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In today's show, I talk to publishing expert Hugh McGuire about some of the biggest stories of 2014 and how they affect indie authors. We go through the state of audio, exclusivity and subscription models, discoverability and publishing startups, print on demand, Author Earnings and global development. Exciting times!
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Hugh McGuire is an author, professional speaker and publishing expert, the founder of PressBooks, an online book publishing platform built on WordPress, and of LibriVox.org, the largest library of free, public domain audiobooks in the world as well as lots of other things!
Audio has been a big shift in 2014, with ACX opening up to UK authors and a big growth in the audio market. We discuss the popularity of audio and why it might be growing. Hugh mentions how the success of his company Iambik was in the genre fiction categories, which is the same with ebooks. It's still a niche market but worth looking at to extend your rights. As with any content, marketing is still really important to make a dent, although I point out that discoverability might be easier in audio, because there are fewer titles. The more channels you're in, the more formats you're in, the more likely you are to build a long-term business.
“It's perfectly fine to have a writing career that isn't a business, but don't complain when you don't make any money at it.” Hugh McGuire, Pressbooks
- We discuss exclusivity, Kindle Unlimited and subscription models. Authors have to decide what makes business sense in the short term as well as the long term. It makes sense for new authors to use exclusivity to get some movement, but if you have a longer term business model, a wider base of distribution is better. Subscription models are not designed to make money from one individual book, it's more of a way to grow the amount people are reading altogether. These models are growing. You will always be better off growing your own email list so you can always reach people directly.
- Discoverability and how some of the publishing startups looked like a great idea, but haven't worked out quite yet! Hugh talks about how the self-containment of the e-reading eco-systems have stopped discoverability. We talk about Readmill, which focused on social reading and was bought by Dropbox and shut down. We both liked Small Demons, which looked at the cultural milieu around books e.g. what music is referenced within certain books and discovering other books that also mention that song. Unfortunately, they also went out of business. [Side note: I did ask them at a conference why they didn't open up to indie authors so we could create content for them, but they only wanted to work with trad pub. I still like the idea!] We also talk about Wattpad, which is a great startup that is thriving, although its user base may be quite different to mainstream publishing at the moment. And of course, we still love Smashwords, and Mark has always focused on indies!
- Pressbooks is based on producing beautiful print on demand files easily from your manuscript and the interface is built on WordPress so it's easy for bloggers to use. There are multiple ebook outputs as well, but it's focused on the print on demand aspect primarily. We discuss the importance of print to the market but how more print sales will go online over time.
- Global market expansion. We talk about whether the next big thing will come out of another territory. Hugh mentions that African countries are ‘skipping' technology e.g. moving directly to cellphones instead of landlines, and to mobile tech instead of desktops or laptops. There's also fantastic innovation coming out of these other markets. English language authors do have an advantage as we've been thinking about this for several years now – compare this to French authors or other places where the digital revolution has barely begun.
- Author Earnings and how supply is increasing. I talk about how my hope is that the romance authors are just ahead of the curve because they started earlier in digital, and that other genres will catch up in terms of % dominance by indie authors. In thrillers, it's still dominated by trad pub, but we're on our way up!
- We discuss the fact that the ‘bleeding edge' of publishing is actually here already! The self-publishing big names are becoming small presses, publishing other people as H M Ward has now started doing.
Overall, a positive time for creators!
You can find Hugh and his team at PressBooks.com and on Twitter @pressbooks or @hughmcguire