BookExpo 2015 Connects Writers with Publishing Services

Photo by Rod Searcey

Book Expo America, the big New York show for publishers, featured several new resources for self-published writers. Here’s a roundup:

BookWorks founder Betty Sargent and BookDesigner founder Joel Friedlander have teamed up to publish The Self Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide. The new book contains over 800 curated resources, including editors, designers, and book marketing experts by name. BookWorks also offers an online database of vetted publishing professionals, as do Bibliocrunch and Reedsy.

Publishers Weekly now offers “first reads” and “evaluations” of your manuscript by professionals in the book business. Through its Booklife site for self-published authors, PW experts will provide feedback on a treatment plus the opening 1,500 words of your manuscript for $79; or the entire manuscript for under $600.

TextCafe is one of several new companies making it easier to create samples of your book to tweet, post or email to potential readers. You control the percentage of your ebook you want to reveal and which online bookstores to show your readers. Your sample goes out with front cover intact. TextCafe is offering a free 21-day trial. Litlette is offering similar sampling services through Facebook.

BookBub, the company that offers new titles to readers at discounted prices, provided a glimpse at their own reader demographics during the Expo. Turns out they are strongest at reaching older women “empty-nesters”who are heavy readers of genre fiction (romance, mystery, thrillers, fantasy). Fifty-nine percent of their readers read over 4 books per month. You must be accepted into the BookBub program and you must pay for the promotion, but once accepted, you have a better chance of reaching the readers you want.

SelfPubBookCovers featured at BookExpo a sampling of their large collection of inexpensive pre-made book covers. Such covers (which start at $69) are becoming a bigger part of the picture for authors on a budget, especially those writing genre fiction. Once a cover is sold, it is never sold again.

Vellum offers a variety of templates to make your book interior look as though it has been professionally designed. As costs start at $29 per template, that makes Vellum’s templates less expensive than TheBookDesigner’s.

Goodreads offers authors a new way to connect with readers

Ask a Questiof of AuthorsOne of the most intriguing announcements at Book Expo 2014 was about Goodreads’ new “Ask the Author” feature. If you’re signed up as an author on Goodreads, you can now host your own Q&A sessions, thus making new connections with your readers.

Goodreads beta-tested the program with 54 well-known authors, including James Patterson, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, Khaled Hosseini and Isabel Allende. Now they’re opening up the feature to all authors.

Patrick Brown, Goodreads Director of Author Marketing, offered suggestions on how to get the best out of this new feature. Among them:

• Set expectations early: Tell your readers which topics you’ll answer and when. Don’t feel as though you have to answer every question every day.

• Choose the questions you want to answer carefully, and post legitimate answers to them. You have control over which questions you want to show up on your page. Choose questions whose answers you’re happy to feature on your profile.

• Participate in the Goodreads reader community. Ask questions of other authors and review their books. You don’t have to give star ratings to every book you discuss. Just be thoughtful. Sometimes showing up with a thoughtful comment on another author’s page inspires interest in your own work.

Check out the list of bestselling authors already answering questions on Goodreads. Very impressive.

The Power of Social Media in Building an Audience

Yesterday when I opened my iGoogle page, “today’s spotlight video” looked something like this.

Because I love both soul and gospel music, I clicked on it–and became an instant fan of an unknown singer who doesn’t even have an album out yet. (LaTosha Brown. Check her out. Fabulous!)

As LaTosha tells it, as of the day-before-yesterday, her video had been viewed 310 times. Today, that number is 496,642–an instant fan base! Her record company, PortoFranco Records, is scrambling to get this cut on iTunes so some of those fans can actually buy the single.

Kindle Singles Books are not as accessible as music in this way, but there’s cause to believe that short pieces, priced low and marketed through social media, could become for authors what this single song is for a talented, upcoming musician: a way to develop an instant audience for their work.

Earlier this year, Amazon launched Kindle Singles, a division that is actively seeking articles, essays and stories of 5,000 to 30,000 words. These pieces, which are being reviewed and quality-controlled by editor David Blum, are being priced between $.99 and $4.99–impulse buyers’ pricepoints. Publishers Weekly recently reported that six of the 75+ published works on this platform have already reached bestseller status among all Kindle books.

Kindle Singles has terrific potential. It provides a new platform for long-form journalism and could revive the world of short stories. And most importantly, it could build audiences for those emerging voices who have been abandoned by traditional publishers.

How Viable is Self Publishing? Proof is in the Numbers

Kindle and booksClearly, 2011 is a tipping point for self-publishing–moving this new publishing model from backwater to the forefront of the publishing world. It’s all happening despite the bow-tie traditional publishers who still would have authors believe that they are the only ones who can bestow legitimacy on a work. But the track-records of self-published authors don’t lie.

There’s a terrific article by Alison Flood over at the Guardian that traces this coming-of-age for self-publishing. Highlights from the article:

– Author John Locke just passed the 1 million mark in sales of his mystery thrillers on the Kindle platform. He’s the first self-published author to do so.

– After years of resisting, JK Rowling finally announced this week that she’ll be selling her Harry Potter series as ebooks. They’ll be available on her new website Pottermore.

– Self-published co-authors Louise Voss and Mark Edwards claim to be selling 1,900 copies a day of their thriller Catch Your Death.

– Author Amanda Hocking who started by selling her paranormal romance stories on the Kindle platform for $.99 to $2.99 has now signed a deal with St. Martin’s for a reported $2 million.

– British writer David Moody started by giving away his zombie novel Autumn. Now he sells his novels on the Kindle platform for $.99. Chump change? He was making $1,500 a month when he attracted the attention of a film producer.

– Thriller novelist Barry Eisler turned down a deal reported to be worth about $500,000 from St. Martin’s to self-publish. He has accepted a deal with Amazon (now a publisher in its own right) for a six-figure sum for one book. He says the Amazon deal offers “the advance and marketing muscle you (might) get in a legacy contract; the digital royalties, creative control and time-to-market you get with indie.”

– GP Taylor, author of the children’s novel Shadowmancer, is one of several authors who started as a self publisher, proved his worth, was picked up by traditional publisher and is now considering going back to self-publishing. He sells 6 ebooks for every paperback.

New Award for Literary Science Writers

It’s been a big week for Palo Alto.

Last night Obama showed up for a $30,000-a-plate dinner at the home of Google VP Marissa Mayer. The Dalai Lama spent two days speaking on altruism at Stanford. And Harrison Ford flew into town to stand next to the biologist E. O. Wilson for a press announcement at the Garden Court.

PEN American Center logoOf the three events, the Ford/Wilson announcement is the one that speaks most clearly to active writers. The actor and the Harvard biodiversity expert were here to kick off a new literary award–the $10,000 PEN/E.O.Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. The intent of the award is to encourage and support those writers who know how to marry literature with science.

Wilson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his nonfiction book The Ants, funded the award together with Ford who is an active conservationist. The award becomes another in the prestigious collection offered by the PEN (poets, playwrights, essayists, editors and novelists) American Center, including:
the PEN/Nabokov Award
the Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction
the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction
the PEN/Galbraith Award for Nonfiction

If this is your genre, go for it.