The Flinch, Newsjacking And Digital Publishing

The Flinch is the instinct to draw back and shrink away from pain or what is perceived to be dangerous, difficult or unpleasant.

It’s also the title of the latest mini-book by Julien Smith to come out from The Domino Project. Right now, you can get it for free on and (that’s the book cover shown left). It’s a short, challenging read with one main point.

Embrace the flinch regularly, push yourself out of your comfort zone and get on with doing the important things in life.

Stop avoiding pain, get some scars and achieve something worthwhile. If you need a kick in the pants, go download it and share it with others.

The Flinch is important for you because of the changes in the publishing industry.

I was at the #FutureBook conference earlier this week and although it was filled with positive, forward thinking book-lovers, you could also sense the fear and concern amongst those who still believe print is the only way forward. My article on what authors can learn from the conference will be on the Future of the Book blog soon, but today a few things happened that illustrated the changing times we’re in and I wanted to share them with you.

People buy from those they know, like and trust.

One of the buzzwords of the FutureBook conference was ‘discoverability’, how to help people find books they want to read in the mass of information online.

Well, people buy from people they know, like and trust which funnily enough, I learned from Julien Smith & Chris Brogan in their book Trust Agents. I downloaded The Flinch on the strength of my respect for Seth Godin as well as Chris & Julien. Yes, this book is free but I have also bought 90% of all books from Seth Godin’s Domino Project because I’m in his tribe. He doesn’t have to ‘sell’ me anything, he just has to tell me the books are available and I click to buy.

John Locke in his ‘How to sell 1 million ebooks’ said that authors need to have a list of fans who will buy their next book, in the same manner as Seth has done as well. Locke was the first indie author to reach 1 million Kindle sales so he knows what he’s talking about.

You can do this too.

Start a list on your site so people can sign up and show their interest. I’m doing this on my fiction blog, where people can sign up for my next book, Prophecy. The list is small right now but you have to start somewhere and we are all growing our body of work over time. If you have a list of fans who know, like and trust you, you will never have to worry about whether your books will sell as your buyers will be waiting.

Ebooks can be sampled or bought instantly on hearing about them.

An online friend of mine tweeted me the other day, “I need to fill up my Kindle, what do you recommend?”. I read voraciously so I mentioned some great books I have recently read: A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness, The Whisperer – Donato Carrisi, The Summoner – Layton Green, The Hunger Games trilogy and some others. She then went to her Kindle and got the samples and most likely would have bought one or more of those. Perhaps you will too.

This is the power on online ebook buying.

There’s no barrier between the person wanting to read and the book they can start to read immediately. There’s no time lapse so no chance for them to find something else on the way to the bookstore or get distracted by a new shiny object.

Smashwords did a survey on ebook buying habits which showed 29% buy based on recommendations online from blogs and other media. I probably buy 90% of my books this way.  I know I’m not a market of one but I am a heavy reader and therefore a target for publishing dollars. Perhaps I’m also an early adopter and therefore represent the future of book-buyers? How do you find your books?

You can’t fight the rise of digital.

If you want to stick with print, you will soon end up missing out on even traditionally published books. That has just become reality. Newsjacking, David Meerman Scott‘s latest business book has been released in ebook only format. It’s not self-published either. You might have read “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”. In fact, it was one of the books that persuaded me onto Twitter. David is a thought leader and his example will only be followed.

In terms of discoverability, I bought Newsjacking because of an interview with David on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation podcast. This backs up the stats from AT Kearney at FutureBook that show an author’s engagement with readers can increase book sales. I wouldn’t have ‘discovered’ Newsjacking on Amazon because actually it seems to be aimed at businesses. I am a micro-business :) but the lessons in it can definitely be applied by those of us who monitor the news and have the speed and agility to provide information in real-time to media hungry for a relevant story.

I hope I don’t have to tell the readers of this blog that they need to be publishing ebooks as well as or even instead of print. I’ve been beating the digital drum for 3 years now! But I am amazed at how resistant and defensive some people are about this inevitable shift.

What do you think? Are you convinced about digital yet?

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  1. says

    Hi Joanna — I just downloaded The Flinch and am psyched to check it out. Thanks for writing about Newsjacking. The ebook only model is an exciting one. I’m still a print fan, but sometimes a quick ebook is the way to go.

    • says

      Thanks David. I am impressed with your monitoring and instant response to this post. You are a great example of someone who does what he preaches. I love a connected author – thankyou.

  2. says

    Convinced? It only took one deal by a legacy publisher to convince me there was no other option that made sense more than self-publishing. I’ve published 5 books in less than a year on my own. So yeah, I believe in what Julien is doing because I’m doing it too, and it’s working.

  3. Doug Lance says

    Thanks for posting this! Seth’s posts about it somehow eluded me. I usually read the Domino Project books as soon as they come out.

    Digital products are the best products in the world to sell. They are something that you create once and can sell forever in infinite quantities with zero distribution costs. Anyone with a computer can buy and use them, so the market is huge. There just is no competing with digital products.

    I think writers need to get over themselves and realize that their dream of being a paperback writer is over. The only dream worth pursuing now is being an ereader author.

    • says

      I still think there is a tiny, tiny way to achieve success as a print author Doug. I mean, it IS still happening, and it’s not dead yet. But I agree with you, the future is digital.

      • says

        Jim, for me the future is both / and. I did Newsjacking as an ebook only. However, my print books sell well (New Rules is over a quarter million copies). So I will keep publishing in the format that makes sense.

        • says

          “Sell well”. haha, you’re a monster! I keep having this same conversation with authors who don’t really write books for direct sales. We all know the money is in training and speaking gigs and all that. But that’s for a very select few. So of course, it makes perfect sense for you to continue to do what makes sense for you.

          I will ask you this, however, have you ever done the calculation in your head on how much money you’re giving up on those quarter of a million copies sold? The average publisher to author commission is 17.5%. I’m sure you have been able to negotiate more. But most can’t.

          Let’s assume you got 70% like Amazon is offering instead of what you’re getting now per book. That’s a lot of dough to leave on the table. Instead of a few dollars per book, it would be $5 or so, assuming you priced at the 70% Amazon rate of between $2.99 and 9.99. At 9.99 even, you’re taking in 70%. That’s about roughly $7 per book.

          $7 x 250,000 books sold…

          I know, most of your books are sold in bookstores and to corporations for speaking gigs. Just saying.

          • says

            Yes, I have done the calculations. And that is why I am staying with Wiley.

            They have a university salesforce (my books are used by about 500 professors). They get me global distribution (I am a bestseller in Japan, UK, and Australia to name a few). They get me foreign translations (30 languages so far from Arabic to Vietnamese). And I don’t have to worry about design, editing, proof reading, and a bunch of other stuff.

            But the biggest reason is that I am a professional speaker and having my books be via a big publisher gains credibility and allows me to focus on where 75% of my income comes from.

            All that being said, if I were starting out, I would self-publish an ebook. In fact that is what I actually did do ten years ago – my first book was self-published (but it was in print).

        • says

          David, You have the years in business and the support of a major publisher – and so I would absolutely expect you to have print books in the future :) It was just a great example of a mainstream author & publisher stepping out of what is the ‘norm’ for indies. I would absolutely take a big print deal if I was offered one because I can’t do that myself. I have your print book & I’m one of your fans too hence why I bought Newsjacking (although nowadays I won’t buy a print book unless it’s a must have gorgeous edition – like Carl Jung’s oversized full colour Red Book!)

  4. says

    I’m definitely going the way of the digital future in books. I agree that the print book market is not dead, but the bigger slice of the pie is in digital. When it comes to non-fiction instructional books that have info I need to refer to over and over, I buy the print version, otherwise I buy for my Kindle. I will sometimes look through Amazon’s lists for something new to read, but 90% of the time I buy from what I see available on facebook by authors or blogs I read.
    I’m trying to do more to build a following but find it so time consuming that I end up shorting myself the time to write. Plus I’m not very good at Twitter–finding the # that has people who would read my book and then coming up with something worth tweeting.
    I’ll check out Flinch now. Thanks for sharing that.

    • says

      Thanks Marcia – for indies, the big slice of the pie is definitely digital. One thing you can do is to have a list for interested people to sign up for your books on your blog – that doesn’t take much and then have a link to it at the end of the book. I have grown a small fiction list that way and over time it will get bigger (we have time!)
      Don’t worry about tweeting if you don’t enjoy it – I love twitter but you have to find your niche :)

  5. Natalie Wright says

    Thanks for posting this Joanna. I’m looking forward to reading Flinch.
    I borrow printed books from the library, but now any books I purchase are almost all digital. I download the samples and if I like the sample, I buy the book. It HAS changed the way I buy books. I still like a recommendation from a friend or a blog (like you recommending Flinch), but I also see what people are reading on Goodreads, if it looks interesting download a sample. I LOVE that I can sample books because in the “old days” I bought books from the brick & mortar store and a lot of the time, I ended up not liking the book. This way I only purchase books I’m going to adore.
    Oh, and there are so many good reads under $5 from Indie authors (and astute publishers), that I never spend more than that for an e-book.

  6. says

    NO DOUBT, digital is the future & the future is now.
    As always, Joanna, thanks for a great post. And thanks for shining the light on Derek at Creativindie. He’s working on my cover as we speak. Not sure he can do my interior. I wrote the book in Apple’s Pages & not sure how that will translate. If you have any budget-friendly recommendations, I’m all ears.
    Btw, I checked with a local (Nashville, TN) designer who wanted $3,000 just for the cover. Seems a bit crazy to me, and I wonder how many newbies are getting taken for a ride… But I digress.
    Just read Flinch, so thx for that, too. About to get Newsjacking as well.
    @David Meerman Scott – Amen! I’m a speaker who’s just getting cranked up & realized that POD + ebooks is exactly the way for a rookie to get started. As I’ve researched my heroes in the biz (I’m a “self-help wrapped in fiction” writer & motivational speaker), I’ve been encouraged to learn that almost 100% of them started as you did: self-published. What better way to show a publisher you can sell books than to actually SELL BOOKS, right? Then you get to decide whether to go Legacy or stay Indie if Legacy comes calling.
    ANYWAY… Here’s my question: Does anyone have thoughts on buying habits of meeting attendees when you speak at a conference? My (very) informal surveys have led to the conclusion that if an attendee falls in love with you while you’re speaking and can meet you/get a signed copy of your book, they’ll pay for the print version on the spot. Otherwise, I envision someone listening to me on stage & literally downloading my book before I finish my talk. My book is releasing next month, so I have no experience with that yet.
    Thanks again, Joanna. You always show up at EXACTLY the right time for me.

    • says

      Brian – another thing I do is offer totally free (no registration) ebooks (PDFs). They have been downloaded over 2 million times. This spreads my ideas.

      In my experience, about 10% – 20% of a room will buy books. But it is a massive hassle to sell them yourself what with logistics of the books and the payment side. A better way to go is to build a copy for each attendee into the price the organizer pays.

      • says

        And this is why we love the internet. Thank you David! I will definitely build that in going forward. I’m shaking my head as I now recall the times I attended meetings & the CEO said, “Each of you is getting (the speaker’s) book as my gift to you.” And we all applauded wildly. Classic win/win. Who knew?

        The no registration ebooks is also intriguing. Thanks for the link. I’ll dive into that right away. Dang… Isn’t it fun to find out everything you didn’t know AFTER you take that leap of faith!

        Seriously, thanks for sharing.

        • says

          Hi Brian,
          I also sell digital courses when I speak. I print out the logon & password and put them in an envelope with the branding stickers on the front so there is something physical to buy. I sell those at $39.99 for the mini courses and $297 for the full course and I always sell some. I take some physical books but I just don’t make enough profit on print so I focus on ecourses when I speak (but then I don’t have the size of the platform like David!)

          • says

            Very good info, Joanna. Thanks for that, too. I’m also releasing an audio program w/ a pdf workbook, and was struggling with shipping all this product everywhere I go! Thus, your envelope idea is brilliant.

            Btw all, if you haven’t read David’s “Real Time” download (link above), you really should. Fascinating.

            Thanks again, Joanna. You have no idea what you’ve meant to my budding career in the last few months.

  7. says

    Hi Joanna,

    Am delighted to have discovered you and read what you have to say. I am an Australian author published in the traditional way but several years ago I started to explore transmedia and am happy to report my first transmedia young adult book is going to be published in January. Titled Kiss Kill (www.reallybluebooks). The learning curve from an author writing a traditional prose narrative to the non-linear narrative of transmedia has not just been steep – it’s been a trajectory – but the possibilities are infinite. David Varela said writers can no longer call themselves authors, they must be auteurs if they they are going to make the transition into the digital future.

  8. LKWatts says

    Hi Joanna,

    I think it is important for everyone to stop and embrace the digital technology. After all, it will only keep moving forwards.


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