McKinsey: Automation could save $16 trillion in wages

  • Realizing automation’s full potential will require people and technology to work together, according to a new McKinsey Global Institute report.
  • The report, which was based on scenario modeling, predicts physical tasks “in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing” will be the first to be automated. But those jobs make up a little over half of activities in the economy, accounting for almost $2.7 trillion in wages, so the effects could be dramatic.
  • The firm also acknowledges almost all occupations — both blue collar and white collar — have potential for some automation, which could result in a savings of about $16 trillion in wages.

Dive Insight:

Its clear automation will affect the enterprise in coming years, but putting numbers to those changes is challenging. Meanwhile, McKinsey estimates automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4% annually. But when it comes to replacing workers altogether, McKinsey estimates that could only work in less than 5% of occupations.

Ultimately, however, all types of jobs will see some automation. Earlier this month, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance said it is replacing some human insurance claim workers with an artificial intelligence-based system from IBM.

Ultimately, McKinsey predicts, workers will have to adapt for automation and perhaps learn new, more complex skills that they then perform alongside machines. It will therefore be more a matter of better assisting machines rather than being replaced by them.

In an interview with Bloomberg during the DLD conference in Munich, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella agreed that AI and automation should help people use their time better.

“The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, ”let us replace you’,” Nadella said.


Virtual Reality Smell Porn: Get A Big Whiff Of The Future

Think porn already stinks? It’s just got a lot bit smellier thanks to the miracle of virtual reality.


Adult entertainment company CamSoda is introducing a gas mask designed to enhance its online sex shows by allowing users to smell scents chosen by the performers.


People who purchase its “OhRoma” technology will get the mask as well two canisters that fit into it. With the help of an app, the mask pairs with Bluetooth on a user’s smartphone.


Users can then watch a cam performer in virtual reality and experience the odors they’ve chosen from their own personal “scent profile.”

That can include everything from perfume odors to ocean smells to body odor and even the scent of sex organs.


CamSoda president Daron Lundeen believes odor-oriented porn is the next step to making virtual reality more real than ever.


“We’re trying to touch on every possible way to make VR more than just visual,” Lundeen told HuffPost.


Currently, a successful cam model can make between $75 to $100 for a 30-minute show, according to the company. Lundeen predicts using the “OhRoma” technology could add an additional 25 percent to those earnings.


Florida-based cam performer Victoria Ryan thinks “nose porn” is an idea whose time has come.


“There are a lot of guys who watch my shows who tell me, ‘God, I wish I could smell you,’” she told HuffPost. “And some will drop $50 just to buy my panties.”  


Ryan, 22, took great time and care preparing her smell profile based on a wide array of scent options.


“I wanted to incorporate something that smelled as close to me as possible,” she said. “I do a lot of beach and pool shows so I wanted to have the smell of salt water, sunscreen, maybe a chlorine smell or coconut tanning oil.”


She also looked for smells that matched her own body odor.


“I sort of wanted a fruity musky scent that would blend with a flowery perfume,” she said. “I imagine I will want to change that smell when I hit MILF status.”


Lundeen says different performers will use different scents for different shows. For instance, a woman dressing up like a horny housewife might want to incorporate the smell of baking bread into a show.


“The models will figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he said, quickly emphasizing that odors of urine and feces won’t be available.


Chicago-based smell researcher Dr. Alan Hirsch hasn’t examined the mask or the smells, but recommends performers familiarize themselves with odors known to increase sexual arousal before they create their smell profile.


“A lavender/pumpkin scent is the one that gets men most aroused, followed by a combination of donuts and black licorice,” Hirsch told HuffPost. “Some odors enhance empathy such as eucalyptus, menthol or camphor. A performer might want to use these to arouse sympathy.” 


Lundeen started taking pre-orders for the OhRoma mask on Wednesday at the Adult Entertainment Expo, a four-day porn convention held annually in Las Vegas.


He expects the sensory masks will be available in three months at an estimated price of $59.99. The smell canisters are designed to last between three to six months. Replacement canisters should sell for around $29.99.


Horror Authors Take a Stab at Self-Publishing

Every literary genre has its subgenres, but there is perhaps no genre so packed with niches as horror fiction. You’ve got your supernatural horror, postapocalyptic horror, fantasy horror, sci-fi horror, comedy horror, and then all the vampire, werewolf, and zombie horror. It’s a long list of genres for the long list of authors who self-publish in this increasingly fractured and versatile category.

Some horror writers are making a killing at self-publishing, but that’s far from the norm. More likely, self-published horror writers are seizing independence to get out work that isn’t finding a home with traditional presses—and many of them are passionate enough to keep going despite making little profit.

“[Horror] is a genre with rabid, but small, fan bases and obsessive authors; it’s a hard genre to sell,” says Martin Kee, who has self-published several horror works that also tie in elements of sci-fi and fantasy, including A Latent Dark, The Umbral Wake, and Bloom: Or, The Unwritten Memoir of Tennyson Middlebrook, all exclusively on Amazon. “Horror isn’t for everyone, and I think a lot of people who might enjoy horror steer clear because they think it’s just gore. Other people just don’t want to feel scared or anxious. They just don’t want that stuff in their head. I respect that, but there’s such a broad spectrum of horror out there, I think people would be surprised what they end up liking. I’ve even been told by readers of Bloom that they didn’t even know it was the book they wanted to read until they read it.”

J.E. Mayer, author of a number of horror novels, including An Anger at Birth, based on the true story of a teen serial killer, links many readers’ reflexive disinterest in horror fiction to their dislike of slasher stories and movies, and insists that slasher fiction isn’t representative of the horror genre—at least not anymore. “Horror is just coming back as a strong genre in general,” Mayer says. “Slasher stories dominated the public attention for some time, and traditional horror tales became associated with [them], and thus horror received a bad name in publishing. [Unless] you were Stephen King, if you wrote horror, you were seen as writing gore.”

To be clear, no one is claiming that gore is dead, but rather that the playing field has opened tremendously, and that’s thanks in part to self-publishing. Many indie horror writers find that, had it not been for self-publishing, they’d never have been able to get their “hard to sell” ideas out into the world.

Saved by Self-Publishing

“I chose to self-publish simply to be read,” says Joe Schwartz, whose eighth book, the horror novel Stabco: You Need Nothing Else, is now available on Amazon. “The odds of getting someone substantial to publish your work when you’re basically just getting started are less than awful.”

That traditional publishers simply don’t have the time or resources for your work is a sentiment that all too many horror authors can relate to. Trent St. Germain, who published the horror novel The Incubus and the Others with Kindle Direct in the summer of 2015, estimates that he received between 30 and 40 rejections from agents before venturing out on his own.

“I lost track of how many agents I queried,” says St. Germain, who recently signed a book deal with the small publisher Black Rose Writing. “I thought I’d have more credibility and grow my audience if I found a publisher. But now that I look at things, and the more reading I do online, it feels like the lines are more blurred between self- and traditional publishing, though with self-publishing you keep most of the money.”

Tam Francis published the short story collection Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright using CreateSpace, Nook Press, and Smashwords because she didn’t think a short story collection would be of interest to a traditional publisher. “I feel that publishers don’t publish short story collections unless [the author] is famous or has won a big contest, so I thought I would publish Ghostoria to try out self-publishing and see if I liked it,” says Francis, who has since launched a hybrid small press, Plum Creek Publishing, with several other writers. “Right now I’m happy with self-publishing.”

Francis notes that she put about $300 into her book and has made $400, a number she’s content with, given that her initial goal was simply to break even. “Unless someone wants to turn my book into a movie, I’m not sure I see a point in having a traditional publisher.”

John D. Conroe, author of 11 self-published books, 10 of which are in the series the Demon Accords, also doesn’t see the point of having a traditional publisher, and notes that if he could give one piece of advice to his younger self, it would be to not even bother with traditional houses. “My advice would be to skip the traditional query process and go straight to Kindle Direct Publishing,” says Conroe, who still works a day job but thinks he could get by on his books alone. “Focus on writing good books, invest in editing and cover art, and don’t look back.”

Susan Goggins, who writes as Raven Hart, is in the process of making the leap to self-publishing, in part because she doesn’t like how slowly traditional publishing houses operate. “By the time [Ballantine] released the first of our vampire series—two years after we submitted the [manuscripts]—my writing partner and I missed out on the booming subgenre of vampire books and paranormal romance,” she says. “Even more tragically, my writing partner Virginia Ellis died before the first book came out. That control over timing is so important.” Now that Goggins has fulfilled her five-book contract with Ballantine, she’s decided to continue her vampire series on her own, though she hasn’t decided which route to go, finding the amount of choices “dizzying to the point of being stressful.”

Then there are authors such as Jason S. Ridler, who self-published the dystopian vampire thriller A Triumph for Sakura because he was advised by agents that a book featuring a Japanese female lead and an African-American man wasn’t marketable. “None of the major houses at that time, in 2011, were regularly publishing books with multicultural casts,” Ridler says. “I thought I could dodge all those bullets by not dealing with publishers at all. My understanding is that it’s starting to change, but back then the culture was reacting negatively against that stuff.”

Ridler notes that A Triumph for Sakura has been his most successful work, and has done well particularly among women. But success doesn’t mean bundles of money. “At best I make $20 a month,” he says. Ridler blames himself for the paltry profits:“I’m not aggressively promoting, and I don’t care about being a rock star bestselling author. The time I have left on this planet has to be spent doing things I care about. Relentless promotion and book tours aren’t bad things, but I’d rather spend time being better as a writer.”

Such are the sentiments of Ania Ahlborn, who self-published the horror novel Seed in 2012, after being courted for months by a big-name agent who ultimately decided not to take her on. “I was so crushed and angry because I’d been so close,” she says. “So I threw everything aside and wrote Seed and did it with no expectation and nothing to lose. That’s when I discovered Kindle Direct and, because I was bitter, I said, ‘Forget it, I’m not going to write another query ever again.’ ”

Ahlborn didn’t have to. Seed took off, and within six months of its publication, Amazon Studios asked to buy the movie rights. “At that point I was overwhelmed, so I hired an agent,” Ahlborn says. “We negotiated two book deals with Amazon, and then a second contract with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery imprint.”

Though she’s happy with her publisher, Ahlborn feels strongly about the merits of self-publishing—after all, if she hadn’t done it, she wouldn’t have gotten the book deal in the first place.

The Challenge of Discoverability—and Endless Promotion

Like self-published authors in every genre, indie horror writers are tasked with managing all aspects of their books, from cover design to publicity. Writers’ success is often determined by the amount of work they put in, and many horror authors insist on spending the extra money to get a quality cover and professional editing. After that, it really comes down to reaching readers, and that can be tricky because there’s just so much work with which to compete.

“The key issue nowadays is discoverability,” says Jana Oliver, the author of a number of self-published horror novels, including the Demon Trappers series (which she continued on her own when St. Martin’s Griffin stopped publishing it after book four), and the nonfiction book Socially Engaged: The Author’s Guide to Social Media, coauthored with Tyra Burton. “There are thousands of books out there, and you have to find a way to stand out so readers can find you in that vast sea of stories. It is not an easy task. A top quality website is vital, some sort of social media presence certainly helps (Facebook, Twitter, perhaps Pinterest or Instagram), along with having the patience of Job. I find consistent social media interaction helps, as well as lots of networking. Treating your readers with respect should be a given. I allocate about 30 minutes per day, sometimes longer, for marketing and promotion. Truth is, it probably should be more.”

Oliver says that until this year she was self-supporting, and after changing some directions in her writing, hopes to be so next year, too. “Frequent publications are the key, and I only put out one book last year, so that affected my income level,” she notes. “Some writers publish four or more books a year. It all depends on their personal commitments, how fast they write, and the length of their books. From what I can see, a regular and robust publication schedule certainly helps ‘feed’ your readers’ desire for scary stories.”

Willow Rose, who has self-published 39 books since 2011, is constantly feeding her readers—and marketing her books is literally her husband’s full-time job. “My husband used to take care of everything else, too, like covers, the interior design of the e-book and paperbacks, but now we have hired someone to deal with all that so he can focus on the promotion part,” said Rose. “We use the Web pages [that have] loads of subscribers, like BookBub and Robin Reads. Through them we get out to thousands, sometimes millions, of readers all at once. We also have our own newsletter that we send out whenever we have a bargain or a new release. This means a new release quickly generates sales and ends on a bestselling list the day after it is released. And soon after it has plenty of reviews, which gives the book life. Some of my readers read a new book in 10–12 hours and then post a review afterwards. Furthermore, we use Facebook ads that target horror readers. I use my Facebook profile as my way of keeping in close contact with my readers to tell them of new releases, bargains, etc.”

Rose notes that she makes six figures a year. Certainly it’s not just the heavy marketing that helps push her work—it’s the style and accessibility of her books. She focuses on making likable characters and building suspense, and steers away from gore. She also aims to make even the most “far-fetched nightmares” seem completely realistic, and like they could happen to you.

“Horror is a tickling sensation in your stomach; it’s not supposed to make you want to throw up,” Rose says. “I build up suspense, make people like the characters, and then let horrible things happen to them, but no more than what I think the reader can take. I think often horror writers are too focused on the bloody and scary stuff that they forget you have to really care about the characters for it to be suspenseful.”

Nicole Audrey Spector is a Los Angeles writer whose work has appeared in the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and Vice.


Self-publishing a book: Things you need to know

I know, I know. This is a column about cutting-edge electronics. So, apologies to gadget-heads as I take a brief sojourn into the land of self-publishing, which has become a lot more high-tech than a lot of people realize.

A few years ago I wrote a book. A novel. “Knife Music.” Contrary to what you might think based on my day job, it’s not a cyber-thriller, though it is a mystery/thriller with a medical/legal slant.

Its short history is this: I worked on it for several years, acquired a high-powered agent, had some brushes with major publishers, then, crickets.

I could have tried to go for a small publisher, but I was told mine was “a bigger book” with more commercial aspirations and prestigious small publishers were interested in more literary tomes. I also learned that many small publishers were being wiped out by the “self-publishing revolution,” a movement that’s not so unlike the “citizen journalism” or bloggers’ revolt of recent years that’s had a major impact on mainstream media, including this publication. The basic premise is anyone can become a small publisher. You call the shots. You retain the rights to your book. And you take home a bigger royalty than you’d normally get from a traditional publisher–if you sell any books.

Against the advice of my agent, I began perusing the big self-publishing companies’ Web sites and evaluating what they had to offer. Then I started poking around blogs and message boards to get customer testimonials. What I found was a veritable minefield with roads that forked in every direction and very few clear answers.


After much deliberation, I chose BookSurge, a print-on-demand (POD) outfit that Amazon owned along with the more no-frills POD operation CreateSpace. In 2009, after I published, Amazon merged BookSurge and CreateSpace under the CreateSpace brand name, so when I say Booksurge going forward, you should think CreateSpace. For those new to self-publishing, it’s worth noting that CreateSpace is considered a subsidy press or author-services company. The key to these companies is that books are printed only when someone orders a copy; neither author nor publisher is forced into buying a bunch of books and having to hawk them.

Royalties are better than what “real” publishers offer, but there are caveats, and true self-publishing pros prefer to cut out the subsidy press (which takes a cut) and go straight to a POD printer like Lightning Source to maximize profits. But I was less concerned about making money from this venture and more interested in putting together a well-packaged product that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to sell and some strangers might be willing to buy. If I did it right, I thought, and managed to get it some attention, some “real” publisher might come along and discover what a gem those 20 some odd publishers had passed on.

Well, thanks to a little publicity courtesy of Apple and a rejected— then accepted— free iPhone app, four and half months after I self-published “Knife Music,” my agent sold it to The Overlook Press, an independent publisher that put the book out in hardcover in July 2010. A few months later it came out as an e-book and did very well, rising to as high as No. 4 on the Kindle bestseller list. Later this year Overlook will publish my second novel, “The Big Exit.”

As I said, that’s the short story, and many things have changed — particularly for the e-book industry — since I first wrote this column back in December 2008. But most of what I learned along the way and what I picked up from other people who’ve also self-published, applies more than ever. As always, feel free to add your own experiences to the comments section, and thanks to all the readers who’ve e-mailed in the past.

Self-publishing is easy.

Self-publishing a print book is easy. Self-publishing an e-book is even easier.

Since this article is mainly about self-publishing an old-fashioned print book, here’s the skinny on what it takes to put together such a book:

You choose a size for your book, format your Word manuscript to fit that size, turn your Word doc into a PDF, create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF, and upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice and get a book proof back within a couple of weeks (or sooner) if you succeeded in formatting everything correctly. You can then make changes and swap in new PDFs.

After you officially publish your book, you can make changes to your cover and interior text by submitting new PDFs, though your book will go offline (“out of stock”) for a week or two. Companies may charge a fee (around $25-$50) for uploading a new cover or new interior.

Both CreateSpace and Lulu offer good instructions for the DIY crowd and it’s not that difficult to come up with an OK-looking book (people’s definition of OK will vary).

2. Digital, not print, is your best bet.

The first thing I tell authors who tell me they want to publish a print book is that print should be their secondary focus. I’m advising people who have text-based books (no graphics, illustrations, or photos) to test the self-publishing waters with an e-book before moving on to hard copies. It’s much easier to produce an e-book, particularly when it comes to formatting and cover design. And you can also price a digital book for much less than a paperback, which makes it easier to sell (the majority of self-published print books cost $13.99 and up while the majority of indie e-books sell in the $.99-$5.99 range.

All that said, you can, of course, do both print and digital easily enough.

Once you have your book finalized in a Word or PDF file, it’s relatively easy to convert it into one of the many e-book formats — or just offer it as a download as a PDF. There are several e-publishers geared to “indie” authors, including Smashwords, BookBaby and Lulu, to name just a few. And needless to say, Amazon’s CreateSpace steers you toward uploading your book to the Kindle Store via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Note: Please see my article “How to self-publish an e-book” for more information on e-book creation.

3. Quality is good.

I can’t speak for all self-publishing companies, but the quality of POD books is generally quite decent. You can’t do a fancy matte cover (yet), but the books look and feel like “real” books. The only giveaway that you’re dealing with a self-published book would be if the cover were poorly designed — which, unfortunately, is too often the case.

4. Since self-publishing’s so easy, everybody’s doing it.

One of the unfortunate drawbacks of having a low barrier of entry into a suddenly hot market is that now everybody and their brother and sister is an author. That means you’re dealing with a ton of competition, some of which is made up of hustlers, charlatans, and a bunch of people in between.

The growth of indie publishing in the U.S. has been huge over the last couple of years. While that growth has started to level off as fewer writers have unpublished novels in their closets to publish, you can still expect to go up against thousands of other motivated indie authors.

5. Good self-published books are few and far between.

Again, because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every every few months, you’ll hear about someone hitting it big (for those who don’t know already the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy was initially self-published).

6. The odds are against you.

The average print self-published book sells about 100-150 copies — or two-thirds to three-quarters of your friends and family combined (and don’t count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying). I don’t have a source for this statistic, but I’ve seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled “Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks” noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

7. Creating a “professional” book is really hard.

Barrier to entry may be low, but creating a book that looks professional and is indistinguishable from a book published by a “real” publishing house is very difficult and requires a minimum investment of a few thousand dollars (when all was said and done, I’d put in around $7,500, which included about $2,500 in marketing costs). You wonder why “real” books take nine months to produce — and usually significantly longer. Well, I now know why. It’s hard to get everything just right (if you’re a novice at book formatting, Microsoft Word will become your worst enemy). And once you’ve finally received that final proof, you feel it could be slightly better.

8. Have a clear goal for your book.

This will help dictate what service you go with. For instance, if your objective is to create a book for posterity’s sake (so your friends and family can read it for all eternity), you won’t have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that’s quite acceptable. Lulu is probably your best bet. However, if yours is a commercial venture with big aspirations, things get pretty tricky.

9. Even if it’s great, there’s a good chance your book won’t sell.

If your book is really mediocre, don’t expect it to take off. But even if it’s a masterpiece, there’s a good chance it won’t fly off the shelves (and by shelves, I mean virtual shelves, because most self-published books don’t make it into brick-and-mortar stores). In other words, quality isn’t a guarantee of success. You’ll be lucky to make your investment back, let alone have a “hit” that brings in some real income. Don’t quit your day job yet.

10. Niche books tend to do best.

This seems to be the mantra of self-publishing. Nonfiction books with a well-defined topic and a nice hook to them can do well, especially if they have a target audience that you can focus on. Religious books are a perfect case in point. And fiction? Well, it’s tough, but some genres do better than others. Indie romance/erotica novels, for instance, have thrived in the e-book arena.

Note: If it’s any consolation, the majority of fiction books — even ones from “real” publishers — struggle in the marketplace. That’s why traditional publishers stick with tried-and-true authors with loyal followings.

11. Buy your own ISBN — and create your own publishing house.

If you have market aspirations for your book, buy your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and create your own publishing company.

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to self-publishing is that they expect to just put out a book and have it magically sell. They might even hire a publicist and expect something to happen. It’s just not so. You have to be a relentless self-promoter. Unfortunately, a lot people just don’t have the stomach or time for it.

What’s the secret to marketing your book successfully? Well, the first thing I advise — and I’m not alone here — is to come up with a marketing plan well before you publish your book. The plan should have at least five avenues for you to pursue because chances are you’re going to strike out on a couple of lines of attack. It’s easy to get discouraged, so you have to be ready to move on to plan c, d, and e (and the rest of the alphabet) pretty quickly.

These days there’s a lot of talk about a “blog strategy,” and many well-known authors do virtual book tours where they offer up interviews to various blogs. You probably won’t have that luxury, but you can certainly research what blogs might be interested in your book and prepare pitches for them. There are social media campaigns to wage, local media angles to pursue, organizations to approach, and all kinds of out-of-the-box gambits you can dream up. None of this will cost you a whole lot — except time and perhaps a little pride.

Then there’s the stuff you pay for. And it’s tricky to judge what’s a good investment and what’s not because the results vary so much from book to book. A friend of mine who has a “real” book from a traditional publisher experimented with placing $1,000 in Facebook ads targeted to people in “cold” states (his book is called the History of the Snowman and it does very well around Christmas). He’s still trying to figure out what impact the ads had, but Facebook does have some interesting marketing opportunities. Google AdWords/Keywords is another popular option. And a number of self-serve ad networks are popping up, including Blogards Book Hive, which allows you to target a number of smaller book blogs for relatively affordable rates.

The author MJ Rose has a marketing service called AuthorBuzz that caters to both self-publishers and traditional publishers. She says the best thing for self-publishers is a blog ad campaign–it starts at about $1,500 for a week of ads (the design work is included) and heads up in increments of $500. She says: “We place the ads in subject-related blogs, not book blogs. For instance, if it’s a mystery about an antiques dealer, we don’t just buy blogs for self-identified readers — who are not the bulk of book buyers — but rather I’ll find a half dozen blogs about antiques, culture, art and investments and buy the ads there and track them.” Rose claims she can get your book in front of at least a half a million people with that initial investment. She also says that you can’t really spend too much, you can just spend poorly.

I agree. However, I can’t tell you what impact a week or month of ads on blogs will have on your specific book’s sales. There are simply too many variables.

Bonus tip: When it comes to self-promotion, there’s a fine line between being assertive and being overly aggressive in an obnoxious way. It also doesn’t impress people when all you tweet about is your book (the same goes for your Facebook and Google+ posts). As one friend told me, the state you want to achieve is what she likes to call “comfortably tenacious.”

20. Getting your book in bookstores sounds good, but that shouldn’t be a real concern.

You may have always wanted to see your book in a bookstore but bookstores aren’t keen on carrying self-published books and it’s extremely difficult to get good placement in the store for your book so chances are no one will see the three copies the store has on hand anyway. Furthermore, your royalty drops on in-store sales. Some of the self-publishing outfits offer distribution through Ingram. CreateSpace offers its Expanded Distribution program for a $25 a year fee. It uses Baker & Taylor, as well as Ingram, as well as CreateSpace Direct to make your book available “to certified resellers through our wholesale website.” You also get distribution to Amazon Europe (,,,,


Famous Writers Who Self-Published: Busting a Self-Publishing Myth

Book promotion guru John Kremer introduces his Self-Publishing Hall of Fame by writing, “You could stock a superb college library or an incredible bookstore just from the books written by the some of the authors who have chosen to self-publish [sic],” then proceeds to reel off the names of 52 famous writers who published their own works, including L. Frank Baum, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, William Strunk Jr. and Mark Twain. (Kremer misspells Poe’s middle name and omits “Jr.” from Strunk’s name.)


“This website features many other amazing authors who have chosen to self-publish at some time in their careers,” Kremer continues. “You would do well to be among this honored group.”


In his recent blog entry, “Are Self-published Authors Really Authors or Even Published?“, Dr. Jim Taylor echoes Kremer, writing, “Many famous authors started out self-publishing their works including John Grisham, Jack Canfield, Beatrix Potter and Tom Clancy.”


A self-published writer commenting on a recent article by a librarian who disparaged self-published books repeated Dr. Taylor’s claim, which he took from the website of a consultant charging $120 an hour to help writers publish themselves.


The names of famous authors who published themselves are often defiantly asserted by self-published writers attempting to erase the stigma attached to self-published books, the lepers of the literary world.


Associating self-publishing with the most respected and commercially successful authors is a favorite ploy used by vanity presses and other self-publishing hucksters to suck in credulous customers for their services. Implicit in Kremer’s list is the contention that you can join his pantheon of literary immortals and share their success just by publishing yourself.


The problem with Kremer and Taylor’s lists is two-fold. Several authors who are frequently cited as self-publishing Cinderellas never actually published themselves, and the efforts of those who did self-publish were usually peripheral to their careers and eventual success.


Memo to Dr. Taylor: John Grisham, Tom Clancy and Jack Canfield never self-published. It’s an urban legend cherished by poorly informed self-published writers.

In 2009, for an article on the 20th anniversary of Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, USA Today reported, “That April 15, after Grisham returned from his accountant frustrated, broke and about to borrow money to pay his taxes, agent Jay Garon called wanting to represent him.


“Wynwood Press, a small company in New York, bought the manuscript a year later and printed 5,000 copies of A Time to Kill — at a length about a third shorter than the original manuscript — in June 1989. Grisham ordered 1,000 himself.”

Tom Clancy’s first novel, The Hunt for Red October was acquired by the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, Md., when an editor there, Deborah Grosvenor, became enthralled by Clancy’s novel, convinced she had a potential bestseller in her hands.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen did not self-publish Chicken Soup for the Soul, either. In this interview, Canfield recalled how they found a publisher:

So we went to the American Bookseller’s Association Convention in Anaheim and walked the floor from booth to booth asking publishers if they would be interested in our book. There were 4,000 booths there! I don’t think we hit every one of them, but close to it. Finally, we went to the booth of Health Communications, which became our publisher. They were a small company out of Deerfield Beach, Florida. Their primary focus was on the recovery world, such as people getting over alcoholism or drug addiction or being co-dependant [sic].

They were slowly going out of business at the time because that whole market had become saturated. They said they would take a look at it and they read it on the way home on the airplane. They loved it and said that they would publish it. There was no advance.


But what about the writers in Kremer’s Self-Publishing Hall of Fame? He can’t be making up the whole list, can he? No, but when you dig into the biographies of famous authors who published themselves and examine their self-publishing experiences, you’ll see why it is unlikely that you’ll join their ranks by publishing your own books.


Consider the cases of Baum, King, Poe, Strunk and Twain, who actually published their own books.


Let’s look at Stephen King first, because his inclusion on Kremer’s list demonstrates how deceptive such lists are. In 1962, King and his friend, Chris Chesley, published a joint collection of their stories, People, Places, and Things-Volume I. The following year, King’s Triad and Gaslight Books, published the two-part book, The Star Invaders. Here’s the kicker — Stephen King was a fifteen-year-old high school student in 1962, Chesley was his best friend, and Triad and Gaslight Books was King’s amateur press. King’s first published novel was Carrie, published by Doubleday in 1974.


L. Frank Baum published three of his own books: Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers Directory, published when he was seventeen, The Book of the Hamburgs, a guide to the care and feeding of a breed of chicken known as the Hamburg and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors. Yes, Baum self-published three books that no one but hardcore Baum buffs know exist. None of the Oz novels for which he is known or his other, lesser known works of fiction were self-published.

In 1827, Edgar Allan Poe paid a printer, Calvin F. S. Thomas, to publish 50 copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems, a 40-page pamphlet-sized collection of Poe’s poetry. The book did not carry Poe’s name as author, but was credited “By A Bostonian.” Tamerlane was included in a couple of lists of newly published books, but received no other attention. Tamerlane is now considered the rarest book in American literature. In 2009, a copy was auctioned for $662,500.


English professor William Strunk Jr. privately published The Elements of Style in 1918 for use by his students at Cornell University. If it wasn’t for E. B. White, a former pupil of Strunk’s, his little manual would probably have been forgotten. In 1957, White wrote a feature story for The New Yorker extolling the virtues of Strunk’s book. Macmillan and Company then commissioned White to revise the book for its edition, published in 1959. (Strunk had died in 1946.)


By 1885, when Mark Twain started his own publishing company, Charles L. Webster & Co. (Twain put Charles Webster, his nephew by marriage, in charge of the company), he was already a popular author whose books had been published by Chatto and Windus in England and the American Publishing Company in the U.S. Though Twain created his company to publish his own works, he also hoped to prosper by publishing other writers’ books. Though the first two books Webster & Co. published, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were great successes, the company failed in 1894 after publishing a little more than 80 titles.


Commenting on Kremer’s list, legal blogger C. E. Petit writes:

It implicitly extends the cachet of an author’s complete oeuvre to one or two works. For example, the cachet of the Oz books (L. Frank Baum) seems to be extended to his chicken-farming manuals, which he did indeed self-publish. I’ve seen used-car salesmen who didn’t display this slickness in false comparisons.

Famous writers who self-published usually fall into one of the following categories: the writer whose self-published book failed, only to achieve belated recognition (Poe), the already successful writer whose earlier books were published by commercial houses who decided to go it alone (Twain), the writer publishing their book as an ancillary part of their day job (Strunk), the destined-to-be famous writer publishing his juvenilia (King) or the writer who published oddball books unlikely to have wide commercial appeal before hitting it big (Baum). When famous writers’ forays into self-publishing succeeded, it was due to factors most self-published writers can’t access or to serendipity.

According to author Mike Cooper’s back-of-the-envelope calculations, the average e-book (the preferred format for self-publishers) earns less than $500. (Cooper’s analysis apparently lumps together self-published and traditionally published e-books, but his conclusion is still disheartening.)


Shorter version: you are not Baum, King, Poe (not that you’d want to be him, anyway), Strunk, Twain or just about any one of the famous writers who once dabbled in self-publishing. And, barring a miracle, you’re not going to be.


Self-publishing: Take a page from these authors

Why stop at writing when you can be your own publisher?

That’s what more people here are doing.

Ms Pearlin Siow, 40, founder of Boss Of Me, a company that helps authors publish their work, has seen a rise of up to 80 per cent in the number of people who self-publish compared to when the company started five years ago.

Owners of self-publishing companies attribute the rise to a more educated population, the ease of self-publishing, lower cost, more control over the book and better profits for authors.

Mr Patrick Chan, executive director secretariat of the Singapore Book Publishers Association (SBPA), says: “As Singaporeans are now better educated and more confident, they would like to… share their knowledge and creativity.”

Digital print technology saves cost too.

Mr Goh Kheng Chuan, 47, owner of Rank Books, says: “Our minimum print run now is 50 copies. In the past, you needed to print at least 500 or 1,000 (copies).

“Most people don’t need so many books anyway. So this means you do not have to fork out a huge investment to (get) published.”

Previously, a minimum run of 500 books would cost at least $3,000 to print, says Mr Goh. Now, a minimum run of 50 costs just $1,288 , making it easier on the wallet for self-publishing authors.

As a result, he says more people are jumping on the bandwagon – teenagers, tutors, fresh grads, retirees and trainers.

Rank Books started as a publishing company in 1972 but has transitioned into a company that provides self-publishing services.

Mr Goh says: “A lot of authors come to us… But their books may not have commercial value and they just want to put a book together to sell to their friends and family.”


Famous self-published authors include English writer E. L. James, who wrote the best-selling Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy, and US neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the author behind Still Alice.

Self-publishing allows authors to have more say in how their books turn out – such as the design, printing, marketing and distribution.

Ms Siow says: “Many of my clients sell their books through their (own) networks. Many also give their books away for free or use them as an incentive for their seminars and talks.”

Unlike in the past, authors are no longer at the mercy of publishers, she says, thanks to “the advent of social media and various publishing tools, and websites like Kickstarter.”

Mr Chan adds: “Publishing companies typically offer a 10 to 12 per cent royalty while self-published authors keep all the proceeds.”

Ms Siow works with top book distributors here and links clients to them.

She says: “Book distributors typically take 60 to 70 per cent of book sales whereas a publisher takes 90 per cent.

“You can also schlep your books to indie bookstores like Books Actually and Cat Socrates and negotiate a commission with them, or sell your books online.”

Ms Susan Long, general manager of Straits Times Press, says self-publishing is a positive trend and is good for self-expression, the publishing industry and for Singapore.

She says the company is always on the lookout for good works – self-published or unpublished. It has just published a previously self-published work, The Malaysia That Could Be, by Kalimullah Hassan, which is now out in the bookstores.

She says: “The author had done a very small, sold-out print run in Malaysia.”

“Some authors are known, but the books they self-publish could be very niche in audience and topic, such that traditional/mainstream publishers would not pick them up.”


Author Stephen Vizinczey on why his current novel, If Only, has been stuck in limbo

In 1965, Stephen Vizinczey, in his own words, “became famous from people writing about how stupid” he was to self-publish his debut novel, In Praise of Older Women. A controversial Bildungsroman mixing aphoristic insight and candid sexuality, it went on to sell half a million copies in Canada that year alone.

Today, self-publishing is an established industry – and one quite separate from the literary world.

“I never knew before In Praise what it was to be hated,” Vizinczey says. “Hate is more memorable than praise.”

But hate requires engagement.

Until recently, Vizinczey’s latest, and self-published, novel If Only – a book 30 years in the making – sat in a critical and commercial limbo: Major bookstores would not stock it until it was reviewed and major newspapers would not review it until it was in bookstores. A man who has sold more than seven million books worldwide, a living author with a Penguin Modern Classic to his name, could not reach his own audience. So as we look back on 2016, it’s worth discussing one of the most overlooked books of 2016.

That book concerns Jim, a Toronto-born cellist of Hungarian descent who is “determined to be Canadian,” and ends up settling in London. It opens with him contemplating suicide, while holidaying with his wife on a Florida island resort. Jim’s life, as we learn, has been a succession of ever-increasing compromises, accompanied by ever more complex justifications. “We all believe what makes life easier to bear,” Vizinczey says, quoting his own novel. Though he adds: “The only thing that keeps us alone, apart, is beliefs.”

The book begins as a regretful parable. Then an alien, called Neb, arrives.

“We are all foreigners,” he tells me, discussing the migratory history of early Hungarian settlers (Neb’s planet is, wonderfully, called “Otthon,” Hungarian for “home”). “Deep down,” he continues, “everybody’s an alien. We don’t get into another person.”

Vizinczey’s father was murdered by the Nazis when Vizinczey – born in 1933 – was two years old. Vizinczey went on to study under Kodaly, the renowned composer, and Gyorgy Lukacs, the noted Marxist critic.

Vizinczey, who wrote plays that were banned by his country’s regime, fought in the failed Hungarian revolution of 1956 before fleeing westward, eventually arriving in Canada.

“I worked out, incidentally, how events happen,” he tells me, casually. An absurd proposition, surely? Yet, it was with this theory, which he outlines in his book The Rules of Chaos, that he predicted that very revolution in Hungary, and America losing the Vietnam War. And Brexit. It is certainly no more absurd than a Hungarian refugee in Canada, then knowing only 50 words of English, going on to become a writer who, as Anthony Burgess said, “could teach the English how to write English.” But it was not easy.

“When I went to Canada,” he says, “I thought I would go insane. I was so lonely there, because it was such a different world.” What kept him sane were books. “Literature transcends nation,” Vizinczey continues, “when we read a book that reflects our own life, our own interests, then we don’t feel alone.” This is, as he says, “particularly important if you have been a refugee.” Whereas other novelists may focus on what makes them different from other people, what is important in Vizinczey’s work, and life, is what he shares with others. It was this focus that helped him learn English in Canada. “They are like me,” he says of Canadians, “they have a mouth, a nose and two ears, and they talk! So I should be able to understand them.” After a year, he even felt like a Canadian, “because we have to belong.”

“I couldn’t have become a great writer If I hadn’t changed languages,” Vizinczey continues. It forced him to be more critical of himself. “Whatever good is in my writing comes also from the fact that I learned to look at life from different points of view.” In If Only, Jim’s grandfather publishes a pamphlet titled The Nation of Foreigners. It’s central premise: that migrants, by virtue of leaving wherever they are from, share a common consciousness, and are “at the centre of historic changes.” Jim never buys into the dream of commerce, but follows it regardless. About to enact his own death, Neb, the alien, gives Jim a chance to be young again. To learn from what he has lost. It is a book about understanding, of both ourselves and others. Or perhaps not.

We talk for hours. About crosswords being a creative act. About how those interested in power, or furniture, might not enjoy his work. When he realizes I haven’t read one of his major critical essays, he reads the entire piece to me. But, when it comes to If Only, Vizinczey is eloquently evasive. Even an attempt to summarize the book only gets as far as “Jim is a cellist” before diverting into a discussion about the relationship between the structures of literature and music. He is as much a writer as a rewriter, and 30 years of thought have been condensed into If Only. “I can now express in a paragraph what previously took me three chapters,” he says. Extrapolating a single argument from the book seems futile.


How to Price a Self-Published E-Book

Once the e-book is written, the marketing plan in place, and the work ready to release to the public, self-published authors find themselves with an unexpected challenge: assigning a value to their work. Setting an e-book’s price requires some creativity on the part of the author, a careful consideration of the book’s potential audience, and an assessment of what the author hopes to accomplish with the book.

Set Goals

By the time indie authors get to the point where they are naming a book’s price, they should have a clear idea of what they would like their book to do. There are two main goals that will determine how much an author should charge, according to Miral Sattar, CEO and founder of Bibliocrunch, a company that helps self-published authors market and promote their books.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Am I looking to get more readers or more sales?’” says Sattar.

While most authors would probably say they want both, when it comes to pricing strategy, it’s best to focus on one and let the other follow. Either approach can be successful, so indie authors must ask themselves some tough questions, among them, can I sell 10 times more books at 99 cents than at $9.99?

For less established authors, a lower price will help draw in readers who might be willing to take a chance on 99 cent book, as opposed to a higher priced title. While authors with an established fan base can likely charge more for their work.

More Exposure
For those authors whose main concern is getting their book in front of as many readers as possible, the priority should be getting the pricepoint as low as possible. While most online retailers require authors to charge at least 99 cents for each book, platforms like Wattpad and Widbook can provide other options for getting readers attention and building a fan base.

Authors looking to be a little more strategic in how they price their work can enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select program. This program allows them to charge a low price for the book (99 cents being the most popular) and offer it for free for specific periods.

Authors can participate in a Kindle Free Book Promotion for a maximum of five days. In order to get the greatest sales impact from the giveaway, authors should get the word out to book blogs and sites that aggregate freebies from around the web. A few examples are:

Free Book Dude
Free Kindle Books and Tips
Indie Book Promo
Indie Book of the Day
Kindle Freebies

BiblioCrunch offers a comprehensive, updated list of these sites, newsletters, and Facebook pages.

“We’ve seen authors who use this list of sites get 20,000 or 60,000 books read right away.” says Sattar.

More Revenue

Authors seeking a bit more money for their work should start by looking at the price of other books in the same genre. While romance e-books tend to do best in the 99 cents to $2.99 range, authors writing nonfiction or literary fiction can charge more.

Authors will want to begin at a price under $10 if possible, and test out different pricepoints with short-term promotions. An added motivator for pricing at this level is that retailers will often pay higher royalties for e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

Amazon pays 70% of the retail download price for books in this range, but just 35% for those above or below it (more details here).

Authors can expect to earn a return of 60 to 70% through Barnes & Noble, and Kobo within the $2.99 to $9.99 range as well.

Smashwords pays 85% of list price on sales directly through its site, and 60% of list price on sales through other retailers, while BookBaby charges an annual fee, but gives authors 100% of net, keeping no commission.

Once the price is set, authors should make use of promotions to boost revenue. For a Kindle e-book priced at $7.99, run a Kindle Countdown Deal for $4.99. If you are trying to sell it at $4.99, run a promotion at $2.99. As with a book giveaway, these sales should be advertised as widely as possible. In addition to free plugs on websites such as BookBub and Kindle Nation Daily, the author can also consider paid advertising to help get the word out.

Sattar suggests running these promotions no fewer than two days to help them gather steam, and never running them on the weekend.

“If you can get a burst of sales at the lower price, it ups your sales rank for the category,” she explains. “That helps your book become a bestseller, and then it can go back to the normal price.”

Alex Palmer is a freelance journalist and the author of The Santa Claus Man.


7 Signs Your Book is “Professionally Published”

Think of all the book professionals you may encounter when you try to market your book: book reviewers, bookstore buyers, chain store buyers, book awards judges, book bloggers, bookers for radio and television shows, librarians, book wholesalers or distributors, the list goes on and on.

These are all people who handle books all day, and know exactly what they are looking at. If your book is not professionally published, what impression will it give?

Answer: that it’s an amateur production, and that won’t speak well about the care you’ve taken with your book.

Despite the amazing creativity at work in book publishing, professionally published books do have some characteristics in common.

Keep in mind that although this might seem like a list of rules that must be obeyed, they are really more conventions that readers may unconsciously expect when they pick up your book.

  1. Proper editing—Without a doubt, this is the first and best sign that a book has been published well. I picked up a book by a client this week, and knew within 30 seconds that the book had never been properly edited. I noticed a typo, then I noticed that the subheads were not consistent, then I noticed that there were stray characters in a chapter opening that didn’t belong there, then I stopped looking. These may sound like small errors, but they indicate that the author didn’t want to take the time or spend the money to have the book properly edited, and believe me, every book professional who looks at this book will come to the same conclusion.
  2. A cover that works—If your book is your product then your cover is its packaging. In retail sales, packaging is critical. A book cover that doesn’t let a browser know what kind of book it is doesn’t help you. Or a cover that’s confusing, illegible, boring, or inappropriate is likely to have a major impact on your sales. A professionally published book has a cover that suits its content, “brands” the book, entices readers, and is aimed squarely at the intended target market. Your spine should contain a publisher logo of some kind, a barcode with the price encoded in it, and a “human readable” price and category on the back cover.
  3. Text that’s readable—The interior of your book ought to follow standard industry conventions and be designed and laid out with consistency, adequate margins, in a size appropriate for the use to which your book will be put. A readable book also has user-friendly navigation, the pages are numbered in a standard scheme, and customary elements like a copyright page, title page, contents page, are included. The use of a standard font and black ink are also highly recommended.
  4. Market positioning—Your book shows some thought into the other books on the same subject and where it will fit within that specific market. Does it offer more, newer, or different information? Is it a story that readers of book “X” will love? Is it produced and priced to compete with other titles in its market? These are all questions a professional publisher—no matter their size—will answer before designing and producing their books.
  5. Distribution that’s appropriate—How we get our books to the readers who will buy them—distribution—is key for your book to reach its potential. Self-publishers rarely have very good choices at achieving wide distributionfor their books, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to match the buying habits of our intended readers with the kind of distribution that will put your book in front of them. You might focus on a specific retailer, or look for a variety of wholesalers and distributors to give you greater coverage. Self-publishers looking for national exposure will need to find a distributor to represent them, and create a book that will allow them a profit even when deeply discounted for this type of distribution.
  6. A marketing plan—Book publishing is a business, and for that reason the books professionals publish need to make a profit, or to have a pretty good chance at success. Although all publishing projects involve some risk, asking the questions that need to be answered to create a marketing planfor your book helps to focus attention on how your book will match the needs of its intended audience, and how you are going to present it to that audience. A marketing plan also assures a profit-oriented publisher that the project can be a success.
  7. Metadata—Your book will need a proper ISBN to be sold in a retail environment, and not one you borrowed from a friend or got for free from a POD vendor. You’ll also need a category, rich descriptions of various lengths, and accurate descriptions of the books physical properties for print books. Metadata is the data “wrapper” your book travels within, and reliable and up to date metadata assures that your partners in the book distribution and retailing world will get all the information they need about your title as well as an indication of the markets for which it’s intended.

Does your book have to meet all these goals to be “professionally published”? I’m not here to make rules, but I think taking your responsibilities as a publisher seriously would mean we’d have more authors having successful book launches.


Marvel’s Rogue One Comic Will Include New Scenes

It is unbelievably exciting that we’re now living in a world where new Star Wars movies are being made. But for hardcore fans, movies are just part of the experience. That being the case, Marvel Comics is currently working on an adaptation of Star Wars: Rogue One, which is set to come out this April. Now, the writer of the upcoming comic book adaptation has revealed that there will be some new scenes not seen in the movie in this Rogue One comic.

Speaking with, writer Jody Houser talked about bringing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to the world of comic books, and what her approach is. During the conversation, she revealed that some scenes director Gareth Edwards conceived that didn’t make it into the movie will wind up making their way into the comic book version. Here is what she had to say about it.

“[Director] Gareth Edwards and Lucasfilm had a number of ideas for moments that didn’t fit in the film that I’m working with. There are also some amazing moments in the novelization I want to incorporate. So it’s really a mix of material from existing versions of the story, as well as new scenes.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had to undergo very significant reshoots several months before it was released in theaters, and it has been made clear that a lot changed during that process. Quite a few shots from the trailers didn’t make it into the final cut and moments like Darth Vader’s final scene were revealed to be added during the reshoots. That being the case, there is certainly quite a bit for Jody Houser to work with in terms of bringing some new elements into her comic book adaptation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As she mentions, there are also some things to mine from the Rogue One novelization. That will also help encourage fans to pick up the comic who have already seen the movie and may feel like reading a comic about a movie they already watched is a bit redundant.

Disney is very good at being able to capitalize on their most popular franchises, such as Star Wars, in every way possible. Since they own Marvel, it also helps that they have a massive publishing arm that they can use to do some Star Wars expanded universe stories. In terms of box office, Rouge One: A Star Wars Story has already made $983 million worldwide and should crack $1 billion very soon. That being the case, there is clearly quite a bit of demand for more content from the movie. Disney did a similar comic book adaptation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it seems like this is going to be a trend moving forward.


The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comic adaptation is being written by Jody Houser with art from Emilio Laiso. It is expected to hit shelves sometime in April, so be on the lookout. In the meantime, you can check out the covers for the first issue of the Rogue One comic book by artists John Tyler Christopher and Phil Noto for yourself below.


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