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It seems that every week brings a new development in the world of digital publishing and indie authors have varied opinions on what's happening. In this interview, I discuss some of the latest events and also debate what 2012 holds.
Steven Lewis is an author, podcaster and at Taleist he helps writers become published authors. He has just posted Self Publishing and Ebook Predictions 2012 on his blog which we discuss today. [Video at the bottom of the text]
- One of the comments in the article is ” 2012 is the year things get bad for the traditional publishing industry”. My thoughts are more that there's a split between publishers going digital and those that are not. Steven comments that for publishers going digital the problem is pricing and customers think the price has to be low. 99c – $4.99 which in some cases still doesn't cover the costs of all the editing, design etc. People won't pay print prices, that's a given but where is the limit. Publishers will find it tough to run the publishing machine with less income.
- Publishers will be trying new things in 2012. Penguin opening up to ‘self-publishing' is actually more like vanity publishing. None of us want to see the end of publishers and bookstores but things will continue to shift.
- Steve thinks Amazon has to start doing something about the crap that is being published in 2012. The spam, the hardcore pornography and the things that come up in searches. They have to clean it up but there have been problems with Amazon trying to get rid of what some people think is wrong e.g. gay/lesbian writers. We have to balance free speech with what is genuinely awful. I prefer to think of the customer as the gatekeeper as I am browsing by categories, ranking etc. The new stigma will be ‘not selling' as opposed to self-publishing.
- What else will Amazon do in 2012? We discuss Kindle Select. It's basically a way for self-publishers to put their book into the Kindle Prime lending program where members can borrow books. Amazon has put $500,000 in a pot and that is shared pro-rata depending on how many books & how many borrowed. You have to commit to 90 days exclusivity, so you can't publish it elsewhere. It's not an income strategy really. But what is interesting is that you can put your book for free for 5 days so you can control your timing on using free as a marketing tactic. Steven isn't happy about this as he says we're training readers that books should be free. I disagree and point to CJ Lyons' as she uses free as a teaser to boost the sales of her other books. Amazon's job is to make an offer and it's up to the author to decide what's best for their book. We'll also re-examine this after at least a month's worth of data.
- Check out David Gaughran's article on KDP Select: How much do you want to be paid tomorrow?
- Steven gets upset at my comparison of KDP Select to a library. My point is that it's more about marketing and getting your books in front of more people. Personally, I will probably put one book into KDP Select but keep most of them out.
- Will there be better tools for authors in 2012? Steven says it's unlikely we will get much further than the basic formatting for mainstream books. I mention the FutureBook conference where I met publishers doing some really interesting work with transmedia and apps. This is something that we as self-publishers can't do ourselves so if you have these ideas for cross-media ideas it would be better to work with a publisher. Authors also underestimate the amount of time to do all the things you can do and focusing on what will work for you. It's a triathlon – you write, publish and promote but promotion also goes on forever. The cost is often in the time.
- If we're basically seeing an expansion of mainstream print books, we have to get better at marketing. Reading works as it is, there doesn't have to be a change. You really still only have to write books. You don't have to do apps and all that multi-media. I'm interested in doing audiobooks. Steven has some experience of this and doesn't find it a huge market but it's definitely something that we are keen on taking further. It's not about the money, more about the marketing.
- Amazon moving into international markets. I specifically want India to come online as a huge English speaking market. We note how Amazon keeps surprising us. There are no rumors, they just do it. They can move into these countries very easily and will do as soon as they are ready. Steven & I get annoyed about all the differences in pricing and sales tax.
- Advertising in ebooks. Authors will do it and Amazon is also putting ads on the Kindle. Steven even likes the advertising on his Kindle as it offers things the reader wants. Seth Godin with the Domino Project did get companies to sponsor the book and give it away for free. It's not radically different to what we are used to now. Authors will also be able to advertise in each other's books. Bloggers can join in an advertising network, so why not authors? Join in an advertising campaign and see what happens with it. You definitely need to use your Kindle book to advertise your own books. Make sure you hyperlink to Buy Now for each of the books you have available. Think about linking up with other authors and advertise each others but be careful.
- We talk about Scrivener and exporting to Kindle formats. The pros and cons.
- Amazon continues to dominate but we discuss Kobo which has great statistics, like when people stop reading your book & people can interact socially about it. Nook Color vs Kindle Fire. What's happening with the other players in the market? It's very hard to challenge Amazon's place in the market now, they are so entrenched. They are also selling their devices at less than cost. It would be great to see some decent challenge to Amazon as with great power comes great responsibility and with all our eggs in one basket, they could turn around and change royalty rates later.
- As indies getting on everything other than Amazon KDP, our options are Smashwords and BookBaby, that's about it. Will there be other options for us? or will Smashwords expand their offering. We love Smashwords but recognize the immense amount of work it is for Mark Coker to manage the company now it's really taken off.
- Steven reckons Amazon will play hardball with the other players in 2012, e.g. asking for exclusivity. They also might move to a verification method for self-publishing e.g. paying $50 instead of free. It's Amazon's reputation at risk with the crap that is flooding the store. Serialization may also become available as a new model. Exciting times overall!
You can find Steven at Taleist.com and also on Twitter @Rule17