Audio Books: What Indie Authors Should Know

Over the past few months indie authors have been discussing audio books and many of us have questions such as; how do you make one, should even you make one, and where do you promote them? So I went on a quest to learn the ABCs of audio books but before I begin let me be clear.  When I refer to audio books I am talking about both MP3 files as well as CDs.  Yes, there are people still listening to CDs!

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90’s humor! Pic by Nick D. Clements via Flickr

Major Misconceptions About Audio Books

Despite what you’ve heard, audio books aren’t for the blind or small children who are struggling to read. Lots of people listen to audio books at the gym, in their cars, and even at work. The numbers reflect this, because every major publisher has reported increasing audio sales since 2012.  This explains why it’s become standard for publishers to demand audio rights these days.

Another big misconception is that the bestselling audio books are all nonfiction. But not according to the APA (Audio Publishers Association) 2014 Sales Survey which says adult fiction takes 77% of the audio book market.  Don’t believe me? Just go over to Audible, the biggest audio book retailer, and look at their bestseller list.

The Pros and Cons

Pro: Right now Audible (which is owned by Amazon), has only about 180,000+ audio books for sale as of this date. However, that is predicted to explode as Google and Apple aim to make their software standard in new cars. This has the interest of many indie authors and it was the talk of many book conferences this year. There’s no doubt that the market has potential but it’s still small.

Con: The sad thing is, the most popular entry into the market is through ACX (also owned by Amazon), which makes producing audio books easy for authors but it all comes at a price. ACX has both exclusive and nonexclusive deals and none of them favor authors. For example, if you decide to go exclusive, you’ll get a royalty of 40% but you’ll have to remain exclusive with them for seven years. No, that wasn’t a typo, I said seven years, as in almost a decade! In that time, they will distribute your work to Apple iTunes and Audible however, there is no mention of Barnes & Noble, or Overdrive nor any of the other retailers in their FAQs. They also set the price of the book, not the author.

Pic by Jeff Golden via Flickr
Pic by Jeff Golden via Flickr

It only gets worse, indie authors who decide to go nonexclusive, will only get 25% royalties but they can sell their audio book(s) anywhere, even their own websites. Now before you despair, ACX isn’t the only deal in town, not long ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, one author talked about going to CD Baby to circumvent ACX’s undesirable terms. This may not be such a bad idea for the author who actually wants to make money from their audio books!
Keep in mind, there will be expenses associated with this as CD Baby does not provide narrators like ACX.  The average narrator can charge per hour or according to the length of the book.  Even if you decide to narrate the book yourself, you’ll need the proper equipment like a quality microphone and recording software. Another thing to note is CD Baby also has its own service fees ranging from free (minus 15% of your royalty) to $89.

Promoting Audio Books Can Be A Challenge

Recently, Goodreads (Another Amazon subsidiary) opened its doors to audio books so things are changing albeit slowly.  It’s also been rumored that Kobo and Google may be looking to get in the audio game so things are evolving. If this continues the supply will meet demand and we will begin to see marketing services catering towards audio books but right now, there aren’t that many options to promote an audio book.  Don’t get me wrong, there are several small advertising outlets for audio books however, there is no BookBub for audio books. (For those who don’t know, BookBub is the go to for online book advertising.)

On the flip side, getting a review for your audio book isn’t as challenging. I discovered several groups on Facebook, and Goodreads for audio books and reviewers. Below is just a small list of reviewers and online magazines catering to audio books.

Reviewers for your audio book
Audio File Magazine
Audio Book Jukebox
Eargasms
Books for Ears
Audio Book Reviewer (Giveaways & Reviews)
Audio Book Jungle
Library Journal

As you can see, there are many things to consider before committing to publishing an audio book. If you do manage to produce one, you have to make sure the quality is just as good as your print or ebooks.  If listeners don’t like the quality of your book, it won’t sell. Another thing to consider is that this is a burgeoning market so it’s unrealistic to expect your ROI to be as high as your ebooks or print editions.  Indie authors have to see this as a long term investment and treat it as such.

So how about you, have you produced an audio book or are you on the fence?

What To Do When Someone Pirates Your Ebook: Part 2

By lamont_cranston via Flickr
By lamont_cranston via Flickr

I had no intention of making a part 2 to my last post but when the Becca Mills story hit the internet, I felt I needed to go further with the series.  For those who don’t know, Becca Mills is an indie author, whose book was removed from Amazon by a false DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) compliant.  As the drama unfolded, many indie authors, including myself, learned several surprising things about the role retailers play in copyright disputes. Because what seemed to be an easy open and shut case turned into weeks of back and forth between the author, Amazon and a con-artist pretending to be the author.  Now here’s the kicker, even though the author had a registered copyright, Amazon would not get involved in a third party dispute.

Long story short, Ms. Mills was finally able to get her book out of KDP purgatory by filing her own counter DMCA and by shooting off an email to Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. Though the odds of this happening again are astronomical, I still think we indie authors need to know our legal rights in the event someone tries to hijack our work.

*Disclaimer* I am in no way a lawyer, and cannot give you legal advice.  I can only educate you about the resources and institutions that are available to you.

Lesson 1: Don’t Go Looking For Prince Charming To Rescue You

According to Amazon’s own policy once a DMCA compliant has been filed, they must legally take the book down from their site.  I recently emailed KDP and asked about the Becca Mills case and here’s their response:

KDP Response to Becca Mills Story
Click to enlarge

As you can see, it is up to the real copyright owner to fight the con-artist.  In Becca Mills’ case things were resolved but what if one day, an imposter decides to press their luck and comes after your copyright? Would you know how to fight back?

Why File a Counter DMCA?

On most retail sites, once a DMCA complaint is filed, the identity of the person stealing the work along with their contact info is revealed in good faith. This way all the cards are on the table, and once you have this person’s identity, you can give it to the authorities which leads me to my next point…

Filing Criminal Charges

What if a thief ignores you and continues to make your life hell? In Becca Mills’ story, the person went to both Amazon and Smashwords to get her work taken down.  If this continues to happen, you’ll have no option but to file criminal charges against them. In most parts of the world, law enforcement institutions have a fraud and cyber crimes department so it would be wise to start there.

  • In the U.S. you can go to the FBI
  • In Canada the RCMP
  • In the U.K. Gov.uk

But what if you want restitution? In that case, you’ll need to take it to the next level and file a civil suit in court.

You Have A Copyright, Don’t You?

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By Tristan Schmurr via Flickr

As I stated in part one of this series, you’ll NEED a government copyright. There is no way around this, because according to the U.S. Copyright office: “Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origins.” You can read the entire PDF file here.

Another reason why it’s smart to get a copyright is because in the U.S., if you file your copyright before publishing, you can get more in damages and even recoup your legal fees. Yes, you can get a copyright after your book has been officially published in the U.S., but you won’t be able to claim the full legal benefits of a copyright owner who registered before they published.

Lesson 2: Authors & Journalists Get Sued All The Time

It’s not uncommon for a mega bestselling author to get sued by someone claiming to be the genuine author of a given work. For example, J.K. Rowling has been sued multiple times over her Harry Potter books.  However, none of the plaintiffs have been successful in proving J.K. Rowling ripped them off.  Nevertheless, there are thousands of copyright infringement cases filed in the U.S. every year.

Most major publishing companies have liability insurance which protects them against libel as well as copyright infringement lawsuits.  Unfortunately, most indie authors cannot afford it because the premiums are often very high.  Luckily though, there are guilds and organization that offer protection or legal advice with membership.

Organizations that offer liability insurance or legal information:

In Closing

The purpose of this article is to inform authors that they don’t have to go it alone when defending their copyright.  Help is out there, all we need to do is reach out and ask.  And hopefully, the Becca Mills story will inspire us to take charge of our publishing businesses whether that means getting liability insurance or registering our copyright with a government office.  We indies need to know what’s available to us and how to proceed in the event of a lawsuit or copyright hijacking, because as you can see, the waters are treacherous in the publishing world.

*Stepping off soapbox*

Update: According to Becca Mills, once an author sends a counter DMCA their policy is not inclined to restore a book.  And she’s right, I reread Amazon’s KDP Terms Of Service and it doesn’t mention counter DMCAs or who to contact in the event a false complaint.  I’m left to assume that they take this on a case by case basis but nonetheless, author beware!

What To Do When Someone Pirates Your Ebook

Book Pirates
Pirate Daddy by Paurian via Flickr

In the past couple of months, I’ve noticed an uptick in book pirating complaints from indie authors.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this trend is going  to subside anytime soon.  Why, you ask? Because according to Author Earnings, self-published books make up almost 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon. So if we indies command a piece of the market that large, we also share the attention of book pirates. This is a problem many authors are going to have to face soon or later, so let’s educate ourselves on the various ways our work can be stolen and what to do about it.

Types of Pirating

There are several ways pirates make money from stolen work, some create websites where they sell books directly, and at these sites there can be anywhere from hundreds, to thousands, of stolen books. Oh yeah, and here’s the kicker: some of the more sophisticated sites not only make money with books but also with ads and affiliate links. Welcome to 21st century publishing!

The second type of pirate will upload your book to a retailer like Amazon and pretend to be you. Often they will change the book’s cover and create some fake pseudonym. They’ve even been known to take public domain works and charge for them.

Then there’s the third kind of pirate that does a combination of both, selling direct as well as selling stolen books on sites like Amazon.

So how do we deal with this?

Step 1: Get Your Book Protected

Before you even click the publish button, you need to register your work with your government’s copyright office. The copyright office will assign your book with a number which links you to your work. This number will be important if someone asks you to prove you are the owner of the intellectual property (book) in question. Which leads me to my next point…

Step 2: Start Sending DMCA Take Down Notices

In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in the U.S. to protect digital properties from being stolen and distributed. This means if someone takes any material that is copyrighted elsewhere, the owner of that property can take legal action against them.

In compliance with the law, many sites like Amazon, Google and Barnes & Noble all have departments that deal with DMCA complaints. However before you start there, try contacting the pirate site yourself  (if possible) and give them ample time to respond to your complaint. Be professional, and let them know you are the owner of the intellectual property they’re selling and would like it removed from their site.  Some authors have even gone as far as to send invoices to pirate sites, so feel free to charge them whatever you think is reasonable. :)  But if they do not respond, you’ll need to move on to step three…

Step 3: Start Reporting Them To Their Web Host

Copyright Infringement
Arrested by Simon Ingram via Flickr

If this is a website that has stolen your work, your best bet would be to find the host of that particular site and report them. You do that by going to Who Is Hosting This and typing in the pirate site’s URL into the search engine.  Most hosting companies like GoDaddy and BlueHost will happily take down the site if they get enough complaints.  It goes without saying, that it would help, if you teamed up with a few authors on this one and barraged them with complaints. But what if that doesn’t help?…

Step 4: Make Them Invisible

You can report a pirate site that has stolen material to most of the popular search engines. Many sites like Google, will either take away their ranking, or remove them completely from their search engines. Below are some links to get you started:

Step 5: Report Them To The Retailers

This step is for the pirate who steals your book and posted it to an online retailer’s site. Most retailers have official channels that need to be used in order to get a timely response, so be careful to follow the instructions about filing a DMCA.

Trolling The Pirates: Social Media Blasts

I’ve seen journalists and freelance writers have success calling out the people who steal their work on the thief’s own social media page. Yes, there are pirate sites with Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts! Again, just one complaint may not be enough, you may have to join forces with others to get attention.  Think about it, internet trolls, often attack in groups, because it’s effective. However unlike them, you can’t start any flaming wars, just call them out and request they take down your book. If it’s a social media site like Facebook or Google, you can post your entire DMCA complaint right there on the page or in the comments section of their post.

Well there you go, just a few examples of what you can do to fight back against a pirate. Though you can’t put everyone out of business, you can do some damage.  It’s well known that most of the major publishing companies don’t bother with pirates unless, they’re making lots of money.  They can afford to do that however, we indies can’t afford to let that kind of money fly out the window. Granted, I don’t believe you should waste your life hunting pirates but when something comes to your attention, you should at least try to deal with it. You might not win, but hey, at least you put up a fight.

*Stepping down from soapbox*

Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services To Promote Books? Part 3

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By Olarte.Ollie via Flickr

I was going to post this separately but since it’s relevant to the other two articles on social media services, I’m extending this series. Today, I want to discuss how to research and analyze social media marketing services. Don’t worry, I won’t get too technical. This is important if you want to discern which marketing strategies have a real chance of working for you. As I learned while writing this series, information isn’t always readily available. Sometimes, you will have to dig for what you need to know. But you’re a writer, and already used to that sort of thing, right? So here’s how to find out if a social media service is legit…

Look At Their Numbers

If you’re hiring a social media service it would be rather important to look at their social media accounts and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do they have more followers than me?
  2. Are they promoting books to readers?
  3. Do their posts have more interaction than mine?

If you answer no to any of these questions, you should consider moving on. You don’t have the time or money to throw away on a service that isn’t going to help you promote your books. You probably already have a social media presence that’s either small or nonexistent, so there’s no need to add a zero to your marketing equation.

Getting To Know Them

Once you’ve found out if their following is on the up and up, it’s time to go deep and start analyzing their followers. You need to be sure these accounts are real.  Granted, there are going to be some spammers and fakery but if their Twitter following is more than 20% fake, this is a huge problem. Let’s put that into perspective, if a promotional site claims to have 50,000 followers but 20% are fake, that means 10,000 of their followers are worthless. Can you afford to pay for that? Fortunately, there are several apps that can help you analyze someone’s Twitter account.

Sadly for Facebook, things aren’t so easy I know, shocking right?  On Facebook, you’ll have to go to a person’s page and click on “likes” in order see the countries from which these likes are coming from. If they all come from places in Southeast Asia, they’re most likely fake. Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East are renown for their online scams as well as their spam but they’re also a hot bed for like farms which you can read about here.

How Do You Know If A Service Has Gotten Any Traction?

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By Marco Belluci via Flickr

Okay, so you finally found a promotional service that has legitimate followers congratulations, however, you’re still not done. Before you submit your tweet, post or excerpt, you’ll need a link to wherever your book is sold. When you grab that URL, I would suggest you get a trackable link. This is important if you want to know for sure if a service is actually working for you. Trackable links can be found at:

These sites not only shorten your URLs but track them as well. This means you’ll know exactly how many people clicked on your promo and when. It’s a win-win! In the beginning, you’ll want to monitor any services your use whether it’s advertising or social media blasts.  It would also be wise to schedule different campaigns on separate days just to keep things easier to track.

Helpful Tip: If you haven’t gone exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select, I’d advise linking to various book sellers like; Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or even Google Play. This also keeps things easier to track and it helps promote your book across all seller platforms.

Checking Sales Rank

I know this is obvious but it must be pointed out that you need to keep track of your sales during your promotional campaigns. You have to know which services are giving you the best ROI and which ones are duds. This will save you time and money the next time you promote your next book. So there you have it, if you have any tips on how to research and analyze a social media promoter, let me know in the comments section.

Also, if you didn’t check out the previous 2 posts, what are you waiting for?

  • Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 1:
  • Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 2

Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services To Promote Books? Part 2

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By Martin Gysler via Flickr

Last week, I discussed social media services and today, I’ll talk about services geared specifically  towards authors.  Since social media is becoming more and more of a pay to play kind of environment, many authors are either abandoning their accounts, or moving on to other sites.  This is a mistake.  Social media is still useful, I talked about it before in, “How to Approach & Pitch Social Media Influencers.” However, for those who simply lack social grace, there are services which will retweet/like your posts, hold Twitter discussions, and even build your community for you.  Here are just a few of the more popular ones.  P.S. I am in no way affiliated with the services mentioned. 

Bublish

Here, you share your book’s excerpts on their website and Bublish tweets the excerpt to their followers.  Bublish also promises to optimize excerpts with keywords and metadata.  This is something you can easily do yourself which I discussed in this post.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t discuss the major problem with their website, you see, it gets poor traffic.  My blog almost has the same Alexa ranking as this site and lately, my blog gets around 60-90 views daily.  Also, upon inspecting their Facebook page, and their Twitter feed, I saw lots of posts marketed towards authors, not readers.  However, if you must try it, they have a free trial period but after that, it’s $9.99 a month.

TweetYourBooks.com
A.K.A. (BookTweetingService.com) this company claims that their followers are real and actually block spammers, as well as fake accounts.  They even go through the trouble of showing their stats here while slamming some of their competition.  I found one author who used the service but never broke even for her nonfiction book.  To be fair, this was not the experience of another author.

If you want to test it out yourself, their rates start at $29, for 1 day of tweets, and go up to $125, for 5 days of tweets.

Book Tweeters
Book Tweeter is a well known social media service that claims a following of over 480,000 of both readers and writers over 5 different accounts.  Their services start at $19 for 1 day, (60 tweets) to $75 for 7 days (300 tweets).  They do not accept erotica or books with hate speech and reserve the right to reject any book for promotion.  P.S. Sometimes they have sales so sign up for their newsletter and keep your eyes peeled for coupon codes (Scroll to the near bottom).

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Pic by Giovanni Saccone via Flickr

Book Bear
Book Bear is a bare bones social media promotion site that offers packages from $10 for one post/tweet to $100 for a 1 post/tweet per day for 5 days promo.
Their Facebook page is a ghost town but their Twitter feed is a different story. Their Twitter account has 116,000 and a little activity.

Masquerade Tours
Masquerade Tours is a blog touring service but they also offer several social media services including Twitter blasts, and a live Twitter chat featuring you and your book. A simple Twitter blast to their 50,000 followers will run you about $40 and the Twitter chat will require prizes and swag (from the author) and runs about $75 (minimum) but the experience can be customized so prices can go up.

Pump Up Your Book

Pump Up Your Book is a public relations service that specializes in setting up virtual book tours, creating book trailers, handling social media blasts as well as website design. Their social media blasts offers cover reveals, blog posts and a mention on their book tour page for about $199.

Virtual Book Tour Café

Virtual Book Tour Café offers book tours of course, but they also offer to help build your social media as well as advertising on Facebook, banners, book thongs, book reviews and a plethora of other things.  It runs about $599 which is quite steep but it seems like a more comprehensive service rather than the tweet and run services I’ve been seeing.

Ghost Tweeting
Ghost tweeting has a specific service for authors. It is the perfect for those authors who don’t want to deal with social media at all. Ghost Tweeting promises to create content, post it and build your community for you. They will also create content for not just your Twitter account but also, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages as well.  Their rates start at $295 and go up to $1,295.

After Thoughts

For many including myself, social media doesn’t work when it comes to promoting books and never really did. But as I said before, if you want to go hybrid, you’re going to need a pretty sweet looking platform because agents are now Googling authors before saying yea or nay to a project.  I still believe you should try to do things the old fashioned way by building relationships and networking.  Influencers in charge of large reading communities are much more responsive to people they are familiar with, than those who send their middlemen.  Besides, most of the prime real-estate (fan and community pages) on social media isn’t for sale.

Read the rest of the series here:

Part 3: http://writingbytheseatofmypants.com/2015/01/25/should-indie-authors-use-social-media-services-to-promote-books-3/

If you missed Part 1, you can catch it here: http://writingbytheseatofmypants.com/2015/01/11/should-indie-authors-use-social-media-services-to-promote-books/

Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 1

Social Media Garden by J&TPlaman via Flickr
Social Media Garden by J&TPlaman via Flickr

Several years back a few websites popped up promising to help people grow their social media accounts and even make them look popular by liking or retweeting them. Immediately, celebrities everywhere became their biggest clients by paying for fake fans, retweets and even comments, I talked about it a while back on Writer’s Weekly. Most people, myself included, considered it to be nothing more than useless vanity metrics. Anyone who knows a little about online marketing understands how easy it is to manipulate metrics.

Sadly, not everyone has been clued in and that includes those within the publishing industry but are you surprised? Believe it or not, they still think that having 5,000,000 Twitter followers actually means something. Remember just this past year, an author on Wattpad was given a six figure deal after writing 3 fan fiction stories that got over 1 billion views. So publishers love big numbers, go figure! Unfortunately for those indie authors wanting to go hybrid, (meaning self-publish as well as traditionally publish) they are going to have to grow their social media following. There’s no way around it.

What About The Indie Who Doesn’t Want To Traditionally Publish?

It often takes years to organically build a following that is both large and engaged. You can speed up the process by following and unfollowing random people or by signing up for quid-pro-quo groups online but that will never gain you true fans and that is why you’re on social media for, right?  Being an indie author gives you time, but I still see some indies trying to grow their social media following in an attempt to fake it till they make it.  But I digress… There are many legitimate reasons to use a social media service:

  • Grow your social media following—duh!
  • Promote your book launch or sale.
  • Get comments or shares for a blog post
  • Promoting book signings, interviews or social media events
  • Grow your email list

Things A Social Media Service Can’t Do For You

Suessian Megaphone by Michael via Flickr
Suessian Megaphone by Michael via Flickr

One important thing these services can’t offer is genuine interaction, they can’t respond to people who actually engage with this campaign.  It will be completely up to you to show up and answer questions or thank people for their comments and compliments. Today, I’ll focus on social media services that promise to help broaden your reach online.  Below is a list of some of the more popular services.

Thunder Clap This past year, I saw several authors in my Facebook group promoting their Thunder Clap campaigns. Basically, ThunderClap is a crowdsourcing site where people join a campaign to tweet something simultaneously, thus making it more likely to trend on Twitter. P.S. None of the authors I’ve spoken to, have reached their goals. Even the guys over at the Self-Publishing Podcast, didn’t speak too highly of it. The inherent problem with Thunder Clap is that in order to use it, you have to already have an engaged following. Also, you will have to find followers willing to allow the ThunderClap app to access their Twitter accounts in order to tweet your post.  As you can imagine, this may be unacceptable to most people.

Easy Retweet Easy Retweet is a site that allows you to upload your blog or website post and members of the website will retweet you in exchange for free credits from the site.   You can also purchase credits for around $2.00 for 500 credits or $60 for 80,000 credits.  They also try to target these retweets by asking you to select the subject you’re tweeting about.  The subjects range from tech, blogging, and of course, writing.

AdRetweet Works just like Easy Retweet and offers retweets for 7 days at $4.95 to an entire year of retweets for $89.99.

Fiverr Fiverr is an outsourcing site and often one stop shopping for lots of indie authors. Here you can hire graphic designers, copy writers and yes, even social media promoters. All this usually for under the price of $20.

Social Promotes Social Promotes offers a free exchange of retweets but you’ll have to retweet others to get the credits offered. Social Promotes also offers credits of 100 retweets for $2.00 and 1,000 retweets for $29.00. Keep in mind they have targeted and non targeted services which basically means targeted retweets will come from accounts in the U.K. Australia and the U.S. which isn’t really targeted enough for my tastes.

Professional Social Promotion Professional Social offers to grow not only your Twitter following but your Youtube, Facebook and Google Plus following as well.  Their prices range for $10, for 250 Facebook likes, to $100, for 3,000 likes.  Also, their social sharing which includes blasting your posts to sites like StumbleUpon, Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook runs about $10.

Round Team Although, Round Team isn’t like the other sites mentioned above, I believe I should mention it because it is becoming rather popular with authors. This is an automatic retweeting service that let’s you control who you retweet by letting you define the settings. You can choose to retweet posts with certain hashtags or even just retweet your followers. They have several plans starting at free and going up to $29.99 per month. However, keep in mind with the free service, Round Team sends out their own posts with banners and links to their website.  Here’s how they look (name of author has been redacted): Round Team Promotional Tweets If you’re okay with promoting someone else’s product on your Twitter account, then the free service is right up your alley.

In Closing

Although, many of these services are cheap and claim to have many followers, there’s no guarantee that any of your social media posts will be seen by actual readers.  This is the critical flaw in all of these services. Unless, you go through all their accounts (which is impossible to do since many of the sites won’t reveal that info) it’ll be a shot in the dark at best. I think these services are perfect for the author who sucks at social media or just don’t want to be bothered with it. However, in order to use them effectively, you’ll have to know something about hashtags, the best times to post and how to use images to enhance posts.  That’s because most of these companies only provide a basic post and run type service.  So this isn’t ideal for book promotion or any sort of literary promotion. However don’t fear, because next week, I’m going to discuss social media services geared towards authors and book promotion. So stay tuned…

Read the rest of the series here:

Lessons Learned in 2014

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By Rob Shenk via Filckr

It’s almost 2015, and like most people, I’m wondering where the heck did all the time go? Luckily, I had a pretty productive year, I finished one book and published another. I also made more friends and learned more about the publishing industry.  Yes, after years in the business, I’m still learning new things.

Here are just a few of the bigger lessons I discovered this year in 2014…

Book Marketing Has To Be Taken To Another Level

Last month, an author sent a lamb chop into space to promote his book: Meatspace. He recorded the whole thing on Youtube and so far it’s netted him over 250,000 views. It was the most odd, yet, spectacular marketing ploy by a writer I’ve seen. So much for creating bookmarks, eh?

Despite what you may have heard, you still have to promote your book to some extent. Whether you decide to do it via blogtours, advertising or social media, you should let someone know your book is available. Many of the most successful authors have marketed their work continuously, because they can’t afford to leave it up to chance.

Repeat After Me: Amazon Is Not The Savior Of Publishing

Not long ago, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, referred to authors as customers in a meeting with investors. A Bloomsbury executive also referred to authors as customers at the Frankfurt Book Fair this past year. Although, I don’t agree with the customer label, I do believe we are treated more like employees rather than business partners.  Think about it, publishers have been using authors as brand ambassadors to promote their companies for years.  One author in my writer’s group put it like this: “Yes. We’re Amazon’s unpaid marketing department. And all those little ‘Amazon affiliate’ booklists are their marketing funnels. We’re all herding readers into the chute so we can cut our own throats. Maybe it’s time we all woke up and stopped committing professional suicide by supporting a one-platform market?” A strong but very true statement.

Consider All Possible Income Streams

Many of the literary elite like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King have made a lot of money from selling books but they’ve also made lots of money from other things like movie deals, speaking engagements and yes, even merchandise.

And why not? If you don’t take advantage of all the opportunities available to you someone else will. For example, I found a lot Fifty Shades of Grey merchandise online but none of it was official, meaning the author E.L. James, is likely not getting paid for any of it. How do I know? Well, on the author’s website there is no mention of merchandise and ditto for her publisher’s website. However, that hasn’t stopped many of these so called “fan sites” from taking the image of the book (a copyright violation), and slapping it on multiple products.

Don’t ever forget publishing is a business, not an art. It’s sad when bootleggers understand this so much better than the authors they rip off.

Free Books Aren’t Devaluing A Damn Thing!

If you believe that giving away a free book is going to ruin your career, you’re insane. There are lots of bestselling authors who have free books available. They often use free books to get reviews or to build up their email lists just like their indie counterparts.  That’s because free books have been proven to be way more effective at building an author platform than advertising and social media.

We Need To Promote On Social Media But Only In The Right Places

Social media is getting complicated as Facebook and Google limit the reach of their users. Many are finding that even advertising and promoting posts aren’t working so they’re abandoning their pages in droves. I think this is a bad idea. I believe social media can be useful but only if you network properly. We authors need to become a part of a thriving reader community and make the leaders of these communities an offer they can’t refuse. I discussed this in my post: How to Approach and Pitch Social Media Influencers.

We Need To Accept There Is No Such Thing As Luck!

Many authors who’ve succeed at publishing often put years into their careers. They’ve learned their craft, studied the business, and experimented (both artistically and business wise) in order to make a living at publishing. Luck by the way, is often seen as a four letter word to successful people.

Awesome-quote-by-Peter-Dinklage from Thumb Press
From Thumbpress

You’re A Writer After You’ve Actually Written Something

Don’t let others fool you into thinking that you need an agent or contract with one of the NY Big 5 to be considered an official author. No one will ever anoint you with fairy dust and make things happen for you. That’s way too Cinderella! A real author is someone who has published a book and made a connection with their readers.

In Closing

Though I think the industry is stabilizing, I do think things will continue to change, but not at the pace that they have been. In times like these, we have to constantly remind ourselves this is a business and not a calling.  As with most businesses, we’ll face many ups and downs, that’s just life in general.  No one gets a free pass.  Absolutely no one!

If you’ve learned anything about publishing this year, please leave a comment…