Category Archives: Publishing

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.

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.

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.

Tips for Writers Moving from Non-Fiction to Fiction

FaceWriting fiction is a strange and mysterious concept for most media professionals, who are steeped in the style and rules of non-fiction writing.

As a journalist, you think writing fiction will be easy. You are freed from worrying about all those messy facts. What could be easier than making up a story?

Instead, fiction is a daunting mix of annoying obstacles and daunting challenges. The story is percolating. The ideas are there. But the words don’t flow. Structure, plot, characters–fiction writing is a morass of the unknown for a journalist.

But non-fiction writers have advantages in the fiction game. Real world skills can be translated into the realm of make believe. Old habits can be broken; new ones created.

Here are a few tips for non-fiction writers on how to turn those obstacles into opportunities:

::Figure Out a Style: In journalism or non-fiction, the style and voice of a book is usually fair obvious. It’s about telling the story in a factual way. But a great work of fiction create its own style and voice, a consistent tone and vocabulary that brings the reader into the fictional world. Finding that style. It’s worth taking a moment to step back and consider what kind of book you are writing. What is the genre? Who are the authors I admire in that genre? Don’t copy, but learn from those authors. Take special note of the pacing and dialog. Focus on the elements that fit your vision.

::Use Reality: Non-fictions writers are experts at reporting what they see. That works for fiction, too. Look for people, places and events that you know. Let the details of real life create the nuance of your fictional world. Those details are the key. Remember the old adage, “show, don’t tell.” Don’t stretch your imagination; mine your memory and the interactions and settings of everyday life.

SD Press Club::Think in Scenes: Many fiction newbies become trapped in the timeline of the story, letting it roll out in a set chronology. But stories are collections of moments, scenes that tell the story in dramatic fashion. Rather than recapping the daily lives of the characters, think of scenes that really illustrate the story. Focus on those moments. These scenes have beginnings, middles and ends, just like the larger story. You can always bring in other elements through flashbacks or dialogue. But the action in the scene moves the story forward.

::Don’t Forget the Drama: In the non-fiction world, a writer is simply reporting the facts. Fiction requires the writer to take on more responsibility. Scenes need to be created that revolve around some sort of conflict, threat or dilemma–either moral, physical or imagined. It doesn’t matter what kind of conflict or if it’s supposed to be a funny scene or a romantic scene. Every chapter needs an element that makes it compelling, rather than simply “moving the story along.”

::Create a Great Lead: Every journalist understands the concept of a great lead. But it’s even more important in fiction. Those first 50 pages are everything. Every writer should take an extraordinary amount of time and energy to create a gripping first 50 pages. Think of the opening scene of a movie, except in this case everybody can walk out after 15 minutes. You need to grab them.

::Leave Stuff Out: This can be a tough one. Media professionals are trained to tell the story along a tight timeline, offering information as it appears. But in fiction it’s essential to not tell the reader everything. Tease them. Leave gaps that will create questions to be answered later in the book. Drop hints as foreshadowing. In non-fiction it’s the writer’s responsibility to be true and honest; in fiction the writer’s responsibility is to engage readers, to play with their emotions and fears.

::Don’t Organize, Just Write: Every writer has their own methods. Journalists and professional commercials writers tend to like organization. Outlines. Note cards. A clear, logical path to follow. If that works for you, great. But fiction is not about arranging facts. At a certain point it’s about letting it flow, releasing the imagination to go free range. Don’t worry about where it will fit in the story or if it makes sense in the scene or if it’s appropriate for the character. Just write.

At a certain point as a writer, you can’t get hung up on the vagaries of fiction and all the rules and traditions of fiction. You just need to write. There is no substitute. It takes hard work and hours staring at a computer screen, which is something every non-fiction writer understands.

Kevin Brass is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and This article is excerpted from his presentation, “Going Fiction,” for the San Diego Press Club.

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Morgue for Print

buyingFor years book industry experts have been predicting the slow death of print books, as e-books continued to evolve and consume the time of readers. Good or bad, the tide seemed inevitable.

But the latest data suggests that print books may not be on its deathbed, after all.

The number of print books sold in 2014 increased by 2.4 percent from a year earlier, totaling 635 million units, according to Nielsen Book Scan. That may not sound dramatic, but the number represents growth at a time when most people are forecasting steady declines.

“For Books, Print is Back,” Publishers Weekly proclaimed in its coverage. Print sales plateaued in 2012, when 590 million books were sold, according to BookScan. (BookScan captures about 80 percent of sales and the more recent numbers were also inflated by the addition of Wal-Mart, Publishers Weekly notes.)

Meanwhile, the growth of ebooks has slowed noticeably, to single digit levels after years of meteoric adoptions. Ebooks make up about 27 percent of the market these days, but print seems to be enjoying a bit of mini-revival.

But the news was not all good. Sales of adult fiction print books were down 7.9 percent from a year earlier. No adult fiction titles sold more a million copies in print, with only Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” coming close, with 963,000 copies sold, Publishers Weekly reports.

Most of the growth in print was in juvenile and young adult categories, which hopefully translates to a new generation of readers engaging with print.

The Great CreateSpace vs. Ingram Spark Debate

CreateSpaceAny author diving into the world of print-on-demand publishing encounters the same dilemma. CreateSpace or Ingram Spark? Sure, there are other options, but these days the evaluation typically starts with a side by side comparison of the two big players.

There is no definitive answer for every project, but there are clear pros and cons to both providers. And there are many industry professionals who warn of downsides of picking one over the other.

CreateSpace is part of Amazon, making it the 600 pound gorilla in the room. Although evidence is vague, many seasoned professionals will testify that Amazon treats independent books handled by outside distributors differently than books handled by CreateSpace.

CreateSpace also makes it an easy default choice by offering an author-friendly system, including better returns for authors and no fees for uploading a book or making changes. And there is no avoiding the significance of the relationship with Amazon. Unless you have a strong (and extensive) marketing campaign planned, the vast majority of your sales will be through Amazon. A direct tie with the world’s biggest bookseller makes sense

But there is widely held belief that bookstores won’t even consider books handled by CreateSpace. Many believe this a myth, but it only makes sense. Why should they support a competitor stomping out their livelihood? Frankly, a no-CreateSpace policy would be a natural reaction from any bookstore.

Authors are caught in the middle. They simply want to expose their books to the largest possible audience, as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Ingram Spark has the relationship with book stores and some will testify that the print quality is better through Ingram, although that doesn’t seem to be true as much as it was in the past (when Ingram’s primary outlet was Lightning Source, which was difficult to manage for small publishers.)

In many cases, the answer is simple – use both. Use Smashwords. Use your brother-in-law’s new blog. Use whatever it takes to reach the audience. It’s more of a hassle to use both CreateSpace and Amazon, and costs increase, but a professional needs to cover all the bases.

But every case is different and it is always worth exploring the nuances of the various options.

Here are links to a couple of articles that explore the specifics in more depth.

Watchdog: Ingram Spark vs CreateSpace for Self-publishing Print Books

The One-Two-Punch Benefit of Self-Publishing with CreateSpace and Ingram Spark