What’s Next for Authors United?

authorsunitedAuthors United has been spectacularly unsuccessful in its supposed mission to get Amazon and Hachette to agree a deal.

By contrast, Simon & Schuster was able to agree a deal in just three weeks – without the intervention of Douglas Preston’s group.

To be fair, Authors United has been very good at one thing: getting media attention.

Perhaps it’s time for Douglas Preston to widen the aims of the group and start campaigning on issues which actually matter.

It would be great if Authors United could get the media to focus on any of these problems. Alternatively, Authors United could continue to focus on propping up a broken system which only rewards those at the very top (like Douglas Preston, surprisingly).

1. Diversity in Publishing 

Publishing is very white and very middle class. And, at the upper echelons, often very male too. One of the many knock on effects of this is that traditionally published books tend to be very white and very middle class. Publishing claims to want more diverse books from more diverse voices, but I don’t think that’s going to happen until more people from diverse backgrounds are representing authors and acquiring books.

2. One-sided Contracts 

Contracts offered by publishers can contain awful clauses. Option clauses which unfairly tie authors’ hands. Reversion clauses which are meaningless in a POD/digital world where books never go out of print. And non-compete clauses which can pointlessly damage a writer’s career.

Some say that a good agent will negotiate those out. My experience of talking to fellow writers is that it’s often the case that even good agents can fail to negotiate these out because they don’t want to damage their relationship with the publisher. But, really, these clauses should form no part of any boilerplate. Agents shouldn’t have to negotiate them out because they shouldn’t be there in the first place. And the upsurge in digital-first imprints taking unagented submissions means this is a growing problem. Continue reading

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Amazon and S&S Agree Terms. Who’s The Bad Guy Again?

s&sSimon & Schuster has agreed a multi-year deal with Amazon covering both e-books and print books. Business Insider reported that negotiations only took three weeks and were concluded two months before the original contract expired.

I’m confused, does this mean the end of literary culture or not? Someone needs to run up to Douglas Preston’s quaint writer shack to find out. (If you get lost, it’s at the back of his 400-acre estate).

It also begs a question: what exactly is Hachette holding out for? As everyone knows at this point, Hachette’s contract with Amazon expired in March and the two parties have been unable to agree a deal since.

The narrative being pushed by the media was that Amazon’s desired terms would harm Hachette and its authors, yet Simon & Schuster was able to agree a contract very quickly which CEO Carolyn Reidy called a “positive development.” She characterized the deal as “economically advantageous for both Simon & Schuster and its authors and maintains the author’s share of income generated from e-book sales.”

In a brief statement, Amazon noted “the agreement specifically creates a financial incentive for Simon & Schuster to deliver lower prices for readers.”

Exact terms haven’t been disclosed but it appears to be a modified version of agency – i.e. where Simon & Schuster sets retail prices, Amazon has certain discounting powers, and the publisher has various incentives not to price too high. In other words, both sides got some of what they wanted.

And the sky remains stubbornly in place. Continue reading

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Building A Better Industry

Mike Shatzkin is confused. He can’t seem to understand why self-publishers spend so much time documenting the ills of the publishing industry.

Or, as Shatzkin puts it in one of his typically snappy headlines, “The motivation of the publisher-bashing commentariat is what I cannot figure out.”

I did a fair bit of bashing myself last week when I said that “Publishing Is Rotten To The Core.” I had intended to follow that up with a more positive counterpoint in a couple of weeks, but Shatzkin’s post demanded an immediate response.

Motivations are less interesting to me than the arguments themselves, and questions about motivations can often be an attempt to avoid the actual issues, or a simple fishing expedition – i.e. looking for a point of entry for an ad hominem attack. But the misunderstanding on this issue is so fundamental that it is worth addressing.

So, why do we care? Is Jamie Ford correct when he claims that we are motivated by bitterness? Was he right when he said that we’re all “people who’ve been told that their baby is ugly”?

It’s possible that bitterness/rejection is a factor for some self-publishers. And maybe even most of them at some level. But the idea that it’s the prime motivation, or any significant factor here, doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny because the “publisher-bashing commentariat” doesn’t just list the failings of the business, but also suggests remedies.

If we wanted to destroy publishers (or cackle as they destroyed themselves), why would we write posts suggesting that they drop DRM, embrace low pricing, and hurl themselves with lustful abandon into the digital future? Continue reading

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Don’t Wait For Permission: Why Authors Should Be Entrepreneurs

EntrepreneurSmallThe self-publishing blogosphere usually focuses on making money from genre fiction, and tends to advise producing as much quality work as you can as quickly as possible, and then marketing it aggressively.

That’s not bad advice at all, but there are many other types of books, several different kinds of authors, and multiple ways you can approach making a living.

Joanna Penn (writing as JF Penn) has hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists with her fiction, but also has an extremely popular blog and podcast aimed at writers, as well as several non-fiction books.

I invited her along today to talk about her latest – Business For Authors: How To Be An Author Entrepreneur – in which Joanna provides excellent advice on ALL the ways that authors can monetize both their work and their knowledge/skills. And it’s especially useful for those who don’t fit exactly into the “write genre fiction as fast as possible” model.

Before we dive into the Q&A, I should mention that Business for Authors is available in e-book, print, and audio. The above link goes to the e-book on Amazon US, but for links to all other retailers and formats, go to Joanna’s site.

Why are you so passionate about authors embracing the entrepreneurial side of things?

This site is all about empowering authors to choose themselves, to take their words out into the world and reach readers directly. It’s about the truly amazing opportunities that authors have when they take action on their dreams. I’m passionate about that too, and now I want to take it one step further.

At the very basic level, an entrepreneur creates value from ideas, which surely is the definition of an author! But more than that, an entrepreneurial author goes beyond just one book into the realm of running a viable business with their writing. So that means taking one manuscript and exploiting all the rights – having ebooks available worldwide, print on demand so anyone can buy the books anywhere, exploring audio options, considering translations, investigating direct sales, and collaborating with other creatives on new projects like graphic novels, even TV series as HM Ward has recently announced for her Ferro series. It might be deciding to sell some of those rights, working with agents or publishers if the creative project suits that approach, but it’s doing so with a definite business aim in mind.

We create art. We manifest our ideas in the world in glorious creative ways, but to be entrepreneurial is to care about the business side as well as the creation. It’s about being excited to generate something new and original, but also being enthusiastic about how the book will reach customers as well as the financial side. Continue reading

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Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

"Rotten apple" by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Rotten apple” by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There is something seriously askew with the supposed values of the publishing business.

The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.

As always, I’m conscious of whose agenda this serves and why writers allow themselves to be used as pawns in this game.

Exhibit A: Harlequin

Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using extremely common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company (and many other multinational corporations too).

You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree), but these actions are legal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the major publishers, and the global media conglomerates which own them, are doing the exact same thing.

Take Harlequin, for example. Harlequin doesn’t just use these corporate structures to minimize its tax bill. It has also used them to reduce the 50% digital royalty rate agreed in some of its contracts to a paltry 3%. Harlequin is facing a class action suit because of this, but you won’t find coverage of that in the news media or outrage about Harlequin’s actions among publishing professionals.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think exploiting authors in this manner is worse than legally minimizing your tax bill.

Exhibit B: The New York Times

I have a fun game you can play! Well, it’s more of a thought experiment and it goes something like this: try and construct a hypothetical scenario where the New York Times writes an article that is critical of a major publisher. Seriously, give it a shot. It’s probably harder than you think, as it would need to be something worse than price-fixing or exploiting authors on an industrial scale, subjects which the New York Times routinely ignores, or whitewashes.

It would also have to be worse than a publisher pretending it was a victim of the Nazis when, in reality, it secretly donated to the SS, used Jewish slave labor to publish hits like The Christmas Book of the Hitler Youth, and then refused to apologize in 2002 when caught lying about it!

That publisher is Bertelsmann, 51% owner of Penguin Random House. I guess being a global media conglomerate keeps the right stories on the front page and helps the wrong ones disappear. Continue reading

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Let’s Get Digital 2 Problems Fixed, New Kindles Launched & More

voyageI’ve info below on six new Kindle devices which launched today below, but first some welcome news:

Amazon seems to have fixed things at its end. Those who purchased the old version of Let’s Get Digital should be able to now download the new version with a few clicks via Manage My Content & Devices (formerly Manage My Kindle) in their Amazon account.

Note: none of these problems affected new purchasers.

More detailed instructions below, but for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I decided to upload the new expanded and updated second edition of Let’s Get Digital directly over the old version.

I explain the reasoning here, but the general idea was to thank the readers who supported me over the last three years by recommending this book (in huge numbers) to their fellow writers.

Digital2Some launch snafus meant the update wasn’t immediately available to download for purchasers of the old version, and when people tried, they got the old edition with the new cover. Ack!

It could have been a very stressful situation, but it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Not least because everyone was so cool about it and help get word of the solution to those who needed it (and thank you for that. Really. It made things so much easier on this end).

However, that should all be fixed now. If you don’t know how to download updates, here’s the process:

1. Go to Manage My Content & Devices (formerly Manage My Kindle) in your Amazon account.

2. Search for “Digital” in the box on the right-hand side.

3. To the left of the book title, click the button.

4. Click “Deliver.” Select your device. Click “Deliver” again.

5. Once your device synchs, you should have the new update and see the book at the top of your TBR.

If this isn’t working for anyone, please let me know in the comments. Continue reading

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Let’s Get Digital 2 Is Out!

Digital2I’m very excited to announce the release of the new updated and expanded 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should.

If you purchased the old 1st edition of Digital, you can grab the 2nd edition for free (instructions below). You won’t actually be able to purchase the new edition from Amazon if you bought the old one, so please follow those instructions to get your free copy.

For everyone else, you can check it out at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords (and all the other Amazons too).

I’ve news below on a sale I’m running on the companion book Let’s Get Visible, and explain below how this launch has been a bit of a disaster, but first here’s the blurb for the new edition of Digital:

Let’s Get Digital covers everything from how the disruptive power of the internet has changed the publishing business forever to the opportunities this has created for writers. It gives you practical, hands-on advice, sharing the very latest best practices on editing, cover design, formatting, and pricing.

It gives you proven marketing strategies that won’t eat into your writing time and are actually effective at selling books. It also shares tips on platform building, blogging, and social networking, and explains which approaches are best for selling fiction versus non-fiction, and what writers should really focus on.

This new updated 2nd edition now has more options for those on a tighter budget, teaches you how to get your book into print (and why that helps selling e-books), tells you why you should start a mailing list immediately, and shares the pros and cons of going exclusive with Amazon. And that’s just for starters… Continue reading

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