Wednesday, July 1, 2020

IWSG: The Future of (indy) Publishing?


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The first Wednesday of every month is the Insecure Writer's Support Group posting day, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Check it out here and join if you want support with your writing. 
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.


Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 
Remember, the question is optional! 

July 1 question - There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade? 
 
The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox!

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I've been writing quite a bit lately about my efforts to get back to being a writer after the death of my husband. That project continues as slowly as the general project of getting my life back--no, not back, because there is no "back", but getting my life moving on to somewhere. Since I haven't much to add on that, today I'll try to answer the question of the month.

Since I am an author-publisher, I was moved to think about changes in self-publishing. I have been publishing for about 9 years, I've already seen some change. Some of the changes I've seen over the years are good (like better software to make ebooks that really work), some not so good, so before I think about the future, I'll comment on the past.

When I first began publishing, Createspace was an independent company, not a part of Amazon, and the merging of those two is the key to pretty much all that I'd like to see change. In a nutshell: we've been moving to a total monopoly and that is a very bad idea.

I think Amazon is trying to crush Smashwords (my favored ebook platform), but I'm happy that Smashwords is holding on, providing an essential way to publish to all the ebook sales platforms aside from Amazon. Of course, Amazon would like all those other platforms to go away. I would like to see the distinction between .mobi and .epub go away, so all books could be bought and read from any platform on any device.

If Amazon is to lose its stranglehold, their Kindle Select program must drop the exclusivity agreement. As a writer, I am doing my tiny part to try to force this by refusing to sign the agreement, and thus losing out on whatever tiny income I might make from the program. For me, it's worth it.
I would also very much like to have an independent Createspace or similar back (I've not yet really tried to find another paperback publishing platform that would offer full distribution at no cost). Again, it's about breaking the monopoly Amazon has and is trying to increase. Their plan is bad for readers and writers alike. Without competition, Amazon can pay authors what they want to (very little) and charge readers what they want. Lose-lose.

I'd love for all sorts of other things to happen, like some way to sort out and mark self-published books that  meet a high standard of writing and formatting, and I'd love for someone to find a way to manage marketing that doesn't cost a fortune or require one to be an extrovert. But even more than that, I want to prevent the death-knell of an Amazon monopoly.

So I guess this month's question kind of triggered a rant :)  Sorry-not-sorry.   How about you? What would you like to see in the future for publishing?

33 comments:

  1. That's a great and well=laid out hope, not a rant at all. For rants... well, see mine :)
    Good thoughts all round.

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  2. I agree about not signing the exclusivity contract with Amazon: one shouldn't keep all your eggs in one basket and all that. Besides, I don't want an AI overlord...

    I'm sorry to hear about your loss. *Hug*

    Ronel visiting for IWSG day A Decade of Writing

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    1. Thanks. Yes, I think that Amazon’s ambitions are really the biggest threat to writers and readers, and still so many sign on.

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  3. I agree with you on not letting Amazon monopolize everything and instead just be a good opportunity for self-published writers. And I'd love a way to manage marketing. It all sounds so overwhelming now.

    Glad you are able to write as you go through coping with the loss of your husband. I admire you for being able to get back into your writing so soon after his death. I'm here for you if you need anyone to talk to.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. Writing isn’t exactly flowing like a vast river, but I’ll take trickles and rivulets. I’ve pretty much finished the draft of the story for the IWSG contest, so now I’m looking for a new project, aside from editing everything.

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  4. Totally agree re Amazon. They devour everything in their path and it's play their game or you're pretty much out of it. LOVE the freedom to self-pub, especially since I've gotten right to old books back but am also looking to get back with a contracted publisher for balance. (((HUGS))) to you on finding the best path forward!

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    1. Nancy, I’d like to try for a blend, too. I’m thinking about starting a new mystery series and trying it the trad way. I have the germ of the idea...

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  5. I tried being exclusive with Amazon. It didn't affect my sales or income much. Plus, there's some pretty hardcore scammers that Amazon is sluggish to get rid of it what I've heard is correct. Competition is always a good thing and we can't let Amazon destroy that.

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    1. Exactly—and yes, I’ve wondered if the whole Kindle Select or whatever it is would actually earn me any more. I am not actually trying to make any real money at this, so I’m happy to fight the giant boa constrictor with my puny books :D

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  6. Actually, Createspace was created by Amazon for print publishing. They just decided to do away with it and merge print publishing under Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which had only been for eBooks. With that said, Createspace did function differently and was so much better than KDP for print. I wish they had never done away with Createspace.

    The thing with mobi and epub is that mobi is for Amazon/Kindle and epub is for the rest (Nook, Kobo). Amazon would have to change the files they accept to epub, and they won't likely do that.

    You don't have to choose Kindle Select, just their normal Kindle Direct Publishing option. If you want to be in Kindle Unlimited, though, you need to be in Kindle Select, if that's what you mean. For me, I'm never exclusive with Amazon. I like having my books on all platforms.

    What we need is the existing platforms to step up in big ways to really challenge Amazon and offer things that'll attract readers and writers, things that Amazon does.

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    1. Yes, I meant the Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited thing. I do publish through KDP, of course, and I also publish through Smashwords to reach all the other platforms. The fact that Amazon created a new e-book format when they launched the Kindle (epub was already out there) is, to me, indicative of their desire to create a monopoly right from the beginning. It's probably too late to reverse that? But I could actually see them (in a better, kinder world) making new ereaders that read both, and gradually phasing out .mobi. Smashwords manages to create both epub and .mobi files so I don't think it's asking too much for Amazon to manage to do both until they can merge.

      I had forgotten that CreateSpace was always Amazon, if I knew it. I had it in my mind that first Amazon bought it, then they eliminated it. There were definitely some things about the independent(ish) platform I liked, but I admit I appreciate having it all in one place. Some have had issues with print quality, but I haven't had any more than I did with CS.

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  7. Amazon definitely worries me. One more reason: I can now sell print books for about half of what it cost me using my local guy. Now what's he supposed to do? But it's a huge savings for me.

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    1. I keep my Amazon paperback prices at a level that allows me to buy author copies, have a local bookshop sell them for about the same price as Amazon, and I still get *something* above my cost from a 60-40 split. I could sell my books on Amazon at a lower price, but not that much lower, if I want to go to the expanded market, where the author cut is smaller.

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  8. I'm so sorry about the loss of your husband.
    This was such an interesting post about Amazon and self-publishing. I'm still not sure which direction I'll go once my book is finally all shiny and ready, but you've given us some great food for thought.
    Take care, and happy ISWG!

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    1. Jenni, it can be a tough choice, indy vs. the publisher search. But I honestly think the all-platforms vs. exclusivity thing is a total no-brainer.

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  9. I hope you find comfort in the days ahead, as you grieve and live life. It's hard to lose someone so close. I'm praying for you (hope that's okay).
    I understand the rant. I would like to see more options for writers to advertise their work in a way that is suited to writers - or most writers, anyway. Although I hated my first attempts at Youtube videos, I feel a little more comfortable with that venue now. I'm talking to "myself" and my phone, then uploading it - so the audience is a bit removed and it's less terrifying. I also really struggled with how I look on video, but I decided it is a lesson in learning to love myself as I am and I've moved forward. So, I recommend that kind of thing for introverts as a way of reaching the world.

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    1. Tyrean, I'm not religious, but I understand prayer as an act of love. We can all use more of that!

      Videos, huh? that's one of the things I'm least likely to want to do--hate how I sound, have no skills... ouch.

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  10. The Amazon point is a good one. The unfortunate fact is that they're monopolizing all retail business (not just ebooks) and I don't see that changing much in the near future. Most consumers want convenience and low costs, and don't think about how poorly the suppliers/employees are treated in order to bring those advantages.

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    1. I admit I'm as bad as the next person, when want something. I do try to buy local--or did, until the corona virus made that a lot less appealing!

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  11. I agree about not feeding the beast that is Amazon. I tried out the KU for a while and honestly didn't see a huge advantage though I know some authors swear by it. I would like for it not to be exclusive, but as you said, Amazon wants a monopoly so losing that isn't likely to happen unless more people pull out. Sadly some publishers are using that service so it's going the other direction. On the paperback front, I know D2D (draft to digital) is slowly rolling out their beta program so hopefully once it's up and running it'll offer another option. Nook Press also has paperback options if you've not looked into those. If you have your own ISBN there is IngramSparks.

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    1. Meka, I thought Nook Press was dead! I had no idea they were branching out to paperback. I will look into it.

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  12. You are so right about Amazon being a monopoly. The tech giants have too much control over our lives in many areas. And I'm a hypocrite writing this since I'm enrolled in Kindle Select. Thanks for fighting the good fight!

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    1. We each have to make those decisions for ourselves. But take a close look at what Amazon is giving you!

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  13. All excellent points. You're the second blogger to mention the standards issue. I would love some kind of gate-keeper along the lines of the traditional world where a book had to be "well edited" and that term tied to specific descriptors.

    As to moving on to somewhere after losing your husband, I'm still very much on that road with you, and each day I'm surprised about where I've arrived.

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    1. Lee, I'm amazed some days at my ability to go on, and on other days, I'm amazed at the size of the elephant that's still sitting on me. Definitely not a linear process, and I'm in very early days.

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  14. My heart goes out to you, Rebecca, as you adapt to this new stage in your life. I admire your courage in picking up the pieces and moving forward. There is a lot about the publishing world that I don't know. Voyagers is my first book experience. I found your post informative and eye opening. I have bought Kindle books, but I really don't like reading on a screen, so I normally buy paper books. I've been feeding the Amazon beast. 😔 Take care! Stay safe! I'm rooting for you!

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    1. My advice about ebooks is to get a dedicated ereader, one that uses e-ink. It’s still not a book, but it’s way better than a normal screen. And for me, maybe because I’m old, it’s important to have all my books be in paper as well as ebooks. I need to do a post soon on how to do the conversion to Large Type, which is my latest—all my mysteries are available that way, though I don’t think I’ve sold any except to my mom for her retirement home’s library :D

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  15. I think Amazon are too close to holding a monopoly when it comes to self publishing – but that's the thing which makes them many writers' first choice (me included). It's a difficult situation.

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    1. I can't recommend anyone skip Amazon. But publish to all the other platforms as well. I do that with one-stop shopping via Smashwords, which incidentally also pays authors a slightly higher percentage than Amazon does.

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  16. So sorry about your husband, Rebecca. I didn't know. My heart goes out to you. I know that you will find your way, but I can't even imagine how difficult it must be.

    The paperback platform I use that's independent from Amazon is IngramSparks. However, the trick is that when it comes to selling books on Amazon, I have to use KDP for paper and digital, so my paperbacks are with both IS and KDP. If you don't do that, Amazon does sneaky things like tell readers there's a long wait for your books, or that they're sold out, which is impossible with POD sales. It was frustrating as hell, but until they're no longer the big dog in town, I have to play by their rules.

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  17. I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your husband. I'm sure it's been a difficult time for you.

    With regards to changes? From an educational perspective, I’d like to see more of a three-way collaboration with authors, libraries and schools.
    It would go a long way in helping to combat the literacy problems in our country.

    Sending a boost of positivity across the blogosphere ------------------
    Take care.

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