Simon451 is a new imprint from Simon & Schuster. The imprint will release sci-fi titles in both print and digital with an ebook-first approach well suited to this target audience.
Oprah’s book club was rebooted to the relief of many publishers and authors alike. The bump that could come from being selected for the club made a number of careers.
Now it looks like there is the potential to go further with a pick from her team. She has her own TV channel, a popular monthly magazine and digital components that expand on both.
The Oprah Effect didn’t lift every pick to bestseller lists, and it’s likely that not every book in the revived club will benefit. But it is one of the few avenues left for readers to find great books…and for authors to be found.
Bind-ups, collections of previously published short fiction, novellas, and the like, is being viewed in a new way. Before, publishers released collections as an afterthought, mostly as a way to enhance sales or increase revenue using items from their existing catalogues.
Now, publishers are realizing that ebooks are offering new ways to engage with books. Waterbrook Multnomah is releasing three novellas in a single book as an experiment. HarperCollins Christian Publishing is revamping a series by releasing a series specifically under this format. A Year of Weddings will come out every three months with seasonal themes; each release will bind together three novellas.
Publishers are reaching into new arenas by recasting old ideas. They aren’t dead yet…not by a long shot.
Netflix has been on a roll. Originally considered something of a rube among Hollywood types, the individual responsible for its success has proven that new ways of thinking, and servicing viewer’s desires and needs before any other metric, is the path to success these days.
Netflix did everything “wrong,” according to film’s old guard. It released a full season of episodes all at the same time to allow for binge viewing (which subscribers wanted), it paid top dollar to lease items that others would have taken only if they could own (again to serve their subscribers regardless of the way others would have made a deal), and they bought new concepts without forcing the producers to make a pilot (taking a chance again to give viewers what they want).
Publishers could learn from all this. Release books faster (because that’s what readers want), allow authors to maintain ownership (serve readers no matter what the old deals looked like), and take chances on unproven concepts (because again, readers want unique, fresh ideas from authors who haven’t yet “proven” themselves with big publishers).
Authors, too, can learn from Netflix. Although the company is willing to take risks and try new things, the concepts they’ve bought have had a strong level of professionalism built in. Actors have been sought out who are clear viewer favorites to attract viewers to those fresh concepts. All the deals made have also been for concepts that have fully written scripts, professional people already on board, and “bibles” or dossiers that outline the fictional world’s details in full.
For authors, this means having a full and polished manuscript ready to go, professional assistance from editors or pitch consultants, and a fully developed idea about their audience, publishing trends, and the author’s potential or actual platform (which is all wrapped into a book proposal, the author’s bible).
Recently there’s been some chatter about novellas. For a long time, novellas were shunned by all but literary publishers. Too short, it seemed, translated into too little interest by readers. Of course, there was the biggest problem: novellas were not terribly economical to print. That impacts the bottom line, and that means more pushback from publishers.
The trend has been increasing judging by what I’ve been hearing from agents and publishers alike. They want longer books (fiction and nonfiction), and the 50,000 word minimum is being held to more strongly than ever before. This makes sense in a time when publishers are trying to trim every penny to enhance their waning profits.
But organizations that have been keeping tabs on self-publishing are questioning this wisdom. They note that when publishers do take on novellas, they are marketing them as novels so as not to undermine the work in readers’ eyes. Also, they’ve noted that genre works are seeing success as novellas.
This is in part due to self-publishing successes. Authors write what they write…they honor the story itself without having to worry much about lengths and economies of scale if they are self-publishing. Readers are interested in the story, not whether it’s long or short, or which publisher it might have come from.
Novellas, then, might find that they will receive a greater amount of respect from traditional publishers in the future. This will take a year or more to sink in, though. For now, consider your length when approaching traditional publishers. Aim for that 50K minimum to ensure you aren’t rejected on length alone.
It’s long been known in business that 20% of your existing customers generate 80% of your sales. The same can be said of book fans. When someone reads a novel or nonfiction title they enjoy, they will actively seek out additional works by the same author. Keep these tips in mind as you reach out to your fan base.
–Keep in contact through social media or your email lists. Let people know what you’re working on as well as opportunities to find older titles you might not be actively marketing.
–Serve your fans. Why are people reading your novels: for entertainment, for a deeper social message? Is your nonfiction a vehicle for inspiration or concrete tips? Be sure to address these components with every outreach.
–Reward return readers. Find a way to say thank you to fans who keep coming back. Offer to provide free ebooks to anyone who sends in a receipt for a particular printed title. Host a lunchtime Skype session where you chat with readers about their burning questions about your upcoming book.
Keep these ideas in mind and you’ll build loyalty to you, the brand behind your books.
Recently, news from Europe indicated that self-publishing is beginning to grow at rates similar to those seen in America’s early years of self-publishing. The reasons authors choose to go their own way is the same as here: more control, a faster path to publication, and more direct contact with their readers.
FOCUS magazine said that traditional publishers will have to get on board with this trend worldwide. Providing access to bookstores, it said, is the last area where the gatekeepers still function. If publishers want to survive, they are going to have to help all authors publish and distribute their books.
Do you think survival for traditional publishing houses will hinge on this in part or in whole? Why or why not?
Dzanc Books focuses on literary fiction. It is interested in great writing even if there isn’t a clear marketing niche for a specific manuscript.
Amazon offers a White Glove publishing service. In this program, your agent works directly with Amazon to publish your book.
I wrote not too long ago about agent-assisted publishing, and this is just another incarnation of the same process. You might end up walking this road if the traditional publishers reject your agent’s efforts to place your book. But again, you end up with the agent as your book’s advocate.
On this road, you don’t travel alone. That in and of itself can be a boost to your passion. The fact that it can also boost your career sweetens the deal.
Lately the news has been covering quite a number of agent-assisted books that have sold well. Agent-assisted publishing might sound repetative…after all, doesn’t an agent get authors published with traditional houses?
Yes, and nowadays agents are doing more. If they are unable to place a client with a publisher, they might funnel that client into their own publishing unit. The agent doesn’t become the publisher; they simply help the author self-publish.
The benefits to this kind of self-publishing are many. Agents have long done much more for authors than simply sell their books. They are fantastic advocates with the media and (when appropriate) colleges or other organizations that might offer paid speaking engagements. The agents can often boost sales for the author in a way that the writer could not do himself through regular self-publishing methods.
A new app called BookVibe sorts through your Twitter feed and pulls out information on books people you’re following have recommended.
The app isn’t perfect yet but it’s a great start. Try it to keep up with what your crowd is reading.
I once met a man who told me that five books he’d written had hit the bestseller list…but that no one knew his name because he’d ghostwritten all five. He seemed very bitter about the lack of recognition. I wanted to tell him he was in the wrong business. If he couldn’t let go of his books at the end of the project, he needed to stop ghostwriting!
He seemed to have forgotten one of the key differences between a ghost and an author: Ghosts write the work then disappear. Authors build the platform for the book’s sales and market the work.
I have had clients ask if I will go on tour with them after ghostwriting their books. I tell them they’re the experts; readers want to see them, not me. And with the new focus on branding for all authors, really a ghost can’t help with the marketing aspects. The author is the brand, not the ghost. No matter how high on the charts the book climbs.
Recently Goodreads announced that they doubled their membership to 20 million. That’s a big number of people who love books. And since many of them are interested primarily in fiction, authors should get their profiles upgraded to an author member profile.
Recently I did a giveaway on Goodreads for my first novel. I expected maybe 100 people to sign up for the ten copies; over 400 did. That’s great exposure.
The exposure resulted in specific actions by Goodreads members. More than 200 added the book to their to-read list, and another 200 added it to their shelves.
Sales figures won’t be in for a while, of course. But since the book is available in print and e-book versions, I’ll check that month when it’s available to see what happened.
The other books I’ve written also received some small attention but not nearly as much as the one featured on the giveaway. If you can spare a couple of copies, give it a shot. For only a few dollars in postage, you might gain a substantial number of new fans.
Note: Penguin’s Book Country operates separately from their other self-pub arm Author Solutions.
Book Country allows self-published authors to sell their works through their website. There are the usual marketing packages authors find at many self-pub companies but there is one difference: authors keep 85% of the royalties. This is higher than both Amazon and B&N.
Linda Epstein of Jennifer De Chiara Literary seeks accessible literary fiction, upscale commercial fiction, vibrant narrative nonfiction, some fantasy, and compelling memoirs. She also accepts middle-grade and YA fiction.
Nonfiction areas include alternative health and parenting books, cookbooks, select memoirs, and spiritual/self-actualization books.