speak to them in a completely different way to the way I speak to the way I'm talking here now. It's a different thing.
Michael: Exactly. Speak to the people that have the ears to hear you, right?
Orna: Yes, exactly. That's exactly it. And forget about trying to reach everybody. That's another thing. in trade publishing, you've got a bookstore and you're kind of trading to the general consumer who wanders in off the street and you want to kind of catch their attention. In indie online publishing, you're catering to the exact right perfect person to read your book and it's the person you kind of probably very close to some aspect of you in some ways and that dimension of yourself.
Orna: So tapping into the reasons that you wrote the book in the first place and making sure that that is reflected in your marketing. I know we've given a very long answer to this and it isn't an easy answer and I know everybody wants an easy answer to the marketing question but it gets easier then later when you get all that right in place. We have, Regina is online and she just said “I liked very much the distinction between marketing and promotion. I always thought they were the same. I've just realized that I'm an okay marketer, which I didn't know it's promotion I need to work on. Until you have the marketing right, until your books are, you know, and I love this context and contacts until your book is contextualized properly and you know, set in the right context in every way, don't spend one penny on promotion. When you've got your marketing in place, spend every penny you kind of forward on the right kind of promotion. We have a question here about goodreads and Bookbub and they are both two very good ways. We might turn to that another time if we have time, but until you've got all this other marketing stuff in place and I'm assuming our questioner, having just published the first book, I've made the assumption that you haven't got a whole lot in place.
Michael: Exactly. And then just to put a final nail in the coffin on this question here, resources, right? Where do you go next? Because there's a lot of different places. We have tons of different resources on our marketing and promotion tab on the website. So start there by all means. But another a great place to start would be our indie author fringe events or our self publishing conference events. So take a look at the archives on those past episodes, those past events, because there are tons of people that I have done presentations on the most up to date marketing strategies that are working for them and I think you'll find them very insightful if you haven't looked at those already.
Orna: Fantastic. And thanks for reminding us about that Michael, because of course the next conference is this day, week, next Saturday, 24 hours, not all on marketing, but all on things that are band up to the minute in terms of you know, making your book, selling your book, reaching readers and growing your author business. So yeah, and you can tap into that on the website, selfpublishingconferenceadvice.com next week. And all of this will be in the show notes for this show today.
Michael: Alright. And so I think we have time for one more question, and it's a very important question and the question is about cats. So I am-
Orna: I'm a dog person.
Michael: Well, I don't have a dog or cat, but I like cats. So Jeff asks, “I'm thinking of a children's picture book with a cat telling the story. If I wanted to market a stuffed toy cat for sale along with or separate from the book, are there any links or resources you could recommend me to help me do this?”
Orna: Okay, very interesting. So what you're talking about Jeff, is merchandising and merchandising has traditionally been handled by authors and publishers as what's known as a subsidiary right. So you sell the right to a publisher to publish your book and then they sell the rights to a merchandising organization and the author gets a percentage, the publisher gets a percentage. That was the traditional way. Indies, as forever, are shaking things up. So now you own the rights to the publishing and so on so you would deal directly with the merchandisers. So it's very like making a book. First of all, you would make, you know, you would design your cat, I don't know if you're a designer as well, but you would design your toy with a designer or yourself. And then you would approach how you would set it up and so on.
Orna: And then you would look to somebody who can distribute and sell it and so on. And you need to think about all the things you need to think about if you're going to go this route, all of the things you need to think about when it comes to selling and marketing the books, you have to think about when it comes to selling marketing and promoting the toy. So while it's a lovely idea, you're at least doubling your investment of time and money. So to be aware of that, you will sell toys in a very different way than you will sell books and it will mean connecting with merchandising organizations and so on. And it's, in other words, it's a big, it's a big ask, however, if you would like to think about it in more detail and there's a small bit about it in our book called How Authors Sell Publishing Rights. I'm thinking of merchandising as a publishing, right in that way. You may find somebody who would like to partner with you on this, which strikes me as possibly being the easiest way, but it's a lovely idea. It's a really lovely idea. And if you feel it's worth the time and the money and everything else that it would take, then it's very possible to do this the indie way. Any thoughts, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, I would say the same thing. You know, it's much easier if you can partner with someone who already does plush cats like on Etsy or somewhere like that where you know they can give you a deal or and sometimes local is usually not something that is easy for Indies to do. This might be one of the few areas where having a local connection could actually help you and help you save some costs. So if there's someone in your area maybe that you can find or that you know, that can help you maybe produce this or is already maybe doing it already on the side that might be the way to go here.
Orna: And think about it the way you think about your book. So first of all there is making it, then there is selling it and then there is promoting and distributing, you know, so you've got to think about putting it together, which is a challenge in and of itself. Then you've got to think about how you're going to get it out to people, who's going to buy it, will it only sell with a book, will it sell separately and become a, you know, a marketing thing for the book in itself and so on. So there's an awful lot to think about. I actually think it's worth us doing a blog post about, so we will follow up with a blog post on this.
Michael: Yeah. Great. Do we have any last minute comments here? We're almost at time.
Speaker 4: Yeah, we have a, just to say folks that this is a Member Only Q and A so you do need to be a member of ALLi to have your question answered on the Q and. A. So yeah, I have, Beth is here, Beth Coleman Warner and she was asking about, and I think we will come back to this and we could maybe put it on the slate for the next one, Michael and specifically around setting up giveaways on Goodreads, on getting featured deals and ads on Bookbub. The difference between deals and ads might be worth doing. Angelica has asked “Is Matador a reputable self publishing company?” Angelica, you may have missed the beginning of the show where we were just saying we can't actually at talk about about services unless we have vetted them and this is one of the services that we have vetted and Matador is a partner member of ALLi for a very long time so we are very happy to be able to say you won't go wrong there. We have lots and lots of happy members who have used Matador and that's it. I think we are at time.
Speaker 3: Alright, well thank you everyone for your comments and for liking and reacting to our show here. We appreciate that and thank you for showing up. This has been the Ask ALLi Member Q and A podcast where we answer your most burning self publishing questions. If you are a member of ALLi and would like to submit a question for Orna and I to answer, please go to your ALLi dashboard and follow the links and it will take you to the form where you can enter your question and you just might hear it on the show. So thanks for listening and we'll talk to you next month. See you, Orna.
Orna: Thanks everyone. Bye, Michael. Happy writing and publishing.
Howard: And now with self publishing news, here's our news editor, Dan Holloway. Dan is our reporter on the scene at the London Book Fair this week. Hi Dan. How are you?
Dan: Hi, I'm tired. It's been one of those weeks. It's been a great week but Amazon's hospitality at the Post Fair Party was too generous, so thank you to Amazon on behalf of ALLi.
Howard: So let's talk first about the Selfie Awards, which went to an ALLi affiliated author, Jane Davis and her book Smash All Windows. But her win is also a testament to your own professional abilities too.
Dan: Well, yes. It's rather embarrassingly, I was structural editor on the book. It was a fabulous experience editing it. It's a very unusual book. It has lots of different narrative voices, focuses around a particular tragic event and the aftermath and the lead up to that event. So it sort of, it's like a, it's like an explosion point and then the fractures that reach out in all directions of time and narrative from there. So it was a, it was a very challenging project to work on, but a hugely deserving winner of the award and it's actually really exciting to see an award for a self published book go to something that was so ambitious in a literary sense.
Howard: So tell us about the London Book Fair. In the past the event has been described as the most indie friendly of the bunch. Was that true this year too and why?
Dan: It's probably the most indie friendly of the sort of the big three book fairs. So Frankfurt, Book Expo America and London Book Fair. It's, there are other book fairs like Digital Book World that are now really exciting for indies as well, and I don't think London Book Fair is at that level, but it was, Author HQ was still there so that there was a focus on authors. The sessions this year felt to me slightly more interesting than they have in the last few years, without wanting to disparage very well known authors who teach very well known courses in self publishing. In the past there's been a lot of the same people giving the same talks about how to self publish and sell lots of copies, whereas this year there was a slightly more varied selection of speakers who are of interest to authors on a variety of topics. And that felt really interesting and made it feel as though it was worthwhile spending more than just one day there. I know, I know, I've seen several ALLi members telling people who've never been to the London Book Fair it's worth going for a day, but no more. Whereas this year it actually felt like you could go there for more than one day and not run out of things to do as an indie author. And that was really quite exciting.
Howard: And what particularly was new, what struck you as new this year?
Dan: There was quite a lot of how to on audio, which was good. The marketing sessions were slightly more sophisticated than normal, which was, which was interesting. There were publicists talking, marketing professionals talking rather than just Kindle's usual list of “These are our successful authors and this is what they did.” So there's more professional expertise that you could get a slightly more in depth level of learning from. And they were really exciting companies there. So we shared the stand, the ALLi stand with PublishDrive and Kinga was there for the first time and that was obviously really exciting having her there because she's just full of new and interesting ideas about what the future of indie publishing might hold. So just being part of those conversations was exciting.
Howard: So what specifically was ALLi doing?
Dan: We had a stand there. We were just telling people about what we do, showing off some of the books that we have. We had several sessions. So Orna was involved in quite a lot of sessions. Jane was involved in sessions, explaining what we do, explaining all the different elements of bringing out a book, explaining why ALLi matters in a global publishing world and just talking to lots and lots of writers who might not know that we were out there and the store was always busy.
Howard: You've been self publishing for a long time, but was there anything that you personally got out of the London Book Fair?
Dan: I enjoyed talking to Kinga about artificial intelligence and where that might be going next because, and also to Emma Barnes at Snow Books who has her five minute manifesto she did for publishing perspectives a few years ago, was that everyone in publishing should learn to code. And I think there's a lot to be said for that. I think we're starting to see it being more acceptable for authors to think they need to learn something about computing and technology. And for that not to be scary. so-
Howard: I think a shudder just went through every self published author in the world just now.
Howard: I've been saying this in column for the last two and a half or three years and Emma made a really good point when we were talking about why this matters that you might not become a full time professional coder, but there are a lot of buzzwords out there and whenever there are self published authors and buzzwords in the same room together, you get a lot of snake oil salespeople. And if you don't know enough about the technology, you don't know when you're being sold something that you don't need. So, the real thing is know enough about new technology to know when someone is trying to sell you something you don't need. And that, that I think is that probably the most important take out message that I would have from London Book Fair.
Howard: You know, one of these days we're going to have to have a special conversation on the podcast about nothing but AI and we can both talk about all the wonderful and scary things that are coming to publishing.
Dan: That would be, that would be fabulous. Yes. Yes.
Howard: Well, well, well I know you're a busy man today's so I'll let you go and thank you for giving us all this special report from the London Book Fair.
Dan: Thank you very much indeed.