Guest Post: Where to Find the Best New Authors; 5 Online Writing Communities To Explore

By Allison Phillips

The environment is changing for authors. What once was thought to be a solitary pursuit is evolving into an interactive process with the introduction of new technology. As we move from the printed page to the screen, it invites readers and writers to engage and share the experience through online writing communities. Writers now have access to networks that offer critique, feedback, and support to one another. This collaborative approach helps to beat writer’s block, get inspired, and obtain a fresh perspective.

Take the bestselling novel 50 Shades of Grey, fan fiction based on Twilight, and written in progress on a public fan-fiction website; it gathered fans and feedback over time before being formally published.

While online writing communities benefit writers by giving them the freedom to share their work, it benefits readers by allowing them to uncover a whole new world of storytellers. No longer are readers restricted to the bookstore in search of something captivating but can now visit a site to explore new writing styles, working plots and engage with a potential bestseller.

Here are some writing communities that readers can explore: Continue reading

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A Quick Look at Coloring Books

By Jenn Gaylor (Southeast Steuben County Library) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jenn Gaylor (Southeast Steuben County Library) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what could make a nice gift? A coloring book!

Seriously, I know it was a huge fad last year (and the year before), but there is something really relaxing about taking colored pencil to paper. In that spirit, here are some resources I’ve found about coloring books (in case you want to make and sell your own, or just color your own):

Coloring Book Trends

Related Trends

Coloring Benefits

Making and Publishing Coloring Books

Examples of Coloring Books

Coloring Book Apps

The Growth of Audiobooks

By Dieaxtimwald (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dieaxtimwald (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A few weeks back, I wrote an essay for LARB about reading in the multimedia age. A big part of the essay focused on audiobooks, which are growing in popularity each year.

According to QZ, audiobooks are growing more than ebooks. MarketWatch wrote that some audiobooks are selling more copies than their print counterparts, and according to The Digital Reader, “audio can outsell print when audio is treated as its original format and not produced as an after thought.” Continue reading

Music and Sound Effects in Books

By Tiffany Bailey from New Orleans, USA (Abandoned Art School 81) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tiffany Bailey from New Orleans, USA (Abandoned Art School 81) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Audiobooks are gaining popularity, but sounds are making their way into ebooks as well.

Back in 2013, Google submitted a patent to trigger sounds in ebooks. According to GoodeReader, “The sounds would be triggered by events within the book, such as lapping waves, an ominous crescendo, or maybe an outdoor market. The new application would have the sounds stored on a server and would be pushed out to the eBook users are reading at the time.”

Now, the startup Booktrack, which synchronizes movie-style soundtracks with ebooks, has been busy expanding its reach. This year alone, Booktrack has partnered with Microsoft and Hachette’s Little, Brown. According to DBW, Booktrack Classroom, which is used in over 15,000 classrooms, is integrating with Microsoft 365. Continue reading

8 Fun Trends in Reading and Publishing

By Tulane Public Relations (Girl in the Library  Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tulane Public Relations (Girl in the Library Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Our culture is changing, and it’s exciting and fascinating to watch.

In literature, what used to be taboo is now trending. According to Broadly, gay characters are gaining popularity in teen fiction. According to Broadly, it started in 2003 with David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy novel, though in the beginning it was still considered controversial. Now, according to author Simon Curtis:

“[Teenagers] expect [that] the book better be fucking [diverse]. It shouldn’t be just straight white kids like how it has been for the past hundreds of years. They are hungry for other stuff.”

Another new development is how self-published books are getting more mainstream (not too surprising, since there were 727,000 ISBNs were registered for self-published works, according to Publishing Perspectives). Bustle wrote a list of 10 indie YA novels people should read, which includes Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner, a book about a woman warrior fighting mermaids (whose childhood friend is a mermaid), Awoken by Sarah Noffke, a book about time traveling in your sleep, and The Magic Shop by Justin Swapp, a book about a shop that’s a front for a magical community.

There’s also the “girl” trend. FiveThirtyEight explored how the word “girl” keeps appearing in bestseller titles, and about 1 percent of fiction titles will have the word “girl” in the title this year. It’s unclear why, though part of it may be due to the success of a few books with the word “girl” in the title, such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train.

Fan fiction is also growing. According to Slate, “Harry Potter launched a phenomenon that’s seldom acknowledged and barely understood, but that’s as powerful and lasting as the books themselves: the first massive internet-born fandom.” People were able to connect internationally, and form large communities that in some cases have become associates of studios, such as Warner Bros.

Dystopian novels are considered evergreen, according to Publishing Perspectives. This could be because the real world seems bleak (though some good/interesting things have come out of bad news, such as a pop-up print newspaper finding success in Britain after Brexit, according to the New York Times).

The Internet is helping out print books, according to the New York Times. In Michigan, the independent bookstore Brilliant Books uses social media to deliver great customer service, and attracts a lot of book buyers.

On the flip side, ebooks are being tailored to people’s commutes. In New York, a platform called Subway Reads delivers shorts and excerpts to commuters for free and lets them choose what to read based on the length of their time on the subway, according to the New York Times.

Last, the publishing industry is getting more transparent. According to DBW, Inkitt has posted its author contract online to create a greater level of transparency in the publishing process for aspiring authors.”

What trends have you noticed? Please share in the comments!

An Interview with Richard Billings, Founder of Leafless

leafless-whiteThe publishing industry is full of opportunity. Today, publishing startup Leafless, a digital distribution platform and publisher, is launching (after rebranding). Leafless aims to solve the problem of authors paying for reviews and honest reviews disappearing from sites like Amazon. Through Leafless, authors can give copies of ebooks to readers for reviews, and popular books on the site can be distributed globally, in order to collect data for agents and publishers to see and choose whether or not to publish a Leafless book traditionally. Leafless also plans to traditionally publish select titles under its own imprint.

Leafless was part of Ingram Content Group’s 1440 publishing accelerator. I got the chance to ask the founder of Leafless, Richard Billings, a few questions about his new platform and what it means for indie authors.

S.R.: What inspired the creation of Leafless?

R.B.: I began as an amateur writer, writing poems and short stories. After some good feedback and encouragement, I decided to write a novel. I spent two weeks clicking away on the keyboard only to come up with two chapters. I decided that if I was going to spend a year of my life writing a book, I should probably take a look at how the publishing industry works. It didn’t take long to find out that most manuscripts submitted to traditional publishers are rejected. When researching the self-publishing industry, I found many authors setting their prices high but providing very few, if any, reviews for me to base my decision on.

S.R.: How can Leafless help indie authors?

R.B.: Our initial offering only tackled pricing and reviews. We tried to circumvent the traditional market by only selling ebooks on our own site in a self-published-only model. We continued to talk with authors and were continuing to find that although many were happy for the opportunity to have their books read, many still wanted to be traditionally published, but didn’t have the connections to publishers and agents. We also began speaking with publishers and agents who said that they were buried under slush piles and needed a way to filter through the noise to find good content. At Leafless we give authors the opportunity to be discovered by traditional publishers and agents without the mess and rejection of submitting manuscripts to disparate publishers and agents.

S.R.: How many authors and readers is Leafless currently working with?

R.B.: With our previous offering we worked with nearly 300 authors from around the world. We of course hope to see many of those authors convert to the new site. We will also be actively seeking new authors in the coming months.

S.R.: Through Leafless, authors can give copies of their ebooks to readers, and then readers can nominate books for publication. How many votes does it take for a book to be published?

R.B.: Books submitted to the site will remain as ‘Galleys’ for readers to read and provide feedback. Readers can read as many of these as they like, but will have a limited number of ‘Nominations’ that they can use towards books they’d like to see published. A nomination will require that the reader to write at least 250 words about why they’d like to see the book published. After 10 nominations, authors will be offered a global distribution contract as a self-published title. We will apply our pricing model and provide limited marketing towards these books.

S.R.: And how does the publication process work?

R.B.: During the self-publishing stage, after nomination, we collect pricing, sales, demographics, and other important data which we then make available for subscribed publishers and agents. Publishers/agents can use this data to make informed decisions about which authors they’d like to make a contract offer to. The offers take place through our site where we either act as the agent in the case of a direct to publisher agreement, or as a split-commission in the case of an agent agreement. As part of our process, once a book is picked up for traditional publication, those 10 that initially nominated it will receive a signed copy from the author.

S.R.: Are reviews that readers write only available on Leafless or will they be published elsewhere?

R.B.: We still looking into it, but our goal is to disseminate reviews gathered through our process to as many retailers and review sites as possible.

S.R.: Leafless will also be publishing books the traditional way. How many books does Leafless plan to publish per year, and what does Leafless look for in a potential book?

R.B.: Leafless will publish books that appeal to us as a brand. We will probably publish only one book per month under the Leafless imprint. Our authors will receive all of the bells and whistles of traditional publishing, including editing, cover design, marketing, and our contract is based on the Authors Guild fair-contract recommendations. Our goal is to provide a service between authors and publishers. Our publishers would get a right-of-first-refusal for any books we decide to take one. We don’t want to compete with our publishers.

S.R.: How can authors submit their work for consideration?

R.B.: We will, as in the past, provide an easy to use submission process. We are partnered with Pressbooks.com to provide simple eBook creation tools. Submission into the Galley section is free and under no contract other that our normal Terms of Service.

You can learn more about Leafless here.

Publishing in VR

By Manus VR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Manus VR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Virtual reality (VR) isn’t only for games. More traditional publishers are also incorporating the new medium into their content, and it’s exciting to see it all unfold and think about how stories may exist in the not-too-distant future.

According to Digital Book World, “VR could be the next frontier for publishers as a new revenue source.”

One example of a publisher using VR is the New York Times, and their Olympic Stadiums in VR, according to Upload VR. The project is called The Modern Games and it allows people to explore the Olympic stadiums in Rio as well as in past Olympic cities. To recreate past cities, NY Times pieced together thousands of old photos. The producer, Graham Roberts, said, “We’re always thinking about what makes something valuable in virtual reality. There has to be a reason that we’re making it in VR and not a standard 2D medium.” Continue reading

Episode, the World’s Largest Community of Mobile Storytellers

EP_1200x627_Khaleesi-BF

Back in 2014, Pocket Gems, a leader in the mobile games space, launched Episode, their interactive mobile story platform. In this platform, which is available on Apple, Google Play, and Amazon, users can interact with animated stories and make decisions to shape their plots.

The platform has grown in the past two years, and has become a great place for new writers to get their work noticed. I had the opportunity to interview head of studio Michael Dawson, who talked about the current and future state of Episode. Continue reading

Taking Stock of Industries Related to Book Publishing and How That Relates to the Future

media

Book publishers can learn a lot from their media counterparts. As the world becomes more connected, the lines between these industries is getting blurred. Keeping on top of trends then can be really helpful, in terms of getting ideas of what can be done and what to expect in the future. Here are a few headlines from other forms of media that can help inform people in book publishing:

Music

Movies, TV, Video

Comics

Games

Education

News, Blogs

Ads

Content

Design

Monetization

Startups, Niche

All this connectedness, combined with lower barriers to entry, have made it easier than ever for people to start their own startups. Not all are successful, but they are all interesting.

Apps

Books

Book Publishers

Book Publishing

Book Recommendations

Lessons

Niche

Tech

Future, Trends

After taking a look at other industries, as well as new companies in the book industry, it’s interesting to read about trends and predictions for the future.

Authors

Design

Marketing

News

Predictions

Research

Ebooks

Last, it’s fun to see all the pieces starting to come together in the form of ebooks. There’s a lot of interesting developments in the EPUB world.