Indie Authors: Book Sales and Other Income Strategies

As an author, there’s a lot of things to consider when it comes to earning money. Some indie authors are able to earn a full time income, according to The Guardian and Russell Blake. Print sales are not the most lucrative, according to LG O’Connor, and print and ebook bundling doesn’t always work out, according to Copyright and Technology. It can also be hard to find the right price for your book, as Gene Doucette points out. Continue reading

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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.

What Indie Book Publishing and Indie Game Development Have In Common, Part 2

A while back, I watched Indie Game: The Movie and was struck by how much indie game development and indie book publishing had in common. I had the pleasure of interviewing the talented and inspiring indie game developer, Jonathan Blow. Below is the second in a three-part series that discusses the similarities between developing games and publishing books as an indie. Read Part 1 here.

The Marketing

Marketing can be tough for game developers and writers. Both sometimes spend months or even years working on a project, and once it’s finished they have to learn to go out in the public and aggressively market their baby. Continue reading

7 Strategies and 110+ Tools to Help Indie Authors Find Readers and Reviewers

Self-publishing is growing, and with it come new resources. One of the biggest hurdles of being an indie author is finding readers and getting reviews (which helps find more readers). Some people may still consider self-publishing a stigma, and some writers may think that promotion takes away too much time from writing. But many sites, including Outramp, Your Writer Platform, and Indies Unlimited have written posts giving advice for marketing.

On Digital Book World, founder of McCarthy Digital Peter McCarthy said, “Whoever is the best at connecting authors’ works with the end consumers — they win.” It’s about being agile and seeing what works.

With that in mind, here are 7 strategies and a list of 94 tools indie authors can use to help promote their books and find new readers and reviewers (although the first and most important thing is to write a good book, and then write another, and then keep writing).

UPDATE: After posting I realized I missed a few, so I’ve added them to the list, bringing the total count to 119 resources. You should also take a look at Your Writer Platform’s “How to Get Review For Your Book (Without Begging, Bribing or Resorting to Subterfuge)” for more advice and sites to use.

UPDATE 2: Honorable mention goes to Book Swag, a new website that is similar to BookBub, except free, and is aimed at helping authors promote their books for free and helping readers find great books. Continue reading

iDreamBooks, A Book Review Aggregator

idb logo-name

iDreamBooks is a site that aggregates reviews of books. The goal of the site is right in the tagline: Never read a crappy book again!

Founded in 2012 by Rahul Simha, Vish Chapalamadugu and Mohit Aggarwal, iDreamBooks moved to San Francisco as part of 500 Startups. Patrick Lee, co-founder of Rotten Tomatoes, was an early investor, which works out since the site is like the “Rotten Tomatoes for books.”

CEO Rahul Simha said he met Lee through a friend of a friend.

“We’re fans of Rotten Tomatoes and we think it’s a great rating system,” he said. “It’s a pretty trustworthy rating […] being book readers ourselves we wanted something similar for books.”

Simha said the name iDreamBooks came about because they were looking for something “quirky and memorable.”

Now with a team of five, iDreamBooks is looking to expand its offerings. They already have a partnership with the Sony e-bookstore, which launched iDreamBooks’ rating system in April 2013. Continue reading

Dealing With Negative Reviews

Last summer, I dealt with my very first negative review.

It was for the first book my publishing company, a collection of flash fiction, and I had given the book away for free on LibraryThing in hopes of getting more reviews. Now, even though this was not my book in the sense that I did not write it, I did spend a lot of time working with the authors, and I was proud of them and the work they did. I also made sure the book went through the full publishing process: editing, layout, marketing…the works. And I personally invested hours of my time and more money than I’d like to admit to see the book come to fruition. In short, I thought it turned out well.

Unfortunately, one reviewer did not agree. Continue reading

Self-publishing ebooks: An Overview

Fact: Self-publishing is growing. In 2011, according to BISG, over 200,000 books were self-published. Ebooks are also growing. By 2016, ebooks will account for 50% of book sales, and the book market will be worth $21 billion.  Continue reading

Writers, Readers, Publishers: Present Tense, Future Bold

Tonight I went to a talk about ebook marketing. I’m part of a group, called Writers, Readers, Publishers: Present Tense, Future Bold that meets once a month to hear guest speakers talk about the state of the publishing industry.

The first meeting was a talk with Robert Gleason, Executive Editor at Tor Books, a division of the Macmillan publishing group.  Mr. Gleason acquires books and is a successful author of apocalyptic fiction.  He talked about acquisitions and the impact on traditional publishing of developments in the e-book market.

“We’re in an anti-intellectual culture,” he said. “The U.S. as a democratic culture is at stake […] We’re not a book-loving culture […] To lose the book industry would be a national catastrophe”

This might sound like a grim view of culture and publishing, but I’m sure many traditional, print publishers feel this way.

Some stats:

  • Since 2008, paperback sales have gone down 30%
  • 60% of book purchases are impulse buys, according to Nielson/Gallup
  • 16 years ago there were almost 200 paperback wholesalers. Now there are 2, and they are hemorrhaging money

Plus, Borders went bankrupt last year, and some publishers believe that if Barnes & Noble goes under, the book industry might go down the drain (although my personal feeling is that indie stores are really stepping up so that won’t be the case).

On the bright side, content is still queen. Plus, there are a few cool things marketers can do digitally that they couldn’t before.

According to Robert, in electronic marketing, the value is the content and early access to it. Although it is still effective to book authors on TV and radio shows, as long as they are good speakers and sellers, Twitter and Facebook have made it possible to build new communities and sell books to them. Facebook especially is good for blurbs, events, and exposure, and with enough fans, you can shamelessly plug and link to your sale page. Even radio shows are easier to book. You can use email to contact someone, but you should still close the deal over the phone.

Amazon, of course, is the biggest ebook seller. So it’s important to market well on Amazon. One thing to remember is that Amazon cares about the velocity of sale, according to Robert. If Amazon sees potential, they will blast your book in their newsletter to 500,000+ subscribers. One way to do this is to get 50 5-star reviews from friends when your book is first released. (NOTE* You want genuine reviews, so ask them to only give 5-stars if they really feel that way. Otherwise you’re “gaming the system” and could potentially get kicked off Amazon, not to mention potentially have book buyers, disappointed due to inflated ratings, give you low reviews and question your integrity.)

Carolyn McCray also emphasizes that on her post on Digital Book World. She says 10 is good, but you also need to make sure you have a great cover, an enticing book description in the product description section, and you should categorize your book in less competitive sections, so that you can make it to the top 100 books and sell more that way. For more tips, read her article, Maximizing Digital Book Sales.

Lastly, Robert touched upon some publishers concern about the durability of ebooks. How  long will they last? Will they break down? While there are some legitimate concerns about whether or not devices will always be able to read current ebooks (especially since there are so many devices with their own proprietary formats that may one day be outdated), there are fallbacks and workarounds (at least for now). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.