Tag Archives: Books

The Martian: how the audiobook hit rocketed to film glory

In 2011, after a long search for an agent, Andy Weir gave up on big publishing. He had a small and dedicated following as a longtime writer and webcomics artist. So he just posted a book he’d been writing, called The Martian, to his personal website. His readers wanted to be able to read it on their e-readers, so then he added it to Amazon.

The next thing he knew, the thing was climbing the charts. And now, his book is the basis of an Oscar-nominated film with Matt Damon. Weir, in short, is living the dream of many self-published authors.

He acknowledges that his path was unusual, of course. “Everything went backwards from the normal way books get made,” Weir told the Guardian. “I didn’t think anyone would be interested in giving me a print deal. Obviously I misjudged that. Heh.”

In fact, one of the strangest items in the Martian origin story is who first approached Weir for a proper deal. It wasn’t print publishers or film producers. It was a small Canadian audiobook company called Podium Publishing. Run by a pair of friends, James Tonn and Greg Lawrence, the company produces what it calls “award-winning quality” audiobooks “for indie-minded” authors.

Tonn and Lawrence had once hoped to run a music label together, but the advent of Napster and iTunes quashed that dream. They were both attracted to artists who wanted to work outside of the mainstream channels to success – and they wanted to run something that served that community.

When, as an audio engineer, Lawrence began working in audiobooks, the fit seemed natural. “Audiobooks were an auxiliary business,” Lawrence told the Guardian.


“They were tacked on to the end of a publishing deal. Publishers would really only do an audiobook if [the print book] was so big that they were looking for ways to make money.” Lawrence and Tonn thought they could change that, by working with the sort of writer who was interested in publishing their audiobook independently.

Image result for The Martian

Lawrence was the one who actually found Weir’s book, on Amazon. He is a big science fiction fan and says he was attracted to the story, of course, but also simply felt that the way the book was written helped its audiobook prospects. The book is structured such that the narrator, Mark Watney, is recording logs of his time on Mars. “That’s a dream for audio,” Lawrence said on the phone.

The company initially bought both print and audio rights, although they promised Weir they’d return the print rights if he got a deal with a big publisher. (They kept that promise.) They enlisted RC Bray, a popular audiobook narrator, to record it. It was the first fiction project they chose. The product became a top-seller on Audible, and promptly began winning industry awards, including a 2015 Audie. While no one releases audiobook sales figures, some measure of the audiobook’s popularity might be gauged by the fact that it now enjoys over 100,000 reviews on Amazon. “A great book,” reads one. “Out of hundreds of books in my library this is one of the best.”

Part of The Martian’s success as an audiobook is undoubtedly timing. Originally conceived as a narrow industry serving the blind, the audiobook business has exploded in the past few years. In 2015, the Audio Producers Association reported that more than 25,000 audiobooks were published in 2014, compared with about 6,700 in 2010. Podium itself plans to double its production of audiobooks – it has done about 200 so far – within the next year.

Some of the increased interest is undoubtedly about the ease of buying and listening to audiobooks in the age of easily accessible digital audio. But, like podcast producers, audiobook producers also trace some of the success of their products to the way they can be listened to while engaged in some other activity – like cleaning the house, or knitting, or driving home from work. “It’s not so much what you’re doing, but that you’re trying to work reading into your life, whatever you’re doing,” Tonn said.

It remains to be seen whether “independent” audiobooks can follow The Martian’s path. Self-publishing has been a dubious challenge to traditional publishers, at best. And although the Amazon book sales rankings often see self-published books cracking the bestseller lists, audiobooks from the self-published don’t usually seem to crack the Audible Top 10.

But Lawrence sees a real future for such writers. Podium doesn’t contract with large publishers to produce audiobooks; it will remain strictly indie for now. They say they work best with authors like Weir. “He had to have his hopes and his dreams dashed against the rocks,” Lawrence said. “He spent a lot of time trying to get an agent, and he just couldn’t do that. That experience made him think differently about writing, and about getting his work out to people.”

As for Weir, when asked if he was surprised by the way things turned out, he said he was. “Yes I was. But it worked out really well. The audiobook proceeds have been far more than I ever anticipated.”



George Lucas

George Walton Lucas Jr. (born May 14, 1944) is an American filmmaker and entrepreneur.

Lucas is best known as the creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, as well as the founder of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. He was the chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm, before selling it to The Walt Disney Company in 2012.

Upon graduating from the University of Southern California in 1967, Lucas co-founded American Zoetrope with fellow filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Lucas wrote and directed THX 1138 (1971), based on his earlier student short Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, which was a critical success but a financial failure. His next work as a writer-director was the film, American Graffiti (1973), inspired by his teen years in early 1960s Modesto, California, and produced through the newly founded Lucasfilm. The film was critically and commercially successful, and received five Academy Awardnominations including Best Picture.

Lucas’s next film, an epic space opera titled Star Wars (1977), went through a troubled production process; however, it was a surprise hit, becoming the highest-grossing film at the time, as well as a winner of six Academy Awards and a cultural phenomenon. Following the first Star Wars film, Lucas produced and co-wrote the following installments in the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Along with Steven Spielberg, Lucas co-created and wrote the Indiana Jones films Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Temple of Doom (1984), and The Last Crusade (1989). Lucas also produced and wrote a variety of films through Lucasfilm in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1997, Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy as part of a Special Edition, where he made several alterations to the films; home media releases with further changes were released in 2004 and 2011. Lucas also returned to directing with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, consisting of The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005). He later collaborated on the story for the Indiana Jones sequel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and served as the story writer and executive producer for the war film, Red Tails (2012).

Five of Lucas’s seven features are among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the North American box office, adjusted for ticket-price inflation.

Lucas is one of the American film industry’s most financially successful filmmakers, and has been personally nominated for four Academy Awards. Lucas is considered a significant figure in the New Hollywood era.

  • Kaminski, Michael (2008). The Secret History of Star Wars. Legacy Books Press;. ISBN 978-0978465230.
  • Rinzler, J.W. (2007). The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film. LucasBooks. ISBN 978-0345494764.

Further reading

Norway has opened a doomsday vault to house the world’s most precious books

At this moment, there is a collection of every known crop on the planet embedded nearly 1,000 feet underground, shrouded in the icy arms of Norway’s Svalbard mountain.

This stockpile is known as the Global Seed Vault, and it just got a new neighbor.

A Norwegian company called Piql (pronounced “pickle”) recently announced it’s building the World Arctic Archive. The collection is like the Global Seed Vault, only it preserves digital data — primarily historical and cultural documents — instead of food.

Millions of pages of records, books, letters, and manuscripts will find their way into the doomsday library archives, which officially opened on March 27.

Piql founder Rune Bjerkestrand says the company is storing all that data on special film reels, which effectively turn the letters into ones and zeroes that can be represented in gigantic QR codes. These codes are invulnerable to hacking, as they’re effectively “carved in stone,” Bjerkestrand told LiveScience.

The entrance to the international gene bank Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) is pictured outside Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, Norway

Clients who wish to use the archives can put in a request to Piql to store their documents. Once the data gets housed, the client can only retrieve it by asking Piql staff to manually unearth it, before uploading it online.

Piql believes its technology can preserve film for at least 1,000 years — although, technically the idea is it can last forever. The archive will live in a mineshaft inside Svalbard, where permafrost keeps the temperatures right around freezing. 

Bjerkestrand says a cold and dry climate is ideal for preserving film.

One other perk: The mountain is located on a demilitarized zone. Even if the apocalypse happens and global war threatens the future of humanity, at least Piql’s reels (and the neighboring food stores) will be safe.

Not that anyone would be around to read (or eat) them.



This college senior’s app connects young readers of color to books they can relate to

In high school, Kaya Thomas was a self-proclaimed “nerdy black girl.” She loved books, but she often felt like the literary world didn’t love her back.

“As a teen, I was feeling erased by the books I was reading at my libraries and at school,” Thomas says. “The characters were never anything like myself.”

Libraries were filled with pages upon pages of white characters going on adventures dreamed up by white authors. Thomas, however, was looking for books that made her feel seen — and she knew others were, too. 

So when she grew from a nerdy black girl into a black woman studying computer science at Dartmouth, she knew she could help close this literary gap. Now, she’s the creator of a free app called We Read Too, which allows young readers to browse more than 600 books featuring black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and other non-white characters. All of the featured books are written by people of color, with readers of color in mind.

The simple app specifically targets children and young adults of color, cataloging books in a searchable database by author and title. Each book’s profile features a plot description, a photo of the cover, and links to share the book on social media or buy it online. There’s also a “discover” feature, which randomly matches users to a book by genre.

Thomas is currently fundraising on Indiegogo to expand the app, hoping to feature more than 1,000 books. The campaign has already raised more than $12,000, surpassing its original goal of $10,000.

With the money, Thomas plans to launch an Android version of the app this year, and redesign the iOS version with new features. 



Indie Bookstores Collaborate to Lure Touring Authors to Colorado

Five Colorado independent bookstores are collaborating to lure more touring authors to the state.

The stores—Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store, BookBar (also in Denver), Boulder Book Store, the Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins and the Bookworm of Edwards—will each host the authors on a single trip. “Make your next author tour a vacation,” announced a press release. The five stores are all within driving distance of Denver and authors will be hosted at BookBed (the AirBnB owned by the BookBar) free of charge and will be used as a “home base.” The cost of flights to Denver will not be covered.

The Bookworm, which is 100 miles west of Denver and near Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts, promises authors the opportunity to take advantage of guided hikes and even skiing.

“We are so fortunate to get many wonderful authors to Colorado,” Nicole Sullivan, owner of BookBar, told PW. “We do often see, however, that some top authors’ tours focus on the east and west coasts. And, if they come to Colorado, they may not make it out of Denver. We will be sending proposals to primarily front list authors who we are very excited about do not have a Colorado visit on their schedule. Authors can contact any one of the five stores and we will then work together to coordinate a schedule. But most collaborative events will be bookstore driven via proposals.”

The partnership between the stores, Sullivan explained, allows the booksellers to “share all that Colorado has to offer and help make it even more of a literary destination. If this program proves to be successful for all involved, we don’t see why we wouldn’t continue to do this indefinitely.” She then added: “It’s a great things when indies come together for a common purpose. We all like each other, so it has been fun to work together on this.”



What’s next for books?

I like Digital Reader editor Nate Hoffelder. He is one of the few bloggers about publishing who doesn’t suck up to the industry, nor does he particularly gild the lily. He basically believes that books are great, publishing is probably doomed and that writing is really important.

That’s why I was happy that he surfaced and debunked the claims of Chip McGregor, an agent who believes we’ll be seeing more books launching directly to mobile and a move away from indie publishing as mainstream publishers finally get their acts together. While McGregor is right sometimes — e-books will be read on mobile phones more often — he’s also pretty wrong.

His first mistake? He believes that Barnes & Noble will create mini bestseller stores. He writes:

Barnes and Noble will open some mini-stores that only stock bestsellers. I don’t have any insider knowledge about this, but with Amazon opening brick-and-mortar stores, B&N has to do something to try and grab a bit more market share.

B&N is, for want of a better word, dead. Their strategy of opening massive stores with large footprints and stocking everything from board games to stuffed animals (and some books) has failed, and there is no reason to visit a B&N unless you want to get a coffee and read magazines for free. That said, the e-book backlash has given independent bookstores new legs, and it has gutted big-box retailers, but I could definitely see a chain of small bookstore cafes that could stock new and used titles, plenty of kids books for parents to peruse for their little ones and some coffee. I just don’t see B&N leading that charge.


Further, he believes that indie authors will return to big-name publishers. They won’t. As McGregor writes in his own post, the Pareto rule assumes that 80 percent of the revenue comes from 20 percent of the writers. Given the imperfect information upon which most publishers make their decisions, trusting them to spot that 20 percent is silly at best.

Instead you’ll see more long-tail authors picking and staying in the indie realm. Eliot Peper comes to mind as someone who is finding more indie success than he would at a mainstream publisher, and there are more. He also suspects that ultra-low, 99-cent pricing will go away in indie titles, something that is also a bit far-fetched; 99-cent pricing is still a clever way to drive up sales and Amazon rankings, and giving up on that odd tweak could be the death of most indie writers.

In short, we agree on a few things — mobile-only could become more popular and Christian fiction and other niches are going away (“There are only a handful of houses still acquiring Christian fiction these days, and some of them are shifting to doing high-quality literary or women’s stories for a broader people of faith, or a slim list of suspense novels, rather than clearly religious stories aimed only at the faithful,” he writes.) I disagree with his bullishness on B&N and his assumption that the indies will turn around and ask publishers for a check. Things are tooling along quite nicely outside the traditional publishing industry, and, as long as you’re willing to try new things, you can make it without having an under-marketed book plop down into the black hole of modern publishing practices.


What’s next for books?

Coloring books not just for children; they reduce stress in adults, too

SPEARFISH | Among the latest fads, adult coloring books have found a place of prominence in bookstores nationwide and online sites such as Amazon. So, what’s the allure?


Ask Aris Karagiorgakis, an assistant professor of psychology at Black Hills State University, about the subject and he’ll get nearly as animated as the artwork that students have produced as the result of his research into whether coloring can truly reduce the stress of everyday living.


“Even our store on campus has a stand with adult coloring books,” Karagiorgakis said last week. “It’s a big deal. Amazon has its own section for adult coloring books. Some of the adult books are really adult, even allowing curse words, but there really is some science behind the claim that it does reduce stress. It calms people and it’s fun.”


Karagiorgakis set out nearly three years ago to determine whether the creativity involved in coloring and drawing can reduce psychological and physiological stress. To date, his study groups have involved about 200 BHSU students.


“It’s developed into a monster project that could keep me busy for the next 10 years,” he said. “It’s a type of research where the more questions you answer, the more you have to answer down the line, and the more you learn.”


Subjects involved in the experiments have not been told what researchers are seeking. Tested individually, the students complete a psychological survey, allowing them to report their levels of stress, Karagiorgakis explained. Researchers also drew blood to measure participants’ stress via blood-sugar levels, he said.


Participants in the study were then subjected to six minutes of exposure to “arousing images,” including spiders and snakes, blood and crime scenes, and corpses and body parts, Karagiorgakis noted.


“We wanted to stress them out, and through subsequent testing, we found we did,” the professor said with a laugh. “Statistically, the stress levels were very high.”


Half the sample group was then directed to perform a relatively easy 15-minute copying exercise, transposing newspaper articles from the 1920s. Meanwhile, the other half of the group was given colored pencils and directed to draw anything they wanted.


“We asked them to draw whatever they felt comfortable drawing, such as figures, patterns, abstract works, anything,” Karagiorgakis said. “We really wanted them to use some creativity because we suspected that it was not just coloring or drawing, but it was the creativity factor involved.”


Following further testing, the research found that the stress levels of the sample group assigned to copying duties had returned to the same levels as when they had walked into the room. But the test group assigned to color and draw had stress levels “significantly lower than when they arrived,” the professor said.


“The ones who copied an article were brought back to baseline levels, exactly as we would have expected,” Karagiorgakis said. “The arts people, the people who drew or colored, dropped so low in their stress levels that they were even below the levels when they walked in. It was statistically significant, not a fluke. They were way more relaxed. It was really incredible stuff.”



Google Books will now make better suggestions on what to read next

Google today is launching a new feature for Google Books which aims to offer a better challenge to Amazon’s Kindle app when it comes to helping you find new things to read. Called “Discover,” this new section in the Google Books application will help point users to new content, including both personalized suggestions as well as other recommendations based on what’s currently popular with the wider community.

Amazon, of course, has historically offered personalized recommendations in Kindle’s software as well as across its website. In its Kindle app, Amazon highlights books you may want to read based on your prior shopping history.

Google Books’ recommendations will work much in the same way. The company says it will offer up new stories based on what you read on Google Books. However, it will also automatically suggest books that are mentioned in an article or mentioned in a video you watch, elsewhere in the app – like in the new “Weekly Highlights” section.

This section within Discover will round up the most important news, reviews and videos of the week, says Google, while another new section called “Google Play Editorial” will point readers to other original content beyond books, including interviews with authorsessays from writers, other book selections from book reviewers and critics.

For comparison’s sake, Amazon’s “Book Browser” is the primary way Kindle mobile app users would find new content, but it’s more of a categorical listing of books. For example, beyond the suggestions powered by your shopping history, the app may showcase things like “Books with Narration,” or “Trending Now” selections, but not much more. Other book categories are found at the bottom of the screen, but only as standard navigation.

Meanwhile, Amazon has largely failed to capitalize on its Goodreads acquisition as a means of adding a more social experience when it comes to discovery and recommendations. In fact, the Kindle app’s latest update just oddly crammed a tiny “Goodreads” button on top of the “All Items” screen, so you can tap to see updates from that network.


Google Books will now make better suggestions on what to read next

The Potential of Virtual Communities in the Publishing Ecosystem

The Internet, and the platforms now available to create various online gatherings, have changed our world and continue to do so. New ways to combine the power of assembled individuals—financially, socially, creatively—are being introduced all the time.

Whenever individuals motivated by common interests come together through an online platform, they create a virtual community. Virtual communities are now pervasive and can be found in many disciplines and professions.

The Abrams Community

Let’s start with a virtual community success story, one that comes directly out of the publishing world. The Abrams community is an example of how connections made between people with a powerful shared interest can positively affect personal lives and business. Abrams Learning Trends (ALT), a publisher of supplementary materials for pre-K through fifth grade, launched DIG, a new pre-K program in schools. The program consisted of print books, teacher guides, flip charts, audio recordings, and e-books. ALT was looking to differentiate the program and their digital reader solution to make them stand out in the marketplace.

ALT implemented MyDIGPreK.com, a secure, user-friendly social networking environment for the program’s users. This engagement community was designed for interaction among classroom teachers, students, and their parents, as well as between teachers within the same school systems. Note that the shared interest holding together this community was the desire to provide an optimum educational experience for these young children.

Since the users of the online learning system are all in pre-K, the modules are very basic and easy to use. While the focus of the learning platform is the young students, it is the publisher, parents, and teachers who are actively monitoring the system. There is plenty of opportunity for parents and teachers to comment on their impressions of how the system is working and what is needed going forward. It was ALT’s intent from the start to encourage feedback and recommendations in order to continue enhancing their program and to drive more user adoption. This interaction worked even better than expected.

ALT ensured the platform tracks and measures usage of all the modules. The usage stats, meant originally to be for ALT’s own analysis, attracted the attention of the parents and teachers. Consequently, ALT began getting extremely valuable marketing intelligence from its customers. Feedback provided not only direction for the refinement and development of the site, but also recommendations for new content: parents and teachers began seeing where there was a need for additional titles in vocabulary or math, in addition to those already provided as part of the package. As a result, ALT was able to introduce multiple new titles to the community.

Here is a fine example of a win-win arrangement. ALT succeeds with its business model and receives ongoing feedback for enhancing it. The parents and teachers are given an active role in shaping the curriculum for their children. And the children, we can expect, receive an optimized educational experience. This is what a virtual community does at its best.

Defining Virtual Communities

While Abrams is a great example, the publishing industry overall has been slow to adopt virtual communities. Publishing is certainly not lacking for appropriate groups to engage; we have authors, contributors, vendors, and of course, our customers. Yet, any publisher investigating the introduction of a virtual community into its business will reasonably want the answers to several important questions,

  • How would it work in my business?
  • What would we hope to achieve with such a community?

Before exploring the possible uses of the virtual community in publishing, we need to clearly understand its essential aspects.

As a starting point, let’s look at a definition offered by Constance Elise Porter in “A Typology of Virtual Communities”: “A virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported or mediated by technology and guided by some protocols or rules.”

Note the members of the community are named as “individuals or business partners.” The fact is that the virtual community can encompass personal or business endeavors. Particularly successful communities can combine both.

The notion of a shared interest is key. Having a common goal, or even a common passion, is what helps form a community, keep members motivated, and provide the glue or “stickiness” that holds that community together. Without that common motivator, there is no community, merely an aggregation of individuals.

Community interactions are “supported or mediated by technology.” This is where the role of a shared platform comes in. Each community will require a platform architecture that specifically supports its purpose, as the Kickstarter platform enables interested investors and entrepreneurs to find each other and pool investment funding.

Ultimately, the virtual community gives us many of the virtues we would expect from an actual community. Note this portion of Wikipedia’s definition: “Virtual communities resemble real life communities in the sense that they both provide support, information, friendship and acceptance between strangers.”

The Potential of Virtual Communities Within the Publishing Ecosystem

Initially, appreciating the power of the virtual community in publishing may require some modest changes to the way we now view our customers, authors, and even vendors. In the pressures of day-to-day business, it is easy to look at customers as sales targets, with authors and vendors as contractors. In a community, however, all members are working together with a common cause. In that context, we are partners.

Most publishers have used the power of the Internet to send email marketing blasts to all their customers. Using it to create a community platform for customers around a common interest can positively change the way they regard the publisher. That platform may not always be an immediate path to increased sales, but it can certainly be an immediate boon to customer relations. If built with their interest in mind, a community platform can do more to promote customer loyalty than any marketing campaign could.

Engagement communities provide their members with a platform for ongoing interaction dedicated specifically to their common interest. As publishers, we are looking to bring together our customers and perhaps our authors into an engagement community based on an interest they share.

It is often subject matter from the trade sector—particularly for hobbies and crafts—that lends itself naturally to an engagement community. On a publisher-sponsored site, hobbyists can be encouraged to ask questions of their favorite authors or comment freely on what works best for them. The publisher can release advance articles or chapters to the community and invite reader response. Authors might use reader feedback to guide their writing going forward. The publisher might facilitate open discussions about particular hobbies or crafts, with the authors as moderators. There can even be contests to encourage readers to recommend new subject areas for exploration. The most avid fans will not only have definite ideas of what they want to see published next, they will also be buyers and enthusiastic promoters of the new publications.

Outside of the trade sector, publishers may not as easily find readers who bring such enthusiasm to particular subject areas, and those readers might not necessarily be the best source for new content development. As one STEM executive has noted, “New scientific discovery is hardly appropriate for crowdsourcing.” There are, however, still appropriate engagement communities to target for more academic or scholarly areas.

In the STEM world, for example, there are a number of expert authors who might be brought together around specific topics. Publishers might partner with existing scientific associations already dedicated to specific areas of inquiry, such as cancer research for medical content or nanotechnology for engineering content.

Once again, it would be the publisher’s role to encourage interactions and feedback. There might be sponsored forums targeting subjects in which new research is changing ideas. The discussions could be the seeds of new content. Authors could be encouraged to produce papers on new sample chapters to circulate back into the community and generate more feedback.

The “shared interest” here can extend beyond the intellectual enthusiasm for an academic topic. In scholarly research communities, funding for grants is often tied not only to publication of new material but also metrics indicating how often a particular paper has been cited. Engagement communities can provide researchers the opportunity to pick up new papers and cite one another.

Collaborative communities, unlike engagement communities, are often project-oriented. A group collaborates together toward the completion of a particular goal or goals. In publishing, we are well suited for collaborative communities structured around our own production processes. The creation of books and journals is a team effort involving authors/contributors, members of both the editorial and production departments, and of course vendors. Traditionally, the effort is held together by a project manager at the publisher or the vendor (for full service) or a shared responsibility of both.

As publishers have moved more work into the full service model, there has been a subsequent loss of centralized production control. Authors and contributors often complain about being shuffled about from one person to the next, without being quite certain exactly what is happening with their creation at any particular time in the process. Scheduling seems to be getting reduced down to manuscript delivery date and final file delivery date, with little publisher/author knowledge of what is happening in between.

Consider a platform designed specifically for the various interactions that occur in production. Such platforms already exist commercially and might even be provided by the vendor doing full service work. The first benefit is that the collaborative platform provides a communication system dedicated specifically to the project. All members of the production team know where to look for updates and special instructions. Team members can be assigned roles within the platform that provide them access to documents and processes they need or restrict that access as appropriate. The platform itself tracks all versions of pages. Every member of the team can see where the project stands, and there should be no complaints about publications going into “black holes.”

Looking back at the way ALT assembled publisher, parents, teachers, and children, we see a small but powerful indication of the virtual community’s potential in publishing. There are existing platforms that can meet our functional needs, and there are plenty of opportunities for creating communities. Now it is time to start connecting the dots between them.



7 Email Marketing Secrets Every Fiction Writer Should Know

Strictly speaking, building an email list is optional. Except if you’re a self-publishing fiction author, it really isn’t.

Whether you’re looking to get more readers, garner more support, or generate more sales, email marketing will help accelerate your progress. Activities such as launching your next book or encouraging positive word-of-mouth for your latest project will see better results too.

While you’ll want to use a list management service such as AWeber or MailChimp, that’s just the first step. Email marketing takes skill, but it’s also useful to understand how the practice works within the context of being a fiction writer.

That’s the purpose of this article. Here are seven insights to improve your email marketing if you’re a storyteller by trade:

  1. There’s only one kind of person you want subscribing

    Everyone talks about the importance of making your email list bigger. The problem with this common view is that the emphasis is on getting more people, not what kind of people you’re drawing in.

    Who do you want signing up? Readers who already care about your fiction writing.

    Not newcomers to your work. Not folks only lukewarm on your books. You’re seeking fans, those who already have experienced your storytelling and want more. They are the most likely to subscribe to your list and the most motivated to respond to your messages. These are the folks you need to be in contact with.

    Growing your email list is about attracting and retaining your most loyal readers. The better your marketing tactics are organized around this understanding, the better you’ll do.

    When your subscriber numbers finally do go up, that will actually mean you’re getting the right people.

  2. The best email sign-up incentives are free stories

    If you want to increase your chances for getting an email subscription, highlight the compelling benefits for being a subscriber.

    Fiction authors will often mention contests, discounts, and insider extras to encourage an email sign-up. These are excellent choices, because they revolve around your work.

    But the greatest sweetener of all? Receiving more of your storytelling.

    Because if that doesn’t help motivate someone to subscribe, then that person really isn’t really a fan. The whole point of your email list is to connect with loyal readers.

    Now, giving free fiction to your subscribers doesn’t mean you have to go over the top. One story can work, and it can even be a novella or short story.

    Consider the following examples of a free offering:

    • A story for email subscribers only, not available anywhere else
    • The first book of a series, which has the additional benefit of boosting sales for the rest of the books in the series
    • A book you currently offer for sale in a digital format

    A free story is both an incentive and a thank-you for signing up, and an excellent way to enhance the relationship with your best supporters.

  3. Have a dedicated landing page asking for a subscription

    The typical email sign-up boxes have very little to them. One to two sentences summarizing an offer, a few fields to enter a name and email address, and an assurance of no spam.

    Having this simple arrangement in a website’s sidebar makes sense, where the emphasis is on brevity and easy-access. This is an ideal setup for interested readers who know they want to sign up and just need to see where.

    But it’s not so great for prospects who aren’t so sure. These people need more detail and more convincing.

    That’s where a dedicated landing page can help. It’s a designated page on your website making the best possible case of why someone would want to subscribe to your email list. The copy would include any necessary background on what kind of writing you do, the type of content in the emails, and any extra incentives you’re offering for signing up.

    Because you have a specific web page for all this, you also have a unique URL. That makes it easy for you to direct the right people to the landing page. Share your link at the end of all your stories, in social media, or anywhere online when it’s appropriate. Remember, your target audience is whoever wants more of your storytelling.

    Don’t underestimate the value of a quality landing page. This one step can dramatically increase the number of email subscriptions you get over its lifetime.

  4. Use autoresponders to build immediate goodwill

    Most email marketing services offer the feature of initiating an immediate reply message upon sign-up. You can set up one or more emails to be sent in sequence and in pre-determined time intervals, for each instance a new subscriber comes on board.

    Most authors use autoresponders to send some kind of welcome email. A nice note to say thank you, and perhaps previewing what kind of content to expect. If this is all you do, however, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

    What if you released a story via autoresponder, but a chapter every few days?

    What if you asked your subscribers for their favorite stories and their reasons why? If you received a response, what could you learn?

    What if you shared a list of books from other authors that you’ve read, just because you think your subscribers would enjoy them?

    The moment immediately following a sign-up is a special time, because that’s when an interested reader is anticipating something good. Your storytelling is at the forefront of that person’s mind, and you can bet any email received during this limited window will be opened.

    How will you reward your subscriber’s full attention?

  5. Email subject lines can make or break your open rates

    Most of us scan the emails in our inbox.

    Not only scan who an email is from, but also the subject lines to get an idea of the content. According to Copyblogger, on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. You don’t want a poor email title to be the reason why a reader dismisses your message.

    Consider the following two email subject lines. Which one will more likely get someone to click, all else being equal?

    1. Enter my contest today!
    2. How to win a chance to have a character in my next book named after you!

    If we’re to assume your loyal readers are the ones receiving your emails, what kind of headline would make them curious? Excited? Just like the hooks in your storytelling, you want your readers eager to find out more.

    The few extra minutes you spend on your email subject line can yield huge dividends. After all, if your email isn’t opened, it doesn’t get read. If it doesn’t get read, then your message can’t make an impact.

  6. Being respectful is more important than ever

    You will be tempted.

    When you have someone’s email address, you have access to an exclusive communication channel. With just a click, you can tap into one of the scarcest resources anywhere: someone’s attention.

    What’s to stop you from abusing this asset?

    Nothing, really. And that, of course, is the danger. It’s too easy to add people’s email to your list even though they didn’t grant you permission. It’s too easy to use a hyped-up email subject line then fail to deliver on your promise. It’s too easy to broadcast a message that furthers your own interests but is irrelevant to your fiction writing.

    Respect is a critical component of trust. When you cross the line, you’re devaluing the relationship between you and your fans.

    The ability to email your loyal readers is a privilege, not a right. Treat that connection –and the people you’re connected to– with the utmost respect.

  7. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong

    Email marketing serves a definite purpose. It’s an effective means to support your fiction writing.

    It’s also an additional commitment to your already packed schedule. Preparing emails worth reading takes thought and care. This can be difficult, especially when time and energy are in short supply.

    But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. In fact, you should. You have an opportunity to be creative through your writing, thrilling in every way weaving your fiction is. You have a chance to engage with a readership that enjoys what you do, and want to hear from you.

    So yes, email marketing is work. But it shouldn’t be painful or tortuous, like you’re trying to impress a stranger. You’re writing to a friend, someone already on your side, and staying in touch.




‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Dominates Social Media Buzz

Universal’s “Fifty Shades Darker” topped social media buzz last week with an impressive 152,000 new conversations, according to media-measurement firm comScore and its PreAct service.

The studio released the soundtrack listing on Jan. 12, three days after Taylor Swift also posted a “first look” of her soundtrack music video with Zayn Malik. PreAct estimates that a total of 1.12 million new conversations have been generated for the sequel, which opens on Feb. 10.

The sequel depicts an escalating romance between the characters played by Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele) and Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey) with plenty of steamy scenes and shadowy figures from Christian’s past emerging. “Fifty Shades Darker” also led the “most talked-about movies” chart during the previous week in the wake of releasing an extended trailer during the season premiere of “The Bachelor.”

Disney-Pixar’s “Cars 3” generated 59,000 conversations, thanks to the release of an extended teaser on Jan. 9 — five months ahead of its June 16 debut.

The upcoming film will focus on Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, enlisting his new friend Cruz Ramirez as a technician to compete against a new generation of racers. The characters Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), Sally (Bonnie Hunt), and Ramone (Cheech Marin) will return.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” produced nearly 31,000 new conversations in the wake of the Jan. 11 announcement that John Legend and Ariana Grande would collaborate on the title track. The studio also released a featurette on Jan. 13.

“Beauty and the Beast” has now generated over 644,000 conversations since the studio began promoting the live-action film, starring Emma Watson. It opens March 17.

Paramount’s “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” generated 27,100 new conversations last week. The action sequel, starring Vin Diesel, opens nationwide on Friday.

Universal’s horror-thriller “Split,” directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities, generated 14,000 new conversations last week. It also opens nationwide on Friday.

Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Batman Movie” produced nearly 12,000 conversations in the wake of being featured in a joint TV spot with Chevrolet on Jan. 14. “Lego Batman,” a spinoff of 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” opens on Feb. 10.


‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Dominates Social Media Buzz

The Da Vinci Code code: what’s the formula for a bestselling book?

Steve Berry could be forgiven for asking himself every day what it takes to make a book a global bestseller. Back in 2003, the former lawyer published a novel that placed well-known myths in a conspiracy web to create a page-turning thriller.

Sound familiar? It should, except you’re thinking of Dan Brown and his flagellating priests in the multimillion seller The Da Vinci Code – not Berry’s tale of Nazis hunting Russian treasure in the barely known The Amber Room.

Published in the same year, with a male-female double act tracking down artefacts in a global conspiracy – why would one book sell so many copies and not the other? There is a cryptological tool that might help Berry find an answer: the list of books that have sold more than one million copies since the turn of the century, produced for the Specsavers bestseller awards later this week.

The data collated since 1998 by Nielsen BookScan, which monitors sales through bookshops, supermarkets and online, offers many clues to what makes a bestseller.




Why do studios adapt books into movies?

When it comes to the success of film adaptations it’s often hit or miss – especially when studios adapt books into movies. When it comes down to it, the likability of an adapted film is not the main concern for studios; may it be a hit with critics and a failure to fans, loved by fans and hated by critics, or unanimously loved or hated. It’s the box office numbers that studios pay attention too.

“From the producer’s standpoint, whether or not viewers end up loving it is secondary to getting tickets sold in the first place,” Dr. Steven Lipkin, TV and movie script writing teacher at Western Michigan University said. “In the entertainment industry, money means everything, and that is something that will never change. As long as there is money to be made, producers will find ways to make more of it.”

For studios, books create the perfect opportunity to make money because the book, or series, provide an instant fan base that is often times loyal and excited to see their favorite book on the big screen. When a fanbase is already established, studios save money as they don’t have to worry so much about people liking it; they know that people will see it.

“Book-to-movie adaptations are very good for the industry since the story and characters are pre-sold, raising the likelihood of audience interest,” Lipkin said.

Back in 2000 when Warner Brothers Studio was deciding whether or not to adapt the Harry Potter books into a movie, the biggest factor that influenced their decision to spend $125 million on a single movie was the fact that over 30 million copies of the first three Harry Potter books were sold. Warner Brothers took that as a sign of financial success, and moved forward with investing so much in the books. To date, the Harry Potter franchise has garnered WB over $25 billion. More than doubling the total amount WB spent to make the franchise.

While box office success may be the main reason for studios to adapt books, reception still plays an important role. If an adaptation is a hit among critics, then the possibility of it winning awards is more likely.

Take “Silence of the Lambs” as an example. The movie was based on the book by Thomas Harris and went on to win five Academy Awards in 1991: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Critics loved “Silence of the Lambs” with many like Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times, praising actor Anthony Hopkins and his portrayal of the “terrifying qualities” of Hannibal Lector and calling the movie a “horror masterpiece”.

As a result of the critical success, audiences flocked to the theaters. Fans praised director Jonathan Demme and writer Ted Tally for successfully adapting their beloved book. By the time the movie left theaters, it had raked in over $272 million increasing its budget of $19 million by nearly 14 times.

At the same time, critical success isn’t always important to studios. When Summit Entertainment decided to adapt the young adult book, “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer, the studio heads weren’t expecting it to be a critical success. They were just hoping the pre-established fan base would enjoy the movie enough that the newly formed studio could make back the budget of the film. Unbeknownst to them and many others in Hollywood, “Twilight” would go on produce four sequels and raking in over $3.3 billion at the box office all while getting an average of 49 percent rotten on Rotten Tomatoes from critic reviews.



1984 tops Amazon’s charts as Trump continues to lie

Online sales of George Orwell’s novel 1984 have soared in recent days, as President Donald Trump continues to spread lies and misinformation. The dystopian book, first published in 1949, is now the best-selling book on Amazonas of Wednesday morning, and sits at number six among paid books in Apple’s iBooks app.

1984 began climbing Amazon’s rankings after Press Secretary Sean Spicer blatantly lied to the media last week about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway later defended Spicer’s comments on Sunday, describing them as “alternative facts” on NBC’s Meet the Press. Conway’s comments drew comparisons to Orwell’s term “doublethink” — the ability to believe two contradictory things simultaneously — and “Newspeak,” the deliberately misleading language of the totalitarian state described in the book.


A spokesman for Penguin, the publisher of 1984, told CNN that sales for the book typically rise at the beginning of the year, since it is commonly part of curricula in schools. But the spokesman said the spike seen this week has been unusually high.

“We put through a 75,000 copy reprint this week,” the spokesman said to CNN. “That is a substantial reprint and larger than our typical reprint for 1984.”


The last time 1984 saw a surge in sales was in 2013, after Edward Snowden leaked details about the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.




If you want to get noticed in the digital age, waiting for someone to choose you is the worst strategy. You have everything you need to start sharing your message today—fingers, keyboard, and the Internet.


Even if they don’t consider themselves writers, most people dream of writing a book. And there’s never been a better time to do so. The stigma of self-publishing is fading away, replaced by countless success stories from first-time authors making a name for themselves.

How are they doing it? Simple. By publishing eBooks on Amazon.com.

Why Amazon?

Forget what you think you know about Amazon. It’s much more than an online shopping cart or web store. There’s a reason guys like Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin have published exclusively to Amazon. It has a lot going for it:

  • Amazon is largest paid search engine in the world. People don’t Google things with their credit cards out, ready to buy, like they do with Amazon.
  • Amazon dominates the book market.
  • Amazon’s review system is an authority metric (even if someone plans to buy elsewhere).
  • Amazon is a marketing machine. Once you start selling a certain number of copies, it refers your book to others who have never heard of you.
  • Amazon makes it easy. You can publish elsewhere, but few places get your book online and ready in a matter of hours. When you publish first (and maybe exclusively) to Amazon, you concentrate your sales in a single place and can climb the best sellers lists faster.

Yes, you can get published, see your message spread, and make good money using nothing more than a keyboard and your brain. Here’s how:

Step 1: Write

When publishing an e-book, the first step is, of course, to write it. Think in terms of three drafts:

  1. The “vomit draft.” This is just what it sounds like—you’re throwing up on the blank page. Certainly not the most warming image, but you get the idea. Here, you will write the Table of Contents, sketch out each chapter, and put down all your ideas, scenes, and stories. Don’t make it pretty; just make it.
  2. The review draft. This is where you spend some time developing what you want to say and how. At this point, you should share the work with a few close friends for feedback.
  3. The editorial draft. This is where you get help from a professional or close friend who knows not only grammar, but story structure and elements of style.

Each draft may, in fact, have multiple versions and iterations. But this three-step approach will help you get the work finished without endlessly stalling.

Step 2: Format and Design

Once you’ve written a book you’re proud of, here’s what to do next:

  1. Format it for Kindle. You can try this yourself using a program called Calibre, or you can just pay someone to do it—which I recommend. If this is your life’s work, it’s worth paying a few hundred dollars to get it done right.
  2. Design the cover. Please don’t skimp on this or have your cousin Vinny who just discovered PhotoShop “take a whack at it.” If you’re on a budget, check out 99 Designs or Crowdspring, both affordable crowd-sourcing services. Ask for an image that is a JPEG file and at least 2500 pixels on the longest side with a height/weight ratio of 1.6 (what Amazon recommends in their publishing guidelines).
  3. Double check everything and have friends proofread for errors.

This is an important step, so don’t blaze through it. If you need more guidance, check out TheBookDesigner.com.

Step 3: Publish

How do you actually make your book available for sale on Amazon.com? This is, perhaps, the part that intimidates most people. And the truth is it shouldn’t. All it takes is twelve simple steps:

  1. Go to kdp.amazon.com and sign in (you’ll need an Amazon account).
  2. Register your tax info for royalties.
  3. Click “Bookshelf” and then “Add new title.”
  4. Fill out the form, including book title, description, and keywords you want people to search to find your book.
  5. Upload the cover file (JPEG format).
  6. Upload the book file.
  7. Test your book with Amazon’s online viewer to make sure it looks right.
  8. Click “Save and continue” and advance to the “Rights and Pricing” page.
  9. Choose “Worldwide Rights.”
  10. Choose a 70% royalty rate and select your price, letting the international prices adjust based on the US price. Most e-books are priced $2.99-9.99 (this is what I recommend to maximize your royalty rate).
  11. Click Save and Publish.
  12. Amazon will email you when the book is ready, which may take 24–48 hours but often happens much more quickly.

Step 4: Promote

Now, you’re ready to tell the world about your book. But before you do that, you need some reviews. Reviews are important, because they’re your “social proof” that will legitimize your work to new readers.

Before the book’s release, send the book to friends, family, and followers online who would be willing to leave a review. If you don’t know anyone who would be willing to do that, check out StoryCartel.com, a platform that helps authors get free, ethical reviews.

Once the book is published, remind your early readers to leave reviews. Expect 25-50% of those who promised, to actually comply. And they don’t all have to be 5-star reviews. In fact, having a few honest critiques of your work will give it a greater authority than a bunch of superficial praise.

People can leave reviews on Amazon only a few days before the book is published. So one way to get around this is to publish your book a week before you tell anyone about it. That way, you can build up a good amount of early reviews, which help sell the book to new readers. When it “officially” releases, you can then direct people to the page where they will see some glowing reviews of your work.

Step 5: Launch

After you get some reviews, it’s time to launch your e-book. Every book launch should be unique, but here are a few things that work every time:

  1. Send an email to your list of friends, family, and/or blog subscribers, announcing the release of your book.
  2. Offer an incentive for those who buy the book. This can be a time-sensitive offer or ongoing opportunity. Andy Traub, who made over $20,000 in 90 days with an eBook, gave away the audiobook, 30-day email course, and exclusive membership to an online community with his book. Make it a no-brainer that people can’t pass up.
  3. Promote the book via word-of-mouth and social media. Clicktotweet.com is a great resource for hand-crafting messages that people can easily share. Another effective strategy is to use a launch team of volunteers to help you spread the word.
  4. Share your e-book with online forums and book directories. Kimanzi Constable, who sold over 80,000 copies of his books, said this was a key strategy.
  5. As the book begins to sell, tell people about it. This is called “social proof” and will create a snowball effect that can help you sell even more.
  6. Give the book away. Brandon Clements, who struggled to sell more than a few hundred copies of his novel in a year, decided to give away the e-book version. And in a week, over 60,000 people downloaded it. The next week, he sold another 2,000 copies.

Books can spread pretty fast when everything is digital: the product, the promotion, the distribution. In other words, if you ever wanted to get a message in front of a lot of people, there’s never been a better time.

The days of waiting years to be picked and published are over. So what are you waiting for? (For more help on self-publishing for Kindle, check out the Kindle Publishing Guide, which is free this week exclusively for Michael Hyatt readers.)



The 5 Reasons Writers Write

What excerpt will they use from this biopic of you as a famous author? What’s really driving you? Do you know the reasons writers write?

What’s at the Heart of YourStory?

A clip could show:

  • A scene from the traumatic childhood you had to overcome
  • The tearful goodbye as you left your job and love interest to focus solely on achieving your goal
  • The day you won that writing prize and proved you were an awesome writer
  • The long days crafting your writing (for older writers, the film can show a wastepaper bin filling with discarded pages)
  • The impact you had on a grateful reader, who clutches your sleeve, proclaiming, “You changed my life!”

While the end product for writers is the same–a piece of published writing–our individual motivations for writing are very different. Our sense of achievement is triggered by different aspects. Identifying what most satisfies us about writing helps us to find the right support and to understand what holds us back.

The 5 Reasons Writers Write

Those five imaginary film scenes reflect the variety of motivational drives we have as writers.

1. To Overcome

We can’t choose what life throws at us, but some of us are spurred by obstacles and opposition. Writers with this motivation love to take on the ignorant publishers who reject them and the mean one-star reviewers. They get immense satisfaction from proving the doubters wrong.

2. To Achieve the Goal

Do you like to have a clear goal to aim for? A lot of writers thrive on specific challenges like “500 words a day,” or National Novel Writing Month. They get their deepest sense of accomplishment from knowing they’ve fulfilled their goal or completed the task.

3. To Win

Few of us would turn down praise and prizes, but for some writers, beating the competition is the chief motivation. They’re motivated by a need to be the best, to stand out from the crowd, to gather accolades. They know their sales figures and Amazon rankings exactly!

4. To Create

Some writers get their chief satisfaction from the process of writing. The means matters more than the end. They spend hours if not years perfecting their prose and are avid users of writing how-to books and sites, which help them keep improving.

5. To Have an Impact

Writers with this motivation want above all to leave their mark. They’re focused on getting a response from readers or inspiring change. Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the impact being a writer has on their own lives.

We all feel these motivations to some degree, but there’ll be one or two which are present in everything we do because we can’t help ourselves. These are our key motivational drives. They drive us forward as writers, and they’re behind the greatest satisfaction we get from writing.

What Holds You Back as a Writer?

Knowing our key drives helps us understand what holds us back. For example:

  • Someone who’s motivated by the process of writing and perfecting their work, gets stuck because they’re constantly revising. They have to learn to accept “good enough.” I plead guilty to this!
  • Someone whose main motivation is to complete the task, rushes to publication without revising enough.
  • A writer whose deepest satisfaction comes from getting a positive reader response,  rests on their lowly laurels. I do this, too. It’s as if one nice comment satisfies my reason for writing, so there’s no need for any more marketing. This is not good!
  • A writer whose chief motivation is to be a published author with his name on the cover, doesn’t want to waste time editing what’s inside the book.
  • Someone focused on his performance becomes self-critical and finds it hard to cope with not being  good enough.
  • A writer who wants to have an impact goes too far and ends up shocking or alienating people

Do You Know Why You Write?

Ask yourself:

  • Which of those five motivational drives is strongest in you?
  • What is the most demotivating thing that can happen to you as a writer?
  • When have you felt the deepest sense of satisfaction as a writer–that moment when you experienced the buzz of “Yes! I did it” … “I got there” … “It happened!”
  • What film highlight will they show at the Oscars when the Biopic of your life as a writer is up for an award?




5 Indian Books That Are Now (Must-Watch) Hollywood Movies

There are a whole lot of book-to-film adaptations to watch out for this year , which we’re always excited to do. However, if you are a fan of Indian authors, there is quite the bonanza in store for you. With two major adaptations releasing this year (read a little more to see which!), we’ve put together an entire list of Indian-authored books that were made in Hollywood blockbusters. Make sure you read the books before the movie releases, and re-watch some of the other classics that have already made their mark as hit films, internationally.

Lion is inspired by the true story of Saroo Brierley (A Long Way Home), an Indian-born Australian businessman who was separated from his mother and later adopted by an Australian couple. It takes him twenty-five years to find his family again, with a lot of help from Google maps and vague childhood recollections of his hometown. The Hollywood adaption of the book stars Nichole Kidman, as his adoptive mother and Dev Patel, as Saroo.

Victoria and Abdul is the story of Abdul Karim who arrived in England at the age of twenty-f0ur to serve tables during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. He soon found himself as one of the closet confidantes of the Queen and their growing closeness almost causes a revolt in the British household. A Hollywood version of the story, Victoria and Abdul, is all set to release in September and it stars Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim.

Salman Rushdie’s 1981-novel is about India’s transition from British rule to Independence. The main protagonist and narrator, Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment that India became independent, is born with telepathic powers. He later discovers that there are many such children born between midnight and 1AM with such powers. The book was adapted on screen by Deepa Mehta and starred a huge cast that included Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Siddharth Narayan, Ronit Roy, Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Seema Biswas, Shahana Goswami, Samrat Chakrabarti, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan, Anita Majumdar and Darsheel Safary.

Slumdog Millionaire was one of the biggest films of 2009. A movie adaption of the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup, the story is about a boy who is a participant of Kaun Banega Crorepati. He manages to answer all questions correctly and wins the big prize money but he is soon accused of cheating. To clear his name, he takes us back to his life and makes us understand how each question, and its answer is, or was, his reality.

The Namesake is the story of a Bengali couple, living in America, who decide to name their son Gogal, inspired by the author, Nikolai Gogol. Gogal grows up to hate the name, not realising the deep connection his father has with the author. A simple story of a boy who struggles to survive in America, caught between the modern world and age-old traditions at home, the narrative will keep you hooked till the end. The movie version starred Tabu and Irrfan Khan as the Bengali couple and Kal Penn as Gogal.





Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho de Souza , Portuguese; born August 24, 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. He is the recipient of numerous international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. His novel The Alchemist has been translated into 81 languages. According to The Washington Post, Paulo Coelho has sold an estimated 350 million books and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese-language author.

In 1982, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make a substantial impact. In 1986 he contributed to the Practical Manual of Vampirism, although he later tried to take it off the shelves since he considered it “of bad quality.” After making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, Coelho wrote The Pilgrimage that was published in the year 1987. The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist and published it through a small Brazilian publishing house who made an initial print run of 900 copies and decided not to reprint. He subsequently found a bigger publishing house, and with the publication of his next book Brida, The Alchemist took off. HarperCollins, the biggest publishing House in the United States, decided to publish the book in 1994. Then, it became first a Brazilian bestseller, later a world-wide phenomenon. The Alchemist has gone on to sell more than 83 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling books in history, and has been translated into 81 different languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.

The Alchemist, easily known as his most successful book, is a story about a young shepherd who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. The book has inspired a devoted following around the world, with Will Smith, Madonna, and others having declared it to be their favorite novel, and Bill Clinton having been seen with a copy of the book. In 2014, Oprah Winfrey interviewed pop star Pharrell Williams, who stated that The Alchemist had changed his life.

Since the publication of The Alchemist, Coelho has generally written one novel every two years including By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Fifth Mountain, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Eleven Minutes, Like the Flowing River, Brida, The Valkyries, The Winner Stands Alone, The Zahir, The Witch of Portobello, Aleph, Manuscript Found in Accra, Adultery and The Spy. While trying to overcome his procrastination of launching his writing career, Coelho said, “If I see a white feather today, that is a sign that God is giving me that I have to write a new book.” Coelho found a white feather in the window of a shop, and began writing that day.

In total, Coelho has published 30 books. Three of them – The Pilgrimage,The Valkyries and Aleph – are autobiographical, while the majority of the rest are fictional, although rooted in his life experiences. Others, like Maktub, The Manual of the Warrior of Light and Like the Flowing River, are collections of essays, newspaper columns, or selected teachings. In total, Coelho has sold more than 210 million books in over 170 countries worldwide (June 2015 sales figures), and his works have been translated into 81 languages.

Coelho writes up to three blog posts a week at his blog,  and has over 28.5 million fans on Facebook, and more than 11.4 million followers on Twitter, a higher number than authors such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. Coelho discussed his relationship with readers through social media platforms with The Wall Street Journal in August 2014.


J C Wells (2008) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Pearson Education Limited.

Create a book from your favorite mobile photos with Blurb for iOS

Blurb, the San Francisco-based book and magazine self-publishing company, launched its first mobile app on Monday. Simply called Blurb, the free app allows iPhone and iPad users to design and order high-quality photo books right from their mobile devices.

“We wanted to ensure the app we developed is fast and easy to use, while maintaining professional-quality, and allows users to share with friends and family,” Blurb CEO Todd Larsen said in a statement.

Blurb simplifies the normal photo book design process by providing a streamlined set of options. Users can select from just two sizes, either 7 x 7 or 5 x 5 inches. Simply choose the desired photos contained on your iPhone or iPad and Blur automatically loads them onto virtual book pages. You can then change the crop of the photos as you see fit and add captions if desired. Images can be set to fill a page or leave a border.


While the app itself is free, the books are obviously not. A 20-page, 7 x 7-inch book will run you $30, while the smaller 5 x 5 goes for $15. Additional pages can be added (up to 80 in total) for $0.25 and $0.20, respectively. Users can also share the book via Facebook, Twitter, or even through SMS messages.

In keeping with the theme of simplicity, all books are printed on a single paper type. Blurb uses a high-end luster paper that the company says offers great tonal range and contrast.

While the Blurb app may be light on options, its ease of use makes it an attractive option for anyone who wants to get a collection of photos off of their phones and into the real world. It could also come in handy this holiday season for creating some fast and easy personalized gifts for family.



How To Build Your Podcast Audience By Guesting

One of the more frequent questions I get from podcasters is, “How do I build an audience?” Podcasting is hard, time-consuming work, and it can be incredibly frustrating when your shiny new episode only gets a handful of downloads.

There are many different strategies you can use to build your audience, but today we’re going to focus on guest podcasting, which I’ll lovingly refer to as “guesting“.

Be Our Guest

Back in the blogging heyday, one of the best ways to build and audience was by guest blogging—that is, writing a blog post that would appear on someone else’s blog.


Guest blogging remains a great way for bloggers to get their content seen by a new audience, get their name associated with another (often more popular or authoritative) blog, and get some sweet links back to their own blog for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

In return, the blog on which the guest appeared would get diverse new content and access to the guest’s network.

This same win-win can be applied to podcasts, which are essentially audio blogs.




How to get reviews on Amazon once you’ve launched your book

Writing a book is hard work. As is marketing that book before and after launch. But when you distribute your book through Amazon, getting reviews may be the single most important thing to determine your book’s future success. There’s no secret formula, and no one way to garner the most reviews, but with a little research, a lot of patience, and a ton of outreach, those coveted reviews are but an email away.

Ask your existing readers or fan base

Whether you maintain a strong social media following, belong to many writing groups, or already have built-in readers from a previous book launch, your existing fans are your bread and butter. Since they already have an appreciation for you and your work, you are one step closer to converting them from fans to reviewers.

Now since they are already invested in you to a degree, they are also the best people to ask for a genuine review, the ones who buy your book on Amazon and review it. How do you get them to do this? Compose a strong email to them appealing to their passion for and knowledge of your genre, as well as their previous interest in your work. For some, that will be enough to pique their interest. For others, you may want to offer to supply them with the book for free. This way you are getting genuine reviews since the books were purchased through the site, but you haven’t required them to buy your book to do so.

Contact Amazon’s top reviewers

The top reviewers for Amazon have earned their status for a reason; they review everything from books to electronics, and other consumers rank their reviews as useful. While you might assume these reviewers are out of your reach—after all, they likely receive hundreds of requests a day—they are still worth contacting. Even if only a few end up reviewing your book, their reviews could make all the difference.

  • To get started, decide how many reviews you are hoping to get. If you have your eye set on 25, you’ll want to reach out to at least 100 reviewers.
  • Take a look through the list of Amazon’s top reviewers, and create a spreadsheet where you can start logging info about your potential reviewers. You are looking for reviewers who have already reviewed books in your genre, and once you’ve found them, any additional information you can grab about them, including email addresses, and any personal interests.
  • Now, the art of the pitch. Spend time crafting a pitch letter that succinctly tells a brief summary of your book, why you’d like the specific reviewer to read it, and how you’d like to offer them a free copy. Include references to similar books they’ve already reviewed so they realize you have done your homework and it is not a blind request. If this seems too time consuming, create a boilerplate review request with highlighted fields for personalization, such as their name, and recent books they’ve reviewed. This way, you can update the highlighted fields to quickly personalize your pitch request for each reviewer.
  • Follow-up is key. Every time you reach out to a reviewer, add the date to your excel spreadsheet so you can keep track of when you sent your letter, who says yes, who says no, and who never replies. Follow up two weeks after your initial request with a friendly and simple message asking if they have had a chance to read through your request and that you look forward to hearing back.
  • 5. Close the deal. For those reviewers who do respond, make sure you are providing them with what they need (additional biographical info on you, previous works, whatever) and that you are timely in your communications back to them.

Get in touch with the book blogger community

Book bloggers have the uncanny ability to passionately and tirelessly spread the word about their views—and reviews. Unfortunately, many review books on their personal websites and blogs, and not all are posting those reviews (or variations thereof) on Amazon. But don’t let that stop you.

  • Start by looking for bloggers who review titles in your genre. You can start with Google. If you’re writing a thriller, type thriller + book blogger into the search field and see what comes up.



  • Just like with the Amazon top reviewers, you are looking to create a short list of reviewers who favor your genre, and who will welcome relevant pitches.


  • Once you’ve got your list, go back to the boilerplate form letter you were using for the Amazon top reviewers. Tweak it a little, making sure to reference things spotted on the blogger’s pages, and adding any commonalities. Email them (if contact info is available on their site) or use the contact form on their site if available.


  • As above, be professional in your follow-up activities.

While soliciting reviews can seem to take a lot of time and effort, their value cannot be underestimated. Reviews immediately add credibility to your book, communicating to potential customers that it is a worthy read. They also improve your book’s ranking when consumers are searching on Amazon, which is the primary reason to stay committed to getting reviews. If you’re able to move your title into earlier search pages, you’ll be discovered by readers who wouldn’t otherwise find you. And that, hopefully, will translate into more book sales.




First look at Windows 10’s upcoming store for e-books

Microsoft is working on a new a store for e-books in Windows 10. The software giant actually started building in features related to the Books store late last year with the release of EPUB (a popular file type for e-books) support on Microsoft Edge.

We were today able to get an early look at the new e-books store in an internal build of Windows 10 Mobile, but the feature is also going to be available for PCs and tablets running Windows 10. The new e-book store will be integrated into the Windows Store as a dedicated section where users will be able to buy books from a range of different publishers and authors. Buying a book from the Windows Store works just like how you would buy an app, game or a music album — simply find a book you want to buy, and hit the Buy button to purchase it.


Once purchased, you can start reading the book on Microsoft Edge which is also getting a dedicated section for Books in Windows 10. This is where you will be able to find all the books you have purchased from the Windows Store which is pretty neat. Thanks to Microsoft Edge’s strong EPUB support, you will be able to add bookmarks into any book you are reading or easily view the table of contents. You can also customize the EPUB Viewer’s theme, change the font size and even the font family to fit your needs.

Here are a couple of other screenshots of the new feature:


The new bookstore will be coming to Windows 10 with the Creators Update, which is scheduled to arrive this April. The feature will be available for both Windows 10 PCs and Mobile devices.

Your 90-Day Plan To Becoming An Entrepreneur

Maybe you’ve been thinking about launching your own company for a long time. Or maybe you’re just staring at your cubicle walls for the zillionth time but only now starting to consider ditching them for good.

Making the leap can be daunting, but you don’t have to dabble on the side for upwards of a year before going all in (though some entrepreneurs do!). In fact, not only can you start building the foundation for your company months before you commit full-time, you can even set an ambitious but achievable timetable for that process.


How does 90 days sound?


First, it’s helpful to reckon with the (relatively) longer-term priorities you’ll want to accomplish by the end of the three-month period you’re setting yourself. And that mainly comes down to getting your finances in order.

Suze Orman might cringe if she knew that when I started my business, I had zero savings and some hefty student loans. In retrospect, this was a poor decision. If I could do it all over again, I’d save up enough financial padding for six to 12 months of living expenses before leaving my job. Using credit cards to get started ended up working out in the long run, but it was a risky and very stressful move.

There are plenty of ways you can start saving and become financially prepared for your first venture. From skipping your daily $5 latte to moving to a cheaper apartment, even surprisingly small tweaks to your lifestyle can turn you into your own angel investor. Cutting back on expenses for just 90 days can give you enough funds to hire a designer to mock up your idea.

And for me (but not just me), design proved the most important investment I could’ve possibly made in order to establish my credibility early on. Even with a savings account (or, in my case, credit card limit) of just $500, you can typically design a sales PDF, build a simple landing page, and print a stack of business cards. Once I’d made those three initial investments, I was able to start pitching and secure some early contracts.


Hyekyung Hwang, CEO of the Seoul coworking space Hive Arena, recommends cutting back 30% of your normal expenses when you’re planning to launch a company. “When I was getting ready to take the plunge, I moved back with my parents for a few months to meet my business goals,” she says. Like Hwang, I also realized I’d have to abandon my New York City apartment to find a less expensive abode. To get back on track financially, I moved to a small town in Spain, knowing rent would be one-fifth the cost of living in Manhattan.

Before quitting his job, Arthur Zudin, a self-employed UX/UI designer, found a number of coffee shops and meeting rooms to conduct business in while saving thousands on office space. “When I first started my company, I kept costs low and didn’t buy fancy equipment to meet my goals.” says Zudin.


While you start working on paring back expenses, there are a few things you’ll want to tackle sooner, ideally within the next 30 days.

First up, prove market validation. If you have a business idea in mind, start looking for ways you can begin testing it in the next few weeks. Have a website idea? Build a prototype and get feedback from potential customers. Want to create physical products? Mock them up with Photoshop and show them to your friends to see what they think.

You can take some low-tech steps in the same direction. Before starting my company, I asked friends and colleagues if they thought there was space in the market for a PR and design agency specializing in hospitality. These conversations helped me flesh out my idea very quickly and refine my startup’s initial offering of services.

“If you know what business you want to start, I would work part-time for the next three months on that business,” says Ajay Yadav, founder of Roomi, an app for finding roommates, apartments, and sublets. “See if there is a problem you can solve, or if you can really get your idea off the ground during that time. If you can, then go for it full force.”

Worried someone will steal your idea if you start floating it to people and testing some products and services? Don’t be. One lesson I’ve learned is that execution is really tough. Many people don’t have time to pursue their own ideas, let alone steal others’. And if you’ve set yourself an overall 90-day timetable to launch, you’ll most likely beat out any would-be competitors to market.


You’ll also want to fail a few times within that first month—not intentionally, of course, but as a result of starting small and iterating quickly from there. If you labor a long time on perfecting a grand scheme, by contrast, it’ll be months before you finally test anything and learn you’ve got something wrong, and by then it may be too late to fix it.

Before starting my company, I made a list of short-term goals and how I’d get to each one within just a few weeks. That list ultimately became a flexible business plan that helped me focus on taking small, achievable steps to reach my bigger goals. Since starting my business, I’ve failed countless times. What’s important to know is that failure is inevitable—the sooner you trip yourself up, the sooner you’ll know what changes to make to move ahead. It’s pushing through the lows that will help you succeed in the long run.

Roman Romanuk, founder of the marketing tool Prezna, recommends selling something small before you build. “Sales is the most important part of starting a business,” says Romanuk. “If you can’t sell, find a partner who can. You can also find companies that already have relationships with your target market and offer them the ability to resell your product or service, and incentivize referrals.”

No matter what kind of company you’re looking to build, it’s important to just get started. Now that you’ve got a few concrete steps to take within the next month and the next quarter, here’s one more you can tackle this week: On your way home from work, pick up a few business books and start reading up on how others have done it. Before long, you’ll have a few ideas to start tossing around within your network, and your 90-day plan will already be under way.



Why You Need An Author Assistant To Sell Your Books Fast?

Writing and marketing a book entail a lot of hard work and diligence. From e publishing to selling, every task involves multiple strategies to be planned. As a writer, all this can exhaust you completely. Mostly, authors prefer doing all this stuff on their own due to heavy costs of hiring an assistant. However, there are many responsibilities that can be effectively shouldered by this assistant.

Here, we are referring to a virtual assistant who can save you from a traumatizing sleep deficiency caused in the pre-launch phase of e publishing.

Why You Need Virtual Assistant Services for your e publishing needs?

Being an author, it is always better to devote your maximum time for writing excellent books for your readers. You can’t afford to indulge in cumbersome marketing and management tasks. Your ROI will increase with better efficiency of writing. Here are the reasons that will justify this statement:

Boost in Your Creative Energies:

When you will get more time to write, the creative juices will flow automatically in your mind for creation of some excellent copies. This assistant will help you through the entire process of e-publishing. It will reduce your stress. You will handle the tasks as per your liking and eliminate those that hamper your creativity. You can simply harness these energies with your writing abilities for writing the best sellers of the industry.

More Personal Space:

When you hire an advanced virtual assistant company, you get more family time to fulfill your personal engagements. It will also cover for the time spent on your holidays, sickness, or any other personal event.

Better Professional Networking:

You can also leverage your time for managing the professional relations and network with the industry experts. This will give better exposure to your book even in the pre-launch phase. Hence, you can engage in promotional events and explore better opportunities. This streamlined time management will give you a competitive edge. It will make your publishing successful.

Costs Benefits:

Apart from all these, there are benefits like identification of potential risks, gains, and their comparison with the anticipated profits. This will offer better insights of your project and its feasibility.

What Services Can You Expect From This Virtual Assistant?

Most of our professional connections are managed virtually. It is a global phenomenon and you aren’t aloof. In such scenario, it just doesn’t matter where your author assistant really lives. In fact, one works as a trusted partner for your writing business. You can expect the following services when hiring a Virtual author assistant:

  • Schedule your appointments and make calls to your associates on your behalf.
  • Manage your email account
  • Arrange for your travel bookings for promotional activities
  • Submissions to contests and managing author swag
  • Managing the social media profiles and posts.
  • Website content management and keyword research
  • E-book distribution and ad campaign management.
  • Copy editing, formatting, proofreading and uploading of the e-book.
  • Blog and podcasts management.
  • Creation of invoices and preparing expenses reports.

However, choosing the best assistant for your writing process is easier said than done. It requires a meticulous approach including referral and recommendations apart from understanding your requirements and budget.




Why are Japanese light novel names so ridiculously long?

TOKYO —Traditional Japanese culture prizes simplicity and shuns excess. This is, after all, the country that likes to take the time to appreciate the beauty of a solitary arranged flower or single cup of green tea.

At the same time, authors of “light novels,” Japan’s literary equivalent to young adult fiction, are known for being anything but pithy. Light novel readers, on the whole, are a pretty accepting bunch as far as high-word-count prose is concerned, and that attitude extends to the titles of books that fall into the category as well.

But even with that backdrop, people in Japan are stunned by the name of an upcoming release from major light novel publisher Dengeki Bunko. Going on sale March 10 is the first book in a new series from author Uwami Kuruma, which is called: “Sew for Her! Strip Her? Change Her Clothes!! She Screwed Up Her High School Debut and Became a Shut-In, so I’ve Ended Up Coordinating Her Youth (Fashion).”

Kind of a mouthful, isn’t it? But does it sound better in the original Japanese? “Nuiage! Nugashite? Kisekaeru!! Kanojo ga Koukou Debyuu ni Shippai Shite Hikikomori to Kashita no de, Ore ga Seishun (Fasshon) wo Koodineeto Suru Koto ni.”

Nope, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue in either language. It gets high marks for informativeness, though. The publisher goes on to expand on the expansive title by saying the book will star Tomonaga Ono, an “incredibly ordinary” high school boy whose childhood friend overdresses on her first day of high school, with the reactions from her classmates sending her into such shock that she becomes a “hikikomori,” which leads to Tomonaga taking off her clothes (and presumably dressing her in more appropriate ones, no doubt after a suitable amount of sexy times are allowed to take their course).

So what drives light novel authors to choose such long-winded titles? Well, it’s an intensely youth-focused market, which means the market is crowded with dozens of competing novels all packed with whatever tropes are currently in-vogue among teens. “Love interest who’s a childhood friend,” “sympathetic shut-in,” and “main character who’s an ordinary guy but volunteers to help a girl with a problem” are all incredibly common storytelling elements in contemporary light novels (and also anime and manga), so having a comically long name can give a book a much-needed edge in standing out from others on the shelf.

But aren’t such long names hard to remember? Sure, but there are two ways that can work to their advantage. “Otaku” (the primary purchasers of light novels) have long taken pleasure in possessing specialized knowledge, and being able to rattle off the complete title of “Sew for Her! Strip Her? Change Her Clothes!! She Screwed Up Her High School Debut and Casey Can’t Remember the Rest” makes those who can pull off the feat feel like part of a special club. Plus, such a long title means that should the series’ popularity take off, it’s almost certainly going to get a shortened nickname (as happened with “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?/Danmachi”). Fans being able to use that nickname when talking to one another is almost like a secret handshake, which creates a feeling of solidarity among members of the fandom.

Of course, that doesn’t make things any easier for casual readers, but like anime, the light novel business is powered by its most passionate supporters. One other group that’s probably a bit nonplussed by the title “Sew for Her! Strip Her? Change Her Clothes!! She Screwed Up Her High School Debut and Became a Shut-In, so I’ve Ended Up Coordinating Her Youth (Fashion)?” The graphic designer who has to fit all that on the front of the book in an aesthetically pleasing way, and so it’s not surprising that Dengeki Bunko has yet to unveil its cover artwork.



How Successful Authors Use Social Media to Sell More Books

Increasing your author visibility through different online channels allows you to meet readers, cultivate an audience, and increase your discoverability to sell more books. But finding your ideal social media channels is not the easiest thing to figure out and implement.

That’s why I’ve reached out to some experts for advice. I asked six different platform-heavy writers — three nonfiction, three fiction — for their best general advice in terms of using social media. Here’s what they had to say:

Do you have any general advice for writers looking to market themselves and their work via social media, promotion and platform?

Mignon Fogarty: Creator of Grammar Girl@GrammarGirl

“I think you really have to enjoy interacting on social networks or you won’t do it well or stay with it. You can’t force yourself to do it; you have to find the things you like and do those even if they aren’t the most popular. For one person it might be Twitter, for another LinkedIn, for another YouTube, for another podcasting, and another blogging.

Also, I think some authors are too afraid to ask people to buy their book. I spend hours (and hours and hours) of my time answering people’s questions without compensation, so when I have a new book out, I don’t hesitate to post about it. I believe I’ve earned the right to market my products.

On the other extreme, I see a lot of authors jump into Twitter and immediately start doing nothing but push their book. They haven’t earned the right to market their products, and all they do is turn people off.”

Mary Kole: Former literary agent and author of Writing Irresistible Kidlit@kid_lit

“I have gotten flack for saying this before, but I am sticking to my guns: do it well or don’t do it at all. There are billions of blogs and websites out there. On the Internet, if you build it, they will not automatically come. You have to give people a good reason to spend their precious time on your real estate.

Don’t blog or tweet or Facebook because you think you have to. Your reluctance will ooze from the screen. Don’t engage if you can’t keep it consistent, both in terms of timing and in terms of quality.

Figure out what you’re best at, then do that well and forget the other stuff. You should have some online presence, but you don’t have to jump into everything all at once, especially if you’re going to do it badly or irregularly.” (Like this idea? Click to tweet it).

Dr. Lissa Rankin: Author of Mind Over Medicine@Lissarankin

“Stay true to your integrity. I can’t tell you how many times I have said no, even though it sounded like such a good platform-building opportunity.

Listen to your gut (which I call your “inner pilot light” — that wise part of you that really knows what’s best for you, your body, your relationships, and your business). Don’t let fear rule the show.

In the beginning, I said yes to everything because I was afraid I’d miss an opportunity, and I wound up quickly burned out, depleted. But you can’t lead or heal from a place of depletion. You must heal yourself first in order to change the world. That’s the one lesson I’d share with aspiring authors/visionaries/healers.

Don’t let platform building spiral you downwards. Fill yourself first. Learn to say no. Create healthy boundaries. Raise your vibration. Attract others who share this vibration. Avoid the temptation to get sucked into doing everything for everybody. You are enough doing exactly what you’re doing. Resist the urge to continually do more.”

Billy Coffey: Author of Snow Day, @billycoffey

“Whether fair or not, getting your good story into the hands of the public now depends in large part upon your reach, and your reach depends in large part upon your savvy with blogs and social media. That can be a scary thing.

Writers are notoriously withdrawn and even shy. The idea of having to ‘put yourself out there’ can be tantamount to having to tap dance in front of a firing squad. But it can be done. I promise that, and I offer myself as proof.”

Amy Julia Becker: Author of A Good and Perfect Gift@amyjuliabecker

“My biggest warning is that you can’t do it all. I’ve tried to approach platform building like organic farming. I’m cultivating what grows (my audience, hopefully), but I’m trying to do so without gimmicks and with integrity and respect for the writing itself. I hope that this is a sustainable method that will also bear fruit, so to speak, with a faithful and steadily, if slowly, growing audience.

I think a lot about limitations and possibilities. If I limit my time platform building, I open up time for family or exercise or working on a larger project. If I focus on the possibilities of platform building, I limit my time for those other things. I try to keep it all in balance rather than thinking that I can, or should, do it all.”

If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what would you tell your younger self in terms of platform?

Mignon Fogarty: Creator of Grammar Girl@GrammarGirl

“I knocked myself out for a year doing my email newsletter every day and for one quarter doing my podcast twice a week — and in retrospect, I don’t think it was worth the effort. Weekly is enough. The benefit from publishing daily and podcasting twice a week was minimal.”

Mary Kole: Former literary agent and author of Writing Irresistible Kidlit@kid_lit

“This may sound like bad advice but: Blog less! I was killing myself trying to blog three times a week at Kidlit, then I added two extra blogs and tried doing those twice a week, too.

The result? I’d travel or freak out and let the blogs go to seed for a while, and that was altogether worse than blogging less frequently because dead blogs and silence are the ultimate online networking sins.

It’s very possible to have a platform with the ‘less is more’ philosophy, as long as you focus on the absolute quality of your efforts.”

Gina Holmes: Author of Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain

“I would tell myself that helping others succeed would translate into the biggest personal success. I would tell myself to go ahead and build my wings on the way down, and not to stress over every little number, setback, or failure.”

Dr. Lissa Rankin: Author of Mind Over Medicine@Lissarankin

“Oh, if only someone had told me to put a free opt-in in the upper right corner of OwningPink.com three years ago! After two years of great traffic, we had only 1,200 people on our newsletter list. (The sign-up was buried way down on the page and there was no free gift to entice people to fill it out.)

The minute someone told me to offer a free gift, we got 5,000 new sign-ups in a month! Free teleseminars and telesummits (I’m about to do my first) are another great way to grow your newsletter list quickly.”

Billy Coffey: Author of Snow Day, @billycoffey

“I would have definitely started building my platform earlier. My younger self was stubborn and ignorant. I was one of those people who thought I could buck the system. And yet everything I’ve been able to achieve to this point is the direct result of finally understanding the importance of platform.”

Amy Julia Becker: Author of A Good and Perfect Gift@amyjuliabecker

“My greatest success has been my blog. I’ve wasted time speaking without pay, especially when there is travel involved. I’ve also wasted time (and money) creating a website. Don’t get me wrong, I needed a website, but I should have been far more realistic about how much time it would take and what that time is worth.

In addition, I would have begun blogging and writing short essays from the start. Not only would I have gained readers (and perhaps a book contract) much earlier, but I also would have benefitted as a writer from blogging.

Blogging has improved the quality of my writing, and it also gives me a place to try out ideas. Most days, I write something, and two or three people comment on it and a few dozen share it through social media. But every so often, I write something and it provokes dozens of comments and hundreds of shares. I pay attention to that type of reaction because it means I should possibly write more about the same topic.”



10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When They Write a Book

Books can make, break or elevate a brand. For an entrepreneur, a book is the ultimate business card and a creative way to expand your voice. Most of all, publishing a book is a powerful way to share your story and expertise in a way that can change someone’s life. I can’t imagine my entrepreneurial journey without the writings of Zig Ziglar, Seth Godin and countless other wise voices.

As someone involved in the book industry for 20 years, I’ve seen plenty of successes and flops. And the ever-changing publishing landscape has created unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurs to stand out.

Since I already know you want to publish a book — every entrepreneur does — here are seven common mistakes and how to avoid them.


1. Do it for the money.

Yes, a successful book should be cash-flow positive. But there are other ways to measure ROI. Some clients measure their book’s effectivenessby the doors that open or the clients they land. It’s quite possible to sell 10 books, and earn $100k in new business as a result. Not a bad return, right?

Additionally, if money is the main motivation, the quality of the book will suffer. When writing your book, keep your reader in mind, and hold nothing back to help them.

2. Fall in love with the title.

No matter how much you love the working title of your book, if there are 12 other identical titles available on Amazon — or one by Malcolm Gladwell — it’s time for another brainstorming session.

Do the painful work of brainstorming a title and subtitle early in the process. This will help you center the writing around a theme or word-picture. That said, be open about changing the title and subtitle as the book evolves.

3. Design the cover.

Your book is a product, not just an art piece. Unless your business creates bestselling book covers, hire a professional, and utilize focus-group testing. Cover design is an art form unto itself, so don’t be a control freak.

If every focus group prefers a design that’s not your favorite, consider a new favorite, or keep trying. Bottom line — don’t settle until your cover is amazing.

4. Don’t plan the book like a business.

The most helpful books, in my opinion, are equal parts visceral expression and strategic planning. Purposely decide how you want the book to position you and build your brand.

I always begin a project by interviewing the author and drawing out what the marketing pitch will be for the book. People buy books to find answers and solve problems. What questions is your ideal reader asking? What problems do they face?

Before you write, plan the progression you want the reader to experience and how you will address their questions and struggles. Develop a clear value proposition for your book, and make sure each chapter delivers on that promise.

5. Don’t let your humanity show.

I have two goals for chapter one of any nonfiction book I help develop — the reader must like the author, and the reader must trust the author. The old adage applies here, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Since your primary motivation is to help the reader, make that clear in the first chapter.

In addition to showing glimpses of your accomplishments, to build credibility, you must not take yourself too seriously. Admit a huge blunder or a weakness the reader can relate to. In other words, be human.

6. Don’t get endorsements.

It’s so much easier than you think to connect with the influencers you admire and receive a valuable endorsement blurb for your book. For first-time authors, endorsements are key to building credibility. An endorsement is a win-win proposition if your book is solid. The endorsers get their name and credentials out to a new audience, and your brand is elevated in the process.

Think about it. When perusing a new book, don’t you look at the endorsements and foreword when making a buying decision? So why not have persuasive endorsements on your book? The most strategic endorsements are from either well-known authors or those with well-known brands in their title. For example, people might not know Jill-Bob Smith, but they will recognize the brand they represent.

7. Don’t test the content.

Book ideas are great fun. We carry them around inside us with a warm fuzzy feeling. We imagine strolling into the bank with enormous royalty checks. But it’s scary to test a book idea in a blog, social media post or shop an article to an industry publication. What if people hate your premise? Or worse — what if no one cares?

But this is where books go from good to great. Use feedback to thicken your writer-skin and deliver a better product. Use social media to test your insights and craft more memorable statements. As with the development of any product, build a prototype, test it and improve.

8. Don’t tell stories.

No matter how riveting your worldview and ideas are, stories are the life blood of a good book. Human beings are wired to perk up when hearing or reading a story. And, believe it or not, your readers want to hear your stories.

I recommend at least one story in every chapter. These can be from your life, business or stories from history. And remember, if stories involve colleagues, get written permission to use their names, and/or modify the details and names to protect the innocent.


9. Don’t get help.

If you’ve never published anything, you’d be amazed at the team effort required. Just read the acknowledgements in the back of any great book. Developing a remarkable book is a sizable endeavor. But the process can also be much easier than you’d think.

Many wise leaders and communicators don’t consider themselves good writers, and that might be true. But this is where editors and ghostwriters come in. In fact, many of the books you’ve enjoyed were crafted from transcripts of interviews and ghost-written or co-written. (My clients find this a painless way to produce a high-quality book, especially here in the Colorado mountains.)

10. Don’t start.

Your book might just launch your career to places you never imagined. But if you don’t start, you’ll never finish. And you’ll never know how many people your book could have helped.



James Patterson

James Brendan Patterson (born March 22, 1947) is an American author. He is largely known for his novels about fictional psychologist Alex Cross, the protagonist of the Alex Cross series. Patterson also wrote the Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, Daniel X, NYPD Red, and Witch and Wizard series, as well as many stand-alone thrillers, non-fiction and romance novels. His books have sold more than 300 million copies and he holds the Guinness World Record for being the first person to sell 1 million e-books. In 2016, Patterson topped Forbes‘s list of highest-paid authors for the third consecutive year, earning $95 million. His total earnings over a decade are estimated at approximately $700 million.

In November 2015, Patterson received the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation, which cited him as a “passionate campaigner to make books and reading a national priority. A generous supporter of universities, teachers colleges, independent bookstores, school libraries, and college students, Patterson has donated millions of dollars in grants and scholarships with the purpose of encouraging Americans of all ages to read more books.”

Patterson has been criticized for co-authoring many of his books, and for being more of a brand that focuses on making money than an artist who focuses on his craft.

In an interview for USA Weekend, Stephen King referred to Patterson as “a terrible writer but he’s very successful”. Patterson said of King in a Wall Street Journal interview, “He’s taken shots at me for years. It’s fine, but my approach is to do the opposite with him—to heap praise.” 

Legal thriller writer Lisa Scottoline said in a review of Patterson’s Kill Alex Cross, “They used to say that 50 million Elvis Presley fans couldn’t be wrong, and James Patterson makes 50 million fans look like a good start. He has sold more than 230 million books, and his fans aren’t wrong, either.”

In 2013 Patterson drew varied reactions when he took out ads titled “Who Will Save Our Books? Our Bookstores? Our Libraries?” in Publishers Weekly and The New York Times Book Review, which employed the text, “If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?”  Patterson called the ads an attempt to “stir the pot a little bit.”  Digital Book World called the ads, “refreshing, really. And brave.”  Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association, told the Tampa Bay Times she was in the process of writing James Patterson a thank-you letter.

In 2016, at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Patterson said, “Never become a writer, you’ll never make it.” Teachers at this school became extremely angry, as they were worried this would discourage students who were writing novels at the time.


“James Patterson Explains Why His Books Sell Like Crazy”. Wall Street Journal. March 30, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2013.

5 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Used Ghostwriters

It’s almost like learning the truth about Santa Claus: Once you know, it’s so obvious, but you’re still a little heartbroken when you discover that your favorite author didn’t really pen most of the work with his or her name on the cover. Take comfort, though, in the knowledge that many of those ghostwriters are talented enough to be successful under their own names. Here are a few of them.



If you know young adult novels, you probably know Mr. Lerangis. His 140 titles include books in The 39 Clues series, two series of his own (Watchers and Drama Club) and the critically acclaimed historical fiction Smiler’s Bones.

Millions of us of a certain age, however, are most familiar with Lerangis’ undercover work masquerading as a bunch of tweens from Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Lerangis wrote approximately 40 books in The Baby-Sitters Club series, including Mary Anne’s Makeover. He also did a little ghosting for the Sweet Valley books (Twins and High).



V.C. Andrews was just a few books into her empire when she passed away from breast cancer at the age of 63. The last book in the Dollanganger series that made her famous, Garden of Shadows, was started by Andrews but finished by Andrew Neiderman. With the blessing of her family, Neiderman took over in 1986 and is still writing under the V.C. Andrews name to this day.


Between his V.C. Andrews work and writing his own novels, Neiderman has had more than 100 books published. The most well-known is probably The Devil’s Advocate, a 1990 novel that was made into a film starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. Hallucinations, mental institutions, and insanity, all wrapped up with a Gothic bow … kind of makes sense that a V.C. Andrews-style author was involved in that story, don’t you think?



The father of Cthulhu and the Necronomicon dabbled in ghostwriting for none other than Harry Houdini. Lovecraft had long been a contributor to the pulp magazine Weird Tales when the founder, J.C. Henneberger, contacted him about ghostwriting for the famous escape artist. The magazine was in a little financial difficulty and Henneberger felt that “true” stories from Houdini would help sales. For $100, Lovecraft churned out “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs” in less than a week and earned himself a big fan in Mr. Houdini, who offered him more ghostwriting opportunities. The piece was later retitled “Under the Pyramids,” and Lovecraft was given a byline.



Raymond Benson is probably best known for his work with everyone’s favorite secret agent: He wrote 12 James Bond novels between 1997 and 2002, including the novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. It’s not surprising, then, that he’s also the man behind another spy-thriller franchise, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

Though a glance at the cover might lead you to believe that the novelization of the video game was written by Tom Clancy, a closer look will reveal that it was written by “David Michaels,” who doesn’t really exist. Benson used the Michaels pseudonym for the first and second book in the Splinter Cell series, and after that another author was hired to use the same moniker.

Benson has also written novelizations of the video game Metal Gear Solid, computer games based on Stephen King’s The Mist and Lynne Reid Banks’ The Indian in the Cupboard, and the 2011 thriller novel The Black Stiletto. He also wrote The Pocket Guide to Jethro Tull.



Like Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal didn’t have much to do with the huge hit series bearing her name. The final Sweet Valley books were penned by a gaggle of ghostwriters, including Daniel Ehrenhaft and Ryan Nerz.

So how did a couple of dudes in their 20s get into the minds of a bunch of teen girls clamoring to hear Elizabeth and Jessica’s latest exploits? “I had to smoke a lot of weed. I’m kind of kidding, kind of not,” Nerz told The Hairpin in August. He also admits to consulting his sister when he needed detail for scenes that included, say, makeup application.

Interestingly, Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) was Nerz’ editor; Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) was an editor during the same time period.

Nerz now writes books that are decidedly adult, including Eat This Book (a first-hand account of the competitive eating circuit) and MARIJUANAMERICA (perhaps the reason he decided to investigate the competitive eating circuit).

Ehrenhaft has stayed in the YA genre and has quite a few titles under his belt, including the recently released Americapedia. He’s also a member of Tiger Beat, a band made entirely of Young Adult authors.



Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events gets right what the movie got wrong

The moment you start watching Netflix’s new show A Series of Unfortunate Events, Neil Patrick Harris implores you to stop. “Look away, look away,” he croons in the opening theme, “This show will wreck your evening, your whole life, and your day.” It’s the same approach the Series of Unfortunate Events books have always taken, both in their text and in their marketing: drawing fans in by telling them their lives would be much more enjoyable if they looked for almost any other story instead. The gimmick works — the fastest way to get kids to read something is to tell them they shouldn’t. Fortunately for Netflix, the television adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events isn’t nearly as terrible as the the marketing, theme song, and narration all claim.

Author Daniel Handler first launched the Series of Unfortunate Events novels in 1999, writing under the pseudonym “Lemony Snicket,” who narrates in both his series and Netflix’s show. In 2004, Nickelodeon adapted the first few Snicket books into a theatrical movie, starring Jim Carrey, that was intended to launch a film franchise. But the film failed to take off at the box office, and the planned sequels were canceled. Now the books are getting the Hollywood reboot on Netflix, with an initial season that fittingly releases on Friday, January 13th.

The show’s plot closely follows the books. (For fans, the eight-episode season covers the events of the first four novels in the 13-book series: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill.) Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are orphans whose parents die in a mysterious fire. The show documents the (unfortunate) events of their lives as they’re passed around from guardian to guardian. Snicket tells the story of the villainous Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), who pursues the children, trying to seize their inherited fortune. Along the way, a more substantial conspiracy involving the enigmatic VFD organization emerges as a major factor in the Baudelaires’ lives.

But the show doesn’t just follow the books’ story beats; it nails down the tone that made the stories so special. Most children’s books tend to treat children like children, but A Series of Unfortunate Events took its audience seriously, refusing to dumb down its content.


Individual novels rarely end on upbeat notes, and Snicket’s narration is quick to remind readers that the Baudelaires’ story isn’t a happy one. Characters are complex and morally gray, and as the series progresses, both the heroes and villains are forced to make choices that blur the lines between them. The world-building is rich with mysterious groups lurking in the background, and a deep interconnected backstory spanning the entire series for attentive readers to uncover alongside the Baudelaire orphans. While the current Netflix episodes only cover a comparatively short chunk of the overall series, it’s clear that they were produced with a great deal of care to ensure the feel of the books made the jump to the screen.



29 books to read before they become movies in 2017

Just note that new movie release dates tend to be added or shuffled around throughout the year, so some of the dates here might change.

Keep reading to see the book-to-movie adaptations coming out this year.

Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey try to have a “normal” relationship in “Fifty Shades Darker,” based on the novel by E.L. James. We’ll see how that works out.

Release date: February 10


The Wolverine solo movie “Logan” is inspired by the “Old Man Logan” X-Men comic series, with the superhero in a postapocalyptic future.

Release date: March 3The YA novel “

Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver is about a teenager who relives the day of her death seven times while she tries to discover the mystery of her death. Zoey Deutch stars in the movie adaptation.

Release date: March 3

“The Shack” was self-published back in 2007, but it became a huge hit. It’s about a man who loses his daughter on a camping trip, and then returns to the site a few years later where he finds her with physical manifestations of Jesus, God the Father, and The Holy Spirit.

Release date: March 3

Julian Barnes’s award-winning novel “The Sense of an Ending,” about a man dealing with secrets from his past, is getting a weighty movie adaptation starring Jim Broadbent.

Release date: March 10

Disney’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” — this one starring Emma Watson as Belle — is far from faithful from the original French fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

Release date: March 17

Scarlett Johansson stars as a version of Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyberterrorist hunter in a futuristic Japan, in “Ghost in the Shell.” It’s based on a popular manga series which later become an anime television series and film.

Release date: March 31

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is the true story about how the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in empty animal cages after the zoo was bombed. The movie adaptation stars Jessica Chastain and Daniel Brühl.

Release date: March 31

Stephen Chbosky — himself the author of YA hit “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — is adapting fellow YA author Raquel Jaramillo’s novel “Wonder” into a movie. It’s about a boy with a facial deformity trying to fit into school.

Release date: April 7

“The Lost City of Z” promises to be a swashbuckling adventure about explorers who search for a lost Mayan city. It’s based on the true story of Percy Fawcett, as chronicled by New Yorker writer David Grann in his book of the same name.


Release date: April 21Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John

Boyega star in “The Circle,” an adaptation of the Dave Eggers novel about an employee who works at a massive tech company at the center of a surveillance society.

Release date: April 28

Based on Herman Koch’s bestselling novel, “The Dinner” is a thriller about two parents who have dinner with Dutch politicians who suspect their children of terrorism.

Release date: May 5

Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword” movie looks like it’ll be a loose and fun adaptation of the classic Arthurian legend.

Release date: May 12

The adaptations of Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books continue with “Long Haul.”

Release date: May 19

“Everything, Everything” is based on a novel by Nicola Yoon, about a young woman who has a disease that doesn’t let her leave the house, but she falls in love with a boy who moves in next door.

Release date: May 19

Dav Pilkey’s beloved book series about two kids who hypnotise their school principal into thinking he’s an underwear-slinging superhero finally gets its movie due with “Captain Underpants.”

Release date: June 2

The “Wonder Woman” movie is following DC Comics’s “The New 52” reboot, where Diana is the daughter of Zeus.


Release date: June 2

The stark Victorian drama “Lady Macbeth” isn’t directly based on Shakespeare — it’s based on the 1865 novella “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk” by Nikolai Leskov.

Release date: June 2

The 1951 Daphne du Maurier novel “My Cousin Rachel” was already adapted once in a movie starring Richard Burton, and it’s getting another big-screen adaptation, this time focused around Rachel Weisz.

Release date: July 14

Luc Besson’s films are always interesting, and his upcoming sci-fi opus “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” based on the French comics series, looks like his most ambitious effort yet.

Release date: July 21Graphic novel “

The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston is a double-agent spy thriller that takes place on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The movie adaptation will star Charlize Theron and James McAvoy.

Release date: July 28

It’s been a long journey to the screen for Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” epic, and it’s finally almost here. The adaptation will star Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.


Release date: July 28

Stephen King’s other high-profile adaptation this year is “It,” starring Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise The Dancing Clown.

Release date: September 8

The book “Victoria and Abdul” told the surprising story of Abdul Karim, who became a clerk for Queen Victoria at the age of 24. Stephen Frears, who directed “The Queen” and “Florence Foster Jenkins” is directing a movie adaptation starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.

Release date: September 22

Tomas Alfredson is adapting “The Snowman,” a detective thriller based on the bestseller by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø.

Release date: October 13

Charles Martin’s romance-thriller “The Mountain Between Us” is about a surgeon and writer who survive a plane crash and get stranded in the mountains. The movie will have a rock-solid cast, with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.

Release date: October 20

The book “Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together” is about — well, the subtitle is long enough to explain it.

Release date: October 20

John Green is a YA star with novels like “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” His short story collection “Let it Snow” is getting adapted into a film about interweaving romances that come together on Christmas eve.

Release date: November 22

Kenneth Branagh takes on Agatha Christie’s classic novel “Murder on the Orient Express,” which has been adapted once before into a 1974 film.




Vietnam veteran encourages all storytellers to publish

Harvey Baker has published four novels, but prior to the era of self-publishing, he had given up on his aspirations of becoming a novelist despite years of creative writing classes. “When I wrote novels about Vietnam and tried to get them published back in the 70s, I was told numerous times that Americans didn’t want to read stories about Vietnam…I also wrote several police novels, but publishers wouldn’t get back to you…or they would say you need to have an agent. Then an agent would say you need to be published etc., etc. So I gave up on writing novels.”

As retirement coincided with the rise of Amazon self-publishing, Baker found that it was time to dust off his first book and give it a second try.

After graduating from Lansing High School in 1965, Baker joined the Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam in 1966 as a Marine Scout Dog Handler.

“A scout dog handler walks point; the first man in the patrol, everyone else is in back of them. I served two tours in Vietnam with my dog Rommel, and that is where I draw my story lines from,” Baker says of his fictional series about a Blackfeet Indian, Two Feathers and his dog who shares the same name as Baker’s scout dog. The “Spirit Warrior” books are popular with historians and veterans across the globe, but it’s Baker’s experience with kindle self-publishing that he has found so rewarding that he encourages other writers to try this path.

Baker has outlined the following tips for authors who would like to publish through Amazon:

  • Have your own book cover: Amazon will provide a generic one, but you should anticipate working with someone to design a more appropriate cover.
  • Do a title search: The original title of Baker’s first book was already the title of several books on the site, make sure that your title is unique enough to not get lost in the pool of books.


  • Be fair about the pricing of your book: It costs the author nothing to publish an ebook, but Amazon will keep a percentage of each book sale. Set prices that are reasonable for readers to pay in conjunction with the percentage you will receive. Baker suggests looking at the prices for other books being sold in the same genre, and by other authors who don’t have “household name” status.


  • Be prepared to wait: Amazon cuts the first royalty check after 100 books have been sold. Amazon does provide sales insights that allow you as the author to track daily, weekly, monthly sales data.


Baker encourages those who have a story to tell to make sure that the content gets out there, saying, “Self publishing in print is costly, and trying to get a publisher to publish your book is very frustrating, so Amazon is an alternative way of telling your story. If your story is good, people will find it.”

Baker is currently working on his fifth book, all of Baker’s previously published books are available on Amazon.




How to Self-Publish Your Book

Here’s the “too long, didn’t read” version if you’re looking for my service recommendations. I will edit this list immediately if and when my recommendations change.

  • CreateSpace: for print distribution to Amazon (zero upfront cost)
  • IngramSpark: for print distribution to non-Amazon universe ($49)
  • Amazon KDP: for ebook distribution to Amazon (zero upfront cost)
  • Draft2Digital: for ebook distribution to everyone else (zero upfront cost)

These services provide little or no assistance. That means you have to do all the work of preparing and uploading your files for publishing and distribution. If you’re looking for a fair service provider (or a one-stop shop) to help with print and ebook formatting, design, and distribution, try BookBaby.

First, A Little History

For most of publishing’s history, if an author wanted to self-publish, they had to invest thousands of dollars with a so-called “vanity” press (or otherwise study up on how to be an independent publishing entrepreneur, a la Dan Poynter or Marilyn Ross).

That all changed in the late 1990s, with the advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology, which allows books to be printed one at a time. As a result, many POD publishing services arose that focused on providing low-cost self-publishing packages. They could be low cost because—without print runs, inventory, and warehousing—the only expense left was in creating the product itself: the book. Outfits like iUniverse, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse (which have merged and been consolidated under AuthorSolutions) offered a range of packages to help authors get their books in print, though most books never sat on a bookstore shelf and sold a few dozen copies at best.

What’s Changed Since 2007

Just as traditional publishing has transformed due to the rise of e-books, today’s self-publishing market has transformed as well. E-books comprise 30-35% of all US book sales. Furthermore, 60% or more of all US book sales (both print and digital) happen through an online retailer, primarily Amazon. You can make your book available for sale in the most important markets yourself, without a third party helping you.

That means the full-service POD publishers that used to make a killing are now largely irrelevant to most self-publishing success, and make little or no sense if you’re focused on publishing and marketing your e-book. However, because of self-publishing’s history, you may still think they offer something you need. For most authors, they do not.

Today, you can get access to the same level of online retail distribution as a traditional publisher, through services such as Amazon KDP, PronounDraft2Digital, CreateSpace, and IngramSpark. One could say that distribution through these channels is free. You don’t “pay” until your books start to sell. Every time a copy of your book is sold, the retailer takes a cut, and if you use a distributor, they’ll take a cut, too.

First, I’ll address how the e-book side of self-publishing works. Then we’ll return to the question of print.

Before You Digitally Publish

Even though e-books are skyrocketing in adoption, ask these questions before you begin:

  • Do your readers prefer print or digital?
  • If you don’t know what your readers prefer, is it common for authors in your genre to release e-books only? If digital-only publishers exist in your genre, that’s a good sign.
  • Is your book highly illustrated? Does it require color? If so, you may find there are significant challenges to creating and distributing your e-book across multiple platforms.
  • Do you know how to reach your readers online? People who buy e-books will probably find out about your work online.

An author who is primed to succeed at self-publishing has an entrepreneurial spirit and is comfortable being online. Ideally, you should already have an online presence and an established website. You also need to be in it for the long haul; sales snowball over time, rather than occurring within the first months of release.

How E-Publishing Services Work

The first and most important thing to understand about e-publishing retailers and distributors is that they are not publishers. That means they take no responsibility for the quality of your work, but neither do they take any rights to your work. Here are the characteristics of major services:

  • Free to play. You rarely pay an upfront fee. When you do pay upfront, usually in the case of a distributor (such as BookBaby), you earn 100% net. If you don’t pay an upfront fee, then expect a percentage of your sales to be kept. However, there is even one ebook distributor that charges nothing upfront and still pays 100% net: Pronoun.
  • At-will and nonexclusive. With all e-book retailers, you can upload your work at any time and make it available for sale; you can also take it down at any time. You can upload new versions; change the price, cover and description; and you can sell your work through multiple services or through your own site.
  • Little technical expertise required. Major services offer automated tools for converting your files, uploading files, and listing your work for sale, as well as free guides and tutorials to help ensure your files are formatted appropriately.

Again, it’s important to emphasize: By using these services, you do not forfeit any of your rights to the work. If a traditional publisher or agent were to approach you after your e-book has gone on sale, you are free to sell rights without any obligation to the services you’ve used.

I should also acknowledge here that some of these retailers/distributors may have services they try to sell you—for editing, design, and marketing. When possible, I recommend authors retain their own freelancers rather than hiring through a middleman. You want to know exactly who’s doing work on your book and have them be accountable to you, not the middleman service.

Two Key Categories of E-Publishing Services

Most e-publishing services fall into one of these two categories:

  • Single-channel distribution. These services—which are retailers—distribute and sell your work through only one channel or device. Examples: Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press. Single-channel distributors do not offer any assistance in preparing your e-book files, although they may accept a wide range of file types for upload.
  • Multiple-channel distribution. These services primarily act as middlemen and push your work out to multiple retailers and distributors. This helps reduce the amount of work an author must do; instead of dealing with many different single channel services, you deal with only one service. The most well-known distributors are Draft2Digital, Pronoun, BookBaby and Smashwords.

Multiple-channel options are multiplying, and each works on a slightly different model. Some act as full-service publishing operations, requiring no effort from you, the author. However, in exchange for the services of a multi-channel distributor, you typically have to pay an upfront fee and/or give up a percentage of your sales.

One popular approach for independent authors is to start by distributing through Amazon KDP, and to then add multi-channel distributor Smashwords, which has no upfront fee and distributes to all major devices and retailers except Amazon.

A note about ISBNs: While an ISBN is not required for basic e-book distribution through most retailers, some distributors and services require one. Therefore, to maximize distribution, you’ll need an ISBN for your e-book. Some self-publishing services will provide you with an ISBN as part of the fee for their services, or you can obtain your own ISBN. (If you’re US-based, you can buy through MyIdentifiers.com. Unfortunately, US authors pay a lot more than authors in other countries for their ISBNs.)

Converting and Formatting Your Work

Nearly every service asks you to upload a completed book file that is appropriately formatted. Services vary widely in the types of files they accept. Because standards are still developing in the e-book world, you may find yourself converting and formatting your book multiple times to satisfy the requirements of different services.

Here are the most commonly used formats for e-books:

  • EPUB. This is considered a global standard format for e-books and works seamlessly on most devices. While you cannot directly create an EPUB file from a Word document, you can save your Word document as a text (.txt) file, then convert and format it using special software.
  • MOBI. This is the format that’s ideal for Amazon Kindle, although you can also upload an EPUB file.
  • PDF. PDFs can be difficult to convert to standard e-book formats, and do not display well on grayscale reading devices.

Many e-publishing services accept a Word document and automatically convert it to the appropriate format, but you still must go through an “unformatting” process for best results. All major services offer step-by-step guidelines for formatting your Word documents before you upload them for conversion.

Important to note: There is a difference between formatting and converting your book files. Conversion refers to an automated process of converting files from one format into another, without editing or styling. It’s often easy to convert files, but the resulting file may look unprofessional—or even appear unreadable—if not formatted appropriately.

Useful tools for formatting and converting e-books include:

  • Calibre: Free software that converts and helps you format e-book files from more than a dozen different file types.
  • Sigil: Free WYSIWYG editing and formatting software for e-books in the EPUB format; you can start with plain text files saved from Word.
  • I’ve listed more tools here.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of converting and formatting your own e-book files, then you may want to use a distributor or service that’s customer-service oriented in this regard, such as Draft2Digital or BookBaby. If your ebook has special layout requirements, heavy illustration, or multimedia components, you should probably hire an independent company to help you (eBookPartnership is one option).

But if your book is mostly straight text—such as novels and narrative works—then you might be able to handle the conversion and formatting process without much difficulty if you’re starting with a Word document or text file.

Designing an E-Book Cover

There are a number of special considerations for e-book covers, not least of which is how little control you have over how the cover displays. People may see your cover in black and white, grayscale, color, high-resolution, low-resolution, thumbnail size, or full size. It needs to be readable at all sizes and look good on low-quality or mobile devices. For these reasons (and many more), it’s best to hire a professional to create an e-book cover for you. One designer I frequently recommend is Damon Za.

Maximizing Your Sales

With print books, your success is typically driven by the quality of your book, your visibility or reach to your readership, and your cover. With digital books, the same factors are in play, plus the following:

  • If you check the e-book bestseller lists, you’ll see that independent novelists charge very little for their work, usually between 99 cents and $2.99. Some argue this devalues the work, while others say that it’s appropriate for an e-book from an unknown author. Whatever your perspective, just understand that, if you’re an unknown author, your competition will probably be priced at $2.99 or less to encourage readers to take a chance. Typically, the more well known or trusted you are, the more you can charge. Note: Nonfiction authors should price according to the competition and what the market can bear. Sometimes prices are just as high for digital editions as print editions in nonfiction categories.
  • As of this writing, Amazon Kindle accounted for at least 60–70% of e-book sales in the United States. Your Amazon page (especially as displayed on a Kindle) may be the first and only page a reader looks at when deciding whether to purchase your book. Reviews become critical in assuring readers of quality, plus the Kindle bestseller list is watched closely by just about everyone in the business and can be a key driver of visibility and sales.
  • Price + Amazon. Amazon is well known for paying 70% of list to authors who price their e-books between $2.99 and $9.99. The percentage plummets to 35% for any price outside this range, which is why you find authors periodically switching their price between 99 cents and $2.99. They maximize volume and visibility at the low-price point (and attempt to get on bestseller lists), then switch to $2.99 to maximize profits.

This is but a scratch on the surface of the many strategies and tactics used to sell and market self-published work. Read these guides for in-depth coverage.

Should I Set Up a Formal Imprint or Publishing Company?

Much depends on your long-term plans or goals. You don’t have to set up a formal business (e.g., in the United States, you can use your Social Security number for tax purposes), but serious self-publishers will typically set up an LLC at minimum.

For the basic information on how to establish your own imprint or publishing company, read Joel Friedlander’s post, How to Create, Register, and List Your New Publishing Company. It also discusses the ISBN issue.

What About Agents Who Offer E-Publishing Services?

Increasingly, agents are starting to help existing clients as well as new ones digitally publish their work. Help might consist of fee-based services, royalty-based services, and hybrid models.

Such practices are controversial because agents’ traditional role is to serve as an advocate for their clients’ interests and negotiate the best possible deals. When agents start publishing their clients’ work and taking their 15% cut of sales, a conflict of interest develops.

In their defense, agents are changing their roles in response to industry change, as well as client demand. Regardless of how you proceed, look for flexibility in any agreements you sign. Given the pace of change in the market, it’s not a good idea to enter into an exclusive, long-term contract that locks you into a low royalty rate or into a distribution deal that may fall behind in best practices.

How to Produce a Print Edition

There are two primary ways to make print editions available for sale:

  • Print on demand (POD)
  • Traditional offset printing 

As described earlier, print-on-demand technology allows for books to be printed one at a time. This is by far the most popular way to produce print copies of your book. If you’ve investigated services like AuthorHouse, iUniverse, or any of the many subsidiaries of Author Solutions, then you were looking at services that primarily offer POD publishing packages. Traditional publishers also use POD to keep older titles in stock without committing to warehousing and inventory costs.

Pros of print-on-demand

  • Little or no upfront costs (if you avoid full-service packages)
  • Your book can be available for sale as a print edition in all the usual online retail outlets (Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, etc), as well as distributed through Ingram, the largest U.S. book wholesaler.
  • Most readers cannot tell the difference between a POD book and an offset printed book.

Cons of print-on-demand

  • The unit cost is much higher, which may lead to a higher retail price.
  • You may have very few print copies on hand—or it will be expensive to keep ordering print copies to have around!

Most books printed by U.S. traditional publishers are produced through offset printing. To use a traditional printer, you usually need to commit to 1,000 copies minimum.

Pros of offset printing

  • Lower unit cost
  • Higher quality production values, especially for full-color books
  • You’ll have plenty of print copies around.

Cons of offset printing

  • Considerable upfront investment; $2,000 is the likely minimum, which includes the printing and shipping costs.
  • Increased risk—what if the books don’t sell or you want to put out a new edition before the old one is sold out?
  • You’ll have plenty of print copies around—which means you have books to warehouse and fulfill unless you hire a third party to handle it for you, which then incurs additional costs. 

Important: While it can be fairly straightforward and inexpensive to get a print book in your hands via print-on-demand services, virtually no one can get your book physically ordered or stocked in bookstores. Services may claim to distribute your book to stores or make your book available to stores. But this is very different from actually selling your book into bookstores. Bookstores almost never accept or stock titles from any self-publishing service or POD company, although they can special order for customers when asked, assuming the book appears in their system.

Also, think through the paradox: Print-on-demand services or technology should be used for books that are printed only when there’s demand. Your book is not going to be nationally distributed and sitting on store shelves unless or until a real order is placed.

Should I Invest in a Print Run?

The 3 key factors are:

  1. How and where you plan to sell the book. If you frequently speak and have opportunities to sell your books at events, then it makes sense to invest in a print run. Also consider if you’ll want significant quantities to distribute or sell to business partners or organizations, stock in local/regional retail outlets or businesses, give to clients, etc. I do not recommend investing in a print run because you think bookstores or retail outlets will stock your book. If such an opportunity should arise, then you can always invest in a print run after you have a sales order or firm commitment.
  2. Where you’re driving sales. If you’re driving your customers/readers primarily to online retailers, you can fulfill print orders with less hassle and investment by using POD. Ultimately, you do have to use POD regardless if you want to be distributed by the largest U.S. wholesaler, Ingram. (More info below.)
  3. What your budget is like. Not everyone is comfortable investing in a print run.

You also need to anticipate your appetite for handling the warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping of 1,000+ books, unless a third party is handling it for you, which will reduce your profit. When the truck pulls up to your house with several pallets piled high with 30-pound boxes, it will be a significant reality check if you haven’t thought through your decision.

The majority of independent authors report selling about 100 e-books for every print book. Much depends on the genre, but in the U.S. e-books represent 30-35% of all books sold. So also keep this in mind as you decide how many print copies you need.

Print-on-Demand Recommendations

If you choose print-on-demand, then I recommend the following:

  • Use Ingram Spark to produce a POD edition for all markets except Amazon. By doing so, your book will be listed and available for order through the largest and most preferred U.S. wholesaler, Ingram.
  • Using CreateSpace (a division of Amazon) to produce a POD edition for Amazon sales. For many authors, the majority of sales will be through Amazon.

I recommend using both Ingram Spark and CreateSpace to maximize your profits and ensure that no one is discouraged from ordering or stocking the print edition of your book. As you might imagine, independent bookstores aren’t crazy about ordering books provided by CreateSpace/Amazon, their key competitor. However, if you use Ingram Spark to fulfill orders through Amazon, you will reduce your profits because Amazon offers more favorable terms when selling books generated through CreateSpace. So it’s much more advantageous financially to use CreateSpace—but limit the scope of that agreement to just Amazon orders.

As soon as your printer-ready files are uploaded, POD books are generally available for order at Amazon within 48 hours. With Ingram Spark, it generally takes 2 weeks for the book to be available through all their channels.

Wait, How Do I Get Printer-Ready Files?

As with e-book retailers/distributors, Ingram Spark and CreateSpace may offer you fee-based services related to editing, design, and marketing. These package services may work OK for your needs, but try to hire your own freelancers if you need someone to produce printer-ready files.

Alternatively, you can take a look at Joel Friedlander’s book template system, which offers a way for total beginners to prepare a printer-ready PDF file. There’s also PressBooks.



Author Who Turns Classics Into Children’s Books Is Sued

Fredrik Colting, a Swedish author who was sued by J. D. Salinger’s estate several years ago for publishing an unauthorized sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye,” has once again been sued for repurposing an iconic work by a dead writer.

This time, he is facing a legal complaint from four literary estates, representing a pantheon of influential 20th-century novelists.

The estates of Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway, with the publishing houses Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, have filed a copyright lawsuit against Mr. Colting and his partner, Melissa Medina, for releasing illustrated children’s books based on those authors’ works.

The complaint, which was filed Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claims that KinderGuides, which are based on classic novels such as Kerouac’s “On the Road,” Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” are nothing more than “unauthorized derivative” works that lift the plot, characters and settings from copyrighted books. “Colting once again proceeds to brazenly infringe the rights of different authors, and the authors’ heirs and publishers, in complete disregard of copyright law,” the complaint says. “If defendants truly wish to introduce young children to the classics, there are literally thousands of public-domain works from which they could choose.”

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, two of the country’s biggest publishers, joined the suit “to stand with the authors and their heirs to protect the authors’ reputations and the spirit and integrity of their novels,” the complaint said.

The lawsuit was reported earlier by The Hollywood Reporter.

Mr. Colting and Ms. Medina began publishing KinderGuides last year, through their company Moppet Books. The books are highly condensed and sanitized versions of classic novels, with colorful illustrations, that are aimed at children ages 6 to 12. They are also working on versions of Paulo Coelho’s best-selling novel “The Alchemist,” Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

In an interview with The New York Times last year, Mr. Colting and Ms. Medina said that their aim was to make classic adult novels accessible to children.


Why I’m Writing And Publishing 9 New Books This Year

When you first read that headline, you probably thought I was going to say I’m doing it because I’m dying and want to rush and get my books out there before I kick the bucket. And well, you wouldn’t be totally wrong.

I am dying. 


But so are you.


And that’s what I realized a few months ago. I was sitting around, dreaming about the success I want to achieve as a self-published author. 

Dreaming, not doing.


That’s not to say I’m not an action-taker. I am. Always have been. I’m one of those high achievers who thrives having way too much on my plate. Most people would never be able to handle the volume at which I write and create.

But I wasn’t seeing the success I dreamed of. 


Sure, I had five books published (4 eBooks and 1 novel). My books were selling OK. I was making like $30-40 a month on Amazon.


Except that wasn’t enough for me. Not even close.


‘Cause I want the big time. I want a huge catalog of self-published books, nonfiction and novels. I want a massive, raving fanbase full of ideal readers who buy all my books. I want a traditional publisher to come to me with a million-dollar book deal. I want Hollywood knocking down my door for the movie rights. 


So I had to take a hard look at where I was at and where I wanted to be. When I did that, I realized I didn’t have the success I wanted, because I wasn’t aligned with it. 

I was playing small. Publishing maybe one book a year, if I got around to it. Acting like I have a million more years to live my life as me. Except I don’t. And neither do you.

Which is why I decided to totally overhaul my writing life  —  including my habits and my mindset  —  so that I could finally align with the success I wanted to create. And in doing that, an idea hit me…


Write and publish MORE books. All of the ones that have been dancing in my head and my heart for months and YEARS of my life. 


I could write and publish them. All of them. Right now, this year. 

What the hell was I waiting for? 


So in April, I made a decision and then I publicly announced it: I’m going to write and publish one book a month for the rest of the year


And since making that decision, everything changed, and lightning fast. 


I’ve already written and published two new books. The third comes out tomorrow and I’m already working on the fouth. 


You’d think that would be enough. To just write and publish and get my damn books out there finally. But the crazy part is, by getting aligned with the success I wanted to create, incredible magic has happened.


In May, my eBook, Align Your Writing Habits to Success, hit number one in multiple categories on Amazon over multiple days. (And it’s still hanging out in the top five of its category.) I became an Amazon Best-Selling author. In June, I sold 1,007 books. In a 30-day period. 


And it’s not because I’m doing anything different than I was before, other than writing and publishing more books. 


I created this kind of success because I decided to. Plain and simple. 


Anything you want to create for your writing life is totally possible. But you have to decide that it’s a done deal. That it’s non-negotiable and you’re not willing to accept anything else.


I’ve now skyrocketed up the ladder of successful self-published authors. I’ve smashed the limits of what most people say is the potential a self-published author has (which, in the opinion of most, is not much). I’m making a big splash. 

And people are taking notice. 


Since I’ve stepped up, my entire writing community has stepped up. I’ve seen writers who’ve been asleep for years finally wake up to the fact that they have what it takes and they want to make it happen.


I’ve watched on-the-fence writers finally go all-in and self-publish and launch their books. Success. Happiness. Fulfilment. It’s happening all around me now.

All because I was willing to get out of my own way, step outside my comfort zone and take control of my writing destiny. Which then inspired others to do the same.

And you can too. 


I’m no different than you. I’ve just given up my bullshit excuses and stopped sabotaging myself with bad writing habits. 


It was a choice I made, to follow my dreams and not let the limiting beliefs of the outside world (or in my head) get in my way anymore.


That choice is available to all of us. But you’ve gotta choose it. 


What can you do, right now, TODAY to step up and fully go after the writing life you dream of?


Which 5 Book Genres Make The Most Money?

The struggling, famished writer is a bit of a hackneyed stereotype but research shows it’s a truism, nonetheless. British newspaper The Guardian recently released a rather daunting article stating that most full-time professional writers make a  paltry £600 a month – that’s under $1000 U.S. dollars. But of course, the authors we know about – those who come to the public attention – have already become celebrities, selling millions of books and making millions in the process. From the talented aspiring writer struggling to make the distant ends meet, to the world-renowned author winning international awards and making serious bank: What differentiates the two? Is it even possible to pin down the seemingly intangible nature of what makes one wordsmith successful over another? In an attempt to answer this question, perhaps we ought to look at certain celebrated writers – J.K. Rowling, E.L. James, and John Grisham, for example – and query what they have in common?

The answer is not immediately obvious. They all come from widely varying backgrounds, their novels are incomparable, and their styles disparate. However, each of these writers have one area of common ground; their successful novels are specifically ‘genre’ works. These authors are know, respectively, for fantasy, romance and mystery – and if the statistics show us anything it’s that genre books sell better than your average literary piece, short story collection or poetry. Literary novels, those which can ill be pinned into one genre, tend to attract a niche audience, the sort of people who label themselves ‘readers’, perhaps frequenting vintage bookstores and grand libraries in their spare time. Genre readers, however, might be more likely to browse through their Kindle and purchase the latest novelty at the click of a button. This is, of course, a generalisation and not true of all genre or literary readers; but the fact is, genre readers have a voracious appetite and it’s genre novels which are driving the publishing industry today.

The question of whether writers should limit themselves to a genre if they want to make a living depends, of course, on passion and investment. A writer, involved in the work for love over money, will write about what interests them. Sometimes, this will fit neatly into a popular genre. Genre writing, though, is notorious for having a rather formulaic checklist of things that need to be incorporated into the novels. Fantasy, for example, will need some form of magic, good and evil at war, and usually a hero or heroine. If you’re a budding writer or a curious reader, and you’re considering delving into the world of genre literature, you may well want to know which genres are the most popular – and which make the most money? With the increase in popularity of e-books, self-published authors now account for 20% of sales in the genre market – so this question isn’t just one for the industry people. Now, it’s relevant for any budding author with an internet connection! So, we’ve collated information on leading authors’ earnings and reports of industry trends to bring you this list of the 5 most valuable, highest-earning genres in the book business – according to the Romance Writer’s of America Association’s reported figures of Simba Information Estimates.

With genre leader Stephen King said to have a net profit of $400 million and Dean Koontz with $125 million, horror’s clearly a popular genre – but it’s undeniably a smaller niche than some of the popular genres, valued at under $80 million. Readers enjoy being scared and they’re loyal to their favourites, which is perhaps why King and Koontz – although having both written out of the genre – have been particularly prolific writers, each releasing fifty plus novels throughout the course of their career.

King generally publishes at least one book every year, including genre classics like ‘The Shining’, ‘Salem’s Lot’, and ‘It’. Horror can explore shocking subjects, often incorporating romance, fantasy and action along the way – but many people simply don’t have the stomach for it, making this one of the less popular genres.

With fantasy books such as ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ being turned into blockbusters, it stands to reason that this genre would be a money spinner. With an estimated $590.2 million, the fantasy genre owns huge names. Writers like Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling are topping rich lists, and these writers target a fanatical audience, often falling under the now hugely popular ‘Young Adult’ fiction umbrella. Fan sites and forums are rife with discussion on J.K. Rowling’s books and the hunger for information is just as incessant among Hunger Games fans. And for the more mature male and female audience, there’s the A Game of Thrones series byGeorge R.R. Martin which also falls under this category and has an enormously popular television show serving to promote it.

The fact that fantasies are commonly written in sagas may have much to do with this genre’s popularity. Fans of the fantasy world seem to enjoy staying with the characters for as long as possible, being left with cliffhangers. As long as there are more books, more movies and more fantastical worlds to be discovered this genre is likely to maintain its popularity.

It’s common knowledge that the bible is the ultimate bestseller, topping record lists across the globe as the longest-standing, most-translated and widest-distributed book in the world. So, doubtless, that little number does a lot to boost the religious and inspirational genre. However, inspirational writers like Paulo Coelho – whose international bestsellers like The Alchemist have been hailed as transformative to the religious and inspirational genre – and Deepak Chopra, have kept the genre relevant in the 21st century. While many malign the ‘self-help’ section of their local bookstore, it’s a booming industry and one that helps keeps the world of publishing afloat; to the tune of an estimated $720 million in revenue in 2012!

Similar to fantasy, the crime and mystery genre is often built on sagas. Although the same set of characters might not be present in every part of a writer’s series, there’s usually a protagonist that the readers connect with and travel alongside. Readers become the Watson, working alongside Sherlock, dissecting every clue and racing to the end before moving onto the next case. Crime is a way into the minds of murderers, something forbidden but intriguing; and often, the ‘true crime’ stories are the most popular.

Some of this industry’s big names include John Grisham with a staggering net worth of an estimate $200 million, and the deceased Stieg Larsson who gained $50 million with his ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ series. In fact, the publishers of Larsson’s books have hired a ghostwriter to continue the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ series, extending it to entertain readers and create more money.

Industry analyst the Bookseller has been reported as expounding, in their 2012 report, that erotica was ‘cannibalising’ the genre industry – at least in the United Kingdom. And what better example of this than the enormously popular ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, which boomed its way into the publishing world and made E.L. James a star. To date, she’s worth $60 million – having only written a trilogy, but with a lucrative film deal in the works. The trilogy, initially self-published by James online as Twilight fan fiction before it was picked up by a publisher, became known as “mom porn”: It explored S&M through characters that women read and related to. The books seemed to epitomise escapism, and perhaps for this reason they became a phenomenon. The genre was ripe to be explored, and erotica showed a huge increase in Kindle purchases as people were too shy and embarrassed to buy the books in stores.

For similar reasons, romance novels contribute to the money-making power of the romantic / erotic genre. With the biggest name in the genre being Danielle Steel – with $610 million to her name – the genre is undeniably popular. Steel, herself, is known for publishing a number of books a year, sometimes working on five projects at a time. The writing of romance books is almost a science – certain story-lines need to be featured, the same kinds of endings and so on. Steel’s books have been noted to have a format to them which readers enjoy. Readers of the romantic genre are similar to the erotic, in the sense that they want to stick to what they know but the romantic genre reader is less willing to move onto a different author, this is why Steel is so popular. Last year, the romance genre gained $1.438 billion and by the looks of things it’s not going anywhere any time soon.



Next Century Publishing

Next Century Publishing is proud to have created a new way for you to publish your book, where you retain all of the rights to your work without sacrificing the quality. While we appreciate everything the traditional publishing sector has to offer, we cannot ignore the massive movement toward independent, self-publishing that is happening throughout the world. NCP is the first publisher to offer both low cost, author-controlled independent/self-publishing and traditional advance/royalty-based publishing.

Although we do not accept book proposals or solicitations from agents, we continually look for the next New York Times best-seller. When you come to us for self-publishing, our VP of Acquisitions may contact you about buying the rights to your book, offering you an advance, and taking your book around the world! NCP typically offers up to 30 royalty contracts per year.

If you believe in your book, then you owe it to yourself to work with us.


What can you expect from NCP?

Production costs that are 20-30 percent lower than any other publisher. Check out our Start Here page to see how we stand up against CreateSpace, Author Solutions, and Lulu.

Production time will depend on the length and scope of your book. Generally, you can expect your book to be printed in about 90 days, if your manuscript has well-written content.

Co-writing your book is a viable option. It is designed to help advance a primary platform, such as speaking or business, and position the author as an expert. We have the lowest cost co-writing services, and use NYT–quality writers and editors. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the average project can be written in approximately 90 days.

Editing services create the “first date” impression between a reader and a book. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. NCP offers the highest quality editing services. During the editorial review of your work, we will let you know the level of editing that is needed. We want to make your book come alive! NCP makes money selling books, and we want yours to be the best it can be.

Book covers are like eye candy, and NCP has award-winning graphic designers ready to work with you. We realize the cover is what catches the reader’s attention; it has to be bold and dramatic, yet still capture the heart. We start with an author interview to get a good feel for what covers/graphics you like. We then start the design process, working diligently to make the cover meet your standards, while remembering what sells. Other self-publishing giants may use stock photos and nondescript pictures. NCP is creating a “Blue Ocean” in cover design.

Printing costs are the lowest available and NCP intentionally passes the savings on to you. We make very little profit in printing, but we are experts in marketing books. It’s called having “skin in the game.” When you make money, we do as well.

This is the perfect program for authors who want to have both printed books and an E-book. For just a few hundred dollars more, we can publish your work through our Print-On-Demand (POD) program. This will allow you to sell your book online in both print and E-book form. You also have the ability to order printed books in small numbers for your personal use and local market sales. We have helped hundreds of authors use this program to produce print books to sell in their local market and reach profitability. Be sure to ask your publishing consultant for details. Though our industry leading 70 percent author royalty—that’s right, you get 70 percent of the sales!—and distribution program, we are publishing hundreds of E-books and POD books every single month.

The following items are included in the Digital Publishing Program:

  • Physical Book Layout: Laying out a physical book for print takes an experienced eye. Our layout experts have prepared thousands of books for printing. Your physical book layout is a benefit of the Digital and Platinum Programs.


  • E-book Layout: We start with your finished book that you have provided in a MSWord doc format. After using our editorial services—or if you have waived that option—the book will be turned over to our expert graphic designers. Their job is to layout the book to make it most appealing when read. It takes a skilled hand and eye to ensure the quality of the finished layout.


  • Barcode/Pricing Code: Each E-book requires a unique pricing code that complements the type of E-book. You will be given a unique code that will link you to your E-book.


  • Finalized Cover Art for E-book: Most authors request that we design the cover art for their E-book. Given that we have produced thousands of E-books, we know what sells. Please talk to your publishing consultant about the best cover art for your project.


  • Barcode Registration and Design: A unique barcode with retail price and SKU will be provided for your book.


  • Cover Design: This package includes our cutting edge Print-On-Demand model. We print as many books as you need, or the book can be printed when ordered by your customers. For printed books, a saleable book cover must be designed. It is crucial to create a cover that stands out. Make sure to ask your publishing consultant to explain the premium cover option during your free publishing consultation.

The Platinum Publishing Program is one-of-a-kind in the publishing industry. We are the only publisher in North America that can help you to perfect your manuscript and get it into retail book stores and big box stores, while allowing you to retain all rights and creative control. If your goal is to get your book into the bookstores and online, then you will need to learn the 4 Cs to selling books. What are the 4 Cs? Our Founder & CEO, Ken Dunn, travels throughout North America, teaching the power of the 4 Cs (content, cover, credibility and community). If you can master all 4, you will sell thousands of books. In the Platinum Publishing Program, we cover the first 2 Cs (content and cover). You will work with an elite-level team to make your book the best it can be. Writers who decide on the Platinum Publishing Program are guaranteed to see their books on store shelves. However, the quantity of books and stores will depend on the last 2 Cs (credibility & community). Be sure to ask your publishing consultant about our Platinum Publishing Program. Though our industry leading 70 percent author royalty—that’s right, you get 70 percent of the sales!—and distribution program, we are publishing hundreds of E-books and print books every single month.




She Writes Press

She Writes Press was founded by Kamy Wicoff and Brooke Warner in 2012 as a response to the barriers to traditional publishing getting higher and higher for authors. Kamy’s online community, She Writes, had been founded on the principle of connecting and serving women writers everywhere, offering a community for established and aspiring writers. Brooke had been the Executive Editor at Seal Pressfor eight years, and was witnessing firsthand the contracting publishing environment, where she personally was having to reject beautifully written books on a regular basis because the submitting author didn’t have a strong enough author platform.

Kamy and Brooke envisioned a company where authors would be invited to publish based on the merit of their writing alone. They wanted to found a press for women writers that would be a platform—that could launch their writing careers, and where they could legitimately compete with their traditional counterparts.

In 2013, She Writes Press secured traditional distribution through Ingram Publisher Services and established itself as a real player in the hybrid publishing world. This relationship secured the right for SWP authors to submit their books for review through traditional channels, creating a more level playing field. SWP authors have been featured in O! magazine, People, and USA Today, and have been reviewed in all of the trade magazines: Publishers Weekly; Kirkus; Booklist; Library Journal; and featured on Shelf Awareness.

In 2014, She Writes Press became part of the SparkPoint Studio, LLC, family. With a new CEO, Crystal Patriarche, at the helm, She Writes Press now has a powerful combination that no other hybrid publisher brings to the table: 1) a curated list with a strong editorial vision; 2) traditional distribution; and 3) an in-house marketing and publicity team (through Patriarche’s publicity company, BookSparks) that SWP authors can choose to utilize.

As of 2015, She Writes Press has reached another milestone, having signed its 100th author. We are a mission-driven, female-run company with a strong vision, passion, and work ethic. Our roster of impressive, accomplished authors speaks for itself, and we’re proud of being an industry game-changer.



What Is a Hybrid Publisher?

Over the last year, I’ve received more questions than ever—usually from journalists—asking me to explain “hybrid publishing.”

This is a confusing term to discuss, because you will hear different definitions or descriptions of hybrid publishing depending on who you ask and what their agenda is. The term has become popular among companies that wish to put a new, “innovative” face on a very common, age-old activity: charging writers to publish.

Here’s what I think most people can agree on: Hybrid publishers combine aspects of traditional publishing and self-publishing. Beyond that, however, it is challenging to define what such companies have in common. They have extremely varied business models, methods of working with writers, and approaches to marketing and distribution.

Making matters more complicated, “hybrid authors” are not authors who work with hybrid publishing companies. Instead, that term describes authors who both traditionally publish and self-publish. A good example is the thriller novelist CJ Lyons. So don’t confuse hybrid authorship with hybrid publishing—they’re two completely different trends.

Varieties of hybrid publisher

While is nearly impossible to generally describe hybrids, here are some rough categories you’ll find in the market today.

  • Editorially curated. While authors typically subsidize the costs of editing or publication, the publisher doesn’t accept every author who walks through the door. As a result of their selectivity, the publisher usually has better marketing and distribution. Examples include She Writes Press and Greenleaf Book Group.


  • Crowdfunding driven. Publishers such as Inkshares and Unbound require the author to raise a certain amount of money from their readership before they are granted a deal, which then closely adheres to a traditional publishing process.


  • Assisted self-publishing. Authors pay to publish, and there is little or no discernment in what types of authors are accepted.


  • Traditional publishers with a self-publishing arm. Some traditional publishers—usually small presses you haven’t heard of—may offer author services or assisted self-publishing.


These last two categories can be the most questionable in value. In the case of assisted self-publishing or publishing services (called “vanity presses” in the old days), these companies adopt the moniker of “hybrid publisher” to look more innovative or attractive to authors. They’re not really a hybrid publisher unless they can point to what they do that offers a traditional publisher’s value—such as selectivity in acquisitions, editorial guidance and vision, and distribution and marketing muscle that can’t be secured on your own as a self-publishing author.

In the case of small presses with a self-publishing arm—which may not offer great professionalism to begin with in their traditional operations—they may be using paid services to prop up their business and also to position themselves as progressive. These can be the most frustrating “hybrids” of all, since they might be identifying themselves primarily as a traditional publisher and be listed in market guides such as Writer’s Market, but could use that as a bait-and-switch: Oh, sorry, your work doesn’t meet our editorial needs for our traditional publishing operation, but would you like to pay for our hybrid publishing [or self-publishing] service?

I recommend running in the other direction if that happens.

How to evaluate a hybrid publisher

So how do you tell if you’re just being sold a bill of goods by a hybrid publisher? Here’s what to consider.

  • A good hybrid will have some method of curating or selecting what projects to take on. In other words: They consider the market potential of your work and its ability to succeed. If they appear to take anyone and everyone, then you’re better off evaluating the best self-publishing service to use. Don’t kid yourself about leveling up to a hybrid. (So-called hybrids aren’t averse to playing to your ego to get your business.)


  • A great hybrid offers the potential of bricks-and-mortar distribution—whether to bookstores or other retail channels. They might not be able to promise it, but if they’re actively working with a distributor or retailer—and they have a catalog of titles for marketing purposes—that’s a good sign. A self-publishing author can easily get distribution through online retail, via Amazon and Ingram (distribution fees are zero or little for online retail), so the more the hybrid invests in marketing and distributing print editions, the more they’re offering something you may not be able to accomplish yourself.


  • A good hybrid works with you both pre-publication and post-publication. The relationship doesn’t end once the book is done. (However, you may have to pay fees to continue the relationship.)


I further discuss what to look for here.

To summarize: The best hybrid publishers conduct some level of gatekeeping, offer value that the author would have a hard time securing on her own, and should also pay better royalties than a traditional publishing deal. (Fifty percent is common.) If the hybrid publisher presents itself as little more than “Here’s a package of services you can buy,” then it’s most likely a dressed-up self-publishing firm.



The Book Group

Welcome to The Book Group, a full-service literary agency located in the heart of Manhattan. Launched in 2015 by publishing industry veterans Julie Barer, Faye Bender, Brettne Bloom, and Elisabeth Weed, The Book Group shares a singular passion: to seek out and cultivate writers, and to serve as their champions throughout their careers. 

We represent a wide range of distinguished authors, including critically acclaimed and bestselling novelists, celebrated writers of children’s literature, and award-winning historians, food writers, memoirists and journalists.

With our hands-on approach at every stage of the publication process, our exceptional subsidiary rights team, and our commitment to helping each client reach his or her fullest potential, we provide the benefits of a larger agency alongside the personalized attention and collegial spirit offered by a boutique group.

We invite you to explore our shelves to learn more about who we are and what we do.

If you are seeking representation, please send a query letter and ten sample pages to submissions@thebookgroup.com, with the first and last name of the agent you are querying in the subject line. 

 All material must be in the body of the email, as we do not open attachments. While we represent a broad range of fiction and nonfiction at The Book Group, we do not represent poetry or screenplays.

Your submission is important to us, but due to the volume of queries we receive, we cannot respond individually to each one. If we are interested in reading more, we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

At this time, we only accept electronic queries sent to the email address above.  
We do not accept paper queries or queries by phone.



Literary Agent Breaks Down How to Win in Self-Publishing

The facts don’t lie. Everyone who publishes a successful book doesn’t have a deal with a major publisher.  Over the last two decades self-publishing has flourished and the books sold by independent authors have done amazing things in the industry, including winning awards, becoming national bestsellers and even landing television or movie option deals.  Whether you are working on a children’s picture book, a romance novel, a photography or business book, or writing your memoir, if you are choosing to self-publish the following tips will help guide your endeavors.
Know Your Dual Role and Responsibilities. If you are writing a book you are more than likely focused on your role as an author, the creator of content and the voice behind the message. However, when you self-publish you also take on the role of publisher.  As such, you become the “company”  producing this material.  You must develop the plan and budget to support your book’s marketing, public relations, graphic design, pricing, sales, distribution activities and unexpected expenses.

Create Two Task Lists. Develop an author to-do list and publisher to-do list. This will help you to see what needs to be done and place you in the proper frame of mind for each role. Creatives aren’t necessarily the best at linear and logistical thinking and that is why you must see the separate tasks per role to better organize yourself.

Do Your Research. To self-publish, an author must map out the logistics necessary for publication. This involves vetting printers and fulfillment centers, editorial services, setting a budget and hiring a designer. Also, research E-book conversions and working with aggregators for online distribution.

Know Your Target Audience. Your book will not be for everyone, so authors must be clear on who targeted primary and secondary audiences. This means that if only this selected demographic bought your book, you would still achieve healthy sales and success.

Position Your Book Strategically. Authors should know at least the top 10 bestselling books in their categories, outliers included. For example, if you are writing a book on social justice and civil rights you must be familiar with books written by authors such as: Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, John Lewis, D. Watkins, Marc Lamont Hill and Ta’ Nehesi Coates among others. Knowing the key players in your category will help you as a self-published author position your book for introduction to readers and reviewers. Remember your audience is currently reading something already. They know the books in your category and you as the author and publisher should as well.

Understand the Implications of Cover Design. We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but rest assured that the cover design of self-published books will be heavily critiqued by readers, reviewers, book store staff, and media. It sucks to have a quality piece of fiction, yet a far from appealing cover. Book cover includes front, back and spine. Check out the covers of books in your category from a diverse group of writers. Yes, you want to be unique but not so unique that you push readers away because the cover is overcrowded with images and mismatching fonts. The spine should simply include author name, book title and company name. The three sections should have a seamless design layout. It’s best to work with a designer who does more than just books, and is skilled at creating polished covers with seamless graphics.

Write Compelling Back Cover Copy.  Take the time to write an informative or entertaining book description. These few hundred words will follow your book everywhere from blogs to retailers. For a novelist, it is important to write an entertaining and engaging synopsis giving details that make readers want to dive in. Don’t be vague—many book descriptions fail to capture a sale because the description is too bland and falls short in securing an emotional reaction from the reader. If you are writing non-fiction, such as a business book on networking or financial planning, let the reader know what they will learn if they buy this book. Make it clear that your book has something they are in need of, and that you, the author, are qualified to deliver.

Design the Inside Pages Professionally. Typesetting the interior pages is very crucial to its readability and respectability. Remember, self-published authors are heavily scrutinized based on the appearance of their book. Don’t leave out page numbers. Make sure the author name and book title are visible on inside pages and be sure to check and double check spacing. Also, consider making the final page an order form for your book. Your distribution as a self-published author will be limited and this is a way to open it up. For every person that has a copy of your book they can share the order form with another potential reader.

Use a Professional Editor. Hiring a copy editor and a proofreader are  smart investments. Copy editors have a keen sense of grammar, syntax, and punctuation. They check for technical consistency in spelling, capitalization, font usage, numerals and hyphenation. They also double check that names and locations are spelled correctly and dates and statistics are accurate. Proofreaders work from a printed version of the content and are looking for errors everywhere including missing pages or paragraphs. They are fresh eyes checking to make sure that what appears on the computer translated correctly when the material is printed.

Know Your Publishing Options. Although you have chosen to self-publish please understand this does not mean that you cannot obtain a literary agent and land a book deal with one of the big five traditional publishers (Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan). If you do an outstanding job this go-round and obtain impressive sales, press mentions and solid reviews this can all help in your cause to find an agent for the next book.

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/books/self-publishing#ixzz4WEjA1Y2t
Follow us: @EbonyMag on Twitter | EbonyMag on Facebook

Pronoun Announces Changes to their Royalty Rates and New Author Pages

Pronoun is a free self-publishing platform and they have just announced that they have increased the royalty rates for indie authors. They have also introduced a new feature to their website called Author Pages, which creates a simple one page website to hype up an upcoming title.

Authors publishing their books on Pronoun will now be able to earn 70% for all books sold in the US and Canada for books priced $9.99 or less, and 65% for all books priced above $9.99. Pronoun now also allows authors to distribute to only specific retailers of their choosing, giving those who already publish on other platforms flexibility to take advantage of Pronoun’s new rates.

Pronoun’s 70% author royalty on books priced $2.99 or less significantly exceeds the 35% previously offered by Pronoun—making Pronoun the No. 1 choice for authors selling their self-published works. Additionally, Pronoun includes support for free books and pre-orders across all retailers it serves (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and Google Play).

“Pronoun began in 2014 with the mission to offer a publishing experience that is more fair, transparent, and above all else, human,” says president and founder Josh Brody. “We’ve spent the past year listening closely to authors and are proud to announce better royalties as part of our continued pursuit of publishing success for authors.”

As part of the new royalties announcement, Pronoun has also launched Pronoun Author Pages, enabling authors to create beautiful and professional websites for their books for free. Pronoun Author Pages are designed for any author, regardless of whether they are published with Pronoun. Authors can include a personal photo, bio and customizable headers, and when authors add books to their author page, book details are automatically populated from Pronoun’s intelligent book database.

“Pronoun Author Pages make building an author or book series brand easier for authors,” says Justin Renard, Head of Marketing. “It was our goal to create a promotional tool that is purpose-built for showcasing books, and something authors can be proud to share as their home base for online marketing.”

Pronoun’s new royalty rates are effective immediately for all account holders. Authors can sign up to build an author page by creating a free account on Pronoun.com. Pronoun also makes it possible for authors to track published books and get insights on how to use metadata smartly to discover and connect with more readers.



Audiobooks.com Brings Digital Audiobooks into the Home with Sonos

TORONTO, January 18, 2017 – Audiobooks.com, a leader in the audiobook service space, is pleased to announce their immediate availability on Sonos worldwide. Audiobooks.com subscribers can listen to their content of choice through Sonos speakers, offering high-quality sound in every room of their homes.

“Sonos shares in our vision of using technology to create great listening experiences, so this was a natural partnership,” says Ian Small, Audiobooks.com’s CEO. “Since more and more of our customers are using connected technology in their homes, we wanted to provide them with the opportunity to enjoy audiobooks in that space using the Sonos platform.”

This collaboration with Sonos is in addition to Audiobooks.com’s availability on Android Auto, CarPlay, tvOS, and select GM, Jaguar and Land Rover infotainment systems.

Audiobooks.com on Sonos was tested by listeners through a successful beta program that started in late 2016. To stream Audiobooks.com on Sonos, customers simply select ‘Add Music Services’ from any Sonos controller app, scroll down to the Audiobooks.com icon, and login.

About Audiobooks.com
Founded in 2011, Audiobooks.com is an app-based streaming and download service for audiobooks, delivering fast and easy access to over 100,000 titles to booklovers around the world. Subscribers can listen to their audiobook of choice on any Internet-enabled device via the free Audiobooks.com app. The company’s proprietary technology synchronizes users’ last listened-to position across all devices, creating a seamless user experience. Find out more at http://www.Audiobooks.com.



The State of Ebooks 2017

The once high-flying ebook industry endured its second consecutive year of flat sales growth in 2016, renewing doubts about the platform’s ability to attract print readers and ward off competition from other forms of digital entertainment. Experts are mixed about the industry’s future, with predictions of continued stagnant growth contrasting with predictions of a resumption of sales momentum.

For the first few years of ebooks’ rise, Amazon helped keep prices down—often pricing best-sellers at just $9.99, offering a substantial discount to buyers. But when Amazon finally lost its price-fixing lawsuit to Apple—and had to offer credits to qualifying ebook buyers in June—the average cost of a best-seller shot up to about $15. It’s entirely possible that buyers turned away from ebooks at that point, when the discounts no longer outweighed other issues (such as not being able to lend a book to a friend). But as time marches on, we may find that big publishers—which have often been resistant to ebooks—will cede ground to indie authors who are embracing the medium.

The Year in Review

2016 started out with bad news for ebook publishers. According to the Association of American Publishers, in January 2016, ebooks sales were down 6.7% from the year before. Publishing experts wonder whether ebook sales will continue to decline or if they have reached a plateau. Richard Nash, an entrepreneur and digital media consultant, says that the pause in the industry’s growth could continue for the near term. “The main thing we’re seeing is a confirmation of the plateau,” he says. “Now, exactly how flat it is from a unit sales standpoint is difficult to tell. There are probably two micro-effects pointing in opposite directions. One is the amount of extremely cheap content that is available by Amazon.” The second micro-effect is the decrease of unit sales due to price increases by traditional publishers.

Plateaus are never flat, Nash notes. “There are always … little peaks and valleys even within a plateau, and I think, by and large, that’s where we are now, and that’s where we are for the foreseeable future, i.e., until something significant happens to change that,” he says.

With the exception of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, subscription ebook services continued to struggle in 2016. Oyster shut down operations early in the year. And, in a move designed to compete with Amazon, Scribd introduced Scribd Selects, in which members now get unlimited access to selected titles plus three books of their choice per month.

Nash says that subscription services that compete on price and selection (such as Amazon) will dominate the market, while those that offer a smaller selection will fight to gain traction. It’s due to the nature of the services themselves. “The convenience of not having to click every time you want a song is pretty significant,” he says. With ebooks, it comes down to how many times a reader needs to make a decision. It turns out it’s not very often. So subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Music make more sense in their industry than Scribd does in its domain. “The most avid book reader is making a decision a week,” says Nash. “Whereas, with music, the most avid listener would be having to make 300 decisions a day that they now don’t have to make.”

Amazon’s virtual stranglehold on ebook sales is another reason that subscription services are struggling. The ecommerce giant controls “something north” of 70% of the ebook market, says Mark Coker, the founder and CEO of Smashwords, a company that helps authors and publishers distribute ebooks. For $9.99 a month, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program allows ebook readers to choose from more than 1 million ebooks.

“You’ve got this single purveyor of ebooks that has been able to leverage its dominant market position to coerce and bully authors to enroll their books into this exclusive program [KDP Select], and Amazon controls their cost of goods sold,” Coker says. “They control what they pay the author or publisher for that book for whatever the measure of reading is.”

Coker adds that traditional publishers haven’t come to terms with the pricing pressure that Kindle Unlimited has started to put on their business. “It means that 99-cent books start to feel too expensive, especially if you’re an avid power reader,” he says. “There are a lot of readers out there, romance readers especially, that can read 30 books a month, and it also has implications for traditional publishers. It’s really interesting when I talk with traditional publishers about what I think Kindle Unlimited means to them—none of them are concerned.”

A Look Ahead

After an explosive period of growth and then a leveling off of sales, ebooks need something new and bold to kick-start sales, according to Nash. Part of the problem is the shopping experience—it’s not very engaging and needs to be made immersive and fun. An interactive virtual reality “ebookstore” could make ebook buying as serendipitous as finding a new book at Barnes & Noble while browsing. “I completely agree that all kinds of experimentation are necessary in those areas, but it’s not going to have a significant business effect for a long time,” Nash says. “I don’t think Amazon is going to be the source of that solution, because Amazon, basically, doubles down on price and convenience and, increasingly, convenience, but not on the joyful [experience].”

Coker has many predictions for the trends that will impact the industry in 2017 and beyond. Print, despite its comeback over the past year or so due to the adult coloring book fad, will continue to lose ground to ebooks, he says. Publishers who continue to prioritize print over digital will do so at their peril. Meanwhile, indie authors will continue to take market share from traditional publishers. Indie ebooks now control “somewhere between 10% and 20% percent of the market,” says Coker.

He thinks the trend will continue due to indie authors’ competitive advantages, including “faster time to market and more creative and promotional flexibility for their books.” The glut of high-quality, low-cost ebooks—due in part to those indie titles—is putting downward pressure on pricing. “I think that is a big trend that has really come into play the last couple years and is going to play itself out even more significantly in the next few years,” Coker adds. And, of course, Amazon’s dominance will continue to impact the industry, setting the tone in terms of pricing and availability of titles.

Growth in ebook sales has clearly plateaued, and it’s not clear where new customers and sales will come from. “So the question then becomes, ‘What are the new sources of demand?’-—and we just don’t see them yet,” says Nash.



Majority of Italians never read a book

Nearly 60 percent of Italians don’t read a book from one year to the next, with almost a tenth of families owning no books at all, according to new figures from the national statistics agency, Istat.

Just 41.1 percent of Italians over the age of six read a book for pleasure last year, marking a gradual decline from 46.8 percent in 2010.

Women and girls were shown to consistently be far greater readers than their male counterparts, with 48 percent picking up a book last year compared to just 34.5 percent of men and boys.

Bookworms are most likely to be found in the north, Istat said, where between 48.1 and 49.0 percent of Italians read at least one book in 2014.

This is in marked contrast to southern Italy, where just 29.4 percent read for pleasure last year. The figure rose slightly to 31.1 percent on the Italian islands.

There were no books at all in 9.8 percent of family homes, a figure which rose to 19.1 percent in southern Basilicata and 18.1 percent in Sicily.

But book ownership does not necessarily translate into book reading, Istat found. Over a fifth of Italians that boasted having over 400 books at home admitted they hadn’t read even one in the past year.

Despite a gradual decline in the number of people reading books, the publishing industry has increased production. Print runs increased by 2.5 percent in 2013 and the number of titles published went up by 6.3 percent, Istat said.

The same year saw an increase of 18.6 percent for children’s literature, while production of school textbooks jumped by 23.1 percent. 



Which Country Reads the Most?

According to the NOP World Culture Score Index, India is the country that reads the most, with over 10 hours per week. Thailand and China are second and third, with 9.24 and 8 hours per week respectively. Below you will find the list of the 30 countries that reads the most.

Hours Spent Per Week Reading

1. India — 10 hours, 42 minutes
2. Thailand — 9:24
3. China — 8:00
4. Philippines — 7:36
5. Egypt — 7:30
6. Czech Republic — 7:24
7. Russia — 7:06
8. Sweden — 6:54
8. France — 6:54
10. Hungary — 6:48
10. Saudi Arabia — 6:48
12. Hong Kong — 6:42
13. Poland — 6:30
14. Venezuela — 6:24
15. South Africa — 6:18
15. Australia — 6:18
17. Indonesia — 6:00
18. Argentina — 5:54
18. Turkey — 5:54
20. Spain — 5:48
20. Canada — 5:48
22. Germany — 5:42
22. USA — 5:42
24. Italy — 5:36
25. Mexico — 5:30
26. U.K. — 5:18


27. Brazil — 5:12
28. Taiwan — 5:00
29. Japan — 4:06
30. Korea — 3:06

Are you surprised at who is and isn’t on the list?



How Barbara Freethy Became the Bestselling Amazon KDP Author of All-Time

How many times in your life have you had a dream you wanted to pursue, but for one reason or another you never achieved your goal? You go through life with a constant reminder of what life could’ve been like had you committed yourself to your pursuit years earlier. It could be a TV commercial, a story from a colleague or maybe an article like this one, which reminds you that great things are only accomplished when you move forward and commit. This is the story of Barbara Freethy.


Barbara Freethy is a best-selling author with 18 of her books having become New York Times best-sellers including Summer Secrets, Don’t Say a Word, and On a Night Like This just to name a few. With over 4.5 million units sold, she is also the bestselling Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Author of all time. Beyond her tremendous accolades is an incredible story of hard work, dedication and determination that we could all become inspired by.


Barbara began her writing career while also working full-time and raising two kids, proving that success comes to those who are willing to work hard despite their circumstances. After receiving a publishing deal with Harlequin/Silhouette, she went on to write for Harper Collins, Penguin and Simon and Schuster and later entered the realm of self-publishing in 2011, releasing backlisted titles on Amazon’s Kindle eBook platform.

Within 6 months she was selling thousands of copies of her backlisted books as well as new titles. In order to build upon the momentum, Barbara began building a brand. She fine-tuned the look and feel for her book covers to ensure consistency. She began establishing an email list and a social media following, and she reached out to book stores to carry her books.


In an age in which tools like social media, email lists and e-commerce platforms allow you to connect directly with your audience and sell products direct to consumers, what reason do you have for not pursuing your passion? Is there any reason why your story can’t resemble Barbara’s?


Thanks to the evolution of commerce and connection provided by the Internet, Barbara’s story is becoming more and more common as thousands of individuals are flocking to the Internet to share their expertise’, products and services with the masses. The best part is these people are actually making a living doing it. Bringing stories like Barbara’s to the mainstream is the mission of I Can Be Society.

Icanbesociety.com chronicles the stories of Internet elite’s like Barbara Freethy, who have turned their passion into an enterprise. I had the opportunity to interview Barbara, where she shared her story and encouraging words of inspiration for aspiring authors.


In 2011, you began self-publishing your backlisted titles. Many of them became instant hits hitting Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The New York Times and USA Today‘s best seller’s lists. What do you attribute this success to?


When I first started self-publishing in 2011, I had no idea the exciting adventure and exhausting journey I was about to begin. I had no expectations. The eBook industry was very, very new. Within six months I was selling thousands of my self-published titles and now three short years later, I’ve had 18 of my books appear on the New York Times Bestsellers list, including one in the #1 spot, and I have sold over 4.5 million units across all retailers. I also just found out that I am currently the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Bestselling Author of All Time! So that’s pretty exciting!


To what do I attribute my success? Lots of things. When I started putting out my backlist, I worked really hard to create a Barbara Freethy brand. I made sure that all my covers really fit the tone of my books and were professional in appearance. I tried various covers in the beginning before I settled on a look that fit my particular blend of romance, mystery, and adventure. I knew I had the right look when sales took off. I was also able to release several books within one year, both backlist and new original work, which helped build my momentum. Once a reader found one book they liked, they had another one to buy. I also continue to build a mailing list that is filled with subscribers who are genuinely interested in my work, so that I’m not spamming anyone with emails they don’t want to read. I also contacted the retailers, who have been very supportive in merchandising books by Indie authors. Success is never the result of one thing, at least not in my experience. It’s putting together a lot of great content and then working hard to get that content discovered.”

Full Story:


Some Kindle authors fearing the worst as Amazon starts paying by the page, not download

As Amazon tries to roll out a more fair way of compensating authors for their work, many are fearing that it will result in a pay cut. And, some might be right.

On July 1, Amazon changed the way it pays royalties, and is now paying authors for each page viewed by a reader instead of the previous model, which compensated authors for every book downloaded. The new formula only applies to books that are self-published and distributed through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which essentially lend books to Amazon Prime subscribers for free, or to those willing to pay $10 a month.

Amazon compensates authors by setting aside a pool of cash each month to be divided among all participants. In the past, Amazon distributed the money based on the number of downloads. Now, it’s doing it based on pages read.

For the month of July, Amazon is estimating that the pool of money going toward authors will be at least $11 million, and last month the pages read was almost 1.9 billion. Based on those two figures, you can roughly assume that authors will get half a cent ($0.0058) per page viewed.

Most authors, who are doing the math, suspect they’ll lose about 50 percent of their monthly income. For instance, if an author has a 100-page book that was read to completion 100 times, an author would make roughly $60 for the month, or 60 cents per 100-page book. Before, an author would make $1.35 a download, regardless of the book’s length. That pencils out to $135 a month for 100 downloads, which represents 55 percent more revenue. These calculations are based on what authors are reporting in Amazon’s forums, which have lit up over the past few days with complaints about the pay structure.

“To stop authors from leaving the program in droves, Amazon’s going to have to do something even more drastic than their recent change…and something a little more thought through,” one comment said. Another echoed the opinion: “I was really hoping that Amazon was going to really make this program benefit the authors, but I think this is just another way to screw us over.”

Besides a revenue cut, the authors are also claiming that the new system will favor longer, more suspenseful novels, like mysteries. As a result, other genres will suffer. They also assume authors will now pad their books with additional pages and chapters to increase their revenue.

But the worst-hit are authors in the crafting or children’s book genres, say these authors.

“It would seem pointless for me to stay in [Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library] now,” said one author, who voiced her concerns on an online forum. “I do illustrated children’s books. The illustrations will count as one page the sum total for the book [and] will be about 5 cents….I don’t understand Amazon, length isn’t quality.”

An Amazon spokeswoman did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Author Hugh Howey, who wrote the book series “WOOL” is not one of the authors to immediately jump to the conclusion this move hurts all authors. In a blog post, he writes: “[Kindle Unlimited] does not reward longer works: It rewards good works. It rewards gripping works.” But he totally understands why an author would be upset, saying it will result in a revenue cut. But he also doesn’t think it was right for an author of an 100-page book to get compensated the same as an author that wrote a much longer book.

“If you think the prior system was fair, then we just disagree. If you think what you made under an unfair system should equal what you make under a fairer system, then we again disagree,” he said.

Amazon tried to take into account how some authors could game the system, or be unfairly penalized for books with charts, or abnormally small print. To do so, it came up with what it calls the “Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).” It calculates KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and will use that to measure the number of pages customers read.

Another author pointed out how KENPC doesn’t work for all genres. He wrote a book about getting library audio books onto your Kindle, which has a lot of illustrations. He said the real page count is 54 pages, but based on Amazon’s adjusted calculation, it is now only 45 pages. Now, he’ll make only 25 cents, even though he normally charges $2.99 in the Amazon book store.

What’s particularly got people upset, however, is the example that Amazon used during its announcement, which may have set people’s standards artificially high. Based on a set of fictitious scenario, using round numbers, Amazon implied that people would get 10 cents per page read. Now, with the real numbers readily available, people are finding out that it’s closer to half a cent.

Howey sums up is feelings by saying that the new system rewards one thing only: Reader enjoyment. “This is how it should be…It’s hearts that we should concentrate on pounding, not keyboards. Write well and write efficiently. Write what you want. There’s a good chance there are more readers out there just like you, looking for the same thing,” he said.

There’s likely many more chapters to be written about this new pay-per-page pricing scheme. Are you an author? Are you a reader? What do you think is more fair?



Barnes & Noble suspends sales of its Nook tablet, faulty charger is to blame

Barnes and Noble’s Nook tablet was meant to directly compete with Amazon’s equally sized Fire tablet for your Ulysses S. Grant. Unfortunately for the brick-and-mortar bookstore, things have not turned out that way, with the Nook’s removal from its physical and online storefronts the latest blow to the tablet’s potential success.

Its suspension was initially foretold by Reddit user nookthedestroyer, who alleged that Barnes and Noble issued a companywide order to remove Nook tablets from its stores and return them to the supplier. The user, who allegedly works at a Barnes and Noble store, assumed the order was a result of the tablet’s spyware controversy that also affected Blu and many other smartphone manufacturers.
Developed by Chinese firm Shanghai Adups Technology, the software has the ability to discreetly collect everything from call logs and contact names to IP addresses, with the information then sent to third-party servers in China. Security firm Kryptowire discovered the pre-installed spyware on more than a few Android phones, with a subsequent investigation having discovered similar spyware on as many as 43 manufacturers’ devices.

Even though researchers also found the preinstalled software on the Nook tablet, Barnes & Noble confirmed to Android Police that the decision to halt the tablet’s sales were due to a faulty charger, not because of the software.

“Barnes and Noble is investigating three reported cases involving the adapter sold with the Nook Tablet 7. The specific issue involves the adapter casing breaking apart while still in the socket,” reads the statement. “This does not affect the Nook device itself. With no injuries reported and out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that customers stop using the adapter until we provide a replacement adapter.”

Barnes and Noble also confirmed that talks with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are underway regarding a recall. In the meantime, the company advises Nook tablet owners to charge the device through a computer.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/nook-sales-suspended/#ixzz4WDRYIxOd
Follow us: @digitaltrends on Twitter | DigitalTrends on Facebook


Microsoft Making Late Entry In E-Books To Take On Amazon

Nearly 10 years after Amazon introduced its Kindle e-book business, Microsoft has decided finally the time is right for a Windows competitor.

The next update to Windows 10, known as the Creators Update and expected in April, includes a new e-book section in Microsoft’s digital media store, which already sells movies, TV shows, games and music. The e-books store was included in a test version of the upcoming Windows and discovered this week by the web site MSPoweUser, which posted a variety of pictures highlighting new features.

The e-books, published in the EPUB format, can be read on a PC in Microsoft’s Edge browser or on mobile devices running Windows, the web site said.

With publishers now firmly in control of e-book pricing, Microsoft’s prices appeared in line with what existing e-book sellers charge, at least in the test version. Broadcaster Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More, for example, was listed at $15, the same price as in Apple’s iBooks Store, Google’s Play store, and Amazon’s Kindle store.

Microsoft declined to comment about the new e-book effort. The company said only that it often tests new features in early versions of Windows, which it makes publicly available via its Windows Insider program. “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans,” the company said in a statement to Fortune. “Stay tuned for more information soon.”

Microsoft’s decision to take on Amazon’s (AMZN, +0.14%) popular Kindle store comes as other players have faded and the entire e-book market among traditional publishers has shrunk. E-book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers, which doesn’t count self-published works, dropped 19% in the first seven months of 2016 compared to the prior year.



Amazon, Apple to end audiobook exclusivity: EU

BRUSSELS–European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Amazon.com Inc. to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple Inc.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon’s unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple’s iTunes store.

The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.




Amazon heads deeper into brick and mortar with books

For a company that long eschewed the brick-and-mortar world, Amazon is opening a lot of bookstores these days. It’s got three up and running, in Seattle, San Diego and Portland, and says five more are coming.

The profits from eight or even 80 bookstores are hardly a rounding error for the Seattle behemoth. So why is it busily building physical locations when for the last 22 years, it’s had a laser focus on online commerce?

The answer, say experts, is that these retail spaces are far more — and far less  — than just bookstores.

“I don’t think Amazon even realizes what they have at this point. This is just a test,” says R.J. Hottovy, an Amazon analyst with the investment company Morningstar.

Amazon declined to elaborate on its plans.

Many see them as experimental platforms by a company that has never been afraid to try out new ideas and just as importantly to ruthlessly prune away the ones that don’t work. It’s a strategy made possible because Amazon shareholders seem fine with allowing it to forgo profits at times in order to learn for the future.

On the one hand the stores are the proverbial clean, well-lighted space for books, but they also constitute “cheap learning” for the company, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of Idea Logical Company, a publishing industry consulting company.

“The PR value and the educational value are huge, and there is the possibility that they will arrive at retailing formulations that can scale and provide a big payoff,” he said.

A couple of themes seem to be emerging.

The stores are using books to bring in an educated, relatively affluent stream of customers who then are exposed to Amazon’s electronic offerings such as the Echo, Kindle, Fire tablet and Fire TV. They’re prominent in a display and play around with space in each that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent time in an Apple store.

“These stores effectively are a showroom,” Morningstar’s Hottovy said.

To a certain extent the books are once again Amazon’s “entry drug,” just as they were in 1995 when the company first opened and sold only books, said John Mutter, who writes the bookstore industry newsletter Shelf Awareness.

They’re also a physical advertisement for Amazon’s profitable $99-a-year free delivery and extras Prime program. The bookstores feature a two-tier pricing system. Amazon Prime members pay Amazon’s online price for books while non-Prime customers pay the list price, typically 10% to 30% more.

In the future, the bookstores might also become an extension of Amazon’s existing logistics footprint, a convenient place for consumers to pick up items they’d previously ordered, or drop off items they are returning, suggests Hottovy.

It’s a model Amazon’s been successful with on college campuses, building popular pick-up and return outlets at at least 11 schools in the United States.

“That’s giving them the blueprint and maybe the chance to replicate that model,” he said.

Getting a read on the market

The first Amazon bookstore was opened in the company’s own backyard, in Seattle’shigh-end University Village. The outdoor mall is close to the University of Washingtonand features both an Apple and a Microsoft store. That store opened in November 2015 and was followed in September 2016 by a second in San Diego. This, too, is in an upscale mall next door to a Tesla dealership and featuring a nearby Apple store, and close to the University of San Diego.

The most recent addition came in October in Portland, Oregon, at the Washington Square Mall. It’s one of the largest in Oregon and contains Apple, Microsoft and Tesla stores.

The pace of openings is increasing. Amazon has so far announced five more stores coming, in Chicago, New York City, Dedham and Lynnfield, Mass. and Parmus, N.J.

While there have been suggestions that Amazon may be considering opening as many as 2,000 bookstores around the country, it’s a number Hottovy finds unlikely. But dozens and even hundreds are entirely possible once the model proves itself, he said.

No threat

To actual booksellers, the Amazon stores don’t pose much of a threat — yet.

The stores don’t offer the degree of personal bookselling and quirky stock aspects that make bookstores attractive to those who love getting lost in the aisles, said Idea Logical’s Shatzkin.

On the other hand, “they’re massive, well-resourced, and innovative. And because of their large self-publishing efforts, they actually have access to more unique book titles than anybody else on the planet,” he said.

But despite the potential numbers of titles available to them, they’re not actually that well-stocked, which to Mutter is the saving grace for independents.

“The Amazon Books stores continue to carry a relatively small number of books compared to traditional bookstores. For a serious reader who wants to browse, they’re not very satisfying,” he said.



Why Amazon Has Launched A New Credit Card For Prime Users

Recently, Amazon launched a new Prime Rewards Visa Cardwhich will give its Prime customers a 5% discount on all their purchases on Amazon. Additionally, customers will also get rewards at other places where they shop using this card including restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. With no annual fee and other benefits such as no foreign transaction fees and travel protection, this card is likely to delight Amazon’s existing Prime customers and attract more Prime members.


While Amazon Prime members can already earn a 5% discount through its store card issued by Synchrony, the new card is a Visa card which can be used anywhere. According to a note published by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, customers owning Amazon credit cards spend the highest on its platform. Their average annual expenditure exceeds that of Amazon Prime members by 16%. We believe this new card is Amazon’s attempt to entice its Prime members to spend more on its platform and, with the lucrative rewards it offers, it could prove effective in meeting this goal.

Given that Amazon credit card holders spend the highest on its platform, the company is looking at ways to expand its credit card consumer base. CIRP estimates that approximately 15% of Amazon’s U.S. customers have any one of Amazon’s credit cards, representing approximately 21 million customers. However, growth of its card base has not kept pace with its growing Prime membership. In June 2016, it was estimated that Amazon has around 63 million Prime members.


Assuming that only Prime members have an Amazon credit card, it would mean that only a third of its Prime customers have one of its credit cards. According to a survey by Morgan Stanley, Amazon Prime members spend about 4.6 times more money on its platform than non-prime members. Its credit card holders spend even greater amounts than what Prime members spend. By enticing its prime customers to own its credit cards, Amazon will be encouraging them to spend more on its platform. Its latest card is aimed at attracting Prime customers by offering deals not only on Amazon.com but on other shopping destinations as well. This can lead to higher spending by existing Prime customers and help convert the fence sitters into Prime memberships.



The Indie Authors Guide to Amazon Book Reviews

Many indie authors are obsessed with Amazon reviews, and rightly so. Love it or hate it, Amazon is a massive book buying hub and a place where self-published books can get reviewed alongside traditional titles. Reviews on the site can give your book legitimacy, make you look popular (or not), and tip the scales for buyers browsing your page. If you’re on the fence about prioritizing Amazon reviews, my advice is to do so.

That said, there is some lingering confusion about how reviews on Amazon are handled. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Amazon started cracking down on nepotistic reviewsin 2012, which may seem unfair to some authors. Additionally, it can be hard to understand what triggers the removal of a perceived nepotistic review. My advice is to tell would-be reviewers to be transparent. If they know you or have a relationship with you, they can say so in the review. This transparency seems to work, and Amazon largely lets those reviews stand.



  • If you do get a negative review, refrain from responding to the reviewer in the comments section. Do not defend yourself or your book. Engaging only shows that you can be baited. The best thing to do in these cases is to click the “no” button next to the question following the review that reads, “Was this review helpful to you?”


  • Amazon legitimizes “verified buyers” when they write a review. And while some authors think that readers must have a verified purchased to review a book on Amazon, this isn’t true. Your readers can buy your book anywhere, and need only be transparent in the review about where they purchased the book — even if they admit to having received the book for free, which is often the case with NetGalley reviewers, who regularly post their reviews on Amazon.*


  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for reviews. If someone sends you a nice note about your book, write back and ask them to place their compliment on Amazon. One blog post I read suggested straight-up emailing top reviewers with a review request. This requires guts beyond what I personally have, but I admire those authors courageous enough to approach perfect strangers and ask them to review their work.


  • Use Amazon reviews in your marketing materials. Once you hit a number worthy of sharing, you can write things like, “My book has 75 Amazon reviews,” and quote people’s praise for your website and marketing materials.


For the time being, Amazon is king. It’s where authors go to monitor their book’s success, and it’s where readers to go browse and buy. Authors should use Amazon to their advantage, but also keep in mind that Amazon is not the only game in town. So yes, rack up those reviews, but make the most of other aspects of promotion, too. And remember to include multiple buying options for your readers when you promote your book.

*Reviews from Publishers Weekly are licensed by Amazon and automatically appear on a book’s page under professional reviews.



Despite What You Heard, the E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

Author Earnings estimates that 485,538,000 e-book units were sold in 2016. 

Author Earnings makes estimates of all the sales on Amazon. “There are 20,000 unique publishers who show up in that dataset,” Author Earnings’ anonymous Data Guy said during his presentation at the conference. Amazon guards its information carefully, but Author Earnings has been able to crawl the online retail giant’s author rankings and estimate both relative and total sales of books, both print and digital. It corroborates its estimates using real sales data privately shared with the site by large authors.


Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

How to make a lucrative living as a self-published author: Everything you need to know

RACHEL ABBOTT gives us her top tips on how to self-publish your novel. Retiring early to start writing, she was rejected by publishers, so did it herself. She is now a best-selling author making a lucrative living on her own terms.

As a successful businesswoman running her own interactive media company for twenty years, Rachel Abbott was always on the go. When she took early retirement, she adored the idea of waking up in the morning with the words ‘relax in the sun’ the only item on her To Do list. But she soon decided to put her spare time to good use and finally turn the idea at the back of her mind into the novel she always hoped to write.

When she had finished the book, Only the Innocent, Rachel sent it out to a number of literary agents. Most replied politely saying they liked it but couldn’t see a market for it, and some didn’t respond at all.

“At that point, I put the book on the back shelf. Then one rainy day in September 2011, I discovered that it was possible to publish independently through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP),” Rachel tells Express Online.

Only the Innocent hit No. 1 in the UK Kindle Best Seller charts in February 2012, outselling titles from many established authors. It was one of the best-selling products across the whole of Amazon.co.uk during the first three months of that year.

“Every day was a thrill seeing the sales grow and it changed my life by giving me the most unexpected sense of community. It has opened up a whole new world for me really; I get lots of emails and tweets from people who have read the book and from other KDP authors who are all really supportive, giving me a new group of friends,” Rachel adds with a smile.

“I’m loving every minute of it.”

Only the Innocent is now available in print through Amazon’s print on demand service, CreateSpace, which Rachel describes as ‘a doddle to use.’  Rachel also published her second book, The Back Road, on KDP and CreateSpace in the UK in March. It has been firmly entrenched in the top 100 ever since then.

Now Rachel tells us how she did it and give her top tips for what and what NOT to do.

From how to actually get published to what to do when people post vicious reviews (tip: NEVER respond) she tells us all we need to know to become a self-published author.

How long have you been self-publishing and how many books have you published?

I published my first book in November 2011 and my fourth book just two months ago in February 2015.

Did you intend it to be a substantial income when you started?

Not at all. I had an ambition to sell a thousand copies when I started, and then – when I could see the potential – I decided that I had to focus more on the marketing. But I never really expected to make money from it. That’s a real bonus.

Did you show your writing to friends and family first? Was that nerve-wracking?

It’s always an incredibly difficult the first time you ask somebody to read your work because you do want people to be honest with you, but at the same time you are really exposing yourself, your thoughts and possibly your inadequacies to those closest to you. I loved the fact that so many of my family really enjoyed my first book – which gave me hope that it might be a reasonable read – while at the same time getting some more critical feedback about the writing from the more discerning readers (such as my mother!) which proved really helpful.

What was the hardest part in writing and doing it all yourself? 

The first book is hard to write whether you end up being traditionally or independently published, but after that I think the biggest issue for independents is the fear that they can’t write another book that people will like as much as the first one.

I now have editors, a publicist, a jacket designer, much the same as a traditionally published writer, and I’m fortunate to get the support and encouragement I need from my agent. But for people who are just starting and perhaps can’t yet afford all the help, it can be a lonely job.

What tips would you give for things people should and should not do when self-publishing?

I don’t think I would ever tell somebody not to do anything. Different strategies work for different people, and although some people are keen to suggest that there are ‘rules’ we should all follow, I think we each have to find our own way. What they should do, however, is decide at the outset what success looks like to them, because it isn’t the same for everybody. Some people just want their book to be out there – they don’t care about sales. Others want great reviews, or perhaps a high chart position is more important to them then a high level of profitability. Until each individual has decided what he or she would consider to be a success, it’s impossible to define a strategy to achieve it. So, first define what success looks like, and create a strategy that you believe will help you to get there.

Have you ever had to deal with unkind or unpleasant criticism in readers’ comments? And do you have any advice on what to do if that happens?

I think every writer gets the odd bad review – even the best books in the world have some one stars. My advice would be to read all bad reviews. Decide whether it’s a ‘real’ review (some people just like to attack anybody who is successful, and it’s usually fairly obvious because they actually don’t appear to know anything about the book) and if it is real, decide whether the things they don’t like are justified or not. If they are, take it as a hint for your next book. But never, ever respond to criticism.



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 (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, Amazon.de).



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.



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 Marvel.com, 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.



Publishing needs 1 big book in 2017

Not that 2016 was bad; it was fine. Books sales basically held steady — down a little here, up some there — for the most recent period for which we have numbers, from January to July. Although the Assn. of American Publishers wants to crow that books for children and teens were up quite a bit, overall, trade books sales were down 0.4 percent in 2016 from the same period in 2015.

Which isn’t terrible. But it isn’t good, or at least, not good enough.

What publishing needs is one book, one big book, that comes out of nowhere and takes America by storm. You know what I mean: You hear people talking about it in line at the grocery store. Your grandmother asks if you’ve read it the same day your college roommate does. It’s the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once.

In 2015, that book was The Girl on the Train. In 2012, it was Gone Girl. Before that came The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively).

Girls, girls, girls!

Indeed, it’s a trend. Once one of these books becomes a mega-hit, publishers look for ways to hitch their wagons to the lead horse. Gillian Flynn certainly wasn’t copying Stieg Larsson’s trilogy with her book Gone Girl — the title was the name of a Johnny Cash album way back in 1978 — but publishers surely noticed. And The Girl on the Train, which, like Gone Girl, features an unreliable female narrator, got a huge marketing push. “I know it should be The Woman on the Train, but it didn’t scan,” author Paula Hawkins (annoyed at the comparison) told the Hollywood Reporter.

The piling-on once a book gets mega-successful may be dismaying from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective it makes sense: The big hits are impossible to predict.

If I had told you in 1996 that a boy wizard, a girl torn between a vampire and a werewolf, kids fighting to the death in a dystopia, teens with cancer, and a Harvard symbologist would take our best-seller lists by storm, would you have believed me — or called a psychiatrist?

Dan Brown had published three quiet thrillers — including one featuring Robert Langdon — before his second Langdon book, The Da Vinci Code, became the best-selling book of 2004 — and, in 2003 and 2005, the No. 2 best-seller. It spawned not only its own sequels and movies but also shelves and shelves of imitators filled with art and religious conspiracies.

The book that denied Brown the top spot in 2003 was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her massively successful Harry Potter series showed publishing that books for kids could lead the industry, re-energizing it with huge sales. But Rowling stopped writing the series in 2007 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that year’s best-selling book.

By then, her fans were growing into teens with book-buying power. Some turned to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampire romance series; some snapped up The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins; many went for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

These books aren’t much like one another. And although Fifty Shades of Grey was, at its very first imaginings, Twilight fan fiction, E.L. James’ erotic novel — 2012’s best-selling book overall — became something entirely new that launched its own fleet of hot-and-heavy followers.

What these breakthrough books share is that they came out of nowhere to top best-seller lists. They each established a meaningful presence in our culture. They told us something, reflected something, or encouraged us to imagine something that was fresh and new.

All the while there were perennial best-selling authors making appearances: Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and James Patterson are regularly among the year’s best-sellers. Jeff Kinney has made a place for himself with his Wimpy Kid children’s series. Occasionally, literary authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Anthony Doerr find a place among the year’s biggest books.

But in 2016, there wasn’t a breakthrough hit of any kind.

It’s not for want of trying — there are thousands of books published each year, with the authors and business people behind them hoping each will resonate with readers, marketers strategizing the best they can. But one of the charms of the publishing industry is that it’s hard to tell what will catch on — in fact, the biggest books are those that come as a surprise.



10 Authors who turned books into successful empires

An entrepreneur creates value from ideas. Surely that makes authors the ultimate entrepreneurs. Being an author is a very creative field to be in, but some of them have definitely taken this up by a notch by building empires out of their books. For these novelists it wasn’t enough to just write bestsellers — their books and names became huge brands.

1. J K Rowling

Well who would be unaware about this one. J K Rowling conceived the idea of the wizardly world of Harry Potter which eventually made her one of the world’s richest author. Rowling sold the film rights to the Potter series to Warner Bros, and the theme park rights to Universal Studios. She’s the founder of Pottermore, a website, digital publishing, e-commerce and entertainment company. Her net worth is around $1 billion.


2. Jim Davis

James Robert “Jim” Davis is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres, the former of which has been published since 1978 and has since become the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip. He is well known across the world for drawing and writing Garfield comics, TV shows and movies. He is the president of Paws, Inc., a comic book studio and production company that manages all licensing rights for the lasagna-loving feline. His current net worth is around $800 million.

3. James Patterson

James Brendan Patterson is an American author. He is largely known for his novels about fictional psychologist Alex Cross, the protagonist of the Alex Cross series. He has been churning out thrillers at a rapid clip. Patterson broke the Guinness World Record for most New York Times #1 bestsellers. His businesses include JIMMY Patterson, a children’s book imprint at Little, Brown & Company. Patterson publishes over a dozen books a year with various co-authors. His net worth is around $490 million.

4. Stephen King

Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy.He is very well known for scaring the bejesus out of his readers with his terrifying novels. His bestsellers have been adapted into 39 movies, 21 TV series and numerous comics, plays and songs. His net worth is around $400 million.

5. Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is an American bestselling author of more than 209 romance novels. She writes as J. D. Robb for the in Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty. Being America’s most prolific and popular romance writer she has written 219 books and adapted nine of them to Lifetime movies. She and her family own an inn, bookstore, pizza parlor and restaurant in her tiny hometown of BoonsBoro, Md. Her current net worth is around $340 million.

6. Danielle Steel

Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel, better known by the name Danielle Steel, is an American novelist, currently the best selling author alive and the fourth bestselling author of all time, with over 800 million copies sold. She is well known for romance novels about the fabulously rich and hopelessly doomed. She’s published 99 novels and 18 children’s books— 22 have been adapted to TV—and has a long-term deal with New Line Home Entertainment to develop, produce and distribute straight-to-DVD movies based on her stories. Her net worth is around $310 million.


7. John Grisham

Joh Grisham is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.  His legal thrillers have sold over 275 million copies worldwide and seven have been adapted into films. His net worth is around $200 million.

8. Stephanie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer is an American young-adult fiction writer and film producer, best known for her vampire romance series Twilight. She is well known for penning modern-day vampire love stories for teens. The Twilight books and movies were best sellers and blockbusters respectively. Founder of Fickle Fish Films, which produced the Twilight films and The Host. Her current net worth is around $123 million.

9. E. L. James

Erika Mitchell known by her pen name E. L. James, is an English author. She wrote the bestselling erotic romance novels trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed, along with the companion novel Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. She is well known for making BDSM acceptable for housewives and business women. The Fifty Shades book trilogy and movie has earned over $50 million. Her Fifty Shades of Grey merchandise ranges from a “Vibrating Love Ring” sold at Target to a Vermont Teddy Bear with handcuffs. Her current net worth is around $80 million.

10. George R. R. Martin

George Raymond Richard Martin, often referred to as GRRM, is an American novelist and short-story writer in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, a screenwriter, and television producer.He is well known for the Game of Thrones series. He earns $10 million a year in royalties from his book series and $15 million from the HBO series and his current net worth is $65 million.



Noir Reads Delivers Books by Black Authors to Your Doorstep

Derick Brewer and Zellie Imani are hoping to diversify the bookshelves of literature connoisseurs by providing them with the oft overlooked narratives from the African Diaspora.


On Monday, the pair launched Noir Reads, a subscription service which delivers two to three fiction and nonfiction book selections from writers throughout the diaspora on a monthly basis. 


“Our aim was to create a resource comprised of narratives on the black experience and the multiplicity of Blackness,” Imani told The Huffington Post. 


With nearly 100 subscribers already, the company has sold nearly half of the 200 boxes they’ve prepared for its launch. Subscriptions are offered at $35 per month or $100 for three months. 


On February 6, these first-time subscribers will find Angela DavisFreedom Is A Constant Struggle and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation in Reads’ inaugural box. 


Imani said these selections were chosen, in part, for their relevance given the current political climate. 


“With a looming Trump presidency, we wanted books to help readers navigate this racist political landscape and offer ways to move forward,” Imani said. “The books can help us process these issues in an efficient way.”


Imani, an educator and Black Lives Matter activist said Reads is an extension of the work he’s been doing to draw attention to the ranges of the black experience. 

“Blackness is complex and diverse, but this basic fact becomes overshadowed, or erased by continually centering African American narratives,” Imani said.

“Instead, we want Noir Reads to explore, and not ignore, the vast and rich histories of the African Diaspora.”


To ensure their subscribers will enjoy the selections, Imani and Brewer choose books focusing on specific themes and survey readers to see what they’d prefer. The books that aren’t chosen are then placed under the “recommended reading” section of their reading guide. 


“The goal is to identify and connect people with great work, whether we can place it in the box or not,” Imani said. “That’s important.”



You Can Write a Best-Seller and Still Go Broke

In 2012, a month after the publication of her memoir, Wild, Cheryl Strayed was on a book tour, soaking up the wonder of her first big success as an author, when her husband texted her to say that their rent check had bounced. “We couldn’t complain to anyone,” Strayed told Manjula Martin, editor of the new anthology Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living: “My book is on the New York Times best-seller list right now and we do not have any money in our checking account.”

Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money. Strayed most definitely did make money on Wild,which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film with Reese Witherspoon, but she didn’t get her first royalty check for it until 2013, “so it was almost a year before my life actually changed.” Yes, there was that $400,000 advance—an amount to make any aspiring memoirist’s eyes go dreamily unfocused—but Strayed and her husband had run up so much credit card debt that almost all of the money went to paying it off and supporting her family while she finished writing the book. 


Book advances, which are advances against the royalties that will be earned after the book is published, aren’t forked out in one lump sum, either. The payments come parceled out in (typically) three or four checks paid on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication. The writer’s literary agent then takes a percentage of that. When Strayed sold her first novel a few years earlier for the seemingly handsome sum of $100,000, the advance amounted to, as she puts it, “about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS … it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off.”


It’s worth leading with all these numbers because, as Scratch repeatedly demonstrates, the nitty-gritty on this stuff is in short supply in the wider writerly imagination, while fantasy, evasion, and envious brooding runneth over. Strayed is among the few prospering contributors to this collection of essays and interviews who speaks so explicitly. (“We’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money,” she told Martin.) Another is Roxane Gay—author, columnist, editor, publisher, professor, public speaker—who reports that she made approximately $150,000 in 2014.


That’s a good income by almost any standard, but does it match your sense of Gay’s prominence and productivity? (Surely there are plenty of professors who make that much, or more, from their academic work alone.) Depending on your media diet, Gay may or may not constitute a “famous writer” in your eyes, and depending on how much you think famous writers must earn, her income may strike you as surprisingly modest. Or perhaps this entire topic offends you. There are still a few idealists out there cherishing the belief that writing, as art, mustn’t be contaminated by filthy lucre.

Like most anthologies, Scratch is uneven; not every contributor is equally talented and none is able to drill very deeply into the relationship between work and money in writers’ lives. The book originated with a (now defunct) online magazine of the same title, developed—as Martin, who edited both, explains—“out of a need for greater transparency in the discussion about work and money within the community of writers.” But if the mission statement of this anthology is to demystify “how, exactly, literature and the people who make it are valued,” many of the pieces here seem to deflect away from transparency as if repelled by a magnetic field.


If their authors set out to write about money, they end up spinning their wheels on the more formulaic and far less interesting subjects of self-discovery, dream-following, and “career”—a label given, often by wooly-headed Brooklynites, to an amorphous blend of personal reputation and public persona. Writers know so little about how other writers make ends meet that it’s difficult for them to have much perspective on their own ability to do so. But even when you find out that Strayed nearly sunk under her debts while Yiyun Li enjoyed a relatively stress-free transition from pre-med to fiction writing—three years after making the jump, she’d published in both the Paris Review and the New Yorker—the sum of both their stories still doesn’t offer a stable picture of how most writers make a living.



Book Review: The Disney Story: Chronicling The Man, The Mouse & The Park

There are many books written about Walt and Roy Disney, as well as The Walt Disney Company. Some of them give top-line information and some of them are extremely detailed. Some of them are perfect for those who are new to Disney history and some of them are for those already steeped in its history. However, Aaron Goldberg has written a book not only for those that are well-versed in Disney history, but also those who are not.


Goldberg’s book, The Disney Story: Chronicling The Man, The Mouse & The Parkspresents Walt Disney, The Walt Disney Company and the Parks decade-by-decade. It’s a well-written book that starts in the 1930’s with Steamboat Willie and concludes in 2016 with the opening of Shanghai Disney.


What makes this book unique is that Goldberg supports the topics he covers with actual stories from newspaper and magazine articles told word-for-word exactly as these outlets reported. “Instead of my words telling the story,” says Goldberg. “You’ll get a chance to read the hundreds of other voices that told the Disney story over the decades, along with the most important voice of all, Walt’s.” The other thing that makes this book unique is that every quote and story that Goldberg features in the book can be found, in its entirety, online at www.thedisneystory.com.


Although he doesn’t, nor could he cover everything that happened every year, Goldberg does an excellent job of including the major events in each decade.

In the 1930’s, Goldberg talks about the birth of Diane Disney and how on December 18, 1933, Walt had to leave in the middle of an award ceremony for him to rush to the hospital for Diane’s birth. He also discusses the Silly Symphonies, the creation of Donald Duck, the introduction of Technicolor to Disney animation and the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Two of the many interesting tidbits about the Snow White were that during the premiere, the biggest names in Hollywood – Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Mary Pickford and 1,500 other attendees paid $5.50 each to attend and see the film. In addition to being the first major feature length animation film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first sound motion picture to be transferred to long playing disks for the visually impaired. Read the story here.


In the 1940’s, he discusses when the Walt Disney Company went public, as well as the salaries of Walt and Roy Disney. The 40’s also saw Walt’s trip to South America, the release of Song of the South and Bambi, among other milestones.



Disney/ABC to Donate One Million Books; Hold 2nd Disney Reads Day

Today, Disney and ABC announced that it will once again donate up to one million books to First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books to educators and organizations serving children from low-income families, during its fifth annual Magic of Storytelling campaign from now through March 31.

The Magic of Storytelling campaign aims to inspire families’ imaginations, cultivate a lifelong love of reading in kids, and bring books to underserved communities across the country. Over the past 16 years, Disney has donated 57 million books to First Book. Together with First Book, Disney Publishing Worldwide and Disney|ABC Television Group are committed to placing up to one million more books in the hands of children in need across the country.


“We are so proud to have donated more than 57 million books through our long-standing collaboration with Disney,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Each year, the excitement around the Magic of Storytelling campaign grows, inspiring millions of individuals to help us bring much-needed new books to children in need.”

As part of the Magic of Storytelling campaign, families are encouraged to put everything else down, pick up a book, and read independently or together during the second annual nationwide Disney Reads Day on February 4. Families can do this at home by taking time to read their favorite books together, or visit a participating Disney Store, Barnes & Noble, or other retail location for story-time, themed activities, and giveaways.

From now through March 31, Disney book donations (up to a total of one million donations) can be activated through various ways:

  • One for One Book Donation: Disney will donate one book to First Book for every eligible Disney book purchased at a Disney Store or participating retailer during that store’s participation window. (A list of eligible Disney books and participating retailers are available at magicofstorytelling.com.)
  • Share a Shelfie: Disney will also give one book for every “shelfie” — a selfie photo with a favorite book or in front of a bookshelf — shared on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MagicOfStorytelling.
  • Disney Story Central: Users of Disney’s digital reading platform can download digital books designed for parents and children to read together. Disney will donate one book to First Book for every book read in the app.