Since the conception of self-publishing, we have all heard of the vultures known as Vanity Press. Those are the publishers that guarantee more than they ever can deliver and charge high prices for their services. When an author wakes up and realizes the publisher has overpriced their paper and eBooks, and taken them for a ride by pushing for more paid services, separating themselves from the vanity press the author finds it to not be easy. Most often, the author tries to walk away with something and usually gets nothing. Legal battles can then ensue, and the company usually files for bankruptcy, leaving the author farther in the hole, with zilch, and dismay in the publishing world.
For me, it is disturbing that this is still happening today. Many of those services have closed shop only to reopen under a different name, but using the same underhanded business model. For them, it is always about making money from the authors who don’t know better. I have hoped and wished many times to be able to get information to these authors before they make a horrible mistake. Sadly, I often don’t learn about them until it is too late.
We see this played out with Amazon in a slightly different manner. While they don’t charge outrageous fees, they’re promising that by being published through them, they can give you more exposure, and you can make more money than through traditional services. What they fail to tell you is that they don’t open their distribution channel to all the bookstores. They keep everything in-house with exclusive contracts and slightly lower printing prices to make the author believe they are getting a better deal. It all sounds great, but when you step back and look at the bigger picture, it’s causing authors to lose even more money because they have to compete against millions of other authors doing the same thing. Thus, Amazon has created a monster of a machine that pushes authors to spend more money through their advertising programs, in hopes of making more money through their exclusive contracts that pay higher than others. It’s a perfect con game of drawing attention to what can be while sticking their hands in your pockets and taking from you without you realizing it.
To be noticed on Amazon, there are several factors to take into consideration. Reviews are a free valuable aspect, but they still cost the author money since the reviews can only come from direct sales through Amazon. If that doesn’t work, then an Amazon author has to spend money on their advertising program to get recognized in some format by the Amazon reader. This cost of advertising is not cheap and needs to be done regularly so that the author remains relevant. Few authors understand the concept of keywords, and other tricks of the trade to help lower the cost of advertising, while also improving sales. It can be done, but for a small number of authors. As more and more authors begin to learn this process, the process itself becomes invalid and everyone has to create a new way to stay ahead of the game. A vicious cycle that most authors don’t have time for, nor the desire to deal with it.
With Amazon being the largest bookseller in the world, what is the alternative? Keep giving them the money and allowing them to take advantage of authors in their system? Authors know that they need to be listed on Amazon to have more opportunities to sell their books. But what if there were other ways to walk away from Amazon, and create a system that pays authors their fair share so they can make a living and have their investments in advertising pay off for them? Would the authors abandon Amazon?
The answer would seem like a logical, yes. However, to do that, whatever system is created must have enough buyers in their market to give the author a reason to leave Amazon. The Amazon book market is such a small part of their system these days. Amazon would not even notice a rival taking that small part of their business away. At the same time, they know that they have hooked buyers in such a way that what amount of business they would lose would barely be noticeable in their profit margin. Thus, their attitude is one of not caring what the authors do or do not do.
Still, for another online bookstore to accomplish the goal of paying authors their fair share, they must spend millions on advertising their business to both readers and authors to convert both of them from Amazon, and build the business.
In today’s mental mindset of being against the 1%, the growing resentment of Amazon’s founder, who will become the first trillionaire by 2023, is being seen. Both authors and readers can help each other. It is a partnership between authors and readers. Authors provide great books to readers, and readers will pay fair prices, knowing that the majority of the money is going to authors as their fair share, which means they make more money through the new system, then they ever would through Amazon. Whether an author makes enough to earn a living, is entirely up to how good their book is, both storyline and quality of writing, and how much effort the author puts into marketing.
All of this has come together in a grassroots company known as Indie Lector, LLC. Their business model is designed such that authors can earn up to 80% from book sales while giving readers great stories. Also, the business is set up, so authors learn how to better market and sell their books through their sister organization, Authors Marketing Guild, LLC, a membership owned business.
But none of this means anything if authors have not reached their point of frustration about not earning their fair share. Slowly, indie authors realize that they must market their books properly to compete against big publishing houses and other authors. It is the cost of marketing and general publishing that is causing authors to finally, even if slowly, wake up to the fact that they cannot make money unless they sell a lot of books. But why do that if Amazon is getting the bulk of the money?
Authors can see the value of earning from $5 - $8 profit from the sale of their book vs. only $1 - $2 of profit per purchase through Amazon. Why spend the same amount of advertising dollars if you are earning less with Amazon than you would with another company that is dedicated to teaching you a more effective ways to market?
The answer seems logical, but sadly it continues to be lost in the blinding glory of Amazon. The Authors Revolution is slowly gaining momentum, and it’s time for authors to wake up and stop feeding the monster of false hopes and dreams. Their dream of writing and becoming successful now has a partner that helps them achieve that on many levels. Join the Revolution at https://IndieLector.Store
B Alan Bourgeois is an award-winning author, an award-winning speaker, and the founder of many organizations that help authors and readers, including Indie Lector and Authors Marketing Guild. He has been working with thousands of authors over the past 10 years educating them and giving them an opportunity to earn their fair share. He is the author of the Authors Revolution Workbook and soon the Authors Revolution fictional book.
(AMG Note: While the article below is about the European Market, many of the same concerns and results have been seen in the American markets. Unlike the European markets, American authors do not have the financial support of their country when it comes to aid or publishing. This is strictly left to the author to determine what support, if any, is available to get them through this epidemic. It is for this reason, as with other reasons outlined below, that authors must begin to take better control of their finances and publishing rights and incomes. Until this happens, authors will continue to rely on corporations that do not have their best interest at heart.
Authors should no longer depend on the traditional ways of doing business and should, therefore, create ways that improve not only for themselves but others in the industry a fair outcome that allows them to earn a living from the sell of their books. Otherwise, as we continue to see year after year, the indie author will be forced out of business or pushed into a situation of going underground.)
By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief - Publishing Perspective
While harder to gauge than some sectors of the world industry, the pressures faced by writers and translators in the European markets are quantified in a survey responded to by 33 organizations in 24 countries.
Markets reporting ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ severe pandemic impact on writers and translators include Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Norway. Image: European Writers’ Council
Highest Revenue Loss: Author Appearances
In terms of the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on the world publishing industry, one of the hardest sectors to see into is the authors’ experience.
This has to do with both the nature of the authors’ position in the supply chain and with the individual-vendor status of their work.
Book publishing is unlike many industries in that its fundamental product, the writing, is not, for the most part, an in-house commodity. Publishers wait for their next new bestselling authors to arrive on no known date, writing about no pre-arranged topic, and in many if not most cases as people previously unknown. A Nielsen- or NPD-style point-of-sales tracking system of each authors’ progress is impractical. The rankings of book sales on retail platforms like Amazon can offer only clues to how titles are navigating a bottomless marketplace of millions of books.
What information can be gathered on the contagion’s effects on authors’ work and circumstances, then, is anecdotal. And survey work is, of course, a matter of a self-selecting sample: respondents who are motivated and/or have time to answer survey questions do so, others don’t.
None of these caveats, of course, negates the importance of getting what insight might be available on the pandemic’s presence in the writers’ corps for the precise reason that the industry is dependent on these workers for its essential content.
And this is why it’s useful to look at elements of the report issued earlier this month by the European Writers’ Council based in Brussels.
Not unlike the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), the council’s work lies in advocacy, and its constituency includes “the creators of literature, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, young adult and children’s literature, drama, screenplays, core texts for audiovisual works, and translation of all forms of literary works.” Core focal areas are in copyright, cultural policy, and cultural exchange. It works through national market writers’ unions and has been in operation since 2005.
With 41 member-organizations from 27 nations, the European Writers’ Council counts some 150,000 writers and translators in its representational field.
Publishing Perspectives has been in touch with the organization’s president, the German author Nina George, best known in English translations by Simon Pare for The Little Paris Bookshop (Penguin Random House / Crown, 2016) and The Book of Dreams (PRH / Ballantine, 2019). In the council’s leadership, George works with the council’s secretary-general Myriam Diocaretz.
The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Writers and Translators in the European Book Sector 2020 (PDF) is probably the most comprehensive and detailed study to date in the European arena of how responding writers and translators say they’re being affected.
Represented in the survey are responses from 33 writers’ and translators’ organizations in 24 countries including Belarus, Switzerland, the UK, Iceland, and Norway. This group of markets has an aggregate membership of some 127,000 writers and translators who work in 27 languages.
While encouraging you to follow up by looking at the full report, we can offer here today (June 30) an overview of some high points.
Highlights from the Survey
Overall, the council’s conclusions:
- Anticipate adverse effects on diversity in European literature
- Argue for “author-friendly legislation and remuneration”
- Understand free-lance writers and translators to be in particular peril because of event and release cancellations
In top-line results:
- 64 percent of respondents say they anticipate losses because of postponed publications of their work
- 40 percent of respondents say they anticipate losses because of postponed contracts and reduced advances against royalties
- 97 percent of respondents say they have experienced a “high loss” of income primarily because of canceled appearances including lectures, workshops, and readings
- 60 percent of respondents say they’d classify the effects on author income as “very” to “extremely” severe
One observation is that as so many publishing and book events have moved to various digital formats, little provision has been made for writers and translators to be paid, especially because in most cases there are few e-commerce accommodations that offer payment functionality. It’s worth the effort by publishers and others to remember that any appearance or participation by an author or translated online is a chance to pay that person for that appearance.
Another comment from the survey has to do with perceived increases in piracy of ebooks, but some of the contributing factors here sound like ongoing conditions, not necessarily reliant on the pandemic. For example, “low-priced subscription models without fair remuneration for authors” (Amazon KDP and others) are problematic and discussed frequently, contagion or no. At the same time, reduced ebook pricing was seen during the highest levels of contagion in Europe, as retailers sought to build sales. This, of course, produced less revenue.
Projections cited in the survey indicate that what normally maybe 500,000 to 600,000 new titles published in Europe in a year may be down as much as 150,000 titles this year.
As for aid programs:
- Few if any markets seem to have “tailor-made support for the book sector”
- Nine markets report no support “or very belated aid measures” from government
- Most national emergency aid programs “are not available to writers and translators”
- Applications for some grants and literary prizes are being postponed
- Translators’ associations are reporting delayed or fewer contracts
It’s estimated in the course of the report’s content that up to 30 percent of fiction published in the European markets each year is work in translation.
Responses to the European Writers’ Council survey indicate that canceled appearances are the most frequently cited revenue-producing losses in the pandemic for writers and translators, holding the top three positions on this chart. The note about 33 responses refers to responding writer associations. Image: European Writers’ Council
In a recent survey done by Panorama Project entitled Immersive Media & Books 2020 Research Report there was a couple of key items that Indie Authors should be aware of.
The report stated “The report also suggests that bookstores may not be serving as showrooms for Amazon and other e-tailers to the degree once thought. According to the survey, 44% of respondents bought books in bookstores that they first found online, while 43% of respondents bought books online that they first found in bookstores.” This finding re-i9nforce what I have been encouraging our members to be doing, “Stop publishing on Amazon, as you lose 50% of your consumer base.”
All authors should be publishing through a publisher or Ingram Spark to be getting the highest opportunity for book sales. While at the same time, it is clear that doing book signings at bookstores, is still a great way to get people to know you exist.
The report also found that during the pandemic the Virtual book festivals did not work. There was a lack of human connection that we have encouraged during our book festivals throughout the year. Therefore, and this is key, we will NOT be holding any more virtual book festivals. We will, however, begin in 2022 to re-establish in-person festivals to re-establish and to continue building the human connection that we have encouraged for the past 10 years.
The report when on to state, “… found that libraries, bookstores, and online channels "mutually reinforce" each other. Some 75% of respondents reported having library cards, with 30% saying they will choose to buy the book rather than wait when a book is stuck on a long holds list at the library. Also, notable, more library cardholders are buying books during the Covid-19 crisis (in all formats) than the general survey population. And activities like author events at libraries, browsing library shelves and browsing online library catalogs, all lead to new book discovery.”
Because of these habits of readers, we will once again begin to re-enforce the participation of Library conferences in Texas, the USA, and other countries when possible. The “Tell the World” notices that go to librarians will continue as they now add more weight for indie authors to let librarians economically know about their books.
COVID19 helped to create new reading habits, that Authors need to re-enforce and promote so that they have readers buying their books. Failure to be out there and promoting your works in-person will only hurt your opportunities to sell books, both in short term at the events, but in long term by building that repour with readers and developing long-time buyers.
Let’s take the good that came out of the pandemic and build upon it for a richer, stronger following of readers of YOUR books!
There is no clear path yet for nonfungible tokens in the book world.
By Bill Rosenblatt | Apr 16, 2021 Publishers Weekly
You might have heard about nonfungible tokens (NFTs). You might also have heard that NFT technology was used to “sell” a digital artwork at auction for more than $69 million—a record for a digital artwork and the third-highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist. What is this technology, and is it of any value to book publishers or authors?
NFTs are an application of blockchain technology. A simple way to think of a blockchain is as a spreadsheet that many people have copies of, yet no single entity owns. When anyone adds a row to the spreadsheet, everyone’s copy is updated automatically—and it’s only possible to add rows to the spreadsheet, not to change or delete them. The most common blockchain applications involve cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, in which case the blockchain represents all of the transactions that have taken place in that currency.
Instead of representing units of currency, as bitcoin does, each NFT represents a unique object. The hype around NFTs relates to their use as indications of “ownership” of digital objects. If you buy an NFT, an entry is created on a blockchain that represents your “ownership.” You can resell the NFT, in which case a new entry goes on the blockchain indicating the user who bought the NFT from you. The record of NFT purchases and transfers is publicly viewable.
NFTs have gotten a lot of attention in the art world because artworks are unique—or nearly unique, as is the case with signed and numbered photographs or lithographs. Thus it makes sense to “own” them—unlike books, articles, songs, or TV shows, which we don’t think of as “unique.”
Notice that own and ownership are in quotes above. That’s because it’s not really possible to own a digital object. NFTs are a way of simulating some properties of ownership in the digital world. If you buy an NFT for a digital image, then that doesn’t restrict anyone else from viewing or making copies of that image. Indeed, the buyer of the $69 million NFT last month didn’t buy exclusive access to the artwork; anyone can view it in exactly the same way as the buyer can, with the same resolution and image quality.
In essence, the NFT gives the buyer bragging rights. A closer analogy would be to a plaque at a museum that identifies the owner of a painting or sculpture who loaned it to the museum, even though museumgoers can view it and others may be able to view photos of it on the museum’s website or buy posters of it. In contrast, if you own a physical copyrighted work—such as a book—then you have certain rights to that book, such as the right to alienate (sell, give, lend, rent) it, but not the right to make copies of it or create derivative works (e.g., translations) of it.
There is currently a financial bubble around NFTs: hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on them, and NFT sales platforms like Cargo, OpenSea, and Nifty Gateway are flourishing. But much of the current NFT buying activity is either done out of curiosity or to gin up publicity for NFTs in general. For example, the person who paid $69 million for that digital image manages an NFT investment fund and got a deluge of “free” publicity out of the purchase.
It’s possible that authors and publishers will find viable applications for NFTs, but it’s too early to tell, and early experiments are likely to lead to dead ends. One area that has already been explored without success is e-books: publishing e-books and selling NFTs to denote ownership of them. One unsuccessful startup that tried this did not limit the number of copies of each e-book that it would make available, and it used DRM to restrict access to each copy to only the buyer.
Various benefits for this type of e-book scheme have been claimed: tokens can be resold, making it possible for copies to go up (or down) in value, buyers can recoup some of their costs by reselling, authors or publishers can get royalties with each resale. Yet none of these make much sense. It’s hard to imagine the value of copies going up if more copies can be produced at almost no cost at any time, and even in the print book market, easy online access to used copies has caused the average price of used books to go down. Giving publishers or authors a slice of each resale transaction is good for them but creates further disincentives to resell.
Another claim is that these systems give indie authors alternatives to the retail platforms that dominate the market. Yet this is true for any independent self-publishing platform, such as Smashwords or Lulu. A related claim is that NFTs eliminate intermediaries and bring authors into closer relationships with their fans. But this has been asserted about several internet technologies over the past 20 years, and it has become true only in a tiny minority of cases. The NFT platforms are likely to try to become intermediaries themselves, if for no other reason than that’s how they can generate revenue.
In addition, some of these applications for NFTs have already been tried without blockchains, and also without success. For example, in a lawsuit against a digital music resale startup called ReDigi, a court ruled in 2013 that resale of a digital object can’t be done without the copyright owner’s permission. Therefore any such market must include resale royalties to authors in order to incentivize them to give permission. Yet no such market has emerged. (Notably, many countries—though not the United States—require resale royalties to be paid on individual artworks sold at auction.) Of course, markets for e-book “lending” already exist through platforms such as Over-Drive, and these are feasible only with rights holders’ permissions.
One idea that has come up recently is to set a number of NFTs that are available for a given title. A bestselling author could publish a “first edition” of her next novel with a small number of “copies” that each have NFTs. A new author who becomes successful later on could produce “limited edition” versions of her titles with personalized bonus content. Some have even suggested producing different “levels” of NFTs (like gold, silver, and bronze) at different price points, each of which has different bonus content attached. Again, this can be done without a blockchain. It’s analogous to special limited edition packages of classic albums—the box set, the deluxe box set, the special limited edition box set with bonus DVDs, etc. Record labels have already tried this with digital albums, with no success—though, once again, they have never tried limiting the number of digital copies.
Finally, there are many cases in which NFTs can be fraudulent or suspect. Leave aside the fact that DRM-free digital objects associated with NFTs can be copied perfectly at will. I could, for example, obtain an NFT for an object that I claim is mine but actually isn’t, an object that already has an NFT, or an object that’s out of copyright or licensed under Creative Commons. This has already started happening. As the NFT market continues to explode, it will be necessary to curb such abuses, and the mechanisms to do so will start to resemble the highly complex infrastructure currently used to police copyright abuses on sites like Scribd, Soundcloud, and YouTube. If this type of abuse isn’t kept in check, trust in NFTs’ value and uniqueness will deteriorate.
Ultimately, NFTs are about artificially imposing scarcity on an internet world that strenuously resists it at every turn. The success of NFTs is predicated on consumers adopting a mindset that what they are buying is actually unique or nearly so. Digital ownership without uniqueness hasn’t been much of a success, given that e-book sales generally have been flat and digital music download sales (such as from iTunes) have been plummeting. The blockchain’s public forum for bragging rights is also something that does not exist in traditional content markets.
Otherwise, NFTs have value based solely on users’ perceptions that they have value. That perception has to be tended to extremely carefully by everyone involved, and for the long haul instead of just until an NFT can be sold at a profit or an NFT startup can be taken public—otherwise the NFT bubble is bound to deflate.
Bill Rosenblatt is president of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies and a founding partner of Publishing Technology Partners.
Porter Anderson – Publishing Perspective - May 6, 2021
The Germany-based digital book distributor Bookwire announces an autumn target for its NFT marketplace for the book publishing sector.
Ruhrmann: ‘Currently Under Development’
With its announcement today (May 6), the Frankfurt-based digital distributor Bookwire steps into the blockchain discussion, creating what it’s calling a new NFT marketplace “for the publishing and creator industry.”
“NFT” stands for “non-fungible token.” It’s a quantity of data stored on a digital ledger that underlies a blockchain. An NFT then works like an identifier, separate from copyright, verifying ownership of a digital property—especially significant for digital files like JPGs and MPGs which can be easily copied and shared online. While NFTs won’t prevent that kind of sharing, they do provide a framework for proving who owns what.
NFT marketplaces have proliferated in the visual art sector since March of this year, when digital artist Beeple sold a JPG file, as an NFT, at auction for US$69 million. According to the New York Times report on the sale, NFTs “are also being used to market and monetize an ever-widening range of cultural, commercial and personal items, in what some have likened to a digital gold rush.”
In a report on NFTs at the Wall Street Journal (March 19), Jason Zweig wrote, “By connecting the blockchain to art and other creative work, NFTs bring the objectivity of computer code to fields that are notorious for subjectivity.
“Artists, writers and musicians struggle to find audiences and make a living. Curators, dealers, collectors and art historians bicker nonstop about the quality and value—and the authenticity—of major works … Until now, buyers often had to take the answers to such questions on faith. An NFT, however, can integrate reams of information about an artwork into an authoritative, permanent digital record.”
Bookwire is announcing its intent to open its platform–sometime in the autumn–as an option for collectibles and digital originals “such as first editions, original manuscripts, and exclusive audio recordings.” At this point, the platform has not been completed or tested.
And it’s interesting that the company’s leads on the project quickly concede that buzz around the “non-fungible token” may not be lasting. They say they nevertheless see a practical application for blockchain activity in the publishing place as making sense. As today’s media messaging has it, “Publishers and content creators can use the platform to offer their target groups attractive and exclusive products that meet the needs and habits of new generations of digitally influenced readers,” those digital originals being “linked to true digital ownership” which cannot be duplicated.
In a prepared statement, Bookwire’s co-founding managing director John Ruhrmann, is quoted, saying, “For a long time, we at Bookwire have been thinking about using blockchain as a technology for the publishing industry.
“The potential uses of blockchain are huge. The hype around NFTs may die down, but the technology is here to stay.
“We want to enable blockchain solutions for our customers and the market as a whole. The NFT marketplace currently under development is a way for us to start bringing collectors, readers, users and listeners together with publishers, labels, authors and creators.”
The first of the so-called “drops”—digital sales events in which NFTs are offered for sale—should come with the opening of the platform in the fall.
Bookwire’s staff says it will support its publishing clients “in both production and sale of NFTs that guarantee ownership and anti-counterfeiting of digital goods.”
Podcasting for Authors – How to Stand out in a Crowded Market
The Author’s Secret Weapon – Podcasting for Content, Visibility and Profit
Are you looking for a way to expand your audience, build professional relationships, sell more books and have more authority in your niche? Then podcasting is something you’re probably already considering! But standing out in a competitive, increasingly saturated market can be a challenge. In this presentation, you’ll learn how to strategically create a podcast that supports your career ambitions.
First, we’re going to talk about the practical realities of podcasting – the time, energy and resources you need to invest, and what you can expect in terms of ROI.
Then we’ll cover:
- What separates a mediocre podcast from a great one.
- How to leverage the different parts of the podcast production process into value for your business.
- How to build podcasting into your weekly workflow – and still leave some time for writing! Megan will help you determine if a podcast will be a good fit for your business, and what exactly you should expect if you decide to take the plunge. After the session you’ll be prepared to start your own podcast and start reaping the benefits of the fastest growing multi-media platform.
More about Megan Dougherty
Megan Dougherty is a digital business strategist with over a decade of experience teaching, training and consulting entrepreneurs and small business owners how to operate effectively online. She is the co-founder of One Stone Creative, a multi-media content agency that specializes in producing podcasts for executives, small businesses, and authors. You can learn more about the company at OneStoneCreative.net, and if you’re interested in turning one (or more!) of your books into a podcast, you can download a free eBook that outlines the entire process at https://onestonecreative.net/book-to-podcast.
Virtual link, simply click on this link. You do not need to be logged into a Zoom account - https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87195197941?pwd=NVBndGVrVm9idWduZVZpc1k2OWFEdz09