Writers' Forum 2022 - August
Barnes & Noble Hardcover Shelving Controversy,
The Priority Parallax: What’s Truly Important,
Draft2Digital and Smashwords Merger Update
Barnes & Noble Stocking Policy Sparks Controversy Online (and why it didn't surprise me.)
I get it. At first read, the Twitter storm and ensuing speculative articles about Barnes and Noble’s new policy about ONLY carrying hardcovers for authors for whom there’s a guaranteed track record of good sales was panic worthy—particularly for authors who might fall outside of B&N’s favored hardcover author group and are close to release date. For those authors, a strategy shift to printing less hardcovers and more paperbacks (and paperbacks sooner) could prove difficult given traditional publishing’s problems with maneuverability. But publishing is a business and publishers regularly defend/discuss their focus on commercial success, i.e. PROFIT, so their criticism of this policy is particularly rich. It can’t be surprising that a bookstore chain might shift strategies to ensure their own profit. (With finite store space, they can’t carry everything.) The Publishers Marketplace article (this one shouldn’t be behind their paywall) provides a coherent overview of their new policy with quotes from B&N stating, “The chain has been telling publishers for some time that middle grade hardcovers, as well as to a certain extent YA and adult fiction hardcovers, are not selling through well, and new title count will be reduced in favor of trade paperbacks of better-selling names.” The article also states that returns to publishers for middle grade hardcovers had reached as high as 80% recently. If that is all true, then this should come as no surprise to the publishers and, as usual, authors are the ones who will suffer the most.
This makes me (again) question the model upon which traditional publishing is built. . . are we not at a point where we should seek out, or perhaps even demand, a more sustainable model from the publishing industry? Offset printing encourages over printing of titles due to the cost reduction with larger print runs. That combined with the ability of stores to return unsold books has allowed for over ordering of these titles, too. This model ignores significant changes that have occurred in the book purchasing behavior of consumers. If you want to wade through a rather dense (but interesting) article from Publishing Research Quarterly, click here: Publishing Distribution Practices: New Insights About Eco-Friendly Publishing, Sustainable Printing and Returns, and Cost-Effective Delivery in the U.S.
I do understand why some authors – particularly midlist young adult and middle grade authors – are upset that their hardcovers are not going to be shelved by Barnes & Noble. It hinders discoverability by readers who aren’t already fans of that particular author and certainly will reduce sales overall. However, there are lots and lots of other opportunities to get your books into the hands of readers in other formats—and in formats that they might prefer—paperback and ebook and audio. And that’s why I love this next article . . . from Barbara Woodhouse:
Authors, Barnes & Noble Can’t Do Your Book Justice: These 100 things will take you where you want to go faster.
Sharon Woodhouse had much the same reaction I did when hearing the latest B&N news. She writes, “I’ve skimmed all the articles I saw and retained nothing that struck me as alarmist — because as an indie book publisher for 27 years, I gave up on Barnes & Noble being the answer to anything years ago. Even back in the day, they were a small sliver of a much, much larger pie. Scratch that. Of a world of pies.” Check out her list here. Chances are you’re already doing many of them, but I can guarantee you that there are some gems in here you haven’t thought of. Not all will work for every book, but what a great jumping off point.
The Priority Parallax: What’s Truly Important from Kristen Lamb
Get ready to laugh your butt off at this one, but humor aside, this is a really great article. It’s a pallet cleanser of truth. Kristen writes, “If I could boil down the essence of modern human angst into one core idea, I’d say we’re all facing a priority problem. We’re being relentlessly told we can have it ALL, when no…no we can’t.” She goes on to give us this wonderful bit, “Point is, when everything is a priority, then nothing is.” Her pop culture references will particularly resonate with those of us of a ‘certain age.’
Draft2Digital and Smashwords Merger Update
This probably won’t matter to anyone except those of us who are already using one of these platforms, but for that core group, here’s what’s happening next with this merger. They detail out Phase 1 (the current phase), Phase II (eta Q3 or Q4) giving D2D authors access to Smashwords features like coupons!!, and Phase III (2023) will be the full migration of Smashwords clients over to the Draft2Digital dashboard.
WRITING CRAFT / PROCESS / PRE-PUBLICATION
Avoid Writer Overwhelm & Bad Habits
Joni B. Cole’s article for Jane Friedman’s blog, Don’t Fall for These 5 Writing Myths that Can Set Back Your Writing, is a helpful guide that validates your struggles while giving you a kick in the butt (but kindly.)
And in Daniel Parson’s Bad Author Habits to Avoid we’re given some tough love to identify what contributes to bad habits that cause pessimism and overwhelm.
Moving Between Scenes with Summary and Spacers
Sharon Oard Warner (for Jane Friedman’s blog) delves into how summary is the “mortar between scenes,” explaining the difference between sequential and circumstantial summary. (I really appreciated this!) And she also covers the use of gaps in time, when the timeline jumps ahead (usually), calling these spacers.
How Suspense and Tension Work Together to Increase Story Impact
Tiffany Yates Martin brilliantly defines these two elements, defining Suspense as the thing that “creates questions in the audience’s mind” and “the fuel that powers [suspense] is tension—creating conflict, obstacles, and friction.” Great examples are provided to help you amp up your story.
7 Questions to Reboot a Nonfiction Project
Also, from Jane Friedman’s blog in a guest post, Jennifer Louden poses 7 key questions that might help you jumpstart a stalled nonfiction project like “what does my reader already know about this subject?” and “what does the reader I want to reach most urgently need to know?” Those and the five other questions are available here: https://www.janefriedman.com/7-questions-to-reboot-a-nonfiction-book-youve-been-writing-forever/
What Most Authors Don’t Understand about Publishing
Penny Sansevieri and Amy Cornell team up in this informative podcast “because there still seems to be a lot of confusion around the differences between self-publishing, traditional publishing, and using a publishing service. Which is understandable! But there's a lot of grey area in the industry today that really needs to be explored and understood before you can confidently make the publishing decision that's going to be right for you right now and down the road too.”
For a more in-depth look at this topic and detailed look at profit comparison, you might be interested in my Independent Publishing Blueprint Course: A comprehensive discussion of the pros & cons of independent, hybrid, and traditional publishing, along with a step-by-step approach or blueprint that will allow you to successfully publish your book independently. We’ll cover everything from business concerns to ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks and much, much more!
How These Authors Found Success with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
In a related article, if you’re worried you might not be successful if you were to publish independently via KDP, this article profiles some of the most successful authors out there who are making $50,000+ year.
Typesetting Tips for Authors
We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of good book covers (and rightly so), but we spend far less time agonizing over our interior file formatting. Many of us hire out this project, but it’s getting easier and easier for you to do this yourself with a little help from software. The article by Daniel Parsons for the Self Publishing Formula blog is worth a read: https://selfpublishingformula.com/typesetting-tips-for-authors/
Amazon Author Central Guide
This guide to Author Central says it’s for Indie Authors, which is kind of misleading because Author Central is for ALL authors. And all authors should take advantage of this free ‘space’ Amazon offers to present your bio and more information to interested readers on that Amazon platform. Read here:
But if you’re looking for a video tutorial check out my minicourse (which also includes how to set up your BookBub profile.)
How to Encourage More Amazon Book Reviews
This article from Author Marketing Experts is interesting in that it takes a different approach on encouraging reviewers with BOGO offers, free books later in the series (write a review of book one and I’ll send you the new release for free) and more. Interesting approaches I haven’t seen covered before.
BOOK MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
How to Kill it with a Debut Thriller: Book Promotion Chat with Vicki Weisfeld
Love this transparent walk through the promotional tools/tasks that author Vicki Weisfeld used to promote her recent release—and notes on what worked best. This is worth a read even if you write/publish outside the thriller genre.
How to Create the Best Book Publicity Document You’ll Ever Need
If anyone knows about book publicity and the documents needed to support the effort, it’s Sandra Beckwith. In this article she shares how to create the useful tip sheet to gain media attention (even for fiction books.)
Best Book Promotion Sites 2022
I’ve put these links in previous Writers’ Forums, but they are updated for 2022 and are worth noting again. Bookmark these!! (What are they? Promotion sites that can help you gain audience reach for book sales/price reductions/freebies and David Gaughran’s article talks about the importance of promo stacking.)
BookBub Ads: How Many Authors Should You Target
Carlyn Robertson teaches how author targeting works for BookBub ads in this handy article. The most important takeaway for me was the fact that the larger audiences didn’t do better and that there’s a definite sweet spot in terms of not too big and not too small when it comes to audience targeting on BookBub.
If you haven’t tried BookBub ads yet, but you’re hoping to, you might benefit from reading my BookBub Ad Tutorial.
Better Book Promotion on Amazon: 5 Simple Reasons Your Ads Aren’t Working
Penny Sansevieri has a quick 5-minute read for triaging your Amazon ad woes. The best tip here? It might not be your ads at all. It might be your Amazon retail page that’s problematic.
How to Prepare your Book for Holiday Sales
Amy Cornell and Penny Sansevieri’s podcast gives a great tutorial on planning NOW (yes, right now) for your Christmas book sales efforts. Check it out here.
14 Indie Authors to Follow on TikTok for Ideas and Inspiration
Shailee Shah compiles this list for the BookBub Partners Blog and if you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the TikTok market, here are 14 authors who might inspire you and your initial videos.
Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie