Independent Publishing in the Year 2015

I mentioned in a previous post that I was planning on self publishing my upcoming Non-Fiction book Overcoming Anxiety, and I noted the changed landscape of the publishing industry. I promised to update and share the information I learned as I picked it up. Reader beware, at the speed of a flash, these things are changing so everything I say here will be outdated by the time I push the publish button on WordPress.

One most noticeable difference is that Discoverability is now the buzz word. There are millions of digital books flooding the market and the gatekeepers have changed.  While previously you needed to send ARC’s to bookstores and newspapers, the gold standard was Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times. You also wanted your legacy publisher to buy you shelf space near the front of the store. Blogs were a nice niche place to get reviews, but they were often seen, with the exception of a few of the bigger ones, as rather frivolous and really nor important.

in 2013-2014 it became more necessary to get plenty of reviews, to get promoted on a site know as Bookbub (which reached over a million digital readers and could be targeted), and to write series, as they were the engines of online sales. For reasons I won’t go into now, even that changed and independent publishing got much harder. It no longer was a gold rush.

Bookbub‘s success (it now reaches over 2 million subscribers) meant that it had to get picky and expensive. You still made your money back and more if they “picked” your book but it was an expensive outlay for the struggling indie author. But getting picked meant, among other things, that you needed at least five substantial reviews, a certain length of book, and the most convincing book description, since you were often competing with 19 other authors for one opening (nowadays there is no specified number, but in a recent Q and A on Kindle boards Bookbub admitted that in a competitive area like contemporary romance, typically 100+ reviews were the norm

To make matters harder, how was a new independent author to get all those reviews? The multitude of authors with whom you are competing all turned to niche blogs to get reviewed, which worked for a while, but then all these bloggers were swamped with books to read after they came home from their day jobs.  Soon getting five reviews in the first few weeks became hard, and when the goal posts moved again (Bookbub‘s success squeezed your success out) – there was no way to get 100 reviews, except by giving away free books in the tens of thousands.  The free giveaway worked briefly for increased sales and definitely for more reviewers (including more negative ones) but Amazon changed the algorithms and the way affiliate referral were made, and so free books, while still a good idea with a series, became much less useful.

When I return to this topic I will talk about the trend to lend (especially on Amazon) instead of sell, and to other issues only briefly touched on here.

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Rekindling the Art of Reading

I was probably the last person on earth to get an eReader, but the other day I finally broke down and bought one, and have already begun working my way through the classics with Jack London (White Fang) and James Joyce (Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man).

These were two books I read in high school, and because they were free (yes I am a cheap skate) I have now once again taken a fresh look at them. It strikes me that Kindle is likely to not only largely replace the Public Library (in Republican South Carolina tax cuts have devastated the Public Library System) but for all looks and purposes, Kindles seem to be opening reading as a hobby to a whole new group of readers.

Everywhere I look there seems to be a mother with babies in tow, reading a Kindle. When I talk with many of these readers, they are often the same people who formerly bought Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts or Harlequin Romances often at the grocery store. They are still buying these books (but now often through a Kindle Store), yet because they love their eReader, they also are downloading free and low cost books in other genres ranging from Self Help to those free classics.

Kindle has made reading an easy lifestyle choice, no longer associated with language arts. The number of readers who use Kindles or other eReaders has increased dramatically every year, and within the near future more than half of the books sold each year will be e-Books.

Another interesting benefit of the electronic book trend is that books are now perpetually available to the reader. The traditional shelf-life on a newly published books at a Brick and Mortar store was 3 months, and if the author did not sell through some 60%+ of their books in the first year, it would usually die with a whimper.

With eBooks there is no magic number of sales needed to keep a book “in print” and so an author can grow their sales and reputation over time, without needing the right combination of luck and money to succeed.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Stephanie Plum Movie

As someone who has met Janet Evanovich and read all of the Stephanie Plum novels, I am waiting with anticipation for the Stephanie Plum movie that is due out in a couple weeks, called One for the Money.

One for the Money stars Katherine Heigl in the role of Stephanie Plum, Evanovich’s bounty hunter protagonist of a series of novels. The first Stephanie Plum movie is based on One for the Money, the first book in the Stephanie Plum series. Irish actor and TV star Jason O’mara plays the male lead, Joe Morelli. Ranger is also played by an actor mostly known for TV roles.

I plan to review the movie when it comes out but wanted to discuss the casting issues here. The original offer for the role went to Reese Witherspoon who apparently turned it down. It is a big career decision to take on a part like this, and Katherine Heigl is likely to be as associated with the Stephanie Plum movie character as Sean Connery is with James Bond, even if she does only a few of the seventeen (at least) sequels that are inevitable.

Sandra Bullock was also discussed, especially by Evanovich fans, as the best choice for the One for the Money lead, but it is well-known that she was out of commission for some time, only recently returning to work on movies, after she had a bad romance.  

Debby Reynolds as Gramma Muzur was also not a first choice. Many wanted Betty White, and I would be curious to learn (does anybody know?) if the first choice was actually Debby Reynolds, or was it Betty White?

I also was surprised that the male chosen to play Ranger was not taller, and why he was not expected to wear his hair in a pony tail. He should have been cast as a contrast to the Jason Omara character, who might be expected to be comparatively more clean cut.

 As I mentioned above, I plan to review this when it comes out and expect I will enjoy it, and it will enjoysome  box office success as fans of the Stephanie Plum books will not be able to resist taking a look.

BookTour.com is closing

While on the subject of eBooks, and changes in technology, I just got an email announcing that BookTour.com is closing. I was one of the first to welcome them when they came on the scene a couple of years ago, and for a while they seemed to be striking just the right chord.

To quote from their email:

“We regret to inform you that BookTour will be shutting down….fewer author tours and changes in book marketing budgets have made our company financially unviable.”

While stores like Borders are closing and ceding territory to Amazon and other eBook vendors, the emerging market for eBooks has put a premium on online promotion and virtual book tours, not to mention social media in general.

For book publicists this is a new wrinkle in the terrain, and raises further the question of what role publishers, publicists, book chains, and Indies will be playing in the new market.

Kindle Million Club: Janet Evanovich Joins the Elite Group

We learned recently that Janet Evanovich has broken through selling more than one million Kindle copies of her books. This distinction was noted on Galleycat today. Other traditional authors who have sold that many kindle eBooks include Nora Roberts, Stieg Larsen, Lee Child, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Charlaine Harris, and Katheryn Stocket, author of The Help.

Ms. Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum Novel Smokin Seventeen has been on the best-selling Kindle list for over 100 days.

These are the mainstream authors, but for 99 cents each independent author John Locke’s million books sold have earned him a comfortable cushion that leaves many mid list and even top-selling authors in awe.

Current trends suggest that close to 15% of all Americans own an eBook reader like the Kindle.  With Harry Potter riding the eBook broomstick, the die seems to be cast, especially for the next generation of readers.

I for one welcome the changes, and think it may be a good way for psychologists to get useful self-help and other information to the public, and health care professionals everywhere should see the value as a preventative intervention.

More importantly, we are still in the first wave of innovation. With advances in the technology, the Kindle eBooks should become much more interactive, and include links to important web supplements, and begin to blur the entertainment boundaries to include music, games, and social media components.

 

5 Star Review: Nutcase by Charlotte Hughes

As a psychologist I love the opportunity to read fiction that involves psychology. Nutcase is a romantic suspense by Charlotte Hughes. It features Kate Holly, a clinical psychologist from Atlanta. While it has a plot that centers on a serial arsonist, the book is really an ensemble story with a host of interesting and fun characters, and its central premise, that the life of a psychologist is enough to drive anyone nuts, rings true.

The story begins with Kate and her ex-husband in couples therapy. In the first book in the series (this book stands alone fine) Kate and her husband Jay “accdentally” go through with a divorce that Kate intended to call off. But what with a nitroglycerin explosion of her office and other madness and mahem from the first book, the divorce unfolded without protest. Now they are trying to get back together, but her Jay complains that she is using sex to avoid talking.

And there is a lot that kate is keeping to herself. Like that she is being evicted from her office because of the explosision and may have to move to share an office with a psychiatrist ex-boyfriend, who still wants her back. Her dog gets depressed from an empty nest syndrome. Her aunt (who is her mother’s twin and co-owner of a Junk art business) has run off with a con man who is also her patient. Her eccentric receptionist is dressing like a nurse as a dress rehearsal for nursing school, and one of her patients thinks she is Marie Osmand.

These problems and dozens of other unusual predicaments challenge Kate, who just happens to have a mild obsessive compulsive disorder (Monk light) and serve to entertain while the arson plot unfolds.

This is the second book in this series by Ms. Hughes, and in this series, one can see that she perfected the art of writing a series when she co-authored the FULL series with Janet Evanovich. This book is most like her ensemble romantic comedy A NEW ATTITUDE in that it’s also about the support and love you get from friends and family, when the going gets tough; it is also just as uplifting. There are several therapy scenes in the book, and as a psychologist I thought that they often (while obviously magnified for fictional effect)
not only true to form but also often potentially helpful to the casual reader who has not had the benefit of therapy. I especially enjoyed the vignette where she helps a young gang member sort things out.

I give this book my top rating, despite its relatively striaghtforward suspense plot. It still a novel you cant put down, and what it lacks in dramatic tension it more than makes up for in humor and inspiration. This is a book you will keep on your shelves, so your friends will just have to get their own copy. Charlotte Hughes writes incredibly realistic dialogue, makes her characters always 3 dimensional, and most important makes them so likable and interesting that you are sorry the book ends. The perfect setup for a series that will be a great success.

Book Review- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twighlight by Stephenie Meyer
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (September 6, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0316015849

The first book in the Twighlight Series by Stephanie Meyer is really two different books. As a book about teen vampires, it is essentially a comelling romance. The first 2/3 of the book deals with a forbidden love between an endearing mortal teen girl and the alluring teen male vampire she finds at her new school. Since vampires and humans dont mix well, this chasm between thier worlds serves to keep them apart, despite the fatal attraction they feel for each other. As thier feelings emerge and unfold, thier dangerous dalliance is heightened by the simple fact that Bella, the 17 year old girl, smells so delicious to Edward, her vampire suitor, that he can barely resist eating her. Therefore, because he loves her they cannot be too close. But he brings other virtues that make him the perfect (if unattainable) suitor. For one thing he is (excuse the pun) drop dead gorgeous. Also he has this habit of saving her life repeatedly. The early book is nonetheless a classic romance with very slow movement towards a requited love in which each is more than willing to sacrifice their own needs, for the other.

The last third of the book is a suspense/action/fantasy book in which two warring clans of vampires fight over Bella. Edward and his family are on her side, and a wily nemesis proves a worthy adversary. This part of the book feels so different from the first 2/3 that this evaluator got the sense it might have been better if it had been expanded and included as the second book in the series. It comes out of nowhere and detracts as much as it adds, although the plot is well enough written and a page turner while it is happening. It does not seem organically related to the romance, however.

Meyer has had great success with this series, and this, the first book of the Twilight series has a number of features that help explain her success. Foremost is how likable and believable Bella is, as a teenage heroine. The self-conscious intelligent clutz, who does not know how beautiful she is, is just enough of an outsider to be a compelling target of identification for the many women and girls who cherish the book. The interplay with other teens is often set in the lunchroom, and the rivalries, prom dates, and cars all ring about as true as any teen story ever penned by an adult; who hasn’t experienced these universal problems of finding a date, or a tablemate at the lunchroom? These scenes will make every reader that attended a public high school feel at home. But it is the juxtaposition of this homey, familiar angst with the dark dangerous vampire drama that makes both apsects of this novel special.

Meyer has written a memorable romance and uses the vampire angle to make the forbiden love theme especially compelling, and as a result she is able to keep her hero and heroine apart in a believable way, and consequently she sets up a series in a manner that will allow the relationship chasm to be crossed on a slow and believable way across several later books. As a first book in a series, the story works very well, but that means this single book loses something, since she can not have much closure in this one stand alone book. It’s designed to keep you reading.

Rated 3 1/2 stars

Friends or Fans? Social Networking Basics for Authors

one of my friends

one of my friends

Social Media for Book Promotion, Part III

People new to social media often get confused when it comes to what the internet means by “friend.” In the following post, I help explain the basics of how to establish a thriving network of friends and other contacts on the internet.

Anyone who uses social media to keep track of friends and colleagues in the same way they used an address book, are pretty much missing out on web 2.0 — and they are making a mistake similar to the kind made by those who shy away from using a word processor when writing books, or from emails when they are penning letters.

Friends in social media websites are the backbone of the networking potential unleashed by the web, and the “tail that wags the dog” of the new media. Making good use of effective social networking makes sense, especially for anyone with something to promote.

Buzz Builder

But celebrities and authors have another challenge, one of harnessing their fans as a “word of mouth” resource.

Getting Started

When you first sign up for sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, you will quickly discover that you need to figure out this “friending” thing. After you have created a profile, with some relevant information about yourself, you can select other users of the same site to be your “friend,” if you want to have a connection. The rationale for asking for and accepting someone as a friend/connection can range from a weak shared interest, to intimate bonds of trust, but one thing that you need to remember is that it will be fairly public.

Whom should I add as a friend?

Friends and family of course, for starters. But other kinds of people can and should be your friends on social media sites. What other type of person you want as a friend may well vary from site to site.

Freud Friend

Freud Friend

On a site like Linked In, where the emphasis is on connections in the professional arena, you will want to be sure to add friends who are from your professional life. For authors, that means publishers, agents, reviewers, distributors, book sellers, publicists and such. But it helps if the people you add in a site like that are well connected in the industry.

An author may well choose to use a site like Facebook and/or MySpace to inexpensively and easily keep in frequent contact with fans, or even with readers with similar tastes, who may well become fans of your book sometime well after they become fans or followers of you. And this may be a good place to stay in touch with your peers as well.

On still other sites, such as Digg or StumbleUpon, friendship means something else, or at least it serves a different additional purpose. On social news sites and similar venues that recommend things of interest – a funny video, a thoughtful commentary, a useful website, a great tutorial, a pithy blog comment –for these sites, friends are primarily useful as collaborators. It’s a culture of “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.” If you plan to use these sights to champion anything you wish to promote or “shout out,” then you need reliable and persistent friends who will help you get your impact.

Can I really ask a stranger to be a friend?

Most certainly, some people prefer to have only close friends and maybe family as their social networks, and yet others want literally 1000’s. Some choose to have one site which they use for closer relationships, and then use Facebook to reach out to the universe. It’s partly a matter of style, temperament, and what you’re looking for. But if you are planning on using the web to advance your career, or publicize your novel launch, or promote your blog, you will want to start connecting to a wider group of people.

Here are some basic steps to get you started adding friends you know:

1. Invite your email list address book (yahoo or gmail, etc.) to become a friend. Most of the major sites will make this easy for you if you feel comfortable letting them have your password.
2. Put a link to your profile on your website or blog, if you have one, inviting people to friend you.
3. In many sites you can search classmates, people at places you have worked, or people from your hometown, to see if there are any familiar faces.
4. Put a link to your socail media site or sites in the signature of your email.
5. Join and participate in some groups, at each of oru sites; you will make friends.
6. Once you have a few friends, you can look at their profile. In most cases you can see who their friends are as well, and some of them are often people you know in common.
7. Accept the friend requests that come your way. If the new friend turns out to be selling something you wouldn’t dream of owning, you can simply remove them as your friend.

How About Approaching People I Do Not Know?

If you have carefully read a site’s spam policy, (so you don’t misuse these ideas), it is perfectly all right, in fact it is standard in social media sites, to befriend people whom you do not know. It is always polite to include a small note saying what prompted your friend request, but this is a matter of etiquette and not a requirement. Usually you ask someone to be your friend because they are a friend of a friend, and/or something about their profile interests you, or because you share a professional or personal interest, entertainment taste, or common goals, values or ideas.

How does an author connect to his or her fans?

In addition to the standard friendship steps, authors may want to attract their fans. You can advertise or promote in order to do that, but I suggest you save your money. If you already have 50,000 readers, you can expect at least 5,000 of them already are, or soon will be, on sites like Facebook or MySpace. You can locate them by searching their profiles. Most people list the kinds of books they like to read, and also cite specific author or book favorites.

Romantic Comedy

Romantic Comedy

Start by searching for your own name, in quotes, or one of your more popular books. So for example, Romantic Comedy author Charlotte Hughes should search for “Charlotte Hughes” (the quotes are important, don’t leave them out), as well as some recent books like “What Looks Like Crazy” and “Nutcase.” You will get a list of everybody on the site who said she was their favorite author, or who has mentioned those books as favorites in their profile.

Next, to broaden the net you cast, you can search for your genre. In the above example, Charlotte would certainly want to see who said they liked romances, and also do a separate search for potential friends who like comedy. Since “What Looks Like Crazy” was sold on the mystery shelves, she would also want to search for mystery. Problem is, each of these genre searches will give you way too many potential friends, and you might want to narrow it down. You could require, in the search, for example, that they have mentioned that genre and be from your home state. More practically, why not become friends with people who share your genre, and who live in the cities where you plan to have your next book tour?

Try Joining and Participating in Some Interest Groups

One other obvious source of new friends is from the various interest groups that form on the sites you join. If you have a dachshund or two, and love them, there is a good chance you will make a few new friends, among the 5000+ people who belong to the Facebook Dachshund Lovers group. Authors might enjoy, and make new friends in the various groups that are focused on writing, or their genres, or related areas such as book publicity or publishing.

Once you have over a hundred or so fans, you can relax a bit, because, if you are a good writer, and people enjoy your book, you will start to also get friend requests, especially on Facebook, where they give you friend recommendations of people whom “you might know.” There is a good chance you will have a lot of “friends in common” with people who share your interests, so you will be suggested by the site to others over and over again, or people will read about your activities on their friend’s site.

How Many is Too Many?

There is some research that shows most people do best when their network of friends is no more than 150. If your goal is to become closely interconnected, 150 is a good target, if that is your style, and you will actively network with these friends. But if you plan instead to gather your fans or readers there, then there is an upper limit (several thousand) to the number of friends you can have on some of the sites. There are ways around that problem and we will be touching on that again in later posts.

How Can Friends Create The Buzz to Sell a Book?

Now that you have a ton of friends, how will that help you sell any books? The next several posts will introduce you to five important sites on the social media web where you should begin; we will touch on how to make use of what each has to offer if you are producing something of value, like maybe a book that you feel deserves to be a best seller. Then after we have grounding in the basics, we will move on to a more advanced understanding of how social media connections drive the new media.

For other artcles in the series:
Part I: Overview of Social Media: New Opportunities for Book Promotion
Part II: Five Best Sites for Your Book Promotion

Overview of Social Media: New Opportunities for Book Promotion

While many authors by now have discovered MySpace, most writers still glaze over when they hear about Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg, Facebook, De.li.cio.us. YouTube and Linked In.  In a series of articles over the next few months, I hope to put the reader on more friendly terms with this strange but wonderful new world.

 

Today I am going to explain why authors need to learn to use social media to promote their books and themselves. In later posts, we will spend a little time getting acquainted with some of these tools, and to introduce a few of the major opportunities for networking that can help you launch the next best seller.

 

Be realistic. Even with a top notch publicist pitching it, your best book ever, and a hot and catchy title, you still have virtually no chance of getting your book featured on Oprah’s Book of the Month.  The number of newspapers and magazines that still review  books has been scaled back dramatically–  for example Sara Pearce, book editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer has left and is not being replaced. Traditional means of promoting your book to the media have been evaporating for some time. But all is not lost, a new champion is riding to the rescue, on the white horse known as social media.

 

Social media is a phrase that describes interactive social communities like MySpace and Facebook.  It also includes blogs (at least when they are actively networking, and social news sites like Digg and Stumbleupon, that ideally allow the average web surfer to decide (literally vote) who on the internet gets the headlines and all the traffic. And it consists of strange forms of communication like  YouTube, or Twitter, an instant messaging mini-blogging tool. All of these and more have converged to create a whole new media face that is rapidly replacing the traditional print, TV, and radio media stallworts. Social media is faster, more creative, more personal, more connected, and typically much more knowledgeable than old fashioned TV, magazines, and newpapers.

 

To authors who hope to promote their  books, with social media it is much easier to rise to the top, if you are funny, talented or interesting.  If your book is good, or your voice one that grabs the ear, you have a better chance of being “found” because your peers- your old and new readers, your fellow authors, book store owners, librarians and the next door neighbor all will have a say in this new media. Because people are getting connected, the reach of web sites, blogs,  and various social media is now limitted only by how much interest your book can stir.

 

In coming articles in this series I will describe more fully the various ways an energetic and talented author can promote a book on the internet with social media, and I will point out some of the pitfalls to avoid. I will also help you, if you are new to all this, to decide which doors you want to open first. Next in the series?

Part II: Five Best Tools For Your Book Promotion on the Web
Part III: Friends or Fans Social Networking Basics for Authors