Category Archives: Other Media

Would You Say No To 90%+ Royalties? Maybe You Already Are.

Would You Say No To 90%+ Royalties? Maybe You Already Are.

shopify

D2C and 96% Royalties. Get Started Direct2Consumer With Shopify Lite.

Shopify just deposited £9.58 in my bank.

Nothing to get excited about on its own, but when you consider it was for a five-ebook package, each individually selling at £1.99 (GBP) on Amazon, it gets more interesting.

On Amazon those five (children’s) books would have cost the buyer £1.99 x 5 = £9.95. I sell them as a pack of five (not a box set – some people prefer individual titles because they are easier to navigate and to share among the children) for a clean £10.

On Amazon each sale would net me 35% of the £1.99 each, sixty days after the end of the month in which the sale was made. That’s 0.70 a shot x 5 making a total royalty for the five books of £3.50 coming to me. Amazon would have taken £6.50 for brokering the deal.

Instead Shopify landed £9.58 in my UK account just four working days after the transaction. (3 days for US and Australia, 7 days for Canada.) That’s £6.08 *more* than the same sale would have got me on Amazon.

And for those wondering, that’s a 96% royalty rate.

Even for a higher priced item where Amazon paid the 70% royalty (minus the delivery charge) that’s still upwards of 26% less than my direct sale delivered.

Shopify will also let me sell direct on Facebook and Pinterest. Not a promotional link to a retailer but a direct sales button.

And of course I can put sales buttons on my website, blog, etc.

There’s a monthly fee of $9 for Shopify Lite, which lets us do all the above.

The next step up is the Shopify store, which I plan on experimenting with in 2017. The monthly fee is a little higher, but when we’re collecting 95% of list price that’s no problem to cover if we have the traffic.

Where does the traffic come from? Our mailing lists are one good source. Plus of course we can directly promote our Shopify shop or individual sales links.

The downside of course is chart position on the mighty Amazon. Chart position equals visibility equals sales, as we all know.

But… If we are fielding niche-market titles (my bilinguals, for example), or have back-list titles that are not seeing much chart action anyway, D2C is a great way to maximise profits, and of course we have the customer data to up-sell further goods later.

And having a shop of course means we can bundle items as we like, cross-promote items as we like, and make up our own categories, and add links to retailers too. The latter is always good idea for ebooks because some buyers will want the convenience of, say, Amazon’s one-click.

With a shop (Shopify or whatever) we can also offer loyalty incentives. We can offer subscriptions. We can offer free bonus material. We can run promotions and competitions and special offers and etc, etc.

Yes, these are things we can do on our regular websites, but a well-branded “shop” adds appeal and professionalism for the consumer,.

And a shopping cart system where consumers can load up a basket of goods rather than make an individual purchase then go back and do it all over again.

D2C shouldn’t be seen as trying to compete with, or as an alternative to, the big retailers. But to compliment the sales they bring us, and to build our brand and enlarge out reach.

https://www.shopify.com/lite

Shopify (LINK), like Etsy and Ecwid and Selz and etc will let us load digital content and will take care of everything for us once we have the listings live, so before we protest it’s all too much work it’s actually no different in that respect from loading to Amazon or Kobo.

The big difference is that 95% royalty.

What’s your excuse for not going D2C?

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.
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Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

  • Courtesy of Wattpad I’m finding readers in Africa for my English-language title – in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. In fact 5% of my readers for this title are in Nigeria, which gives me something to focus on.
  • In Latin America it’s not great, but I’m finding readers in Brazil and Guyana.

Across Asia it’s looking very promising.

  • The Philippines is delivering fully 10% of my readers, and while there are still far too many white spaces (0%) across Asia I’m doing the happy dance on seeing I’ve found readers in Georgia and Outer Mongolia.

Am I seeing sales from all this? Two points arise.

First, it’s impossible to make a direct link between the Wattpad stats and sales , but I suspect yes, I’m seeing some extra sales. Not many, but a few.

But, to come to point two, that’s not what I use Wattpad for. Wattpad is my route to connect with readers who for whatever reason cannot or are not looking at the big ebook retail stores we mostly rely on.

Wattpad is about finding my future core readers and establishing my brand in far-flung lands.

As per stats, there are clearly a couple of countries where it may pay off to start some focussed promotion. By which I mean focussed brand-building, not buy-my-book marketing, although of course that’s a welcome bonus.

For this particular title 49% of my readers are 13-18 age group and 80% female. Both figures could be higher as about 20% in each case have opted not to give that data. Given the title (YA aimed at girls) the stats are not surprising. A further 25% are 18-25, but I’m getting readers across all age groups.

For this sort of data alone Wattpad is worth setting some time aside, but there is much more to Wattpad than just data, as I’ll be exploring in future posts.

For 2017 I plan on getting ALL my tiles on Wattpad and trying to leverage some of Wattpad’s many promotional tools. More on that soon.

With 45 million users worldwide, and literally one new reader signing up every second of every day, Wattpad is potentially one of our most valuable internationalist-indie tools.

Are you getting the best out of Wattpad?

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group. See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

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Other recent posts from the International Indie Author Facebook Group:

Google Play have introduced new discovery features to Google Play Books that might just bring us a few more sales.

With 75 global ebook stores GP is one of our most useful assets for global reach.

While still sadly indifferent to Africa (just South Africa and Egypt), Google Play is a strong player in Latin America, eastern Europe and SE Asia (inc. Thailand, Indonesia,Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, etc, where Amazon and Apple are not available). .

Anecdotally Google Play is my best bet for sales across Latin America, out-performing Amazon in Brazil and Mexico, and even bringing sales from small countries like El Salvador.

Google Play’s self-pub portal is now closed to newcomers, and we have to be in one of the 75 GPB global countries to even see the store, but we can still get our titles into Google Play Books.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital can help here, but StreetLib and PublishDrive can, and of course so can the pay-up-front aggregators like Bookbaby and Ebook Partnership.

See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

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Another One Bites The Dust – Sainsbury Ebooks To Close.

I’ve not heard anything from Sainsbury yet but Kobo are reporting they are hoovering up Sainsbury’s customer base as Sainsbury opts out of the ebook business.

Sainsbury is a significant UK supermarket chain that, along with Tesco, took on the challenge of the UK ebook market.

Tesco fell foul of major issues unrelated to its digital ambitions and had to pull out of peripherals like ebooks.

No word yet as to what triggered the Sainsbury pull-out, but given Amazon UK’s overwhelming dominance of the UK ebook market this is disappointing but not surprising news.

For indies it will make no difference to our Sainsbury sales as Sainsbury was strictly trad-pub only. A handful of indies using Vearsa were there, but for the rest of us it simply was never an option.

This latest UK ebook store failure follows close on the heels of the Waterstone’s surrender. Waterstone’s too handed its ebook clientèle to Kobo. As did Sony UK before that. And of course Nook UK has left us. And somewhere in between Txtr UK left us and Blloon left us.

Apple and Google Play line up with Kobo to keep Amazon from total UK ebook dominance (small players like Blackwells and Hive are neither here nor there. Kobo has both a localized UK store and partners with the high street chain WH Smith.

I wouldn’t be that surprised if WH Smith conceded defeat next.

The sad reality right now is that if an indie has a very strong UK presence and isn’t faring well on other retailers at home or abroad then going KDP Select and focussing on the Amazon UK market would make perfect sense.

No doubt there will be rejoicing on the Zon-centric blogs these next few days (I suspect many are already planning street parties for when B&N goes down) but a healthy market is one with strong competition.

The UK ebook market is as close to an Amazon monopoly as they’ve got anywhere. It’s common sense, not anti-Amazon sentiment, to say this latest UK ebook store closure is not good news.

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India news – from Amar Vyas

Manasi Subramaniam, Commissioning editor and Rights Manager at Harper Collins India, conducted a master class on publishing rights during Publishing Next 2016. During the masterclass, she talked about translations, international rights, film and other rights for books. Manasi also gave examples of how the B2B books rights process works at Book Fairs.

You can listen to this very informative session here. (LINK)

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The future is never far away, and as regular readers of my Beware The Future posts will understand, if we plan on being in this game for the long haul we need to, if not predict the future, at least anticipate and be ready for it.

The 2016 Tech Trend report is out and while the whole thing is worth snuggling down in bed with, Joe Wikert has thoughtfully been through it and picked out a few key areas pertinent to the future of publishing.

Read Wikert’s summary here, where there is also a link to the full report.

Wikert’s perspective is of course that of Big Pub, not indie authors, but while we indies may not have the financial muscle of the big players we do have other advantages – speed and agility to experiment – and we can partner with third parties to get in on many of these future developments.

The future will happen whether we like it or not. Change and disruption will happen in our cosy indie-ebook-author lives whether we embrace it or bury our heads in the sand.

If we’re on our last legs and don’t plan on being a writer in the 2020s and beyond, then anticipating and preparing for the future is something we can afford not to do.

For the rest of us the future is our biggest challenge, because change and disruption will happen, and in a far faster and more furious pattern than we’ve experienced this past few years with the so-called ebook revolution, when the only big change was print to ebook.

The real digital revolution is still in first gear. (LINK to Joe Wikert post.)

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On a personal note, for those intrigued my my Third World life here in West Africa, my June and July Gambia Diaries are currently holding #1 and #2 place in category in the free charts on Amazon.

 

1-2-in-niche

These short essays are available free from all good ebook retailers.

Given these monthly ebooks are the only two free titles in this category I’m in the interesting position whereby over the coming months I’ll hold the top five, top ten and eventually top twenty spots in category. And in just over eight years I’ll have the top 100!

For anyone wondering, I am able to list on Amazon without price-matching or being exclusive by uploading via StreetLib.

 

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

 

It’s 2016. Carpe Annum! Seize The Year! Part 1

 

The new year is now two weeks old. Time enough to have recovered from any New Year’s Eve excess, and it’s time to have broken all those crazy New Year’s resolutions we ritually make and break each January.

Now let’s think about the rest of the year, starting with this five part question.

Are you a one-format, one-retailer, one-market, one-language, one-SMP ebook author?

Presumably the answer is no to at least several of those, or you wouldn’t be here reading this in the first place.

But there are degrees of “no”. And as we kick off 2016 we all need to be asking ourselves those questions because the answers will define our level of success or struggle over the next five years.

Put simply, our level of success or struggle will be determined not solely by the quality of our output, but increasingly by how much we put the convenience of consumers (primarily, but not only, readers) over our own convenience as authors.

Our level of success or struggle will be determined by how many options we can create for consumers and how many revenue streams for can build for ourselves in doing so. The two are inextricably linked.

Through January I’m going to take a closer look at each of those questions so we can start this new year with a clear idea of just how well we are performing against those criteria now, and how we might engage further with the Global New Renaissance as 2016 unfolds.

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Part 1: Are you a one-format author?

Here we may be smugly thinking, “No problem, I’ve got a mobi and an epub. Box ticked.”

ell, score 2 out of 10 for that. It’s a start. But if we’re to fully embrace the opportunities presented by the Global New Renaissance we need to broaden our idea of format.

We pretty much all have our titles up in the Kindle store (mobi) and many of us will be using an aggregator or going direct to Apple, Nook or Kobo (epub). But having mobi and epub files out there is just the first step on the road to format diversity.

And format diversity is the key to those elusive but lucrative multiple-income streams most of us will need to allow us to ride out the peaks and troughs of our ebook sales.

Smashwords is one aggregator that lets us make our titles available in multiple digital formats. PDFs, for example, among many more obscure formats we may never have heard of, but that some consumers still use.

In the smartphone era that’s not so important, but given it requires no extra effort on our part (assuming we’ve survived the Meatgrinder) it’s crazy not to have our titles available to those who are still using dinosaur devices to read on.

And speaking of dinosaur devices, how are we doing with print?

If our focus is on ebooks and then, if we can be really, really bothered one particularly wet and windy afternoon, we paste our ebook manuscript into a CreateSpace template and stick it out there for the sake of appearances, or to make our ebooks look a bargain, or to send a copy to our Great Aunt Doris, then we are one-format ebook authors.

If we never ever promote our POD titles because it’s well, you know, “print”, and it will never sell anyway, then we are one-format ebook authors.

Not that there’s anything wrong with CreateSpace – it should be the first port of call for print for all indie authors. But with emphasis on the word “first”.

CreateSpace is great – and it’s free if you can manage all the stages yourself. But if we’re serious about print distribution and reaching print reader we’ll need to be on board with other print operators as well. Ingram, for example.

Here’s the thing: if we are treating print as an afterthought to our ebooks, convinced our print titles will never sell anyway, then we are not just failing to put readers first, but we are short-changing ourselves.

Because even in 2016, over half a decade after the “ebook revolution” began – most US readers prefer print. And the same goes for the rest of the world, only more so.

Over 625 million print titles were sold in the US last year. How many were yours?

If we do have POD titles available and no-one is buying them we need to ask ourselves why.

Yes, getting our print titles into bricks & mortar stores is a challenge, of course. Not impossible, but not that easy.

Whereas making our print titles available online through Amazon, and via Amazon in numerous other online bookstores, is easy.

So no, the bricks & mortar bookstore excuse won’t wash. Not when some half of all print books sold in the US are sold online.

Yet most indies are still selling next to nothing in print even on Amazon.

Why? I’ll be taking a closer look at our print options in the near future, examining why so many indies struggle with print sales.

Here just to sum it up in three words:

  • Quality
  • Brand
  • Promotion

Yes, read that last one again. Promotion.

Contrary to popular indie belief, there’s not a law making it illegal to mention our print titles and print links when we promote our books.

But when was the last time you saw an indie author tweet or FB their print title?

Or maybe some of us are still staring in bewilderment at that suggestion that we (take a deep breath before we say it) promote our print titles.

“But all my followers and friends are ebook readers!” we cry.

Well sorry, but who’s fault is that? Do we seriously believe only ebook readers are on twitter and Facebook, and print readers live on some remote island where the internet hasn’t yet reached?

Get real. Print is still king even in the USA, currently the world’s biggest ebook market.

The savvy indie author will be working ebooks and print in tandem, not hiding our print titles in the basement and hoping no-one ever finds them.

And not just paperbacks. But how many indies do we know who have

  • Hardcover editions?
  • Special collectors’ editions?
  • Multiple-sizes of paperback to suit reader preferences?
  • Large-print editions for the visually-impaired?

Need I go on?

But of course there’s more to multiple formats than ebooks and print. And this is where we really need to start thinking about ourselves and what we do in slightly different light.

Yes, we’re authors. Yes, we write books. Or at least, ebooks. But more importantly we write content. We create intellectual property. Our book is not just a book. It’s an intellectual property. An IP.

And if we can start thinking of ourselves as IP creators then a realm of new opportunities opens up to us.

  • Audio-books

Any indie still not taking audio seriously as we kick off 2016 needs a severe talking to.

Audio is one of the fastest growing formats, and when it comes to generating multiple income streams audio is a great way to reach new audiences with just some tweaking of our existing content.

Amazon’s ACX makes it easy, cheap and painless to produce and sell audio-books, and of course there are lots of other options to reach the audio-book market.

But no need to stop at audio.

I’ll be returning to these alternative format options in detail in future posts, but here just to mention a few further ways in which we can tweak our existing content to fit new formats, reach new audiences and create new income streams.

  • Radio, TV and film

Now that may seem like a ginormous leap out of our comfort zone, but as I’ll be showing in future posts, if we can step outside the “I’m an indie ebook author” box then the only limits are those we choose to let confine us.

As Amazon expands its original-video output there’s an easy-to-get-the-attention-of production outfit right there.

Netflix this past week has expanded its video streaming options globally and is now available in 190 countries, with more to come.

Video streaming operators are breeding like rabbits and have reach far beyond their own shores.

There are any number of smaller production companies around the globe crying out for quality content.

Gone are the days when getting video distribution meant the support of a major film studio, a TV broadcaster or a satellite company to reach an audience.

Just like with ebooks, digital video and audio content is available on a global scale unimaginable just a few years ago.  Yet how many indies ebook authors are even thinking about reaching radio and video audiences in their own country, let alone globally?

No, we don’t need to take a crash course in screenplay writing or radio scripting to be in with a chance.

Yes, there’s always the possibility the BBC or Spielberg will come cold-calling wanting to option our ebook for the big screen, the small screen or the talky-box. But that’s not very likely.

So why not make some effort to meet them half-way?

For example,

  • Get an agent who specialises in licencing rights.
  • Sign up with a specialist rights operator who will put your titles into a database so that production crews can discover them.
  • Partner with a scriptwriter to adapt your work for film, TV, radio or whatever.

I’ll be offering some detailed suggestions on how in future posts.

Other formats? Again, I’ll be coming back on these in detail as we go, but here just to offer a few suggestions.

  • E-Magazines.

Digital magazines have been getting a bad press in 2015 thanks to falling revenues, but that’s an advertisers’ issue, not a reflection on the format, which is a great way for indie authors to reach new audiences. Another income stream in the bag for very little effort.

  • Serialized content

E-magazines are a great way to offer serialized content.

So is our preferred format, ebooks. In fact, serialized content ought to be high on our list of format options to keep those multiple income steams coming in.

There is a growing number of independent operators offering serialized ebooks, and lots more coming forward.

Yes, we can simply serialize our own, and put them out through our usual distribution channels, but these guys have the fancy apps and distribution networks that go beyond our normal indie reach. More on this as we go.

  • Comics?
  • Manga?
  • Illustrated versions of our works?

Pictures aren’t just for kids, after all, as the adult-colouring book craze clearly shows.

In fact there are a ton of ways we can add value to our titles by offering variant versions. with and without images, with and without and additional content and enhancements.

  • Merchandising

Once we step outside our “I’m an indie ebook author” box and start thinking about our titles as IPs instead of just ebooks we can also start thinking in terms of merchandising.

If we have managed to attract a serious fan-base then our book is more than just an ephemeral read.

Just think about the books we read ourselves. Some books are read, discarded and forgotten. Others stay with us forever.

Not just the books, as a whole, but the covers, the characters, the storylines, the concepts…

We write space opera with galactic battleships and distant-planets among the stars? We’ve got a fantastic cover everyone drools over? Or maybe we write paranormal fantasy with those oh-so-cute-and-colourful covers?

Why not make those cover available in other formats?

Give it away as a screen saver. Make it available to download for free or to buy or gift as a mouse-mat or a coffee mug or even a framed print.

For children’s books the possibilities are endless, but this will work great for adult titles too.

No, they won’t sell in millions, of course, but if they are good they will sell, and there are any number of companies offering printed product services to create novelty items like these, and many will deliver direct to the customer, so all you need to do is set up the product in their system and send them the orders. Just like POD.

Their value is not just in the direct sales to the fans themselves, but in having those images out there being seen by other people who have never heard of us or our books.

More on merchandising our IPs at a later date.

Other formats to consider?  The list is endless. But how about

  • Stage theatre
  • Musicals

Not convinced? Just look at how many stage productions and musicals are actually adaptations of books. What could be more improbable as a musical than Les Miserables?

No, we don’t need to learn stagecraft or be musicians or lyricists to get in on the act, and more than we need to be screenwriters to see our books considered for adaptation to film or TV.

For children’s authors writing shorter titles there’s a great opportunity to write mini-plays for school classes to act out. I’m working on just this with my children’s adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

And yes, I’m seriously toying with the idea of Sherlock: The Musical. Not that I have any musical talent whatsoever. I’ll leave that aspect to the experts. But I am putting together an outline and when I’m happy with that I’ll be looking to partner with third parties who can work their magic and, just maybe, make it happen.

Sherlock of course is public domain and has huge brand recognition.

Tweaking public domain properties is a great way of reaching new audiences. Just look at the myriad spin-offs of Jane Austen’s works that litter the ebook scene.

But how many of those will ever be more than just ebook variations? No matter how good they may be?

As part of my Classics For Kids series I’m working (very slowly) on a children’s adaption of my favourite Austen title, Pride & Prejudice. My Sherlock For Kids series itself is picking up steam, and a good example of tweaking content to reach new audiences, with translations already out there, audio books on the way, and other formats being worked on.

Tweaking our erotica titles for the children’s market would obviously be a step too far, but for older children and teen readers many of our more mainstream works might well work well in an abridged and slightly less “mature” format.

After all, younger teens at school will be studying and reading adult works from Shakespeare and Austen, Dickens and Bronte. None of which were ever intended for children. And many best-selling so-called YA titles were again written with an adult audience in mind.

Having an adult and a YA version or even an older-children’s version of our adult-intended work, tweaked slightly for language and content to suit the audience, is just one more way reach new audiences with existing content and expand the reach for our new content to reach new audiences and generate more income streams.

  • Translations

Translations are of course another. I’ll cover this in detail later in this series of posts.

I’m on target to have well over fifty translations out before this year is over, and while only a handful of been significant sellers to far they are all bringing in extra income streams I otherwise wouldn’t have.

And of course translations aren’t limited to ebooks and print. I’ve audio-translations in the works and I’m looking at other formats to expand their reach.

But let’s wind this post up with the language that is, for most of us, our first and only language.

  • English

First and foremost, English isn’t just English.

Way back in 2011 my UK best-seller got hammered by American readers for using British English spellings. Ouch!

The reviewer Red Adept declared the book Mystery of the Year but advised readers to be wary of “Britishisms” and British-English spellings.

So I re-wrote the entire book in American English and, while I was at it relocated the entire story to the US, and had two versions available – one for British and one for American readers.

Only to be accused of “gaming the system”. Sometimes you just can’t win…

Nowadays American readers are much more cosmopolitan. Back in print-only days British titles sold in America were tweaked with American- English spellings and other changes – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for example. A Quidditch pitch became a Quidditch field.

Many indies today still produce their titles in American-English and British-English versions. Yes, it’s easy to say those readers should get a life. After all British-English and American-English are not so different as to make the text unintelligible.

But these authors are putting the readers first. Always a good idea. Just ask Amazon, who have built their business on being customer-centric.

When a customer-centric tweak can be as simple as having variant-English spellings versions of our books it’s well worth considering.

The British-English and American-English versions of my best-seller sit nicely on the Amazon shelves and while the British—English original has sold far more better, the American-English version’s sales have proved more than worthwhile.

The more customer-centric we are as authors, the more income streams we can achieve as a result. Sounds good to me!

And for children’s books, the issue of variant spelling is all the more important.

Many British schools disapprove of American books, not because of the content but because of the American-English. How can young children in the UK be expected to spell colour in the British-English fashion when they are reading American books where color is the accepted spelling?

Yes, they are both “correct”, but try using American-English spellings in your British school exams and say goodbye to that top grade. Variant spellings matter.

And it’s not just an issue for young children. If you are a reluctant teen reader, a late-to-literacy adult learner, or an English-as-a-Second-Language student in Europe learning British-English then the variant spellings may well be an issue.

But don’t look on this as another nuisance getting in the way of our more important work of shouting “Buy My Book!” on Facebook. Look on it as yet another way in which we can diversify our output and generate new income streams.

  • Easy-English and ESL

As 2015 closed I launched my Easy-English series of adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, aimed at reluctant teen readers, late-to-literacy adults and English-as-a-second-language readers who have mastered the basics of English but are not yet confident enough to tackle the Conan Doyle originals.

Later this year I will be working with an ESL professor in Argentina to produce fully-fledged ESL versions geared specifically to the demands of the ESL circuit.

ESL is a humungous and ridiculously fast-growing sector of the publishing industry. More on this in a future discussion.

Other formats?

Don’t tempt me. This post is long enough already.

No, not all formats will be suited to all titles, but many titles will be suited, with just a little tweaking we can often do ourselves, to many variant formats.

And for more challenging formats like radio, film, manga, translations, etc, etc, there’s nothing but our own inertia to stop us reaching out to producers who specialise ln these formats to do it all for us.

Or partnering with other writers, artists, scriptwriters, etc, to produce our own.

 

After all, very few of us design our own covers or do our own editing. We farm out the work to third parties.

And we can do the same to embrace the variant formats that might suit our content but that are beyond our own skills range.

Not just revamping our existing works, but creating new IPs from scratch with multi-format options a consideration from day one.

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In parts 2-5 of this series I’ll be asking if we are one-retailer, one-market, one-language, and one-SMP ebook authors and I’ll expand on the myriad options for each as we go.

As we kick off 2016 we indie content suppliers have unparalleled reach and unprecedented opportunities to stretch our creative abilities and reach audiences quite unthinkable just a few years ago.

If only we can step outside our “I’m a one-format indie ebook author” box.

One of my all-time favourite films is Dead Poet’s Society. Required watching for anyone who aspires to be an author or a teacher.

A film about a teacher who understood the only limits to our achievements are the limits we allow ourselves to be shackled by.

A teacher of English literature – of Shakespeare and Byron, in whose footsteps we now follow – who encouraged his students not to be sheep and take the road most travelled by, but to explore new horizons and break new ground.

To seize the day. Carpe diem! To make their lives extraordinary.

So in tribute to the star of that film, the late Robin Williams – a village-hall stand-up comic who defied the shackles of format and limited expectations to become first a TV actor and then a movie star, I leave you with this thought as we start another new year.

It’s 2016.

Carpe annum! Seize the year!

Diversify in 2016! Let’s make our indie lives extraordinary!

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The Digital Sector Is Broadening, Not Weakening.

DiversifyIn2015

From Philip Jones in The Guardian: “The digital sector is broadening, not weakening.” (LINK)

This is in stark contrast to what a lot or morbid commentators are saying right now, talking about gluts and falling ebook sales and the end of the indie-verse as we know it. But Jones is spot on.

The opportunities available to us have never been more exciting.

But sadly many of us indies are still partying like its 2009, and most of us who have ventured further are still partying like its 2013.

As we’ve said before, diversification means much more than just getting on multiple retailers, important as that is.

Diversification means stepping outside that ebook box we’ve all been sheltering in, and embracing the myriad opportunities that have lately become available, along with those yet to become available.

Translations, audio-books, e-zines, radio, film, TV, podcasts, games, new niches to target, new ways to repackage ourselves, new social media to explore, etc, etc.

Clinging to bog-standard ebooks and pretending the rest of the digital landscape is some foreign planet is as detrimental to our long-term careers as those authors who cling to print and pretend ebooks are some foreign planet.

The future’s not ours to see. It is ours to anticipate, and it is ours to embrace.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Diversify In 2015.

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Beware The Future Revisited – It’s MUCH Closer Than You Think. And It Might Just Kill You.

Go Global In 2014

Back when we posted on the Internet of Things and what it meant for indie authors there was understandable concern about the direction we are heading. (LINK)

Some of you were unconvinced that retailers would be able to gain so much knowledge about our personal lives from a device in our hands.

Surely they only knew what info we gave them when we signed up?  And surely that was more than enough?

Enter Sensiya, a company dedicated to letting retailers and advertisers know your every personal detail, courtesy of your smartphone.

Sensiya is dedicated to “real-life behavior tracking”.

What does it mean? It means that Sensiya-partnered retailers will be more powerful than Santa.

Santa knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.

So does Sensiya. They also know whether you’re out jogging, driving, on a train or bus, standing up or sitting down. They know if you are male or female and how old you are.

Sensiya claim to have “a 90 percent accuracy on gender and age.” (LINK)

From nothing more than your smartphone.

Not from the telco you signed up, with or the retailer you bought the phone from. From the smartphone itself.

Says Sensiya:

Our mobile phone holds significant amounts of data about us like who we are, what apps we use, and how we use them. This data is like a digital fingerprint of each person’s unique personality. Through our technology, Sensiya seeks to enable developers to create individual and personal experiences and allow users to get the content, information, and UI that truly reflects who they are.”

And by monitoring what you use the smartphone for – buying, downloading, news viewing, texting, etc – they can pretty accurately determine your marital status and your income level, and of course they’ll know where you live, when you leave the house, how long for…

No, we’re not making this up. In Sensiya’s own words:

We know whether you’re at home, when you wake up, when you go to sleep. This is physical context, and when you combine them, you create something that’s personal and engaging.”

Sensiya is not alone. Adtile is doing much the same, utilising GPS, gyroscopes, motion compressors, accelerometers, and a compass to sense body functions.

And yeah, at some stage they’ll even know when you’re taking a dump.

No, this isn’t science fiction. This is science reality. It’s happening right now, and you can be sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re thinking, get rid of the smartphone, think again.

The Internet of Things will enable devices all around you to make these same calculations and they will engage with each other. “Talk to each other” in the technical jargon designed to make it all seem less scary.

Your smartfridge will tell companies like Sensiya when you last had a salad and how much milk you get through. Your smartcoffee-machine will tell them how often you drink coffee and what brand.

Your smart-TV will tell them which programmes you watch live and which you record and watch later. And at what time and with how many people. And how you reacted to them.

Did you laugh or cry when that poor kitten got run over? They’ll know if you’re an animal lover or not. Did you salivate when the chocolate commercial was on? Expect ton of ads on your mobile in the morning.

They will know which ebooks you bought, which you read, and what page you are on. They will know if you read pastel pink romance or hard core erotica, driller-killer gore-fests or cozy mysteries.

And they’ll know at which point your heart raced or the adrenalin kicked in or even… yes, even at which point you may have got sexually aroused.

Which will in turn be used for crime prevention. Google recently was in the headlines for handing over information about a paedophile downloading child porn.

But where does it end? Are you a lone male watching far too many kids programmes with young girls in? Expect a knock at the door.

Downloading bestiality ebooks from Smashwords? How long before some animal rights group pays your home a visit in the middle of the night…

How long before some vigilante group has YOU in its sights because of some perceived slight?

And that’s just the Internet of Things. Beyond the Internet of Things awaits the Internet of Everything.

No, this is all true. The Internet of Everything is not some futuristic dystopian fantasy.

It’s happening right now.

Just this week Europol, Europe’s cyber-policing organization, warned that the Internet of Everything could lead to the world’s first on-line murder.

No, not in some distant decade when we’ll all be long dead anyway.

By the end of this year.  (LINK)

And if not this year, then next year. It WILL happen.

For crime thriller writers it’s a whole new world of opportunity.

But of course any of this data, and any of these means to harm, will be available to government agencies to abuse for their own ends, and for tech-minded individuals to abuse just as much as criminal gangs.

George Orwell got the date wrong. Never mind 1984. Try 2014.

And don’t even think about what it will be like by 2084…

The Internet of Everything is at once the most exciting, and the most scary, development in the history of mankind.

If this excites you, join the club. We can’t wait to see what happens next.

But if this doesn’t also scare the shit out of you, you aren’t human.

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E-Zines – The Next Big Thing For Indie Authors. Think Outside The Book.

Go Global In 2014

Apple has just bought a digital-publishing start-up, in what look like the next step in a shift towards more focus from Apple on content-sales. Good news for all of us.

This latest acquisition is aimed at the magazine market and will likely be integrated into the iAuthor ebook creation tool, or run alongside as a dedicated e-magazine creation tool, allowing small publishers and individuals to produce e-zines of comparable quality to the content currently available from the big players.

E-zines are an area in which indie authors would do well to invest some serious thought.

Not ideal for everyone, but for many – especially those planning image-rich non-fiction, etc – a periodic e-magazine (quarterly, for example) would be a great way to reach a new readership who are regular magazine readers but not so heavily invested in reading books.

Apple already has the software to make great illustrated books, and for those using them it should be a small step to producing e-magazines, especially when this new acquisition is integrated.

But other authors should not feel left out.

Consider: we all pay out for covers for our ebooks, and many of us invest substantial sums finding a graphics artist who can deliver a bespoke cover that embraces a character or theme.

The next step is to get closely involved with that cover artist and develop a bevy of bespoke illustrations that reference the characters, locations and events in the story.

This is especially ideal for fantasy and sci-fi, of course, but equally applicable across any genre, and particularly valuable for a series, or where building an eco-system where different series – even in different genres – are linked, affording a bridge for readers to cross genre with the author.

This can be done as a one-off on a website, for example, but only existing readers will know about it.

Pinterest is the next step up. A lot of authors use Pinterest to promote their book covers. But very few use it to promote their book’s content in a visual way. An opportunity missed.

But stepping beyond that, think about a quarterly e-magazine.

For any author with multiple titles, having a graphics designer on hand to provide consistent-quality and consistent-style illustrations would open many doors.

Most obviously your ebook readers would want to buy the e-zine. Magazines are marketed in a separate sphere from ebooks, so your e-zine will reach a new audience who may then buy the ebooks.

For writers in genres like fantasy in particular this might open the doors to comics and games based on your created world. And of course having a breakout game on your hands could make you forget all about writing books!

But for all authors there are serious opportunities ahead.

For example, writers could open up to fan-fiction and fan-art, and use this to provide content for the e-zine. No payments made, of course, but the contributors get full credit and a free ride to be seen before all your readers. If your readers like their work they can then buy the contributor’s own stuff. Obviously you have total editorial control, so the only material that would be allowed through would be approved by you.

And it doesn’t just need to be existing fans of your ebooks. If you are producing a non-fiction journal about animals, for example, these are pretty much guaranteed to find a very receptive audience among magazine readers. And many of these readers – readers who will have never seen your books – will have their own animal stories and photos to share. At least some will be good enough quality to use as content for the next issue.

And of course anyone who does get included will be sharing like crazy among their friends and e-contacts when the new edition is published.

For authors of books aimed at younger readers, again, the opportunities are endless. Not least inviting the young readers to submit their own drawings and thoughts on the book and characters. They and their parents will be delighted, and in a school environment word of mouth and ease of e-transmission could see your e-zine gain new readers in leaps and bounds.

But the same goes for books across all genres. Anything from romance to diet books, from erotica to cookery, from thrillers to history books.

And so much cross-over potential. All that research for your thriller set in Cold War Prague, your cozy mystery set in Barbados, your thirteenth century historical romance, or your dystopian sci-fi epic about climate change could find a receptive home, while also letting you test interest in new projects. And of course slipping in a mention for other books you may have in other genres.

Yes, you can do all this on a website or blog, but who will see it that doesn’t already know your books, and how will that add to your earnings?

E-zines bridge that gap, boosting your income and boosting your reach and readership.

Don’t dismiss the idea out of hand because you haven’t the time or skills to do it yourself. Just like with formatting and cover design, there are plenty of people who can and will for a one-off fee.

Or consider this: try putting the word about on graphic design sites and the like that you are looking for artists willing to help develop your fantasy novel (or whatever) on a profit-share basis. They’d do most of the hard work, and probably have the design expertise too to take it to completion.

If you offered a 60-40 or even a 70-30 in their favour on all net proceeds from the project (not from your existing ebooks, etc, just the stuff they work on) you’d likely get a lot of interest and have very little to do yourself.

It’s a great deal for them ,earning more than you, so giving them every incentive to go that extra mile. And for you it’s 30%-40% of something, rather than the 100% of nothing you are earning right now in this format.

We’ve mainly referencing Apple here because of the ease in which you can already create e-zine style ebooks with Apple software, but ebooks and e-zines are not the same thing, though Apple is closing the gap.

But once you have the Apple version done it will then be a lot easier to create (or pay someone to create for you) a version compatible with Amazon’s e-magazine store and the epub magazine stores of the other key digital players like Nook, Google Play, etc. And you can also put them direct on web-sites yourself either free or with paid access.

Beyond this there are the specialist e-magazine retailers like Magzter and Scoop which have global reach and open up vast numbers of potential readers you won’t come close to by just being in the ebook stores.

Don’t get trapped into the rut of an ebook-only existence. We are witnessing, and are party to, far more than just an ebook “revolution”. We are witnessing, and are party to, a global New Renaissance.

POD and audio are two obvious ways in which indie authors can reach new audiences who may never read a digital book, but there are plenty of others.

E-zines are one of them. More on other options at a later date.

 

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Beware The Future – It’s Closer than You Think. What The Internet of Things Means For Indie Authors. Part 1.

Go Global In 2014

 

The problem with the future is, its coming up behind you. You can never be quite sure how far away it is, and you can never be quite sure whether it will sweep you up with it, sweep by and leave you behind, or just run right over you.

Over at the Motley Fool recently they ran this snippet from an old copy of Newsweek. From February 1995.

In it one Newsweek journalist opined,

 

“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries, and multimedia classrooms… [They say] we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure. The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper…

“We’re promised instant catalog shopping — just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?”

 

As the Motley Fool says, “It all seemed so laughable at the time. Unless you were a 14 year-old.”

Amazon was barely six months old when that article was written. Ebooks were slightly more than a figment of a 14 year-old’s imagination, but not by much.

How times change.

And how they will change again.

No matter how improbable some things seem right now, the fact is nothing is set in stone, and the future takes no prisoners.

We talk here a lot about changes ahead. Seismic changes. Tectonic shifts.

But it all seems so unreal.

Let’s ignore the future and spend our time pointlessly taking sides in the Amazon-Hachette dispute instead. Or fire off another round of tweets denouncing that stupid publisher than ten years ago sent us a rejection letter. Or spamming everyone with yet another Facebook campaign saying “Buy My Book!”.

Meantime the future just keeps on happening.

The Motley Fool were using the Newsweek report to make a point about the Internet of Things (IoT). Obviously the Fool’s take was what is in it for investors. And the numbers they are talking about are quite breathtaking.

But the rewards to investors will only come if the companies being invested in are hugely successful in the real world. And the real world is where we indies live and where we indies make a living.

The Internet of Things is going to radically change our existence.

We don’t need to have the faintest idea about what the Internet of Things might be to grasp that the world around is changing by the day.

The ebook world of 2007 when the Kindle first launched is as different from today as 2007 was to 1995.

We indies can sit back and let the future steamroller right over us. We can sit back and watch the future sweep by us and leave us behind. Or we can be part of it.

We know where we want to be.

The future is already here. The next ten years are going to totally transform our lives. Be ready for anything.

Cybermed, for instance. That is to say, actual medical care (care, not advice) administered over the internet.

As we’ve said before recently, we are fast approaching a tipping point as the IoT moves from geeky science fiction to mainstream reality. And it is at once the most exciting, but also the most scary, development in the history of mankind.

Most of you will be familiar with the new trend in “wearables” – fancy little wristbands and the like that monitor blood pressure and heart rate, for example.

But these are just gimmicky applications getting the public used to the idea of biotech monitoring. What comes next is where the exciting – and scary – bit comes in.

This article on VentureBeat today is well worth reading for a rough idea of the way biotech is going. Google, Samsung and Apple are particularly well-advanced with this.

The VentureBeat article mentions the pending iWatch from Apple and what it might offer. We suspect VentureBeat are being a little conservative and Apple’s variant will be even more spectacular than is suggested here. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, also sits on the board of Nike, and Apple and Nike have been working closely together for a while. Anyone thinking Nike just makes expensive trainers for teens needs to catch up with the real world!

Amazon? Amazon has just this month been in secretive discussion with the FDA, and lately head-hunted the guy behind Google Glass, so a safe bet Amazon is about to jump on this bandwagon.

Hey, show us a bandwagon and we’ll show you Jeff Bezos jumping!

One of the key distinctions between an e-commerce company like Amazon and a tech company like Apple or Google is innovation. The last serious innovation we saw from Amazon was in selling print books on-line. Since then Amazon has led the way in taking ideas developed by others and using them for its own ends. The Kindle and ebooks are a classic example. Notwithstanding the complete flop that is the Fire phone, Amazon generally do these things with a spectacular flourish (again, the Kindle is a great example), so it will be interesting to see what they are looking at next.

But Amazon is way, way behind when it comes to the Internet of Things. And whether its cybermed or any other branch of the next generation of internet development, the one safe bet is what Amazon does will be geared to one end: Amazon. We’ll explore in a future post why this is a particularly scary scenario.

But let’s stick with the IoT for now.

In a related post on VentureBeat there is a report on how Intel have just unveiled the world’s smallest wireless modem for the IoT. Yes, only geeks may have heard of it, but the IoT is already big, big business. The Internet of Things European Research Centre estimates that currently there are 80 items a second being connected to the Internet of Things.

And the IoT hasn’t even left the starting grid.

The Solidworks blog, way back in February of this year () estimated that by 2020 – just six years away – there will be 100 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things. No, not smartphones and tablets and laptops, but everyday devices like your coffee machine, your garage door, your car’s back seat, your packet of breakfast cereal…

It’s called the Internet of Things for a reason. And the impact on our lives is going to be breathtaking in its scope.

We’ll explore in detail in future posts the myriad ways in which the IoT is going to impact on literature, publishing and indie authors, but here’s just a teaser of what the future has in store for us.

Hugh Howey’s latest post asks why Amazon cannot provide us with data about how far a reader has read a book, at what chapter they gave up, etc. Basic data Amazon will have from every live-linked (as opposed to side-loaded) device, be it a Kindle device or one using a Kindle app.

Like most sci-fi writers, Howey is way behind the times when it comes to science reality. 🙂

Never mind how many pages a reader got through. What about how much the reader’s adrenalin pumped when they got to that scary scene in your zombie holocaust novel? Or how their pulse rate quickened when they got to that sex-scene in your erotica novel?

Did they all but fall asleep reading that long, boring description of your new fantasy world you’ve created, which you just had to spell out in the first chapter instead of drip-feeding amid the action? Did they switch the TV on halfway through another chapter and have one eye on the TV screen and the other on your book, trying to decide which was more interesting? And what were they watching anyway?

Did they pause half-way through to tell someone how much they were enjoying this book? Did they speak to them, tweet them or what? What exactly did they say? Your tweets are already public knowledge. Your emails may not be so public, but are hardly private. Voice recognition is already well-advanced – who’s to say your next-generation device won’t be relaying back your every conversation?

The IoT is potentially George Orwell’s worst nightmare come true.

But back to those readers and the data Howey wants. Er, Hugh, Data Guy’s gonna need a bigger boat!

Did they read it at home on the couch, or on a bus? In the dentist’s waiting room or on the subway? Did they make an extra-strong espresso to make sure they stayed awake to finish the book? Or was it a Diet Coke or a full-sugar Pepsi? Chilled or room temperature? From the can or in a glass?

The IoT will know these things. Devices will talk to each other. It’s called the Internet of Things for a reason.

Perhaps more importantly, did the character in your book drinking that particular brand of coffee or that particular cocktail, or travelling off to that particular exotic location, entice the reader to click on the link? What link? By 2020 most novels will be full of discreet advertising links – that’s how most of us will be paid, not by royalties.

And never mind links, you can be sure if you lingered on that page where that particular brand of coffee was drank you’ll be getting a mail-shot from a retailer offering you a great deal on coffee, and if the book was set in Tahiti you’ll be inundated with ads from holiday firms asking you if you want to experience the real thing.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

By 2020 indie authors will be competing with robot-written novels with perfect spelling and grammar, simultaneously translated into as many different languages as need be, and yes, if we are honest, they will be pretty good.

Easy to say no robot can ever reproduce a fine work of art, but try telling that to the chess players who used to say no computer could ever beat a Grand Master.

And of course most novels are not fine works of art.

Pretty much every novel out there is a re-working of an existing theme or idea, and especially in the age of indie ebooks many are little more than dire quality first drafts. Most series are simply the same characters and same situations with a few name changes and tweaks here and there. That’s what most series are about, after all. Comfort reading, not originality. Comfort reading, not Shakespearean drama.

Try looking at Wikipedia and working out which posts are written by a human and which are bot-written. The number of bot-written posts on Wiki is staggering. But you’d be very hard-pressed to tell which is which.

There are already bot-written novels on the retail sites, and while they may not be making much headway right now, the software will just get better and better.

How long before a bot-novel offers you the chance to decide Character A and Character B need to jump in bed together, or Character C needs to dump Character D and get a thing going with Character E? And if you later change your mind, just tell the device and the story line will change, right there in front of you.

How long before you just decide what mood you are in and the bot writes a novel right there and then to suit your every desire? Vampire western with lesbian erotica and a hint of steampunk, two cats and a scene with a furry rabbit, shaken, not stirred? Coming right up.

How long does it take a bot to write a 100,000 word novel? A lot less time than it took you to read the first word of that sentence.

No, these won’t be prize-winning works of art. Your shot at the Man-Booker prize (or whatever it’s called this week) is safe.

Yes, purists will heap these bot-works with scathing criticisms, but readers are not always so discerning. Just look at what makes the charts nowadays…

And it’s a short step to the algorithms giving bot-written works preferential treatment in return for smaller unit payouts. What does a bot care if it gets a 70% “royalty” or just 5%?

As we’ll be exploring in forthcoming posts, the IoT is not all bad news for indies and literature. There’s a lot we can gain from it, if we are prepared to go the extra mile.

But being aware of it is the first step.

Don’t get left behind by the future. Grab a front-seat ticket and enjoy the ride!

 

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