Writers Forum - August 2023

Why Goodreads and Amazon are Becoming Dumpster Fires

All About Simon & Schuster’s Sale to an Investment Firm

Selling Direct to Readers: Article Bundle


I Would Rather See My Books Get Pirated Than This (Or: Why Goodreads and Amazon Are Becoming Dumpster Fires)

If you follow Jane Friedman, you already read all about her recent tussle with Amazon and Goodreads over titles THAT SHE DID NOT AUTHOR being added to her Amazon and Goodreads under her name. This blog post that she updated throughout the ordeal shows the process she took to get both platforms to remove the offending titles. (And it really shouldn’t have been that hard.) https://janefriedman.com/i-would-rather-see-my-books-pirated/

And in a related response to this craziness, David Chesson of Kindlepreneur reminds us how to stay vigilant with his free Chrome plug in that helps to monitor your titles (and even titles that people PRETEND you wrote.) Oy vey. Learn about ReaderScout here.  https://readerscout.com/

What the sale of a major American book publisher means for authors, the industry — and you.

Earlier this year, Penguin Random House’s purchase of Simon & Schuster was blocked in federal court, but that didn’t stop Simon & Schuster from seeking other buyers. The investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts recently completed the purchase of S&S. For a complete breakdown of what this means, check out the article in the Los Angeles Times by Dan Sinykin. Sinykin is an assistant professor of English at Emory University and author of the forthcoming book, “Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed Book Publishing and American Literature.”

Selling your books direct to readers is the biggest, new THING!

Independently published authors who are looking to chart their own course (and hoping to rely less and less on the whims of Amazon) are finding success in selling books directly to readers. So much so that a plethora of articles has popped up helping authors decipher the best way forward. Here we go . . .

How to Sell Books Direct to Readers: The Complete Guide AND The 3 Best Courses on Selling Books Direct to Readers

(Both are by Jason Hamilton for Kindlepreneur.com)

Direct Sales Strategies We Love from 36 Authors by AJ Yee for the BookBub Partners Blog

How to Optimize Web Pages for Direct Sales by Daniel Parsons for the Self Publishing Formula (Mark Dawson)

The Latest on AI in the Writing and Publishing World (and on we go!)

The Current State of Detecting AI in Writing

This is a fascinating article about the systems out there that are used to detect AI writing, particularly important in the educational sphere.


AI-Created Art Isn’t Copyrightable, Judge Says in Ruling that Could Give Hollywood Studios Pause

Interesting article by Winston Cho for the Hollywood Reporter that covers how a federal judge upheld a previous ruling from the U.S. Copyright Office “that a piece of art created by AI is not open to protection. The ruling was delivered in an order turning down Stephen Thaler’s bid challenging the government’s position refusing to register works made by AI. Copyright law has “never stretched so far” to “protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell found.” Read the full article here. 

Amazon Adds AI-Generated Review Summaries, So You Don’t Have to Read the Comments.

As we briefly touched on last month, Amazon is summarizing thousands of reviews into one paragraph, presumably so consumers don’t have to do the hard work of scrolling and reading reviews for themselves. (Cue my eyeroll.) Jacob Kastenrakes writes a more in-depth article on this for The Verge.

PROSECRAFT: Why the Great AI Backlash Came for a Tiny Startup You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Katie Knibbs (writing for Wired) gives us a very even-handed look at what happened to Prosecraft: “A literary analytics project called Prosecraft has shuttered after backlash from the writing community. It's a harbinger of a bigger cultural tide shift.” Personally, I’m on the fence on this one—it was a fabulous idea and one that was using AI for good, but it all went wildly wrong so very quickly. Read it here.


Judge Finds Revived Amazon E-book Monopoly Suit Should Proceed

Andrew Alabanese’s article for Publishers Weekly is interesting . . . a judge recommended that a class action lawsuit that contended that the Big Five publishers colluded with Amazon to fix e-book prices was following this issue for a couple of years should be dismissed. “But while the judge recommended tossing the case against the publishers, the court found that monopolization and attempted monopolization claims against Amazon should proceed.” We’ll want to keep an eye on that one, although it’s likely to take years.


Huge Changes in Amazon KDP: What Authors Need to Know in 2023

James McCartney writes this informative post for Sandra Beckwith’s blog . . . this mainly covers the recent category selection changes and printing price increases.

First Page Critique: How to Better Establish the Tone in Your Opening

Sangeeta Mehta (for Jane Friedman’s blog) gives a helpful critique of a story’s oh-so-important first paragraphs. I have no idea how many times I’ve rewritten first pages. (It always makes me want to find my earliest version to see if I’ve come full circle with the edits.)

The Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult

Super helpful 10-minute video from children’s book pro Mary Kole, breaking down the differences between these two categories of children’s literature.

Darkest Moment: Why Losing Everything Matters

Kristin Lamb writes about a novel’s darkest moment—you know—the point when your main character loses all hope. And how getting this right is so pivotal to the success of our stories. Really great focus on this important piece of plotting. I’d spend more time summarizing, but you really need to read this from beginning to end.


How to Research for Historical Fiction

Nice article by Dan Parsons that serves as a jumping off point if you’re new to historical fiction research. (Perhaps good refresher if you’re an old hand!)


The Peril and Promise of Writing First-Person POV

Amy L. Bernstein helps us navigate the rules or constraints of choosing the first-person POV (and the up side of choosing it as well!)


Using the Alternating Point of View

And as we’re talking about POV, alternating your novel’s POV is also an interesting technique and one that requires attention to detail – particularly, making sure that the voices of the two characters are distinct. Read the article from The Good Story Company here.

What Character Arc Isn’t

Susan DeFreitas covers this topic for Jane Friedman’s blog . . . such a great article. I love the kind of approach that gives you a reverse list – What something ISN’T.  Kind of refreshing! This is an important read. DeFreitas says that there’s one key mistake that writers make when creating the character arc: “When it comes to the major events of the plot, they’re focusing on how their protagonist feels in the moment, based on different issues in their past, rather than on how that emotional reaction connects with their character arc.” She then goes on to tell you how to do better!

Premise vs. Plot from the Good Story Company

Amy Wilson teaches us how to turn our great story ideas (premise) into an enticing novel plot. Our premise is just the beginning, it’s that gem of an idea, but how can you add the right amount of conflict to make for a story with novel-length tension.  

Mining Your Memories: 3 Forms of Memory Every Memoirist Must Know

Lisa Cooper Ellison dives into the types of memories (semantic, episodic, and procedural) and how each is used to build a satisfying memoir. Very interesting, even for those of us not writing memoir.


Five Ways to Change Your Attitude for a More Satisfying Writing Career

Now assuming you need an attitude adjustment (perhaps you do not!), Carolyn Howard-Johnson gives some excellent tips in her article on the Reader Views website: How to turn defensiveness into curiosity – envy into admiration – procrastination into achievement – knee-jerk reactions into level-headed thinking and more. Probably worth a read for all of us, right??


How Readers Pick What to Read Next

Clayton Noblit from Written Word Media pens a fun analysis of reader behavior that’s worth considering . . . rather fascinating really. It covers what’s most important for drawing a reader to their next book . . . book description, cover, number of reviews, review score etc… Additionally, he covers WHERE/HOW readers discover their next book.

Atticus – book formatting software        

Are you looking for an alternative to Vellum? Check out what Atticus has to offer. 

Book Family Tree: A New Way to Think About Your Book

This article from Ilana DeBare for Jane Friedman’s blog is a fun and interesting way to consider what books are comps for your own. This is always a struggle. I usually give the advice that you should think about which books would be your neighbors at bookstores and libraries. This article goes further than that and uses a family tree structure to help . . . who are your book’s cousins, aunts, sisters, parents etc… Very fun structure.

The 5 Marketing Strategies We Use to Help My Wife Become a Six-Figure Author

Matt Holmes’ article for Written Word Media is quite possibly the best marketing article I’ve read this year . . . with very few differences, this is what I recommend to clients and/or do for them if they don’t have the time to do their own book marketing. (So now you know all the secrets . . . go forth and prosper.)


An Unconventional Facebook Ads Strategy for Authors

Matt Holmes hops over to Jane Friedman’s blog with this insight into FB ads. He’s done tests using NO detailed targeting and it’s working for his wife’s books – he’s basically giving it a little demographic framework, like location, gender, and age, but leaving off the also must match . . .  categories, other authors, buying habits etc.. and letting Facebook’s algorithm work its magic in finding the right people who will respond the ads.

I’ve tried this for a few clients, and I’m not finding this working the same way as it did for Matt. But I’m willing to give it additional tries—probably with my own books as the guinea pigs. However, there’s a new option inside FB ad targeting called Advantage+ that allows you to suggest parameters where you provide ‘guidance’ for targeting using filters you may have previously had success with like comp authors or book categories/genres. But with this type of targeting – these are only guidelines – not MUST match.

The other thing he talks about here is dynamic creative. This can work if you’re trying to figure out which images/copy/headlines might work best initially, but as a long-term strategy I find this lacking. In practice it seems like FB begins picking winners and allocating more and more budget to different elements, thus influencing which creative comes out on top. I prefer a head-to-head test with separate ad sets that keeps the budgeting even so that doesn’t happen.

How to Market Your Book to Gain Worldwide Exposure

Diana Urban always writes informative, helpful articles for the BookBub Partners blog and this one is no exception . . . great tips on making sure your titles are relevant in non-US markets.

How to Become a Book (marketing) Rockstar

Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Show features Aryn Van Dyne, the creator of a book consulting website (Book Rockstar). In this podcast she asks: Who is your audience, really? And are you catering to them? Is there a way to cater to them more? She joins the show with questions to ask yourself about your audience, and why they matter.

Read the transcript here: https://selfpublishingformula.com/episode-396/

Or watch the podcast below:

How Authors Use Preorders to Promote New Books in 2023

AJ Yee summarizes author successes with pre-orders along with their methodologies. Bookmark for future launches!


12 Book Marketing Buzzwords You Need to Know

Yes, the publishing industry and book marketing world has plenty of its own jargon. Do you know these 12 already? (Thanks Sandra Beckwith!)

The Most Imaginative September Holidays for Book Promotion

Also, from Sandra Beckwith . . . here are 23 fun ways to promote your books in September. (Some of these are really interesting. And if you use any of these, please tag me or send me a copy of the post—I really want to see how creative you all are!)

Draft2Digital’s Coupon Manager

So, Draft2Digital bought Smashwords and now the best part of Smashwords – coupon codes – is available over on D2D!! Here’s how to use this feature:


Case Study: How I became a Substack featured publication – by Dan Blank

If you’re a subscriber to Dan Blank’s weekly newsletter, you know by now that he’s switched over to Substack, which is a little like MailChimp(or similar email management systems) and Medium had a baby. (Now I’m sure someone is going to argue with me on that, but that’s as good of a description as I could come up with.) Anyhoo . . . Dan Blank gives the details on how his newsletter was selected as a featured publication. (Which gives him a whole bunch of free publicity and probably a whole bunch of new subscribers.)

Publishing Books for Children and Profitable School Visits with Tonya Ellis

If you write for the children’s market, you’ll want to listen to this podcast from Tonya Ellis (the creator of the Sophie Washington books). She discusses so many important things with Joanna Penn—like how she indie publishes and more. There’s a transcript too if you want to skim through that.


Amazing breadth of research here, thanks!

There were so many excellent articles this month. Something for everyone--no matter where you are in your publishing journey.

Thanks so much for linking to articles on my site, Valerie! I appreciate it!


As always, a very big thank you for your wisdom and insight. You're a treasure in the publishing world!! - Valerie

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