Tag Archives: readers

Thoughts on Succeeding as a Modern-Day Author

 Image by "Lynn Gardner on Flickr":http://www.flickr.com/photos/grandgrrl/5240360344/ and used with Creative Commons License.

Image by “Lynn Gardner on Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/grandgrrl/5240360344/ and used with Creative Commons License.

A couple things happened in the world of eBook sales the last few weeks, and I thought it might be useful to write down some thoughts on the matter.

Massive Report On Amazon Sales Released

First, Hugh Howey, bestselling author of the Silo Saga, released a report on Amazon’s sales figures. If you’re trying to sell eBooks, particularly as an independent author, I highly recommend you read the report. The report goes into detail, examining how different types of authors do when selling their books on Amazon, including numbers of books sold, amounts of money made, and changes in which authors are walking away with the biggest slices of the publishing pie. In the end, the report (and other articles I’ve read that riff on it) make it sound as if, for new authors, self-publishing is the best way forward. Going with the big five only seems to benefit writers who are already established, particularly since (more and more frequently) marketing duties fall to the writer in both cases.

Apple Adds iBook App to iOS8, reducing purchasing friction

Secondly, I’ve just read an article on how iOS8’s inclusion of an iBook app does away with an important point of friction for buyers on the iBook platform. Knowing this, and having glanced a few times at my Smashwords sales reports, I took a moment to head over to my Buy My Books! page and enter in additional links direct to each platform that had reported sales. This included Kobo and iBooks,

Value Added By Traditional Small Publishers Continues To Lessen

The third point I want to mention is that a friend who works primarily in self-publishing, but also had a publishing deal with a small press for a horror novella, recently had an interaction with her publisher regarding their agreement and the number of copies that had sold during the two-year term of her contract with them. The email she received in return was disappointing: vague regarding actions they’d taken (which they were contractually obligated to undertake), nonspecific about the number of sales her book had seen over the past two years, and essentially tepid about continuing to sell and market her book. When she asked my advice about whether to keep or dump her publisher, my take was that they didn’t seem to be adding value.

Because value is what it’s all about, as an indie publisher, isn’t it? We spend our time and often our money finding ways to add value to our work: covers that pop, ads that reach our intended customers, giveaways that grow both awareness and mailing lists. While publishing houses might offer individuals with specific publishing expertise, if that only results in a few press releases being sent around a state – and no interviews or reviews – is any value really being added? If Smashwords can upload your eBook to numerous growing retailers (particularly those, like Apple, who are moving towards eliminating friction in the purchasing process), or Amazon actually pays you significantly more than a writer with a Big Five contract…what real value do you get from pursuing a traditional path to publication? One friend, who works closely with an Agent, even reported that if he couldn’t get his clients a good deal within six months, he recommended they self-publish then re-shopped their work once they had sales figures to back it up – and then got them much better offers. While we’re not all fans of marketing, and staying on top of the latest trends takes time many of us would rather spend in polishing our drafts, the reality is that self-publishing lets us make more money and saves the Big Five the problem of dedicating resources to authors who won’t sell.

In short, it’s looking more and more like writers who want to succeed have to be prepared to do so in a self-publishing space.

The City’s Son & The Glass Republic: The Best YA Fantasy Novels I’ve Read In Ages

A month or two ago, I won a competition for two books on Twitter. Author Tom Pollock (@tomhpollock) offered up the first two books of his Skyscraper Throne series, The City’s Son and The Glass Republic, and I figured I may as well enter.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I just finished (like, ten minutes ago) The Glass Republic, which is the second book in the series. It was incredible. I haven’t read a book that captured my attention, with such a carefully-built and real alternative reality, in a very, very long time. I immediately took to Twitter and probably embarassed myself a bit by raving about the books, but you know what? If it means he sells a few more copies, I don’t even care. These books were phenomenal, and without wanting to give away spoilers, here’s what I’ll say:

The series begins with two friends, Beth Bradley and Parva “Pen” Khan, London girls navigating the complexities of high school and family and more. They’re quickly dragged into an alternative world where the streets of the city are alive and the son of the city’s Goddess is trying to save their world from destruction.

2014-03-16 10.25.26The first book, The City’s Son, is focused on Beth, while Pen takes a bit of a backseat (though not much of one – her story in this book is one of the most chilling depictions of a character being snatched up by the forces of evil that I’ve ever read). Beth joins forces with the titular City’s Son, learning about the alternative world beneath her feet and ultimately helping fight to save it.

Book two, The Glass Republic, is divided between the two girls, but it’s Pen’s story that’s front and center, here. In this novel, a new facet of Pollock’s alterna-London gets explored – London-Under-Glass, a world reflected in mirrors and filled with intrigue and danger.

2014-03-18 20.24.38Both books feature fully dimensional, well-drawn, independent, risk-taking female protagonists who develop over the course of their stories and find themselves. I preferred book 2 to book 1, but only by a smidge, and only because it’s a little more full-throttle. Don’t skip The City’s Son, though, because you’ll be lost among the creatures in The Glass Republic and besides, it’s a fantastic read.

Although Goodreads has a listing for the third book, I can’t find it yet on Amazon, so I’m assuming it’s not out over here yet. (Pollock is a British author). I’ll be checking back regularly to see if it’s available.

Links:
The City’s Son
The Glass Republic
Both by Tom Pollock.

Conflicting Emotobooks?

Somebody get me an emotobook, stat. I need to figure these things out.

There’s been a steady background buzz/chatter, via the usual social network suspects, regarding emotobooks for about a week now. I looked into them about a minute ago.

Near as I can tell, an emotobook is a book created for consumption on digital platforms, with a text injected with pieces of abstract visual art. That art is meant to evoke a certain mood or feeling being experienced by the characters, thereby bringing a new level of emotional involvement to its readers.

Color me socked in the stomach. Is this a new evolution of the book, a new bridge in the gap between unillustrated texts and graphic novels? Is the writing/illustration a collaborative effort? What is the quality of the writing and is it possible for writers to create a piece that doesn’t wind up leaning on the ability of painting/artwork to provoke emotions? What does this mean for the commercial future of painting as an art form? Is using abstract art to evoke emotion in the service of the written word a new thing, or is this just an updating of the classical idea of illustration? Knowing how some authors have had negative reactions to having their works illustrated, what is the level of interaction between author and artist, here, and what will it become if emotobooks take hold as more than as passing fad? If an editor feels a writer needs “help” pulling an emotional reaction from their audience, will the decision be to make the writing more resilient and communicative, or to throw in a graphic that “nudges” the reader in the right direction?

Anticipating the answer to that last question makes me a little nervous, particularly in light of my feelings on the quality of writing in some recent bestsellers. At the same time…it’s an exciting idea, if executed well, and potentially opens reading up to much larger audiences. While my gut frets, “What about the ghettoization of unillustrated fiction?!” my mind replies, “Don’t be an idiot, art is not a zero-sum game.” So for now, I’m going to tell my gut to shut its big mouth, and see where emotobooks take us.

On the reader’s side, I’ve only heard good things about the experience of reading in this form, and I’m glad of that. Mostly, people are talking about the emotobooks making it possible for them to connect with what they’re reading to a degree they hadn’t quite understood before. A new way to open up the classics? I’m in.

Think about it: haven’t you ever had the experience of watching a movie, and that making it easier to get through a classic work of literature? I wouldn’t have been able to make my way through Jane Austen (who I grew to adore) if I hadn’t had the six-part BBC miniseries to help me learn how to read them to hand. But some writers don’t lend themselves (in my experience) to quite the same kind of graphic dissection. I’ve got about a hundred pounds’ worth of books by Russian writers, and as many times as I try, I can’t get into them.

Maybe I’m reading crap translations. But maybe having some emotionally evocative visual art inserted into “Crime and Punishment” would help me – and other readers – follow along.

The Buying Habits of the Paying Readers of Self-Published Authors

A week or so ago, I had a conversation with a friend who reads a lot of e-books. While though her preferred genre – supernatural YA fiction – isn’t one where I’ve yet published, it was still great to hear her opinion on what worked and what had changed in the field since she had started reading e-books, particularly the self-published ones.

She’s noticed a couple of different trends:

– Where books used to be 400-600 pages, now they usually topped out around 250.

– Prices went up as series built their readership – and while she found this frustrating, she also acknowledged that it was a self-perpetuating system.

She also told me that every week, she gets a selection of free books, and those are the ones she reads – before she reads anything else. Which brought to mind something I had seen discussed a week or two ago, about how Kindle Select and its and free loans might be degrading the market for paying fiction readers. What my friend was telling me was exactly the opposite: the writers finding financial success were the ones whose stories were of a quality compelling enough to make people keep reading them. While the first book might be free, the second, third or fourth could rise as much as a dollar per volume in cost.

A while ago, I talked about why I wasn’t feeling particularly gung-ho about Kindle Select; for authors in specific genres, such as coming-of-age YA fiction, though, I suddenly understand where the impetus could come in to offer a short sample of work – but a whole novel?

My friend said that one of her frustrations with the indie market was a lack of well-edited work. By this, she was talking not just about proofreading, but about actual editing: someone who has gotten down in the trenches with the writer and helped them make their story as strong as possible.

I can understand why a reader might want to go on a short trip with an author, a setting, and a group of characters before setting out on a longer journey. But isn’t that what sample chapters are for? Is free, Kindle-Select-Accessible material a requirement for self-published authors who want to make an impact? If so, how might that impact writing trends overall? Is it just a YA thing? Just a genre thing? What about in literary fiction; what’s going on in those self-publishing circles? Is the tendency to read free books first part of why Smashwords and B&N sales are abysmal, because their platforms don’t provide options for free sampels?

HOT MESS: speculative fiction about climate change, is available for Kindle, Nook, on Smashwords and in print.. Cover design by Sarah Hartley.

Now, some of this is navel-gazing – after all, Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change is still selling steadily, and we neither used Kindle Select nor did I have other offerings for sale when the book was published.

But I do have other work in the pipeline. Haiku Of The Living Dead, for example, which is a Zombie Haiku compilation I’m putting together with Miranda Doerfler, which will likely not be eligible for Kindle Select because we’re allowing submissions to be made in public forums (including in the comments to this blog entry) accepting submissions throughout the week

So many questions. Clearly I have some reading up to do. But if any of my readers want to talk about their self-published-fiction-buying habits in the comments, your perspective would be appreciated.