Writers' Forum 2022 - September
Penguin Random House/DOJ Case Update
Amazon Changes eBook Return Policy (finally)
IBPA Revises Hybrid Publishing Criteria
October Holidays for Book Promotion
DOJ Case Regarding Penguin Random House Merger with Simon & Schuster
If you haven’t been following this case here’s the quick take . . . the Department of Justice sued to block PRH’s proposed acquisition of S&S because it would allow PRH (already the largest publisher in the world) to “exert outsized influence over which books are published in the United States and how much authors are paid for their work.” The trial portion has concluded (and it was fascinating to hear from so many in the publishing industry, including authors and agents.) Publishers Weekly and Publishers’ Marketplace did a fabulous job keeping everyone informed and providing daily summaries of court testimony. You can catch up on what’s happened in this articles:
Along with why it might not mean much for most authors:
And if you want to dive in deep: Publishers Marketplace has put their coverage into a book:
The Trial: The DOJ’s Suit to Block Penguin Random House’s Acquisition of Simon & Schuster
Order directly from PM here: https://shop.publishersmarketplace.com/
Amazon Changes eBook Return Policy
After months of pressure from authors and author organizations, Amazon is now changing their previous ebook return policy to only allow such returns when “no more than 10% of the book has been read.” Many authors were reporting huge numbers of returns after readers had time to complete the whole book after this liberal policy was publicized on social media platforms. The new policy will go into effect at the end of the year. Read everything the Authors Guild did to make this change happen here. https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/amazon-changing-ebook-return-policy/
IBPA Revised Hybrid Publisher Criteria
Jim Milliot details the Independent Book Publishing Association’s criteria changes for Hybrid publishing in this article for Publishers Weekly. IBPA’s checklist was first introduced to “bring uniformity to the task of defining reputable hybrid publishers, distinct from being traditional publishers or self-publishing services providers.” This is important to note if you think you might utilize this pathway to publication. Make sure the company you work with meets all 11 of these criteria.
(And on a lighter note) 23 of the Most Fun October Holidays for Book Promotion
Sandra Beckwith’s shares a delightful list of special days you can have fun with on social media and elsewhere. Most bookish is October 12—Cookbook launch date. But perhaps your book fits with Howl at the Moon Night on October 25 or Moldy Cheese Day on October 9 or maybe even Smart is Cool day on October 23.
And for additional month- or week-long promotional ideas you might find fun, click here.
WRITING CRAFT / PROCESS / PRE-PUBLICATION
How to Generate and Test Story Ideas
I love this article from Dan Parsons, writing for Mark Dawson’s blog. It feels rather fundamental to the writing process – like a beginner question – but it’s not. Even authors who have been writing for years sometimes need guidance in generating new story ideas. I like the discussion about the balance between consuming and creating content as well as one of my favorites, asking “what if?” But one that is often resisted is taking a story idea and looking at whether there is a market for it BEFORE spending hours upon hours to write a book that might not sell.
Three Ways that Writerly Grit Leads to Publishing Success
Susan DeFreitas writes this article for Jane Freidman’s blog on the elusive notion of GRIT. It reminds me of the TedTalk about how a person’s grit – the power of passion and perseverance – was a defining factor for success, even more so than IQ. I have never read anything applying grit directly to writing or publishing success—but given that this is an industry which often requires years of stamina before tasting that first success DeFreitas’ discussion is spot on.
The Art and Purpose of Subtext
When we create our stories, we will nearly always employ subtext to some extent, often without labeling it as such. DiAnn Mills addresses the ways we can use subtext to our advantage as we “provide information laced with sarcasm, heartbreak, or humor.” She explains how subtext “always deepens the story with unpredictable outcomes and emotion” and gives wonderful samples from stories to help illustrate the concept.
Why We Need Beta Readers Who Point Out Mistakes and Flaws in Our Books
Just in case anyone was confused as to what a Beta reader should be doing for you . . . check out the article from Karis Rogerson for litreactor.com. She discusses that as a conflict-avoidant person, she struggles to point out what’s not working in someone else’s book. But that’s exactly what beta readers need to be doing . . . helping out the author with an early read before any embarrassing plot holes or errors end up in a published book. Yikes! Authors, be very clear with your beta readers as to what kind of feedback you want/need from them. It does you no good if these early readers are the kind of people who don’t like to pass on critical feedback.
I’m including this article because it really resonated with me. Cat Rambo, writing for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association discusses how multi-tasking is NOT compatible with writing! We all multi-task, but successful multi-tasking is best done when deep thinking or concentration is not required. I felt like this article was giving me permission (not sure why I need it but there it is) to turn off distractions and focus on one task at a time. Refreshing!
How to Evaluate Freelancers
Again, Dan Parsons for Mark Dawson’s blog gives excellent advice, this time on collaborating with the freelancers you will inevitably hire to help you with one aspect or another along your publishing journey. Good tips on being a clear communicator and a fair evaluator of freelancer performance.
More on Book Covers: Is Your Book Cover Doing Its Job or Does it Need to be Fired?
Kelly McClymer’s article hits on the three essential elements of your book cover: Does it signal genre? Favorite trope? Narrative voice? And the discussion includes how often you need to change your book cover. Styles change, genre expectations change—eventually your book cover is going to look dated. Read it all here: https://www.sfwa.org/2022/09/21/indie-files-book-cover-fired/
Q&A: How to Strategically Price a New Book to Drive More Sales
Morgan Hubbard facilitates a discussion with Blackstone Publishing on how they approach pricing for new releases from the pre-order campaign through the launch and the months following, when they employ special promotions to buoy the drop off in sales after release hubbub has died down. Interesting!
Amazon KDP Pre-Order: 5 Reasons to Use It
Dale Roberts (of SelfpublishingwithDale.com) uses his own experience with utilizing Kindle pre-orders to show why this might work well for other authors. It helped him build a buzz for the book and create urgency with a countdown timer, amongst others. My personal reason for doing this is to use the link to the pre-order page in social media and other posts leading up to release day. It allows you to have a call-to-action available, so you’re giving the potential reader somewhere to go if you get them excited about your forthcoming title.
How to Make a Boxset and Other Ways to Repurpose Your Books
Kelsey Worsham’s article on Written Word Media is a great tutorial on bundling books into a boxset . . . now these are digital boxsets, not actual slip-cased paperback or hardcover set. Great checklist on what to do (and what not to do) when creating your boxset. The article also details all the other ways you can make use of the content you’ve already created by offering it in new ways – everything from audiobooks to merchandise and more.
Building a Brand Consistent Backlist with Olivia Hayle
In this podcast from Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula, Olivia Hayle discusses her three-year journey from “hearing about self-publishing to becoming a six-figure author.” Show notes include: Mistakes made and lessons learned in the first few years of publishing, the liberation of writing genre fiction, the importance to sales of titles and subtitles, the effect on sales of better book packaging (titles, covers, and blurbs), using bonus stories to grow a newsletter list and more . . . for the full transcript click here: https://selfpublishingformula.com/episode-348/
BOOK MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
What to Do When Author Marketing Goes Against Your Nature
So many authors are uncomfortable taking on marketing tasks. This article from the Author Marketing Experts encourages you to identify the types of marketing activities that compliment your skillsets!
Email Marketing Funnel: How to Attract, Nurture, Convert & Retain Customers
This infographic from Barb Drozdowich is a wonderful visual reinforcement for how your email marketing funnel should work. Are you doing this? You should be . . . an email list is an amazing asset for your publishing journey! It’s the one list of followers that you control the access to, unlike social media followers.
How to Email a Press Release to Journalists: The Biggest Mistake to Avoid
Sandra Beckwith gives essential tips on making sure your email arrives at the inbox of your intended member of the media, along with advice on how to make sure the email gets opened. (hint – attachments are your enemy.)
If you'd like to learn more about How to Promote Your Books with Traditional Media, check out my course where you'll learn how to find and connect with local, regional, and statewide media outlets in order to be featured in newspapers & magazines or on television & radio stations. I’ll teach you strategies for finding an attention-grabbing hook and building a professional media kit, including a well-written press release, book information sheet, and more! Learn more here . . .
Seven Reasons Your Book Isn’t Selling: Take a Hard Look at Amazon
Penny Sansevieri helps you triage why your book isn’t selling—going through seven areas that you can improve to potentially correct a lack of sales, assuming you’ve written a good book . . . make sure that you don’t have a bad cover, a poorly written book description, inaccurate categories or keywords or more. This is at least a place to start if your sales are lacking.
BookBub Ads: Understanding Campaign Results
AJ Jack breaks down how to analyze your ad campaign results if you’re running BookBub ads. (Many of these terms also apply to other platforms, so even if you’re not running BookBub ads, this article is a helpful tutorial.) This is a super tutorial that demystifies the process of taking data from a completed campaign and refining or customizing it further to achieve an even better performing ad.
If you’re new to BookBub ads or just beginning to contemplate doing them, you might also benefit from my BookBub ad tutorial.
Taking off with TikTok: Self Publishing Show with A.P. Beswick
“Fantasy author AP (Adam) Beswick has proved that TikTok can help sell books, even if they’re not in the romance genre.”
Read the full transcript here: https://selfpublishingformula.com/episode-349/ and watch the podcast below.
Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie