Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, had this to say in a recent post:

Writers are now in charge. The writer decides when their manuscript graduates to published book. Readers decide which books are read.

Along with this power shift also comes the responsibility for authors to honor the best-practices of the best traditional publishers. Readers have little tolerance for anything less, and this is how it should be.

In this age of abundance where consumers have unlimited access to myriad high-quality sources of entertainment and knowledge – much of it accessible for free – writers need to up their game. Those who honor the reader by publishing great books will reach the most readers.

Book marketing has always been a word of mouth business. If you write a book that touches your reader’s soul, or inspires them with passion or knowledge, your readers will market your book for you.

via Smashwords.

Self-published writers ought to take those words to heart.

  • Quality – of writing and presentation – matters.
  • Readers market your books. Scatter-gun self-promotion does not.


What are your views, as readers and/or writers?


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had this to say in Slate:

Compared with online retailers, bookstores present a frustrating consumer experience. A physical store—whether it’s your favorite indie or the humongous Barnes & Noble at the mall—offers a relatively paltry selection, no customer reviews, no reliable way to find what you’re looking for, and a dubious recommendations engine.

In the past, bookstores did have one clear advantage over online retailers—you could read any book before you purchased it. But in the e-book age that advantage has slipped away. Amazon and Barnes & Noble let you sample the first chapter of every digital title they carry, and you can do so without leaving your couch.

via Independent bookstores vs. Amazon: Buying books online is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you. – Slate Magazine.

*sigh* Whatever happened to plain English? Corporate speak is an irritation – but this is just as bad. What’s a consumer experience? Do metaphysical stores exist? As to the rest:

  • Paltry selection? Not. Somehow I’ve managed to buy a lifetime’s reading from bookshops.
  • No customer reviews? I don’t buy books based on reviewers’ opinions.
  • No reliable way to find stuff? Of course there is. It’s called browsing.
  • Dubious recommendations engine? My brain functions nicely, thank you.

What works on the net doesn’t necessarily apply to bookshops, and vice versa. Talking about recommendation engines in bookshops is as inane as saying you can’t smell a book on Amazon.

As for sampling on Amazon, sorry but I find that frustrating. Peering at a postage stamp cover is not the same as looking at a cover. Reading the first XX words of a book is vastly inferior to flicking through a book.

Yes, Amazon has its advantages, but so do bookshops. Neither are going to die. Both will change over time.

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Writers’ Cafe

Writers’ Cafe is a Kindleboards forum where self-published writers congregate. It’s worth frequenting if you are interested in self-publishing. However, there are pros and cons:



  • You’ll meet some very helpful people whose advice is valuable.
  • The site is well-moderated.



  • Not every writer understands business. Unfortunately, some think they are experts.
  • Occasionally, you will have to wade through shameless self-promotion threads and posts.
  • The lemming principle applies to self-published writers just as much as it does to the traditional publishing industry.


On balance, if you take all advice with a pinch of salt, you’ll benefit.

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Joel Friedlander, aka The Book Designer, has an interesting post and short video entitled Why Publishers Love Hardcover Books:

Novelist Tess Collins entrusted me with the design of her new book, Helen of Troy. It’s a “quirky and lively retelling of the Greek legend” but set in small-town America.

Copies of the book recently arrived at my office, and looking at them I thought they provided the perfect way to illustrate something about how books are produced, and why publishers love hardcover books so much.

In the video, I talk about:

  • “Book blocks” and what they are
  • What hardcover and trade paper books have in common
  • The financial incentives in favor of publishing hardcovers
  • Why it is that publishers have delayed paperback publication for so long, and what might be driving the desire to hold e-book versions as well.


According to Joel:

  • Paperbacks cost $2.50 to print, and hardbacks cost $4.50. Those are offset printing costs. The POD hardback cost is some $10.00.
  • Paperbacks sell for $12.00, and hardbacks sell for $24.00
  • So the contribution to profits for a paperback is $9.50 (79%) versus $19.50 (81%) for a hardback.

So I can see the sense of delaying paperback publication, and presumably publishers are applying the same logic to delaying the release of ebooks, but I’m not convinced the same logic applies.

As far as self-publishing goes, I’m wondering if that cycle should be reversed. Release the ebook first, possibly with a POD paperback. But only release a hardback if and only if sales reach X per month, and you know there is sufficient demand for a collector version.

What do you reckon?

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There’s a very odd post by Seth Godin on the Domino Project. It starts by saying:

A year ago, I explained why the Domino Project chose to reject the very broken, easily gamed New York Times bestseller list.

via Rethinking the bestseller list – The Domino Project.

So basically he sets out to reinforce the view that the NYT bestseller list is now irrelevant. However, if you look at his blurb at the bottom of the page, he proudly says that he’s written twelve bestsellers. Why trumpet that if bestseller lists are irrelevant?

And he goes on to say:

For the rest of us, then, the reason we care if something is a bestseller is because we want to know if our friends are reading it.

Huh? Teen popularity contests, anyone? No, that doesn’t wash.

He closes by saying that nobody has built the ideal bestseller list yet. So what was the point of the post? Well, Seth is a canny marketeer, so he must have had an agenda.

Look at the top of the page and you’ll see that the Domino Project is “Powered by Amazon.com”. Amazon has its own bestseller lists for more sub-sub-sub genres than you can shake a stick at, which you’d think would be useful. Maybe they are, but the gaming potential is far greater with Amazon for a few reasons:

  1. Amazon is also a publisher, so it’s not an independent source for bestseller lists. Perceptions matter.
  2. Their lists include free downloads. Downloads do not equate to books bought and read.
  3. How are KDP Select “borrows” being counted?

And those reasons are enough for me to put less faith in Amazon’s bestseller lists than the NYT or equivalent UK resources.

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SlushPile Hell

Some random excerpts from SlushPile Hell:

What you are about to read through only 27 pages will forever change your thoughts on reality as it truly is, either now, or when it’s too late; and that is because the beginning of the end has arrived for all civilization. At this point, all publishers can either look at the potential dollar value in all that I write which makes them as the many of this world, or can view the spiritual message of their own coming destiny with concern becoming for all other human beings on this planet rather than being on self.

Really? This is how we’re going to start 2012? This is gonna be a long year.

My dream agent is Andrew Wylie, but it seems that he only handles big name authors, so I’m querying you.

This is eerily similar to the way my wife accepted my marriage proposal.

I’m writing to find out if you represent fiction. Please advise.

I guess on my agency website where it says I represent fiction, it must have been confusing to you. So thank you for allowing me to take time out of my day to answer your question. I really had nothing better to do. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go jam a pen into my aorta.

via SlushPile Hell.

I do not envy agents at all. They’re the one link in the publishing supply chain that is most at risk, and they have to read inane queries like the ones above. Still, the silver lining for them has to be that the slushpile is moving to self-publishing.

I’ve always wondered what percentage of the slushpile makes it to the next stage. 5%? More? Do you have any idea?

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I have not been a writer since I was knee high to a grasshopper, but I have been a reader all my life. I learned grammar at school, something I understand is now an optional extra. I also learned how to spell. So, when I read a book my eyes home in on errors of any kind. They irritate me no end, and detract from the pleasure of reading.

Unfortunately, far too many self-published novels are littered with errors. What’s even more unfortunate is that some SP authors refuse to be held accountable, and all too often their fellow authors support them on certain forums. “Well, I’ll just upload another version,” is one reaction. And I blink in amazement. Excuse me? Why didn’t you get it right first time? And how about learning to spell before you publish another book? “But traditionally published books contain errors!” has to rank as the worst of all excuses. EXCUSE ME! What does that have to do with the price of persimmons? You chose to self-publish. You are responsible for every step. Be professional. Can’t spell to save your life? Learn or pay for editing. Can’t format? Pay someone to do it. There are no free lunches. Yes, yes, we’re all human. Three typos per 1,000 pages is acceptable.

As for you, Mr. Big Six Publisher, you can wipe that smirk off your face. You’ve been in the business for 200 years, and yet one hears that errors are increasing. Corporate-speak about “unfortunate consequences of downsizing” do not hold water. Learn quality control. As for the well-publicised ebook formatting shockers… “We outsourced the process, and are currently refining communication channels with our strategic partners,” is just more corporate-speak. What it really means is that you don’t have the in-house skills, and you didn’t check the final product. And that is inexcusable.

Excuse me while I return my inner snark to his kennel…

What about you? Are you as intolerant of errors as I am?

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