Mary Norris: The nit-picking glory of The New Yorker’s Comma

“Copy editing for The New Yorker is like playing shortstop for a Major League Baseball team — every little movement gets picked over by the critics,” says Mary Norris, who has played the position for more than thirty years. In that time, she’s gotten a reputation for sternness and for being a “comma maniac,” but this is unfounded, she says. Above all, her work is aimed at one thing: making authors look good. Explore The New Yorker’s distinctive style with the person who knows it best in this charming talk.

View Ted Talk video here.

 

Authors now paid weekly by Gumroad

Starting this Friday authors offering their works on Gumroad will be paid weekly and continuing next Friday. And next Friday. And the Friday after that too!

What are the royalty rates?

Just 5% + 25¢ per transaction.

No hosting fees, no monthly fees, no bandwidth fees, no refund fees.

I’ve been using Gumroad for a couple of years now, offering my ebooks in PDF format through them. PDF format is perfect for my puzzle ebooks and picture ebooks for children, plus each PDF can be personalized for free.

If you want to print out any of my ebooks then I suggest you visit my Gumroad link below and take advantage of the PDF format.

My ebooks available in PDF format on Gumroad.

Information on Gumroad.

New survey says most authors continue to earn less than $500 per year

The Guardian newspaper reports most authors earn less than $500 a year according to the latest research.

Almost a third of published authors make less than $500 a year from their writing, according to a new survey, with around a half of writers dissatisfied with their writing income.

In the wake of a year that has seen a bitter war of words rage between traditionally published and self-published authors, the survey shows that the old way of doing things continues to reap the most financial rewards for writers, with traditionally published authors making a median annual income of $3,000–$4,999, and independent writers a median of $500–$999. So-called hybrid authors, however – those who publish in both ways – did best, earning $7,500–$9,999 a year.

The survey also found that while roughly half of traditionally-published authors would prefer to follow the same route for their next book, two thirds of independently-published writers wanted to indie publish again.

“In opening and running their own publishing companies, these authors are finding that they can do things on their own terms and do better for themselves on average than many traditional publishers who might not have the same kind of commitment or investment in their work. That has to be very satisfying,” said Weinberg. “Having taken little monetary risk in their publishing endeavors, these authors may be pleased to earn even a little money.”

Traditionally published authors, meanwhile, are paid royalties and give up rights in exchange for the risk the publisher takes. They therefore “are likely to expect the publisher to deliver much more than they could do for themselves”, said Weinberg.

“There is frustration and disappointment when authors have given up control or future rewards and don’t receive the investment or see the results they expected. This finding speaks to the optimism in indie publishing that comes with the control and investment choices of indie authors, and I see it in my own experiences publishing fiction as DB Shuster,” said Weinberg.

“I know that if my book doesn’t sell today, there’s more I can do to promote it tomorrow, or maybe it will see a boost when my next book comes out. The time horizon is longer for indie authors: I don’t have to worry that the book doesn’t do well in the first few weeks because my publisher (me) is totally committed to my work and will continue to promote it even years from now. Finally, I’m in control of my own definition of success, and I’m not limited to particular sales numbers and dollar figures.”

The Guardian newspaper report was published January 23, 2015.

European Union VAT and Ebook Orchard update.

European Union VAT and Ebook Orchard update.

Following discussions regarding VAT and its implications to Ebook Orchard authors it has been decided to disallow residents of the European Union (EU) to purchase ebooks on Ebook Orchard until further notice.

The reasoning is that Ebook Orchard isn’t conducting B2C activities but is instead, due to no revenue earned by Ebook Orchard on any sale, acting as a financial service for authors. As a financial service provider Ebook Orchard would be required to provide authors with the details of each EU sale as well as the VAT tax collected – relationship between Ebook Orchard and author being B2B – and the author would then be responsible for complying with the rules & regulations concerning VAT within the EU. This would place an extra burden on an author by requiring said author to register with VAT even if author had only 1 EU sale every month or 1 EU sale a year.

Disallowing residents of the EU access to ebooks won’t be a burden on ebook purchasers from the EU or Ebook Orchard authors as the majority of ebook sales will occur on the traditional retailers like B&N, Apple, Kobo, Amazon, and subscription services.

Low Prices From Corporate Publishers Like Penguin and Harper Collins Dominate First Ebook Best-Seller List of 2015.

Major publishing houses like Penguin and Harper Collins are lowering their ebook prices. Finally.

On the first Ebook Best-Seller List of the new year, low prices appear to carry the day.

The average price of a best-seller is just $4.36, down from $5.96 the week before the holidays. Discounting meant to appeal to last-minute holiday shoppers is the likeliest reason for the sharp drop.

Only a single title among this week’s top 25 has a price-tag greater than $10.

Read the article and see the top 25 list here.

An ebook store by authors for authors

Ebook Orchard is an ebook store started by an author for the benefit of authors, and it is different than other retail outlets in that it doesn’t earn one cent from the sale of ebooks.

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I decided to create Ebook Orchard after trying to get an author co-operative started. Like many people, authors have little time left over from their jobs, family, and writing to volunteer additional time managing a co-operative of the size and type discussed.

There were many authors who loved the concept of a store by authors for authors and felt comfortable financing the site by a small monthly subscription rather than 30% to 40% or more per sale of an ebook. These authors viewed the co-op as an additional marketing tool for their ebooks, not just a store.

The additional benefits of numerous marketing and promotion opportunities being performed by the proposed store were important to authors.

Some authors shared their experiences with co-op book stores, both good and bad. These stories were most beneficial in understanding what worked and what didn’t work with the co-operative.

Ebook Orchard is in alpha stage of web site development right now as I add code and test ‘stuff’. With the holidays upon us the site will remain in alpha stage until perhaps mid-January, 2015. Beta stage hopefully by February so visitors can poke around Ebook Orchard as the final touches to the site and final testing take place.

There is an Ebook Orchard Facebook page, where I’ll post information about ebooks, reading and related topics. The posts will be sporadic during alpha and beta testing, but will become more frequent after Ebook Orchard goes live.

There is also an Ebook Orchard Shop on Facebook. The store will be functional after beta testing is complete sometime in February, 2015, and accessed by clicking on the Shop tab on the Ebook Orchard Facebook page.

Will Ebook Orchard be perfect when it starts? No. There will be growing pains as unexpected events popup here and there with a new product, as Apple and Microsoft well know.

If you want to visit the site next year and see if Ebook Orchard is in alpha stage – password protected site – or beta testing stage and open for checking us out then just type ebookorchard.com in your URL address bar.

Authors. Interested in forming a co-op for your own online retail store?

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If you are tired of giving 30-40% of the retail price of your book or ebook to somebody else then you may be interested in joining our author co-op and forming our own online retail store.

We want to keep most of the retail price to ourselves, because it’s tough out there and coughing up 30-40% on each sale adds up quickly.

We want a professionally looking and working site, one which satisfies both the visitor and ourselves. We want a professional site we are proud of owning. We want to still be able to offer our works anywhere we want.

If you are an author who is fed-up giving a sizable chunk of your money to somebody else and would rather keep most of it yourself, send me an email at the address at the end of this post.

I will build a list of authors interested in keeping more of their money in their own pocket and will contact each sometime in the new year.

Is there a cost involved? Yes, there are the ever-present credit card fees. There should be a small fee to cover expenses. What are those expenses? There are monthly fees for hosting, monthly fees for all the bells and whistles needed to make the site professional and meeting the needs of authors. There will be accounting fees, legal fees, federal and local taxes, and other expenses involved in running a business.

Gee, that sounds expensive. I don’t think I want to join.

What if I told you it would be about the cost of a Starbucks coffee a month if enough authors agree to get together and start their own online retail store. Would you be willing to exchange one coffee for the 30-40% on each book you now give somebody else? And still be able to sell you ebook/books anywhere else?

Okay, that is reasonable.

But what’s the catch? There is always a catch.

In the beginning the site will be for authors who have published works and have the skills to upload a mobi or epub file to the site, although there is a suggestion of a way around this which is being considered. There won’t be any conversion service nor any adult material permitted until the site is capable of hiring sufficient staff to review adult works.

That being said, if enough authors agree to join the group then things could change.

It doesn’t cost you anything to send me an email saying you’re interested. Let’s make 2015 the year authors give back to themselves.

UPDATE: There was lots of interest in forming a co-operative but no volunteers for forming a board of directors, or assist in forming bylaws, and only one person offering to assist in site creation and design.

I believe the concept of authors having their own retail store operated on a small subscription fee with authors keeping 100% of the retail price, minus transaction fees, currency exchange fees and other costs/taxes involved in sale of an ebook, is still something worth pursuing.

In that regard, I’ve taken it upon myself to create such a site for authors. I’ve named the site Ebook Orchard and during the next several weeks will be alpha/beta testing the site before Ebook Orchard is officially launched.

In the beginning of the New Year the site will be in beta testing stage but should be ready enough for authors to view it and read more about it.

Here is the link to Ebook Orchard. It may be open for previewing if you’re reading this sometime in January, 2015.

Only 18 authors to go

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Only 18 authors to go before the Smashwords Forum reaches 1,000 authors helping each other with questions about publishing or formatting or editing, promoting their works on the Smashwords Forum and other sites, and having fun chatting with one another.

The Smashwords Forum began life in 2011 and very slowly gathered members. I started the forum because Smashwords had no way for authors to meet and discuss problems they were having, other than using the Smashwords Support system on their Dashboard – a system often overwhelmed by new users asking the same questions and overwhelming the support staff. Many Smashwords Forum members wrote they were surprised to find a forum for Smashwords authors, and why isn’t this mentioned on the Smashwords site. I asked Smashwords the same question many times.

In 2013 the Smashwords Forum had an upgrade. New tools and enhancements made it easier for our members to use the forum in a more secure environment. This week some Smashword Forum members are now discussing publishing multi-author ebooks, which I find exciting for readers and authors.

Growing membership is akin to growing sales; both take time. Membership in the Smashwords Forum is free, so if you’re an author on Smashwords or are considering publishing a work through Smashwords then why not join our Smashwords Forum?

Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here – Here’s How

“Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here – Here’s How” is an article written by Smashwords founder Mark Coker on his blog on November 19, 2014. I’ve copied it here as I felt it contained good information for authors.

### Beginning ###

First the good news.

For indie (self-published) authors, there’s never been a better time to publish an ebook. Thanks to an ever-growing global market for your ebooks, your books are a couple clicks away from over one billion potential readers on smart phones, tablets and e-readers.

As a Smashwords author, you have access to tools, distribution and best practices knowledge to publish ebooks faster, smarter and less expensively than the large publishers can. In the world of ebooks, the playing field is tilted to the indie author’s advantage.

Now the bad news.

Everything gets more difficult from here. You face an uphill battle. With a couple exceptions – namely Scribd and Oyster – most major ebook retailers have suffered anemic or declining sales over the last 12-18 months.

The gravy train of exponential sales growth is over. Indies have hit a brick wall and are scrambling to make sense of it. In recent weeks, for example, I’ve heard a number of indie authors report that their sales at Amazon dropped significantly since July when Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited (I might write about Kindle Unlimited in a future blog post). Some authors are considering quitting. It’s heartbreaking to hear this, but I’m not surprised either. When authors hit hard times, sometimes the reasons to quit seem to outnumber the reasons to power on. Often these voices come from friends and family who admire our authorship but question the financial sensibility of it all.

The writer’s life is not an easy one, especially when you’re measuring your success in dollars. If you’re relying on your earnings to put food on your family’s table, a career as an indie author feels all the more precarious.

At times like this, it’s important for all writers to take a deep breath, find their grounding, remember why they became an author in the first place, and make important decisions about their future. It’s times like this that test an author.

Don’t fail the test.

Back in December, in my annual publishing predictions for 2014, I speculated that growth in the ebook market would stall out in 2014. I wrote that after a decade of exponential growth in ebooks with indies partying like it was 1999, growth was slowing.

I wrote that the hazard of fast-growing markets – the hazard of the rapid rise of ebooks – is that rapid growth can mask flaws in business models. It can cause players to misinterpret the reasons for their success, and the assumptions upon which they build and execute their publishing strategy. Who are these players? I’m talking about authors, publishers, retailers, distributors and service providers – all of us. It’s easy to succeed when everything’s growing like gangbusters. It’s when things slow down that your beliefs and underlying assumptions are tested.

I urged authors to embrace the coming shakeout rather than fear it. Let it spur you on to become a better, more competitive player in the months and years ahead. Players who survive shakeouts usually emerge stronger out the other end.

What’s causing the slowdown?

While every individual author’s results will differ from the aggregate, I think there are several drivers shaping the current environment.

1. There’s a glut of high-quality ebooks

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing by self-publishing naysayers who criticize the indie publishing movement for causing the release of a “tsunami of drek” (actually, they use a more profane word than “drek”) that makes it difficult for readers to find the good books. Yes, indie publishing is enabling a tsunami of poor-quality books, but critics who fixate on drek are blinded to the bigger picture. Drek quickly becomes invisible because readers ignore or reject it. The other, more important side of this story is that self-publishing is unleashing a tsunami of high-quality works. When you view drek in the broader context, you realize that drek is irrelevant. In fact, drek is yin to quality’s yang. You must have one to have the other. Self-publishing platforms like Smashwords have transferred editorial curation from publishers to readers, and in the process has enabled publication of a greater quantity and diversity of high-quality content then ever possible before.

The biggest threat to every indie or traditionally-published author is the glut of high-quality low-cost works. The quality and potency of your competition has increased dramatically thanks to self-publishing, and the competition will grow stiffer from this day forward.

Ten years ago, publishers artificially constrained book supply by publishing a limited number of new titles each year, and by agents and publishers rejecting nearly everything that came in through the slush pile. There was an artificial scarcity of books. The supply was further constrained by the inability of physical brick and mortar bookstores to stock every title. Even big box stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders could only stock a small fraction of the titles published by publishers each year, and as such they were forced to return slow-selling books to make room for new releases.

This rapid loss of shelf space for the poor sellers forced many high-quality books out of print before they had a chance to connect with readers. This then limited the supply of available books, which limited the competition for the authors whose publishers managed to keep their books in print and on store shelves.

We’ve moved from a world of artificial scarcity to organic abundance. Readers now enjoy a virtually unlimited selection of low-cost, high quality works, and these books will become ever-more plentiful and ever-more higher-quality in the years ahead thanks to self-publishing.

2. The rate of growth in the supply of ebooks is outstripping the growth in demand for ebooks

A few things are happening here. Ebooks are immortal, so they never go out of print. Like cobwebs constructed of stainless steel, they will forever occupy the virtual shelves of ebook retailers, forever discoverable. This is both good and bad. It’s good your book is immortal, because it means you can look forward to harvesting an annuity stream of income for many years to come, especially for great fiction because fiction is timeless. But it means that every year there will be more and more books for readers to choose from. Unless the number of readers and the number of books read by readers grows faster than the number of titles released and ever-present, there will be fewer eyeballs split across more books. This means the average number of book sales for each new release will decline over time unless readership dramatically increases, or unless we see an accelerating pace of transition from print reading to screen reading.

3. The rate of transition from print books to ebooks is slowing

The early adopters for ebooks have adopted. The exponential growth in ebook sales over the last six years was driven by a number of factors, most notably a rapid transition from print reading to ebook reading, and the success of ebook retailers such as Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Today, ebooks probably account for between 30 to 35% of dollar sales for the US book market, with genre ebook fiction a bit higher and romance quite a bit higher. Since ebooks are priced lower than print, the 30-35% statistic understates the amount of reading that has moved to screens. Most likely (especially when you include free ebooks), screen reading in the ebook format today probably accounts for around half or more of all book words read. But the rate of transition from print to ebooks is slowing. We’ve reached a state that might best be described as a temporary equilibrium. I think reading will continue to transition to screens, but at a much slower rate of transition than during the last six years. The slower rate of growth will therefore limit the number of new eyeballs available for the ever-growing supply of ebooks.

How to Succeed in the Future Competitive Landscape

The easy days are behind you, but tremendous opportunities still lie ahead.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, there’s never been a better time to be an indie author. Millions of readers are hungry to discover, purchase and read their next great book.

Here’s how to succeed in the new environment.

1. Take the long view

You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. Most bestsellers slogged away in obscurity for years before they broke out. Every bestselling author you admire faced moments where it seemed more sensible to quit than to power on. They powered on.

Work today to create the future you want 10 or 20 years from now. Six years into the ebook revolution, you’re still early in the game.

In any market, whether fast-growing or slow-growing, the early movers have the advantage. Although it was easier two years ago to grow readership than it is today, today it’s still dramatically easier to grow your readership than it will be two years from now.

Focus now on aggressive platform building. Build a social media platform – using tools such as Facebook, Twitter, a blog and a private mailing list – that you control. You ‘ll find platform-building is the most difficult when you’re first starting out. You’ll also find as you grow your platform and your following, it gets easier as your readers become your evangelists. Social media in all its forms rewards those who add value.

Authors who attract and capture the most readers today have the greatest opportunity to convert those fans to lifelong super fans. Super fans will buy everything you write and will evangelize your work through word of mouth, reviews and social media.

2. Good isn’t good enough

With the glut of high-quality books, good books aren’t good enough anymore. Cheap books aren’t good enough (Smashwords publishes over 40,000 free ebooks). The books that reach the most readers are those that bring the reader to emotionally satisfying extremes. This holds true for all genre fiction and all non-fiction. If your readers aren’t giving you reviews averaging four or five star and using words in their reviews like, “wow,” “incredible” and “amazing,” then you’re probably not taking the reader to an emotionally satisfying extreme. Extreme joy and pleasure is a required reading experience if you want to turn readers into fans, and turn fans into super fans. Wow books turn readers into evangelists. Last year I wrote a post titled, Six Tips to Bring Your Book Back from the Doldrums. It’s a self-assessment checklist that prompts you to take an honest look at your reviews, your cover image, your categorization and targeting. With some simple questions and honest answers, you’ll be ready to give your books a makeover.

3. Write more, publish more and get better

The more you write and publish, the greater your chances of reaching readers. The more you write, the more opportunity you have to perfect your craft. What are you writing next? Get it on preorder now. Never stop writing. Never stop growing.

4. Diversify your distribution

There’s a global market for your English-language books. Smashwords can help you distribute to iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo and public libraries. iBooks, for example, operates stores in 51 different countries and has become the world’s second largest seller of ebooks. Each of these 51 countries represents its own unique micro-market. If you’re not there with your entire list of books, then you’ll face long term disadvantage against the majority of Smashwords authors who’ve been building their fan bases for the last few years with uninterrupted global distribution.

If you don’t have all your books available at every retailer, you’ll undermine your long term potential.

At every writers conference I attend, I’m surprised by the number of indie authors who ask, “How do I decide between Amazon and Smashwords?” The question belies an unfortunate truth about the state of indie publishing – a scary large number of authors publishing at Amazon think Amazon requires exclusivity. Not true! Yes, they’ll poke and prod you to go exclusive, but you can say no. I recently wrote a short post for the IBPA (International Book Publishers Association) on this subject titled, Exclusive is Actually Optional at Amazon. Do your indie author friends a favor and help them understand the benefits of global distribution.

5. Network with fellow indies

As I wrote in the Indie Author Manifesto, indie does not mean “alone.” It takes a village to publish a professional-quality book. Network with your fellow indies at writers conferences and local writers groups. Share experiences and support one another through the good times and bad.

6. Publish multi-author box set collaborations

When authors publish and promote multi-author box sets, they can amplify their fan-building by cross-marketing to each participating author’s fan base. Box sets work best when every author pitches in on the promotion. Check out my recent blog post on how to do multi-author box sets. Partner with authors you love, and who you think your readers will love. Be a great partner!

7. Leverage professional publishing tools

Over the last couple years at Smashwords, we’ve introduced a number of new tools that give our authors a competitive advantage in the marketplace, such as Smashwords Series Manager for enhanced series discovery, and preorder distribution to iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. Yet despite the availability of these tools, they’re not universally adopted. Even though we’ve proven and communicated that books born as preorders sell more units that other books, only a minority of Smashwords authors release their books as preorders. Take advantage of these tools. They give you a competitive advantage!

8. Best practices bring incremental advantage

There’s no single magic bullet that will make your writing career take off. The secret is that you must do many things right and avoid mistakes that will undermine your career. The many things you must do fall under the umbrella of best practices.

As I wrote in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success in my discussion of Viral Catalysts, it’s helpful to think of your book as an amorphous blob, and attached to it are dozens of dials, levels and knobs that you can twist, turn and tweak to make your book more available, more discoverable and more desirable. What are these things you can tweak and adjust? I’m talking about your editing, your cover, your book description, pricing, categorization, etc. Once you get the combination of settings just write, your book will start selling.

Best practices are what separate the indie author professionals from the indie author wannabees. Be the pro! Even if you’re already a bestseller, challenge yourself to do better. Find those things you’re not doing that you should be doing better.

So here’s some good news for you. Although the indie author community is more professional and sophisticated than it was five years ago, the fact remains that most indie authors don’t fully exploit the power of best practices. There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit on the best practices tree that they’re ignoring. This means if you fully exploit best practices, you’ll have a significant advantage over the majority of authors who do not.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the most commonly underutilized best practices: 1. Many indies release their books without professional editing and proofreading. 2. A surprising number of authors end their book with a period and that’s it, and not with enhanced back matter and navigation that drives sales of your other books and drives the growth of your social media platforms. 3. Although indie authors are releasing books with better quality covers than ever before, a surprising number of authors still release books with low-quality homemade covers. 4. A lot of series writers haven’t yet experimented with free series starters, even though free series starters are proven to drive more readers into series and yield higher overall series earnings. 5. Many series writers don’t yet link their series books in Smashwords Series Manager, even though this tool increases the discoverability of series books at Smashwords and at Smashwords retailers. 6. Even though we’ve published strong evidence three years in a row in our Smashwords Surveys (2014, 2013, 2012) that longer ebooks sell better than shorter ebooks, some authors still divide full length books into shorter books that can disappoint readers. 7. Sloppy descriptions. You’d be surprised at the number of book descriptions that have typographic errors, or improper casing or punctuation. Readers pick up on this stuff. Mistakes like this are like a slap in the face of your prospective reader.

To long time readers of the Smashwords blog, you’re probably already familiar with many of the proven best practices I mentioned above.

If you want a refresher on best practices, please take some time to read my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Over 30 best practices are described there. And read the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for more than 40 free book marketing and author platform-building ideas. And then take some time to review my prior blogs posts here, or watch my ebook publishing tutorial videos at YouTube.

Indie authors pioneered many of these best practices. I learn from you and your fellow authors, and share what I learn.

9. You’re running a business

Mark’s Unconventional (but proven effective) Rules for Business: 1. Be a nice person. Treat partners, fellow authors and readers with kindness, respect and integrity. You’ll find as you develop your career, the publishing industry will feel smaller and smaller as you get to know everyone, and as everyone gets to know you. It takes a village to reach readers. All these people – fellow authors, critique partners, beta readers, editors, publishers, cover designers, publicists, retailers, and distributors – have the power to open doors for you. 2. Be honest. Business relationships are built on trust and honesty. The fastest way to destroy a relationship is to be dishonest. 3. Be Ethical. Don’t cheat. Do unto others as you’d want done unto you. 4. Be Humble. Yeah, I’ve told you have superawesome potential within you. But know that you can always be better. Celebrate those who help you succeed. Always know that none of us can achieve anything without the support, encouragement and love of those around us. It takes a village.

10. Pinch your pennies (an American saying that means, “be frugal with your money”)

Practice expense control. Your sales will always be uncertain, but your expenses can be controlled. Jealously guard your pennies. If you can’t afford professional editing, for example, find another way to obtain it. A couple months ago at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, I gave a presentation on best practices. To underscore my suggestion that writers find another way to get professional editing if they can’t afford it, I pointed out an editor friend in the audience and suggested that if authors couldn’t afford to pay for her services consider offering her something of value in exchange. Tongue in cheek, I said, “if you’re a professional masseuse, offer massage services.” To my surprise, I learned afterward that two professional masseuses in the audience handed the editor their business cards at the end of the presentation. You’ve got skills. Get creative. Trade editing with fellow authors. Trade services in exchange for professional cover design.

11. Time Management

Do you have too many hours in the day? Of course not. Organize your time so you’re spending more time writing and imagining, and less time with the menial grunt work. Smashwords can help on the distribution side. Consolidate your distribution to reap the time-saving benefits of centralized publishing control and metadata management.

12. Take risks, experiment, and fail often

Success is impossible without failure. Failure is a gift. The challenge is to take a lot of little risks and make every failure a teachable moment.

13. Dream big dreams

Be ambitious. Aim high. You’re smart and you’re capable. You must believe this. Because if you don’t try, you can’t achieve. Salvador Dali said: “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”

14. Be delusional

At the Pikes Peak writers conference three years ago, I had a fun conversation with uber-agent Donald Maas. Don had just told a room full of writers that self-publishing was a fine option if they didn’t want to sell any books. Later that night, we crossed paths at dinner. I told him I thought he was underestimating the impact self-published authors would have on the publishing industry. He told me he thought I was delusional. When someone doubts me, I feel energized. To have vision – to see what doesn’t yet exist – that’s delusional. Be delusional. What’s your vision? Know that every NY Times bestseller was absolutely nuts to write a book. Most books fail, so common sense would advise getting a job at McDonalds instead. Three months ago, three years after my conversation with Mr. Maas, Inc. Magazine named Smashwords to its INC 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies in recognition of indie authors at Smashwords who sold over $30 million worth of books at retail last year. Who’s delusional now?

15. Embrace your doubters

They know not of what they speak. They’re delusional too. They can’t yet see what you see. They can’t see what’ s in your imagination. Give ‘em a hug.

16. Celebrate your fellow authors’ success

Your fellow authors’ success is your success, and yours theirs. When you achieve success, do everything you can to pause a moment and lift up your fellow authors to join you. A journey shared is more satisfying than a journey alone.

17. Past success is no guarantee of future success

I think about this a lot at Smashwords. The world is cyclical. You’ll have ups and downs. When you’re having a great run, enjoy it, soak it in, bank it, pay off debts and build your savings for a rainy day. The rainy day will come. And then keep working. Never stop sprinting as fast as you can in the direction of your dreams.

18. Never Quit

Never give up. Quitting guarantees failure. If you never quit, you’ll never fail. Stamina and staying power beat the sprint. Think of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Fight for your right to pursue the best career in the universe.

19. Own Your Future

In the past, you were dependent upon publishers. Now it’s all you. Your success or failure is your own. You’re the writer and the publisher. You decide how you publish. You choose your partners. If you succeed or fail, it’s on you. Avoid finger pointing and celebrate those who help you succeed.

20. Know that your writing is important

Books are important to the future of mankind. You are the creator of books. That makes you special, and it also burdens you with a special responsibility. No one else can create what you have within you. Your writing represents the manifestation of your life, your dreams, your soul and your talent. You’re special. Others might think you’re suffering from delusions of grandiosity but so what? What do they know? If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Find success and satisfaction in the journey of publishing. Know that the measure of your importance and the measure of your contribution to book culture and humanity cannot be measured by your sales alone. The moment you reach your first reader, you’ve done your part to change the world. And that’s just the beginning.

If you publish for the right reasons and you adopt best practices that make your books more available and more desirable to readers, your future is as bright as your imagination.

### The End ###

Mark’s blog on this article is here

Authors! Beware of privacy laws in Brazil

Isabel Vincent, author, presently a reporter at the New York Post and formerly the Globe and Mail’s South America bureau chief from 1991 to 1995, was an official guest of the Canadian government at Brazil’s most important book fair, and was being sued for her latest book, which is now more than four years old. In fact, Gilded Lily: Lily Safra – the Making of One of the World’s Wealthiest Widows is now considered so controversial that it has been banned in Brazil for more than a year. Distribution of her book in Brazil carries a fine of approximately $50 a copy.

A court in Curitiba, in southern Brazil, banned the book – a biography of Ms. Safra, the billionaire philanthropist – after one of her relatives alleged that Vincent had defamed a Safra family member, who is dead. This took place even though the book had never been sold in Brazil, and has never been translated into Portuguese.

Now, she has the distinction of being the only foreigner to have landed in the centre of a long-simmering controversy in Brazil, where privacy laws can prevent the publication of unauthorized biographies. In Latin America’s biggest democracy, it’s not uncommon for “the Justice” to order the seizure of unauthorized biographies from store and library shelves. A publisher in Rio Vincent met said he is a defendant in dozens of cases filed under the privacy law. A journalist who works for Zero Hora, the leading daily in Porto Alegre, a southern city of about two million people, told her that he is a defendant in 30 lawsuits.

Read the full article in the Globe and Mail here.

Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2014 – 2018

Price Waterhouse Cooper Canada has released a comprehensive report on media and entertainment which contains information on books and ebooks. This overview may be useful for authors.

Key insights at a glance

1 Digital gains returned global consumer books revenue to growth in 2013. Global consumer books revenue grew in 2013 after years of decline, as the increase in e-books revenue surpassed the fall in print. Global consumer books revenue will increase at a CAGR of 0.9% to US$64.9bn in 2018.

2 China will become the second-largest book market in 2017. China will overtake Japan in 2014, and Germany in 2017, to become the second-largest book market in the world, with revenue of US$13.2bn, after the US with revenue of US$37.0bn. Education is increasingly a priority for many Chinese, as is professional development. In 2018, China will account for 35% of Asia Pacific’s total books revenue.

3 Growth in consumer e-books is strong, but slowing. While global consumer books electronic revenue remains high, increasing at a 17.6% CAGR over the next five years, growth is slowing as the market matures, with year-on-year growth down to 10.3% in 2018. With more reading taking place on tablets, publishers will increasingly have to compete with video, music and game content for attention.

4 Educational e-books have yet to gain traction…E-books are still to have a major impact in the educational space. Only 14% of global total educational books revenue will come from e-books in 2018, compared with 7% in 2013, falling behind consumer and professional e-books. The industry’s reliance on government budgets is preventing further increases.

5 …But educational publishers continue to invest in digital publishing. Despite barriers to growth, educational publishers are still backing digital publishing initiatives, especially in higher education. College electronic revenue in the US will reach US$2.2bn in 2018, accounting for 43% of total college book revenue.

6 Professional books will see the fastest migration to digital. No matter the size of the economy, businesses and the staff working in them will require the most up-to-date information available. Consequently, professional books is the category with the highest share of digital revenue, with 18% of global professional books revenue coming from digital sources in 2013, rising to 36% in 2018, when electronic professional books revenue will be US$8.8bn.

The above information – with graphs – is available for viewing here.

Overviews of the report on various segments of Media and Entertainment is available here.

The full report on Media and Entertainment is available on a fee basis and subscription.

Author goes into a tizzy over amateur response

Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith penned an article about author Kathleen Hale’s obsessive hunt for an amateur reviewer who had expressed an intense dislike for her book.

From the article:

Conventional wisdom has it that an author should never even respond to a negative review, let alone show up unannounced at a stranger’s house, looking for a fight. The intellectual level at Goodreads is known to be embarrassingly low, and most serious authors will claim to never even look at it, let alone engage with it. So why would a successful writer stoop so low? But the issue is a little more complicated than that. It’s not just about one writer’s hypersensitivity. The fact of the false identity and pictures is particularly intriguing. Posing as someone you’re not is fundamentally fraudulent, and we all have a natural urge to try to expose such frauds. When a friend of mine was harassed with anonymous hate messages and vague threats, I, too, wanted to hire a hacker to try to track down and identify such a cowardly person. (I was persuaded not to pursue it.) I completely understand the urge for justice. We all fantasize about the gotcha moment.

There’s something else going on here, too, and it’s a new phenomenon in literature. It’s not just the democratization of comment, the fact that average or illiterate readers now have public forums just like professional reviewers, nor is it even the commercial power of such forums. It’s the fact that authors are actually pressured to respond to amateur comment, to “engage,” as the PR jargon goes. This is the new wisdom of publishing, particularly for some reason in genre fiction such as YA: It helps to sell your work if you respect the “community” of readers (meaning online community, of course), if you make yourself accessible, if you tweet and blog frequently so as to make yourself as interesting as your writing. The idea is that readers will follow a charismatic person with more excitement than they will follow a body of work.

Read the full piece on the Globe and Mail here.

Kobo report on using big data to help authors

An opportunity lies among those books that have high completion rates yet suffer low sales. Clearly those readers who have stumbled upon these books have loved them – so while the marketing team or editorial department may not have seen a winner among these titles, the reader did; it may well be worth experimenting with marketing efforts to see if the books catch on with a wider audience once they’ve been surfaced and attention is drawn to them.

Over all, being able to identify true reader engagement allows for more targeted allotment of marketing and publicity resources. For single titles that are over-performing in terms of engagement versus sales, is there potential to create more awareness, a follow-up title, or turn the title into a series of books?

This report from Kobo looks at data in the same manner as Mark Coker has done with his numerous Smashwords ebook reports like those listed here and here, but perhaps making the use of such data more clear to some authors.

Data from subscription services like Scribd and/or Oyster provide valuable information on completion ratios of your ebooks by readers, thus providing more insight for Smashwords authors of which works are consistently attracting readers and which works are not.

Publishing in the Era of Big Data – Kobo Whitepaper Fall 2014

Editorially – an online collaboration site by writers for writers closes doors

UPDATE: Editorially closing web site on May 30th, 2014.

From Editorially, ”

Today brings some sad news: Editorially is closing its doors. The application will remain available until May 30, at which point the site will go offline. We encourage all users to export their data.

We’re proud of the team and tool that we built together and incredibly thankful that so many of you were willing to give it a try. And we continue to believe that evolving the way we collaborate as writers and editors is important work. But Editorially has failed to attract enough users to be sustainable, and we cannot honestly say we have reason to expect that to change.

We wish that were not the case — we’ve spent much of the past two years working on the hypothesis that the reverse was true — but today we must be honest with ourselves, and with you: this isn’t going to work.

We know many of you have spent time and energy making Editorially a tool you use every day, even going so far as to evangelize it to your friends and colleagues. For that: thank you. We’re sincerely sorry to have let you down.”

****

Editorially may be just the answer for the Smashwords Forum, as our forum is in the process of forming a Writers Group to help members become better writers.

The Smashwords Forum Writers Group (SWFWG) is in the early stages of formation, in the beta stage you might say. So is Editorially.

Some members of the Smashwords Forum are testing Editorially for suitability in achieving the purposes of the group, which includes Beta Readers – a designation given some forum members who have sufficient knowledge and experience in writing and are willing to offer their time as Beta Readers – helping evaluate the ease of use and capabilities of Editorially while at the same time improve the writing of SWFWG members using/testing Editorially.

Editorially has been excellent on all fronts, so far. Even though it is beta stage and bound to have a few bugs or need improvements here and there, members testing Editorially have found it easy to use, navigate, make comments/suggestions, and perform other collaborative efforts.

One minor quibble with Editorially is no explanatory text pops up when I hover my mouse over an icon when using my Firefox browser. The text may pop up with other browsers, but doesn’t with FF. Thus there were a few moments of fiddling about with a test page before I got a grasp of what the icons did. Not a major problem, but it takes a moment or two for the brain to kick in for lazy people like myself who are used to seeing explanatory popups when hovering over an icon.

Authors considering doing collaborative work should take a look at this relatively new site. It’s free, is in beta, and so far does everything I need.

The site is called Editorially, and you can reach it by clicking here. Take a few minutes to read about the site and what it offers. You may find it is just what you need.

The Smashwords Forum is open to all authors using Smashwords or considering using Smashwords to distribute their works. Free registration required for full access to site.

A flood of “Professional” ebook formatters

The advent of self-publishing through online retailers such as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and distributors like Smashwords has brought forth an assortment of ‘professional’ people willing to help a new author format an ebook or provide other services for a good size fee.

I manage a forum called the Smashwords Forum. This forum is for authors who need help with formatting, marketing, promotion, and all the other aspects of publishing an ebook. The forum is free to join, and has close to 700 members now.

The forum has a “Read before posting” section which contains a variety of topics with information on the forum, how to use the forum, and posting do’s and don’ts among other topics. The “Read before posting” section clearly states this is a forum for authors. It is not a forum open to everyone and anyone. It certainly isn’t there to help ‘professional’ people solve some problem with formatting or whatever.

To my way of thinking a ‘professional’ should possess an above average degree of knowledge on publishing ebooks. This knowledge, especially relating to formatting or conversion problems which are often the case with new authors, should be something a ‘professional’ knows about and can quickly solve.

The reason I bring this up is a ‘professional’ joined the Smashwords Forum and sought help with a problem which has been known about for a long time and discussed many times even on the Smashwords Forum. (Free registration required for full access.)

This ‘professional’ didn’t bother to read the “Read before posting” articles available on every forum board section, didn’t Search the forum before asking the question (very unprofessional), and at first didn’t bother to post the question in any of the forum boards.  Instead, this ‘professional’ just popped it into the Shoutbox at the very bottom of the board which few, if any, members ever scroll down to see or use.

To my way of thinking this was not professional. The way I see it, a ‘professional’ charging a goodly sum for services should possess a modicum of knowledge on a subject before charging for it. The ‘professional’ could have easily found the answer to his/her problem by simply searching the net for the answer, as his/her problem had been discussed many, many, many times over the years.

But this ‘professional’ was too lazy to even search the Internet for the solution. Not very professional.

So I barked at him/her on my forum. I wrote, “Marti or Jim, you offer your services as professionals (UCS Press) selling authors formatting for ebooks, so you really should have some understanding of epub coding. At the very minimum you should possess a modicum of formatting knowledge before selling your services.

Your UCS Press mission statement exclaims “To be known for exceptional customer service, and to provide a quality product in return for a fair price.”

This site is for helping authors, not self-proclaimed professionals who charge fees for their services and yet seek free help when they have a problem.

You’re a professional. Get professional help.

PS: Thank you for posting here as requested. Posting in the Shoutbox as you did multiple times isn’t the proper way to use a forum. I realize you needed a quick answer, being a professional charging money for your ‘services’, but posting here is proper etiquette.”

He/she didn’t like my reply. “I started doing formatting on SW before epub started.  This is something that I am trying to learn.  I had thought one of the reasons for this forum was to offer assistance.  I will look elsewhere for someone who wants to take the time to be professional about it and offer some assistance.”

My reply was “-members username-, if you had taken the time to review the “Please Read Before Posting” pages included on every forum board you would have seen this forum is for authors. Even if you had taken a moment to perform a Search using the two words paramount to your problem – epub start – you would have found links to posts which had help for that issue.

You were too lazy to even search for previous topics on this subject. Again, if you had bothered to read the “Please Read Before Posting” pages you would have had a good idea on how to Search this forum. But you are lazy and and unprofessional in your conduct and manner. You are a professional offering professional services for a healthy fee, but this forum is for authors seeking help, not professionals such as yourself. Be professional. Seek professional help, -members username.”

Maybe UCS Press does fine formatting and authors who use his/her services are quite satisfied. But it riles me when people who charge for services expect to get help for free when they have a problem. For geezus sake buy a book on the subject, search the Internet, take a course. At the minimum use the Search function on a forum and show a tidbit of professionalism.
I’m not saying the people operating UCS Press should never be used by authors, they may do good work. But there is a flood of ‘professionals’ stalking the ebook world seeking to make some money after failing to earn any as authors. Authors should cautiously approach any ‘professional’ and perform due diligence before consenting to any work agreement.

How to sell your ebooks directly on Goodreads and earn maximum royalties

Goodreads is a popular book/ebook review site recently bought by Amazon, but there is an easy way to sell directly to readers on Goodreads and earn maximum royalties.

Self-publishing authors can have links to mobi, ePub, PDF or some other file format, making it very easy for readers to click on the link, see your ebook cover, read your description, view the price you’ve set – even “set your own price” if you wish, before purchasing your ebook.

Method works on ANY secure site or blog having the https in the URL of the site, as Goodreads does.

Step-by-step instructions available at the Smashwords Forum link below.
NOTE: The Smashwords Forum viewing policy is like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites – free registration required to access all content on the site.
To view the article at link below you’ll have to register for free at the Smashwords Forum if you are not already a member.

Smashwords Forum Writers Group forming now.

Smashwords authors and authors considering publishing through Smashwords are invited to join the upcoming Smashwords Forum Writers Group.

The group is seeking input on a variety of topics of interest to authors. Authors can join the conversation by becoming a member of the Smashwords Forum – free to join – and together we can help each other become the best we can as authors.

View the conversation so far by clicking here.

I’m tired of reading about your low book or ebook sales. Do something about it.

crying cat

I want all you new authors out there who aren’t selling any books or ebooks worth a darn and are whining about your low or non-existent sales on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or other online locale to stop crying about it everywhere as the only sympathy you’re going to get is from your mom or your dog.

“I published BLAH BLAH BLAH on This Site or That Site or This Place and That Place and haven’t sold any. They are useless.”

“Blah Blah Blah is useless. I published there months ago and haven’t sold one book. Don’t use them.”

“My book (or substitute with ‘ebook’) took years to write and I haven’t sold one copy. Self-publishing is a waste of time.”

MAYBE YOUR BOOK SUCKS?

A few questions for all authors of low and non-existent sales:

If you published your work through companies like Smashwords or Amazon did you market links of your works on Smashwords and its affiliate retailers or Amazon on your web site or blog or Facebook or anywhere?

You did? Did you market it just a few times and then sit back waiting for the royalties to pile up in your bank account?

No? Oh, so you promoted your work everywhere and every day along with the millions of other authors promoting their works everywhere and everyday just like it was suggested by marketing pros and other authors on Linkedin (or some other social site). Good idea. Nothing like filling up social media sites with promotions for ebooks nobody reads.

Stop flooding social media sites with ebook or book promotions. Members of those sites are sick and tired of seeing them all the time.

Market yourself, make viewers interested in you, your viewpoint, your pictures, something, anything but just BLAH BLAH BLAH BUY MY BOOK. Or something similarly barf-worthy as “I just got another 5-stars for BLAH BLAH BLAH”. Okay, so who cares? Do you really think telling the world your work got 5 stars is going to convince people to buy your book, let alone even click on the link to see the review? Thousands of authors get 5 star reviews. Some authors even buy them or use phony names when writing a glowing review of their own work.

But you say even your Author Page or author blog doesn’t get much traffic? Gee, who would have guessed that hundreds, thousands, or millions of people wouldn’t flock to a site about a book and author nobody knows about or has heard about.

I hate to tell you this, but Author Pages or author blogs or anything similar only work worth a damn once you have an audience; a significantly large audience. Sure, you might get 50 -200 visitors a week or month to your author page or blog, but those visitors may have just landed there by mistake. Think about it. If you’re not selling any books then who is visiting your site? And if viewers are visiting your site and you’re still not selling any books or ebooks then perhaps there is a lesson there?

Lots of authors whine about low sales. Maybe it was a crappy book in the first place, maybe it had lousy editing, maybe you were charging $9.95 for something people felt was far overpriced, or maybe the ebook cover or description turned off readers.

Instead of whining about low sales or no sales on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace or elsewhere you should stand back and look at your work with fresh eyes and see why it didn’t sell.

Then fix it so it stands a chance to catch a reader and hold their attention long enough to part with their hard earned money.

Here is an idea, and it won’t cost you a cent (unless – shameless plug coming – you want to own your own copy of Buy This Book. Make Me A Millionaire available at all major online retailers for only $0.99)……. WALK IN THE OTHER PERSONS SHOES!

When marketing your work write the promo as you would want to read it. Think of the hundreds of times you bypassed a promo for an ebook and then remember what it was about the promo that caught your eye and held your attention long enough to click on the link to the promo item.

You’re a writer, goddam it, so write interesting marketing blurbs and tweets. And quit whining about your lousy sales because no one cares, probably not even your mom and especially not your dog.