Author: Glowing Sand Media

Update: KDP vs. Ingram Spark

Now that Create Space has merged into Kindle Print, authors are once again trying to determine the relative merits of Kindle Print and IngramSpark, the old print industry standard.

For many self-published authors, it’s an Amazon world and there is little point in exploring other venues, unless you are trying to get into bookstores. Amazon is where readers will find your book. Amazon is where you will market your book. And when people ask where to find your book, the answer is usually, “Amazon.”

But there are still a wide variety of nuances and pros and cons to each platform, making it a tough choice for new publishers. From paper quality to payments, it’s not an easy choice and the priorities of every author are different.

In a recent post on Indies Unlimited, author Melinda Clayton detailed the pros and cons for each, offering a wealth of information on both platforms. If you’re confused and unsure about which s best for you, it’s worth a read.

The post can be found here.

 

 

 

Common Publishing Industry Scams are ‘Evolving’

An entire industry exists to scam wannabe authors, taking advantage of their passion, naivete and eagerness to get published.

Many of the scams are presented by legitimate companies, who are simply trying to milk writers of as much money as possible. They charge outrageous fees for worthless marketing and promotional materials, even know they won’t help the author. One of the most glaring scams is the ubiquitous promise to craft a “press release” for the book, which no one in the press will ever read or publish (and most writers could craft in a few minutes.)

It’s not just “bald-faced liars” that writers need to watch out for, Victoria Strauss, author and co-founder of Writer Beware, recently said in an interview with Forbes. “Lack of skill and competence is just as big a threat,” Strauss said. “Anyone these days can call themselves an agent or editor or publicist or publisher, whether or not they have any relevant professional background or the remotest idea of how to run a business.”

“Ripoff promotional services that sell junk marketing,” including expensive press releases or email blasts; “pay-to-play publishers” merely posing as small presses; and awards events “that only exist to earn a profit due to their high entry fees,” are among the popular scams, Forbes contributor Adam Rowe notes.

Writers always must be skeptical that they are getting real value for their money. The list of “modern-day scams” includes organizations who charge a fee to for filing a copyright registration and publishing “experts” promising to “divulge the secret, no-fail path to bestsellerdom for a hefty fee,” Rowe wrote.

There is also a “fast fast-growing cabal of predatory self-publishing or marketing companies operating from the Philippines” targeting existing authors with high-priced re-publishing or marketing packages, Strauss says.

The focus of Rowe’s article is that scam are “evolving.” Once reading fees, vanity publishers and editing referral scams were among the common dangers facing writers. Now there is a whole new set of dangers.

“Reading fees may have lost their potency as a scam sometime in the mid-2000s, but publishing scams will continue evolving to fit the times,” Rowe writes.

Do Facebook Ads Work for Independent Authors?

Facebook seems like a perfect advertising platform for independent authors. Ads are relatively inexpensive, simple to produce and can be targeted in a Facebook environment, where you know readers are spending a good chunk of their quality time.

But there are challenges and pitfalls to Facebook, with no guarantee that the return-on-investment will be any better than traditional advertising vehicles.

Fortunately, Facebook advertising is one of those topics that is discussed in-depth in the independent publishing community. There are plenty of resources and case studies available to help authors weigh the pros and cons.

Author consultant Sandra Beckwith recently published what she calls a “Quick Start Guide” to dealing with Facebook ads. It provides a nice overview with plenty of links. Beckworth acknowledges she is a paid affiliate of one education program named in the report, but there is still plenty of useful information and resources. It can be found here.

Publisher’s Weekly offers a nice primer on the basics of Facebook advertising, “Facebook Ads: A Guide for Indie Authors.” Facebook’s huge user base makes it “an ideal destination for self-published authors looking to market their books and build their readerships,” the authors say. Find that article here.

Over on Digital Book World, author Mark Dawson refutes the premise that Facebook “cannot help you sell books.” He saw a “massive spike in business” when he started using Facebook. Read his experiences here.

Why Does Amazon Want Brick-and-Mortar Stores?

Amazon storeAmazon’s drive to control the book business is taking a surprising twist. Best known as a book store killer, Amazon is opening book stores around the country. Although the online giant isn’t opening hundreds of stores, as originally rumored, stores are starting to pop up in select cities and a dozen or more are in the planning stages, according to published reports.

The big question: Why? Amazon’s reason for existing is to make the online experience so seamless and efficient, it can deliver any product faster and cheaper than any store. Why bother with an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar operation?

Amazon doesn’t talk strategy, so it’s left to others to speculate. And once you start to scratch the surface, there are signs that physical stores may fit with Amazon’s larger online strategy.

On one level, the stores simply represent promotion and marketing for Amazon. And the retail operations, even if they are financial losers, cost pocket change for Amazon; they can afford it.

Although counter-intuitive, stores fit the big picture for Amazon. Many people misunderstand the company—Amazon is not a retailer, it’s a fulfillment company. Amazon is all about distribution, delivering products as quickly and efficiently as possible. A storefront, even if it serves only as a distribution center, can actually strengthen the network, providing that “last mile” link to the consumer. If nothing else, a store is a pick-up point for shoppers who buy online.

Amazon also recognizes that shoppers still like to hold and touch a product. The first Amazon store in Seattle provides an opportunity for shoppers to integrate with Amazon, as shoppers can quickly and easily use the Amazon site to learn more about the book and read reviews. The stores also feature sections promoting the Kindle reader and other Amazon products.

In many ways, it’s possible that Amazon can simply create a better retail environment. The Seattle store, Amazon’s first, offers a “highly curated” selection of books, notes Wharton School of Business management professor Daniel Raff in a recent article. All the books are displayed face-out, making for less inventory but better browsing, and all the prices reflect Amazon’s steep discounts, the type of pricing conventional book stores will never be able to offer.

Amazon might be looking at bigger goals, using the stores to better integrate customers into its “ecosystem,” Raff says. New technologies might enable Amazon to tap into data about its customers, providing another competitive advantage.

Of course, all the speculation might be wrong and Amazon might be simply trying to kill off its last remaining bricks and mortar retailers.
Wharton’s Web site hosted an interesting discussion of the issues. It can be found here.

Trends to Watch in Changing Publishing World

book buyingIn the age of Amazon, the book publishing world is changing at a rapid pace. Book stores continue to close, reader habits are morphing and competition grows for the attention of the consumer.

“The future of publishing is fraught with opportunity and peril,” writes Mark Coker in Publisher’s Weekly. He details 10 trends that he thinks every author and publisher should be closely following for a read on where the industry is heading in the next few years.

The list includes the “democratization” of publishing; the global reach of e-books; the rise of indie authors; the glut of high-quality, low-cost e-books; and Amazon’s impact on “devaluing” e-books.

More than anything Coker focuses on the growth of self-publishing and shifting perception of indie authors. Self-publishing no longer has a stigma for authors, he says.

“Ten years ago, self-publishing was viewed as the last resort for writers,” he writes. “Today, self-publishing is becoming the first choice for many writers.”

Independent authors will play a much larger role in the industry forward, he argues. In a fragmented industry, quality writers will still be essential.

“The power center of the publishing industry is shifting from publishers to writers,” Coker writes. “Writers will determine the fate of publishers and retailers by deciding when, where, and how they publish.”

Read the full article here.

Five Tips for Creating Successful Kindle Ad Campaigns

AmazonMarketingMany independent publishers are wary of Kindle ad campaigns, which can ratchet up expenses with no guarantee of success. Spending money to run ads on Amazon seems like one more scam to throw away money without selling any books.

There’s also the Evil Amazon angle. Many independent publishers resist the Amazonization of the book world; they don’t want to participate in the online giant’s takeover of the industry. Participation in a Kindle ad campaign requires enrollment in Kindle Select, which demands that publishers exclusively list their e-books on Kindle, and dump all other e-book sales channels. Kindle Select books are also tossed into the Kindle Unlimited program, which allow members to read books for free. Some publishers don’t want to make that leap.

But maybe you’re willing to accept that, like or not, it is an Amazon world. And instead of fighting and whining about Amazon, maybe you want to take advantage of its vast audience. If that’s the case, than Kindle ad campaigns make sense. They are an effective method to specifically target readers interested in your type of books. More than most book promotion techniques, Amazon gets your titles in front of people ready and willing to buy a book.

Kindle campaigns are easy to set up and simple to execute. Publishers must be willing to commit a minimum of $100 for a campaign, but it can cost less if the campaign ends before all the money is spent. And you can cancel the campaign at any time.

Here are five tips for a successful campaign:

1. Don’t Set the Cost-per-Click Too Low: Amazon uses a bidding system to place ads–the higher the cost per click you’re willing to spend the more likely it will appear on a prime page. While it is tempting to set the rate low and earn more per purchase, you’re going to get better results with a higher rate, especially if you’re running the ad for a limited time. A higher click price translates to more exposure and a better chance to connect with the right people. While there is no science to it, typically a rate close to or slightly above the suggested average rate per click earns adequate placement.

2. Work on the Ad Text: You only get a few words to promote the book (and Amazon won’t let you use an excerpt from a review). You need to make the words count. This is a competitive environment, a world of people with short attention spans browsing the Internet. Don’t make the text complicated. Maybe ask a question to engage browsers—“Was JFK the victim of a mafia conspiracy?” If the book is on sale, give the discount a good old fashioned shout out: “On Sale for a Limited Time.” Try to focus on the interests of the categories you’re targeting. If it’s a mystery, emphasize the murder and intrigue.

3. Timing is Key: Ad campaigns are usually more effective if there is something special to promote. That could be a discounted price or a tie-in to a timely event. Play up the promotion and give the reader a sense of urgency to buy it now. A discounted price is one approach. But if you’re book is about music and the Grammy awards are coming up, use it. If your book is about politics and there is a political scandal in the news, emphasize the connection.

4. Target Your Readers: Kindle allows two strategies to target readers—by topics or specific Amazon books and products. There is no guarantee which pages will work best for you, but don’t take the decision lightly. If you’re using the category option, make sure you choose multiple categories. If you opt to target products, consider the interests and demographics that fit your book and link to the most popular items in those categories. Amazon lets you link to most products on the site. If you’re book is about gardening you can place ads next to garden tools; your book on the music industry can be advertised next to Rolling Stones CDs.

5. Experiment: No matter what so-called experts tell you, there is no set formula for success with an ad campaign. Every book is different. Try a variety of categories and different text. If it’s not working, cancel the campaign and try a different approach. Maybe you’ll have better success placing your ad next to different Amazon products, instead of the categories. If the ad is not generating enough impressions, than it is easy to adjust the cost per click during the campaign.

Keep in mind, not every book is going to generate sales based simply on the cover and a few catchy words. But Kindle ads give independent publishers easy access to the biggest book-buying population in the world, without spending too much money.

Panel Explores Impact of Celebrity Journalism

In the battle for eyeballs and clicks, the growth of celebrity media is forcing traditional media to re-evaluate their business plans and news strategies. From coverage of big stories to the battle for TV ratings, the new breed of media is changing the news competition, San Diego media experts agreed during a recent panel discussion, “Journalism in the Post-Kardashian Era.”

Co-sponsored by the San Diego Press Club and Pt. Loma Nazarene University’s journalism program, the panel discussion focused on the day-to-day implications of the popularity of the vast number of popular new media outlets—TMZ, Buzzfeed, Radar, Inside Edition, OK TV, et al–competing for the attention of the news audience.

Celebrity Media_Panel

“Celebrity journalism is not new; it’s the volume and intensity of organizations chasing the audience,” said panel moderator Kevin Brass, the former media critic for the San Diego edition of the Los Angeles Times and author of “The Cult of Truland,” a novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

The panel included Tiffani Lupenski, news director of KGTV (Channel 10); Lt. Scott Wahl, public information officer of the San Diego Police Department; Tom Mallory, online editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune; Gene Cubbison, a reporter with KNSD-TV (NBC7); and Irene McCormack, a crisis communications specialist who was thrust into the national media spotlight when she was the first to come forward with sexual harassment charges against former Mayor Bob Filner.

Ms. McCormack’s story generated a lengthy discussion, as she shared her stories of what it was like to be chased and investigated by the tabloids. She hired Gloria Allred, who acted like a shield. Ms. McCormack’s advice to anybody in that situation–don’t talk to the media; get someone to speak for you.

The fast flow of information—and incorrect information—may lead to more restrictions on the availability of information, Lt. Wahl warned. Social media may ultimately spark efforts to tighten controls on records, which would be unfortunate, he said.

Competition forces news executives to make tough decisions, Ms. Lupenski noted. Asked when a celebrity story is news and when it is not, she emphasized there is no set answer. She often holds newsroom discussions to debate stories. But audiences are interested in celebrity news, especially in Southern California, and that must be taken into account, she says.

Celebrity Media_Group

With the competition intensifying online, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s web product is much different than the print edition, Mr. Mallory said. His competition is Buzzfeed, Facebook and every other online entity hoping to attract readers. But the sensational celebrity stories don’t work as well for the local site as original feature stories produced by the newspaper’s staff, he said.

Mr. Cubbison from NBC7 offered a list of the many big national stories he’d covered over the years, from the McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro to O.J. The tabloids and celebrity news organizations are often pursuing the same stories, but they take a different approach than traditional news organizations, he said. In cases like Ms. McCormack’s story, the difference is often “basic humanity,” he said.

Good Reasons to Avoid Author Services Companies

bull-keep-out-1390792The self-publishing industry is awash in companies offering authors the chance to produce their books for hefty fees. The quality and usefulness of the services typically runs from adequate to straight-on rip-off.

Sadly, these author services prey on authors who know little about the industry and simply dream of publishing a book. Most of the companies charge exorbitant sums for simple tasks, such as obtaining an ISBN, writing a press release or setting up a Good Reads page. The quality of their work is marginal, often producing the type of book that gives self-publishing a bad name. And once the book is finished, they leave the author alone and floundering, with no real support.

Two lawsuits against noted provider Author Solutions, the Penguin Random House company billed as “the world’s leading supported self-publishing services provider,” were recently dismissed on legal grounds. But the charges will sound familiar to authors familiar with the business. In Indiana and New York, Author Solutions was accused of running “a fraudulent scheme” to sell worthless marketing services to unsuspecting authors, according to coverage in Publishers Weekly.

The cases pressed similar claims against Author Solutions and argued for class action status. Author Solutions deceptively promoted itself as an independent publisher and profited from an array of fraudulent practices, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, failing to pay royalties, and up-selling ‘worthless services’ to authors,” the suits alleged.

The cases dissolved on the complexities of class action status and intricacies of the law, disappointing many authors, who have liked to have seen the issues aired in open court.

“Moving forward, we soon will share our broad-ranging future plans as we fulfill our mission to help authors reach their publishing goals and achieve the widest impact with their writing,” Author Solutions president and CEO said in a statement.

Whatever the outcome of the legal wrangling, the cases should serve as a cautionary tale for authors. These author services companies must be approached with a large dose of skepticism. Authors need to be clear about their expectations from the company and what they hope to achieve.

If nothing else, the news about Author Solutions served as a reminder of a recent blog post by new author Trinity Robert, who detailed many of activities she label scams. Her blog is appropriate titled, “Self-Publishing Traps Are Sucking Authors Dry.”

These packages are dressed up to look glamorous to new authors. However, these “special features” are not worth the money that you are spending… A little research goes a long way. The stuff I have found online is horrifying.

There are many of these stories out there. Authors can report a wide variety of experiences. But, at the very least, it is important for authors to focus on the dangers of sending money to a company that may not be looking after their best interests.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing Your Book

question-5-of-5-future-1525616Most authors struggle with tough, fundamental choices these days, as they approach the idea of publishing their work. They know their book is ready for the world, and now, more than ever before, they have a variety of choices to make their dreams a reality.

But it’s not easy to decide how to approach the business of book publishing. Pounding on the walls of traditional publishing seems like a wasted effort, especially since there is little gold and minimal support behind the walls. And then there are the author service companies eager to drain bank accounts for marginal product, books that scream “self published.”

Self-publishing may not have the same negative connotations, but it’s still difficult to achieve the level of professionalism sought by most writers. These writers have loftier goals, beyond simply the satisfaction of seeing their book in print. They want to reach an audience and, in their hearts, they know their work is good enough to resonate with readers.

On Huffington Post, “writer, model, yoga instructor” Abby Rosmarin recently wrote a nice overview of the emotions and challenges faced by a first-time writer committed to publishing a book. In “What I Learned From Self-Publishing My Book,” she captured both the reservation and exhilarations of the experience.

But more than anything, Rosmarin nailed the real motivation any writer needs in order to find success:

All kidding aside, I write because I can. I write because I have to. I write because there have been times where I’d be at a red light, scribbling something furiously in my notebook, angering the people behind me as I fail to notice the light had turned green.

I write because I am desperate for my voice to be heard, for my stories — whether they are fictional creations or a revealing of my own — to be out there. I am desperate to have even one person read what I wrote and go, “Wow, I can relate.” Or, “Wow, that made me think.” Or, even better, still: “Wow, I feel a little less alone in my feelings and experiences.”

That sums it up. Writers commit to a book because they have no choice. They feel compelled to write. But once they reach that point, the question lingers: Now what?

Like many writers, Rosmarin decided to go it largely alone, a challenging course. But it’s an understandable reaction for anyone who has dealt with the over-priced, snotty author service companies or the closed doors of traditional publishing.

But there are alternatives. Some publishers are willing to share the load, working with authors as talent, rather than annoying clients. You can keep your copyright, work with top editors and artists, and keep control. The publisher is your partner, there to provide help, support and a professional environment. To learn more, contact us.

Austin Chronicle Picks ‘Truland’ for Summer Reads

Cult-of-Truland-1024The Austin Chronicle has included “The Cult of Truland” in its Summer Reading selections, praising the novel for its “satirical edge.”

“The Cult of Truland” is set in the world of celebrity journalism and follows the exploits of Jake Truland, “a hero for the post-Kardashian Age.”

“At first, The Cult of Truland, set in southern California, reads like a frothy beach book, albeit with an undertow that grows stronger as it goes on,” Chronicle editor and reporter Michael King writes. But the book soon veers into more serious topics, exploring the behind-the-scenes practices of the celebrity press.

AustinChron“A dark thread runs through the otherwise lighthearted narrative,” King wrote.

“The Cult of Truland” is the first novel from Kevin Brass, who covered media for the Chronicle from 2004 to 2010. His columns and analysis of media issues have also appeared in Ozy, the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Magazine.

“Brass has traveled the world and soaked up a wide range of pop culture, and it sparkles over the edges of his first novel,” King wrote.

Read the full review here.

Buy the book here.