Tag: indie publishing

Are indie authors truly independent?

In his annual post, Smashwords founder Mark Coker asks ‘Can authors honestly call themselves indie authors when they’re getting 80-100% of their sales from a single retailer?’

His question inspired me to investigate my own sales. And it turns out, the sales of Number Eight Crispy Chicken fall right in this range.

Although it is also available on Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, over the first month, 91% of the sales of Number Eight Crispy Chicken were via a single platform. You guessed it: Amazon.

Drilling down, however, 44% of those sales on Amazon were for paperback books. Only 72% of ebook sales were on Amazon.

But that’s still a lot of eggs in one basket.

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The After-After-Thought: The Spine

If a book’s back cover is often an after-thought, the spine is an after-after-thought.

Yet, as I wrote in my last post, the spine is the backbone of the whole operation. The thing holding the front and back cover together.

Typically (unless you or your readers upload photos or videos to Amazon or other retailers) your book’s spine won’t be visible to browsing customers online.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in an effort.

In fact, there are two reasons spine design deserves your special attention:

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The Forgotten Back Cover

Back in the days when brick-and-mortar book stores and libraries dominated, the back of a book was perhaps the next thing most readers would turn to after glancing at the cover, and before making the decision to purchase or borrow. The back cover was where you’d find not only the book’s blurb, but a tagline, endorsements from reviewers (also known as ‘blurbs’), any awards the book had been nominated for or won, and a short bio about the author.

In our current era of online bookstores, ereaders, and indie publishing, the back cover has been largely replaced by the description field on retail sites. In many cases, the front cover has taken on of the burdens of the back cover, with taglines, quotes, awards, and even biographical details jammed onto a book’s front.

So it should come as no surprise then, that self-publishing guides pay scant attention to back covers. E-books don’t require (or really have the facilities for) back covers at all (much to my disappointment!).

Even when ordering a paperback online, back covers don’t seem to play a significant role in readers’ decision-making. They’re much harder to see than front covers, requiring the reader to use the ‘look inside’ preview on Amazon, and then click ‘Back Cover’ to see a preview. It’s much easier to simply read the description, which also has the advantage of being searchable, and easily legible.

Why should indie authors bother with a back cover, then? And why bother to write a whole blog post about them?

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How the numbers are stacked against indies and small publishers

Recently, I typed a bunch of numbers into a web form, in order to purchase a bunch of numbers to stick on my books. In exchange for this privilege, an inordinate amount of numbers were subtracted from my bank account.

In other words, I purchased some ISBNs.

ISBN stands for ‘International Standard Book Number’. Yet, in spite of their International and Standardised nature, there is nothing standard about how ISBNs are sold – or priced – internationally.

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In Defence of [Some] Bad Book Covers

Over the past year, I’ve read or referred to over eighty books about books and publishing. The vast majority single out a book’s cover as one of – if not its most – important features. In fact, some even go so far as to say that a bad cover will almost doom a book to failure. Others even suggest that if you have to choose between paying for editing or cover design, you should choose cover design. But why is this? And might there be some instances in which bad book covers are actually… good?

In How to Be a Writer, John Birmingham points to kindlecoverdisasters.tumblr.com as an example of some of the ‘bad’ covers that exist. And I can’t say after scrolling through several pages that I found any books I was tempted to find out more about, let alone pay money for and read.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

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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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