Author Solutions Steps Up Global Expansion, Penguin Random House Integration

PRHGrupoASIPenguin Random House is speeding up the international expansion of its vanity press operations, while also seeking to integrate them more closely with the traditional side of the business – hoping to counteract flat growth for Author Solutions at a time when self-publishing is booming.

Author Solutions launches a new self-publishing service company for the Spanish market next Tuesday – MeGustaEscribir – which contains the usual mix of crappy publishing packages and ineffective, overpriced marketing services, as well as some extremely questionable practices such as reading fees (more on that below).

The way the Author Solutions scam typically operates is detailed exhaustively in this post, but here’s a brief summary.

How Author Solutions Squeezes Newbie Writers

Customers are captured through a variety of deceptive means – such as fake “independent” websites which purport to review all the self-publishing options available to writers (but only compare the various Author Solutions imprints); fake social media profiles pretending to be writers or “publishing consultants” (who only recommend Author Solutions companies); and, a “bounty” to various unscrupulous parties to deliver Author Solutions fresh blood.

Obviously, Author Solutions needs to use such deceptive measures because authors who have used its services aren’t recommending it to their fellow writers. Instead, they are warning them away.

Once Author Solutions has a writer’s contact details, it moves fast – endlessly harassing them by phone and email until they cave and purchase an overpriced publishing package. When the publishing process is almost complete, an Author Solutions sales rep then contacts the writer to let them know some exciting news: they have won a fake award – invented by Author Solutions. Continue reading

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Amazon Opens Dutch Kindle Store, B&N Moves Into Author Services

Amazon launched a Kindle Store in the Netherlands this morning, as anticipated by The Digital Reader yesterday.

Kindle devices are now on sale for prices ranging between €59 for the basic model, up to €189 for the Voyage, and the store has opened with over 3m titles. However, only 20,911 of these titles are in Dutch and only 1,221 of these e-books are by Dutch authors.

That may change now that KDP has launched a local portal for Dutch writers and small presses. The opening of the Dutch Kindle Store also means the abolition of the regressive and unpopular Whispernet Surcharge in the Netherlands which added $2 onto the price of many e-books.

For those already publishing via KDP, your book is on sale in the Dutch Kindle Store without any further action needed at your end. You will earn 70% on sales between €2.60 (~$3.24) and €9.70 (~$12.08) – matching the terms of the other Euro-based Kindle Stores, and reversing an unwelcome trend where 70% royalties were only available if that title was enrolled in KDP Select (as is the case for Kindle Stores in Brazil, Japan, Mexico and India).

Amazon is a little late to the party in the Netherlands. Competitors like Kobo, Apple & Google already have some presence, and there is a strong local competitor which is estimated to have 60% of the nascent e-book market (Bol.com, which partnered with Kobo as recently as September).

But Amazon has a track record of dramatically changing the digital markets it enters. For example, Amazon grabbed around half of the Italian e-book market within three months of opening its doors there. On the other hand, Amazon has had it tougher in markets like France and Germany where strong fixed book price laws have hindered its desire to ability to discount.

Whoever ends up on top, the opening of Amazon’s Dutch operation is a reminder that we are only at the very beginning of a long period of change, and that the real battle isn’t between authors and publishers, or even Amazon and publishers, but an international turf war between a small handful of tech giants. Next stop: Scandinavia and Russia. Continue reading

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Aiming for the NYT Best Seller List

NYTlistUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week – with no wifi! – you are probably aware we released The Indie Author Power Pack on Monday, with the aim of hitting the New York Times Best Seller list.

We won’t know the result until next week, but I’ve had a few tweets and emails asking how we were doing, so I thought I’d give you an update.

Before that, if you somehow missed the blanket promo we have been conducting, The Indie Author Power Pack is a stonking deal – only 99c – and contains three top rated writer’s guides:

  • indie-power-pack-blogWrite. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant
  • Let’s Get Digital (2nd ed.) by me
  • How To Market A book (2nd ed.) by Joanna Penn
  • PLUS exclusive content.

You can read more in this blog post, and you can pick up the box for just 99c (saving you $16!) from:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Apple | B&N | Kobo

Everyone who pre-ordered the box should have received it on Monday, and if there was some issue purchasing the box set, or if your pre-order hasn’t dropped onto your device, please let me know in the comments or by email and I’ll help.

The Numbers

The box set has been selling extremely strongly since it went up for pre-order and Joanna Penn got the ball rolling on her blog. I stepped up to the plate the following Tuesday, then Sean, Johnny & Dave put their shoulder to the wheel a couple of days later, and then we all recorded a podcast last Friday.

I don’t have access to the exact figures, but I think we had around 3,000 pre-orders before it actually went live this Monday. So far so good. Continue reading

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New Release: The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish & Market Your Book

indie-power-pack-blogFor the last few months I have been secretly planning an assault on the New York Times bestseller list. Today, I can finally announce the release of the book I’m hoping will do the trick.

The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish & Market Your Book contains three top-rated guides:

  • Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
  • Let’s Get Digital (2nd ed.) by me
  • How To Market A Book (2nd ed.) by Joanna Penn
  • + Bonus Content!

It’s only available for a limited time, and you can pre-order it now for just 99c at:

Amazon | Apple | B&N | Kobo | $0.99

The box will launch on Monday, November 3, but if you pre-order now the book will automatically download to your device next Monday.

I took great care in selecting the books for this box set. I wanted to present the very best books covering the three main tasks an author faces: writing, publishing, and marketing.

cover-write-publish-repeat-finalWrite. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant is wonderful, containing all sorts of useful information for writers at any stage of their careers. You can read my five star review on Amazon here from when I first read it – and that’s just one of over four hundred five-star reviews.

This book covers so much great stuff, but the section on Story Beats really blew me away and revolutionized how I write. You can read my post on that here, along with an excerpt from the book.

That chapter on Story Beats (and the one on Product Funnels) would be worth the normal full price of this book alone – $5.99 – but you can get it now as part of this box for just 99c! I called Write. Publish. Repeat “the best book on self-publishing” when it was released. It’s the book that raised the bar and inspired me to update Let’s Get Digital so extensively. Continue reading

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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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