Author, Editor, Publisher, Coach

Tag: e-Publishing (Page 2 of 5)

Regarding eBooks: To DRM or not to DRM; that is the question.

“…whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous [book thieves], or to take arms against a sea of [pirates] and by opposing, end them.”

Okay, so now that I’ve butchered Shakespeare’s Hamlet, let me ask the simpler question: Why wouldn’t you, as someone who publishes eBooks, use Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Now, I ask that question with the assumption that you’ll be making your eBook available most everywhere eBooks are sold—not just Amazon (MOBI), but Smashwords and BookieJar (EPUB, PDF, etc.), and all the distribution channels they provide (B&N, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, etc.).

As long as buyers, your customers, can go somewhere to purchase whatever electronic format they want, why wouldn’t you use DRM where you can to protect against piracy?

I’m trying to figure out the downside of doing so, as I’ve seen some discussions suggesting DRM is a bad idea. Why? What am I missing?

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A Question for Readers: How much does quality, professional writing matter; or is the story ALL that matters?

I’ve jumped into a discussion at The Passive Voice blog, and I’d like to expand on it here. I’m really gearing this question towards readers, but I welcome comments from writers too, provided you first put on your reader’s cap.

We all love great stories. That’s a given. However, is that all that matters to you? What if it’s poorly written, laden with grammatical errors and poor structure? Does that matter to you? How much? Where do you draw the line and forgive an author for poor writing?

Does moving, eloquent prose move you as a reader? If so, how much will you forgive a less-than-thrilling story?

Okay, so that’s more than one question… sort of two sides (or ten) of the same coin.

Please, I’d love to know your opinion on this.

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This was a difficult decision for me, but it made perfect sense.

I’ve decided to postpone the release of my novel, Forgive Me, Alex. I am now stating for the record (etched in stone, folks) that the release date for my psychological thriller is (Shouldn’t there be a drum roll or something?):

December 20, 2011

Yep, just in time for Christmas, so be sure to stay in touch with the big guy up north. To those of you who’ve been anxiously waiting for me to launch the book, I beg your patience for just a bit longer.

So why the delay? The simple answer is that I need a little more time to establish a coherent launch strategy. I’ll want to promote it, advertise it, market it, generate some buzz, make children weep in the streets and make real singers of Milli Vanilli… err, okay, maybe not those last things. I may also do all of this in a coordinated effort with two other authors from our Evolved Publishing team, who will be releasing books around (or exactly) the same date.

When releasing a new book, it’s not just about writing it and getting it out there, it’s also about managing the business end of things. And that requires more time and preparation than I’ve been able to devote to it so far.

So please hang in there, my friends. It’s not so far off, in the grand scheme of things. And believe me, no one is more anxious than I am. So stay tuned—more to come soon.

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Hey, who doesn’t like awards?

Come on, we all love awards. Face it: nothing beats recognition from your peers for a job well done.

 These days, many organizations water down awards by giving them to everyone who participates, apparently making the point that if you have a pulse, you’re a winner. Okay, okay… I’ll not go down that road.

Still, we know a real award when we see it, usually because there are many entrants and few winners.

And so, I am pleased to announce that Kimberly Kinrade, one of our authors with Evolved Publishing, has won a Forward National Literature Award. If you go to that link and scroll down to the Second Place finishers, under Drama, you’ll find her book, Forbidden Mind.

I’m happy to say that I participated in that project as editor. The story is all hers, of course, but I made my own modest contribution. Fun! Gosh, awards are cool.

We’ve established Evolved Publishing around a few core philosophies, one of which is simple and unwavering: Quality Matters! I’d say Kimberly’s award is evidence that we’re on the right track.

‘Til next time, and as always, remember: To write well, you must work hard. To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn’t be lazy (or discouraged).

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Trying to Cash In on the Social Media Madness

How shall readers connect with those who write, and with their material? And how shall authors build a following?

It hardly matters what you do for a living, or which hobbies interest you, or which sports teams or movie stars or musical acts or authors you like—a social media presence is pretty much a given in modern life. Unless you live in under a rock, or you’re a seasoned citizen who never quite got the hang of them dang computer contraptions (in which case you’re not reading this anyway), you have at the very least a Facebook or Twitter account.

We communicate through the internet. That’s just the world we live in. Even if you only use it to “keep in touch” with that long lost brother who last phoned you in 1992, and who, on those rare occasions when he sees you, has to snap his fingers and scratch his head and say, “What was your name again?”

Yet it’s moved well beyond that. The internet is increasingly where we do business. We look for work on the internet, or seek potential new hires for our company. We study on the internet, or catch up with the news. And yep, we buy and sell on the internet.

Never has that been more evident than in the world of books. EBooks are revolutionizing the way we read and write. If you’re a booklover, you’re already finding old-fashioned bookstores harder to find—a trend that will continue. EBooks and eReaders are here to stay, and to that, brothers and sisters, I say, “Amen!”

For an author like me, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I must now spend a lot of my time not writing, but reaching out to readers. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to communicate with those who like my work. I do. I mean, seriously, what author doesn’t want to hear from readers how his work has affected their lives?

Nonetheless, it’s more work—another ball we must juggle… or ten.

It means I must not only embrace the new technologies, I must also educate myself on their proper use. Opinions vary so widely on how best to do this, it seems largely a matter of trial and error for most. However, some folks have already established some expertise in this arena, and they can help you. One of those is Dan Zarrella, whose blog I heartily recommend.

For readers, the new market also considerably changes the dynamics. If you want to keep up with what authors are offering, to remain apace of all that’s happening in the world of books you love, you’ll have to stay tuned-in to various online activities. One of the communities that’s most geared towards readers’ needs is Goodreads. Here, not only can you discover what’s new in the world of books, you can also find out what other readers—potentially millions of them—think about specific books, and engage with them in an interactive community. If you’re a true booklover, you need to be on Goodreads. And I say that not as an author, but as a fellow reader.

You can also peruse reviews at the big eBook retailers such as Amazon (for their Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (for their Nook).

Naturally, where readers go, writers must go. It’s not that we’re stalking readers, it’s just that… well… okay, we’re stalking readers. Really, we just want readers to know about our work. How else can they make an informed decision about whether or not to buy it?

I’ve set up my own Goodreads Author’s Page, as well as a Publisher’s Page for Evolved Publishing, our indie publishing business. I have an Amazon Author’s Page too. Yes, I have a presence at social media sites everywhere (well, seems like everywhere). As an author, I can’t escape it.

Then, of course, there’s this blog, which provides a more detailed and more personal forum to connect with folks. All part of doing business in the 21st century.

Yet what is enough? What is too much? Should I drive, drive, drive people to buy my books, constantly hammering them over the head? Pfft! Like that won’t send readers running to the hills! As a reader myself, I hate that kind of constant barrage.

No, I think a softer approach is required, a gentle touch—followed by huge portions of patience and perseverance. I’ll be talking about the “Soft Sell” in an upcoming blog post, so please stay tuned.

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eBook Pricing – The Market Is Still Sorting Itself Out

Kristen J. Tsetsi has posted an article at her blog, The Cost of Kindle Books – Pay up or Shut Up, which has drawn quite a lot of discussion. If you’re an author or a reader, I recommend you check it out. I’ll first post my response below, and then I’ll expand just a touch at the end.

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This clearly displays the frustration on the part of authors who are not making a heck of a lot of money. The problem is exacerbated, of course, BY AUTHORS. Every time an author gives away her work, another author feels pressured to do the same in order to compete. Authors have been giving away their work forever. Anyone tried to place a story in a literary magazine lately?

I think authors should never — and I mean NEVER — work for free. Do plumbers work for free? Do teachers work for free? A loss-leader promotion to drive traffic to other products is one thing, but simply giving it away is nuts.

However, eBooks should cost significantly less than a paperback; the economics of production are a guiding factor in the pricing of any product. As an author, I can make more on my $4.99 eBook than I could make on my $27.99 hardcover through a traditional publisher. And I can “produce” it with far less up-front investment, in far less time.

Ultimately, the market will decide (and yes, that means the buyers) what a product is worth. Authors can help themselves by not giving away their work and establishing those expectations, but they must respond to market conditions. As for me, I’ll be selling my eBook for $4.99, because I think that’s a fair price all around. That means J. won’t be buying my book, but I can live with that.

In fact, that $4.99 price point is the amount above which I’ll likely balk at buying an eBook. I might pay more, but man, it would have to be something special. We all have our limits.

And to the publishers who price their eBooks at the level of their paperbacks, thereby asking eBook buyers to SUBSIDIZE their paperback business, I say, “No thank you very much.”

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It’s important, particularly for indie authors who are wading into “business” for the first time, to understand the dynamics of market response. The customer is king. Always.

At some point, if authors are unhappy with the customers’ decisions about what they’re willing to pay, they’ll have a difficult decision to make: A) Price it lower to meet customer demands, and to sell more books, or; B) Keep the price up, and settle on the fact that they’ll sell fewer books.

Either is a legitimate approach, driven by the author’s true goals. I think that, ultimately, holding the price up, but having a large selection to offer your readers, will be the key. Yes, you may sell fewer copies per book, but the sheer number of books you offer will ramp up your income.

I am loath to give away my book, after spending 5 years toiling over it, and I’ll likely choose Option B above. I plan to price my eBook at $4.99, which I think is eminently fair—an absolute bargain.

Indeed, as co-owners of Evolved Publishing, D.T. Conklin and I have concluded that $4.99 should be the regular, non-promoted price for all our books. Some of our authors may feel differently at times, and we’ll allow them some flexibility, but I think anything higher is inappropriate in most cases, and anything less begs the question, from a business perspective: Why bother? Every business asks that question at the beginning, and again each step along the way.

For readers too, that last question must be part of the decision-making process about what to buy, and how much to pay. If you want great books from great authors, you’ll have to pay enough to make it worth their while. Yes, you can get a lot of eBooks today for $0.99-$2.99. Have you sampled some of those? I have, and I’ve not been terribly impressed. Ultimately, in this business as in any other, you get what you pay for. In my experience, the best books are those selling for $4.99-$7.99. And guess what? Many of those authors are succeeding nicely.

The issue isn’t price alone; it’s about value. It’s a subject I’ve addressed in two previous posts: Quality Matters and Quality Counts when Publishing eBooks.

I think we’ll be sorting out this eBook pricing thing for a couple years. The entire market remains in a state of flux. Ask 20 people what they think, and you’ll get several different answers.

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The Gnashing of Teeth, the Wailing of Souls: Emerging Authors Struggle to Find Their Way

If you follow many blogs by authors and aspiring authors, you see the extensive conflict, both internal and external. Do legacy publishers still offer the “grand dream?” Is self-publishing the way to go? Could it be that indie publishers provide the best alternative in this new environment? Opinions run hot and heavy, and debate can become quite animated.

Is there a single right answer? Okay, so that’s a rhetorical question. The world of publishing has opened up, offering authors more options than at any time in history, and that’s a trend still developing—there will be many more opportunities ahead.

LEGACY PUBLISHERS

The simple fact is that technology is driving the train—for everyone—pulling the traditional boxcar publishers kicking and screaming into new territory, and offering authors greater flexibility and market reach than ever. Legacy publishers, often referred to erroneously as “The Big 6,” still offer authors certain benefits. They pay advances, but those are getting smaller and smaller, especially for unproven authors. They offer editorial assistance, though many would argue that both quantity and quality has diminished in that area. They provide distribution access to bookstores around the country. And your agent—yes, you must have an agent—may provide access to worldwide markets through foreign sub-agents, and may provide inroads to sell your movie rights and audio book rights.

In other words, they’ve built their industry to provide you access to all the markets, the better for them to make money. So what’s the problem? Why not just stick with legacy publishers? Well, the odds of entry are stacked against you (How’s that for an understatement?). You could try for years, decades even, and never crack that bubble, and it may have nothing to do with the quality of your work. If you’re one of the lucky aspiring authors who actually wins that lottery, good for you. Maybe. Or maybe not.

Most authors don’t earn out their advances, meaning that whatever they receive as an advance is all they make on the print copy. They’ll likely earn less per print copy than they would from a self-published eBook. As for eBooks, publishers are paying a whopping 17.6% royalty to authors, on average, based on recent industry reporting. Yep. 17.6%. Some are talking about raising that now, to as high as (perhaps I should say as low as) 40% of profits. Additionally, the answer for most authors is, “No, they won’t likely market your book for you. They’ll expect you to carry that load.” Thus, you can expect to pay out of pocket to sell your book. Finally, don’t be surprised if, from the moment you sign with an agent to the moment your book appears on the store shelves, two years or more have vanished into history.

Authors in the traditional, legacy publishing industry have many mouths to feed: publisher, literary agent, distributors—each with all their employees, buildings and expenses. Thus the authors, creators of the works that are the reason those entities even exist, get a much smaller piece of the pie. That’s just how it is. Do the benefits they offer outweigh that concern?

In my experience in recent months, those most vociferously defending the legacy publishers are the ones presently invested in them in some way. Of course, I could say the same about the other publishing options.

SELF-PUBLISHING

It sure is easy these days. And cheap. If publishing time and cost are your only concerns, this is the way to go. A few days of studying and formatting, and you’re ready to upload your eBook and/or POD book. But wait! Has your book been professionally edited? Do you have a professional cover? Do you have a professional marketing plan in place to sell your book, or are you going to trust your fate to… well, fate? (Note: The preponderance of the word “professional” here is no accident.)

We used to refer to self-publishing as the Vanity Press, back when the primary option was a pay-in-advance printer. In those days, 99% of self-publishers lost money. Yep. Lost money. Thus, the “Vanity” tag—people self-published not to become professional authors, but to see a book on the shelf with their name on it, or to impress their family and friends and coworkers and neighbors who didn’t know any better.

Nowadays, one can create a print copy via a POD (Print-on-Demand) publisher, minimizing both the up-front expense and the likelihood of losing money (which is not to say the author will actually make much money on it). One can also create an eBook at virtually no expense (which is not to say the author will actually make much money on it). Hmm, I sense a trend here.

Is the new ease of self-publishing, and the better author royalties per copy sold, attracting better authors, luring them away from the traditional path? You’d better believe it. Sadly, it is also drawing all those folks who self-published sub-standard work just to see their name in lights—only more of them, now that it’s so cheap.

The truth is that I have a love/hate relationship with self-published authors. Those who disregard professional quality, for whatever reason, frustrate me. They devour my time and energy, and muddy up the waters where I intend to swim. Yet if you’re a self-pubber who does it right, who insists on quality from start to finish, I love you! Really, I do.

I’ve learned one thing, for sure: no group is more vociferous in defending their choices than self-pubbers. One must enter that maze of discussions with great caution, lest one unleash the very hounds of hell. Many of those debates are lively and interesting, but many of them (and please, let’s just be honest here) devolve into exercises in self-rationalization.

The professionals will rise to the top, in the end, and they will remain the exception to this general rule: Most self-published work is not very good. I know, here come all the screams and hollers from self-pubbers. Please note that I said “general” and “most.” Will it continue to be 99% bad, as in the past? I don’t know; maybe it’s just too early to tell. However, early indicators are not good. I’ve sampled about 150 books at sites like Amazon, Smashwords and BookieJar, and only 3 of those moved me to purchase. The rest were dull, poorly structured, or laced with errors—or all of the above. Of the 3 I purchased, 2 have proven disappointing. Let me say that the 150 I sampled were all from relative unknowns—authors still trying to find a market.

And so, if it seems as though I’m not supporting indie authors, it’s not for wont of trying. 3 out of 150. Not good.

INDIE PUBLISHERS / SMALL PRESS

First, I do not consider self-publishers “indie” publishers, even if they create a publishing label to publish their work (and only their work). I relate indie publishing to what we always called the small press—those who publish several authors, but who don’t meet sales numbers large enough to be called a major publishing house.

This, I think, is where a good number of authors will eventually go. Furthermore, I think bolder, fresher business models will continue to evolve to meet those authors’ needs.

However, as this is already a long piece (thanks for hanging in there), and because it’s such a complex subject all its own, I shall discuss this option in detail in the near future.

And yes, by way of disclaimer, I am one of the co-founders of Evolved Publishing, an indie publisher. More on that next time.

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Random Musings from Lane Diamond’s Not-So-Idle Mind – Part 1

I’ve received three emails the past couple days asking essentially the same thing: “Hey, Diamond, no blog posts this week?  Wass’up with that?”

Well… err… um… let’s see… I’ve been just a bit busy.

So I thought I might add to a relaxing Sunday (well, I’m working, but that’s okay) an update on projects under construction.

The biggest chunk of my time the past couple weeks has been dedicated to editing. I’m happy to say that, excepting a few minor, last minute adjustments by Megan Morrison, we’re ready to release her debut memoir, And Then It Rained: Lessons for Life.  It will be available as an eBook on November 12th.

The second big piece I’ve been working on is Ruby Standing Deer’s debut historical novel, Circles, which features a charming cast of Native American characters from 500 years ago.  We have a ways to go, but her eBook will be available before Christmas.

 

I’ve also been working with three authors “off-line,” as it were, in the hopes they might eventually join our Evolved Publishing family. They’re not quite ready—needed a little “online writing class” first, to address a few nagging bad habits—but this process will make them better prepared to complete or edit their WIPs.  Even if they don’t join EP in the end, I hope they’ll find the exercise helpful.

This weekend I’ve been putting the finishing touches on all our current project contracts for EP. I spend a lot of time on our business these days—no surprise there. Marketing research and strategies have accounted for a lot of that time, and we’re looking at a couple of potential new authors for our group. We’re hoping to add perhaps an author every month or two—not sure we could handle more than that at the moment, given our workloads.

As for the EP release schedule, in addition to the two books mentioned above, please, let us not forget my book. Forgive Me, Alex has been a long time coming—much longer than I would have liked—but I’m finally setting aside the time to finish the final polish. I hope the eBook will be available by Thanksgiving, but it may be a week or so later. I’ll keep you posted.

This coming week I’ll be a little more engaged in this blog and in some social media sites I’ve neglected recently. So little time, so much COGNAC WORK.

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