Indie Authors and Social Media: 12 Case Studies

In my last post, I examined the social media profiles of 12 bestselling authors. As the results showed, a lack of a huge social media platform doesn’t appear to be a barrier to making it onto the bestseller list. At least for traditionally published authors. But is the same true of indie authors, who often lack the marketing resources of the ‘Big Five’? (Or even their smaller counterparts?) Could social media be indispensable for indies?

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Where’s the Diversity in Books and Publishing?

The US and UK each produce about a quarter of a million titles every year. For readers, that’s an overwhelming amount. Yet often, it can feel as if there’s hardly any diversity in the industry.

Have you noticed the fads that publishing goes through? One season, every hit book will have ‘girl’ in the title. The next, they’re all about vampires. Or childhood abuse. Or more recently, feature dystopias. It seems we lack diversity in content.

Sometimes, it can feel like they’re all by the same authors, too. James Patterson and Nora Roberts, for example, have each written (or co-written) over 200 books. It seems we lack diversity in perspective.

Then, there are times when it feels as if every store is selling, and everyone is reading, the same book. In 2016, charity stores received so many discarded copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, they begged people to stop donating them. (But not before building a book fort in at least one store!)

So how do we reconcile these statistics?

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One Little Word: With

Any time I’m in an airport, I can’t help but pick up one of those airport bookstore catalogues. They’re usually filled with Crime/Thrillers, and feature one or two of what I call ‘with’ books.

What’s a with book?

With books are those (purportedly) written by big-name authors. And I really, literally, do mean BIG NAMES. The big-name author’s name is literally the biggest thing on the cover. Larger and more prominent than the title. Much more sizable than the cover image.

But that’s not what makes it a ‘with book’. Rather, a ‘with book’ has one additional – much harder to find – feature. A little line that states ‘with’ and then, in a much smaller font, lists another author’s name.

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Why Does Garbage Get Published? Profits vs. value

Corporations may not have a legal obligation to maximise shareholder profits. But the belief that they must do everything (within the law) to make money is certainly widespread. Of the ‘Big Five’ publishers, four are public companies. Regardless of their legal obligations, they must keep their shareholders happy. And shareholders are usually made happy through a) increased share price, b) fat dividends or c) a combination of the above.

Smart investors, of course, are those who are in it for the long-term. Who want any increase in share price to be one which reflects an increase in the value of the underlying company. Who want any increase in dividends to reflect an increase in the company’s profits.

‘Surely, increased share prices are good?’ I hear you say. Or, ‘Who wouldn’t want to receive a nice big dividend?’ The answer is responsible investors. Those who care about the company they invest in. Who want it to continue running into the future. Who want its products to remain available. Its employees to remain in jobs. And, of course, to receive sustainable profits from the company themselves.

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Books On Books: How to talk about books about books

I love books. So much so, I even love books about books. And Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” is among the best.

It is possible to have a passionate conversation about a book that one has not read, including, perhaps, especially, with someone else who has not read it…

Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

If, like me, you cannot fathom walking into a bookshop or library without thinking “how on earth will I read them all?”, this book is for you. It is a salve for this precise emotion.

Bayard argues the merits of not reading. In fact, the entire first section of the book describes “Ways of Not Reading“. “Unread” books are divided into books “you don’t know”, “you have skimmed”, “you have heard of”, and “you have forgotten”.

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The Growing Impossibility of Book Perving

One of the few perks of utilizing public transport has always been a spot of book perving. A discreet but leering glance to the side. An ogle from behind the pages of one’s own book, to discern the title and appraise the cover art of another’s. (I don’t go in much for reading-over-the-shoulder though, unless in dire circumstances.)

eReaders and liberation from book perving

It was awareness of my own propensity to indulge in book perving that made me somewhat shy about what I chose to read in public. eReaders, have, of course, changed all this. Now, freed of fear I’ll be the target of a subtle (or even not-so-subtle) book perve, I find myself reading books I would not otherwise have been caught dead reading in public.

Self-help books (that divulge my weaknesses to potential foes). High-brow books. Low-brow books. All these, I avoided in the past (at least, when out and about), in order to escape derision and/or conversation. eReaders have truly freed me.

But what a price there is to pay!

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Why the Big Five {publishers} are a Big Deal

Recently, I was in Germany, and decided to browse Project Gutenberg. A site named after one of the most important publishers in history.

For those who don’t know, Project Gutenberg is a wonderful repository of books in the public domain. The site takes its name from the famed German inventor, printer, and publisher. Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing, and more important still, movable type, to Europe. This kickstarted the printing revolution of the 1400s. His innovations enabled mass production, laying the groundwork for a knowledge-based economy. Learning spread to the masses, democratizing education.

It thus seems appropriate to name a website devoted to taking advantage of new technology to spread knowledge after this influential German publisher.

But when I tried browsing the site in Germany, I did not see the familiar sepia tones of the Project Gutenberg home page. Instead, I saw big red letters. ‘Your IP Address in Germany is Blocked’.

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