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August 21 2012

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August 09 2012

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July 26 2012

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May 03 2012

13:53

Can E-Books Succeed Without Amazon?

E-book author Victoria Hudson doesn't like Amazon or the power it seems to wield with independent writers.

She didn't want to sell her book and short stories on its Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, something she calls "too restrictive to authors." Instead she chose an alternative book distributor based in the San Francisco Bay Area called Smashwords.

"I want my work to be available in as many places as possible," she said.

In the e-book market, Amazon.com is the biggest name in the game. But, as criticism mounts -- especially from people who believe that Amazon, and specifically, it's KDP Select Program, can hurt rather than help writers -- alternatives like Smashwords are on the rise.

But can an independent author afford to bypass Amazon, especially when it provides so much exposure to self-published e-books? So far, the answer isn't a clear one.

The Criticism

Most of Amazon's criticism comes because of the KDP Select program. For most authors at the Kindle Store, books are usually split between two prices -- 99 cents and $2.99. At $2.99, Amazon's take is only 30 percent with 70 percent going to the author. At $2.98 and below, the author's take is only 35 percent.

But the KDP program offers more visibility on Amazon if authors agree to give their book away for free for five days during a 90-day period. The author must also sell exclusively at the Kindle store for those 90 days. While the subject is a hot topic on the Kindle boards, many authors are already a part of the program in hopes of getting momentum and their title climbing the Kindle charts. "Charts are everything for Amazon publishers," said Erica Sadun, an independent and traditionally published writer. "Chart position gives you momentum."

kindlelibrary.png

Authors are also asked to loan out books for free at the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for a chance at a pot of $600,000.

"Successful books are not in this program," Sadun said. "It's the ones trying to get market traction and trying to climb those charts." It is one of the few ways that people can successfully market a book that would have no market otherwise, she added.

Questions sent to Amazon for comment on the KDP Select program and its new publishing arm went unanswered.

Amazon Alternatives

While that may be true, some say that Amazon's heavy-handed attitude is hurting independent authors, and writers are looking for alternatives to the Amazon juggernaut.

Hudson, a writer from Hayward, Calif., has a chapter from a future book distributed by Smashwords as well as "No Red Pen: Writing, Writing Groups and Critique," a handbook on giving better writing critiques.

"Smashwords was an easy way to get the electronic version out to a lot of markets," she said.

Mark Coker created the Los Gatos, Calif.-based Smashwords four years ago after trying to get his own book, "Boob Tube," published.

"The more I thought about the issue, the madder I got that a publisher has the power to stand between me and my potential audience," he said.

Now Smashwords has more than 37,000 authors and publishers and 100,000 e-books in 32 countries -- with a 60-85 percent royalty for authors.

Coker doesn't like the KDP Select program because he questions its fairness. "It's using self-published authors as pawns as a broader campaign to wage war against retail competitors," he said. "If it wasn't for the exclusivity requirement, I would be a big supporter of KDP Select. I love the idea that an author can receive payment when it's borrowed."

The exclusivity also hurts authors, he said. "We lost 6,000 to 7,000 books around the Christmas season," he said. "Yes, in three months you can bring that book back, but you have lost any momentum that you had."

Despite his dislike of some of Amazon's practices, Coker holds no animosity toward the company nor does he suggest writers have any. "For those authors who do not work with Amazon out of principle, that's not a behavior I would encourage," he said. "Authors should be everywhere."

BookBaby.jpg

Another alternative to publishing on Amazon is Portland, Ore.-based BookBaby, which has a $99 "self-publishing made easy" option which formats e-books, offers cover design, and has a better-known sister company called CD Baby that sells independent music. It distributes its books to the iBookstore, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony Reader and others.

"We are taking nothing from the back end and passing on 100 percent of net royalties, so authors get to keep all of the money they earn," said Brian Felsen, president of BookBaby. "Our payments are timely and transparent, and we pay immediately upon receipt from our partners."

Hyperink is a new kind of e-book publisher, one that comes with $1.2 million in venture capital funds and seeks out experts to write targeted e-books.

Kevin Gao, a co-founder of digital publisher Hyperink, said his company looks at search engine data, book sales, and tables of content to find out the hottest book topics. "In general, there are two types of authors: professional writers who are freelance writers interested in writing e-books and experts with an area of expertise," he said.

Gao said the year-old Hyperink launches about 100 titles a month on Kindle, Kobo and the iBookstore, and royalties to authors typically run 25-50 percent. But if experts need help organizing material or their thoughts, or the company needs a quick-hit e-book, Hyperink finds freelance writers to take on the task.

Zach Demby, a 28-year-old writer from Oakland, Calif., answered one of Hyperink's initial calls for writers. He penned an 8,000-word study guide or "quicklet" for the book "Freakonomics" and was paid $200. He received no royalties.

"I just found them on Craigslist," he said. "They paid a flat fee plus royalties ... But I didn't expect any royalties." Now with pay rates cut, Demby said he would rather put his efforts into more lucrative freelancing and his own work.

A recent Hyperink call for writers stated it was looking for new freelance writers to take on 5,000- to 8,000-word quicklets ranging $80 to $130 plus 15 percent royalties.

Gao said rates for writers have gone down on a per-word basis since its launch. "There's a lot more supply and a lot of writers out there looking for work," he said.

Amazon's New Publishing Twist

While the alternatives to Amazon exist, independent authors would be wise to watch what the online retailer is doing. Amazon is reinventing itself and becoming a traditional publisher, making it more difficult for writers to ignore the company on principle.

While the Kindle Store still handles the majority of e-book sales, Amazon has been busy creating its own stable of authors. It began its own publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, last May and published 122 books last fall. The publishing house now has six imprints: romance, mysteries, science fiction and fantasy, international authors, emerging authors, and how-to books. Would-be authors can now submit their book proposal directly to Amazon.

The courting of authors could easily edge out both publishers and agents by offering a direct-to-print service.

"The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader," Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon's top executives, told the New York Times. "Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity."

Barbara E. Hernandez is a native Californian who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than a decade of experience as a professional journalist and college writing instructor. She also writes for Press:Here, NBC Bay Area's technology blog.

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October 07 2011

19:46

What happens to books when the Kindle is free?

GigaOM :: Amazon’s recent announcement of the Kindle Fire — its color tablet that may or may not become a competitor to the Apple iPad — was what got the most attention last week, but the online retailer also made some other announcements at the same time, including a drop in price for the original Kindle to $79. Based on the consistent and gradual declines in Kindle prices, some have speculated that Amazon could soon offer them for free, sponsored by advertising or other similar deals. Which raises an interesting question.

Mathew Ingram: What would free e-book readers do to the book industry?

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

July 16 2011

16:20

How Harry Potter's mother, J.K. Rowling's self-publishing disrupts the publishing industry

GigaOM :: Despite the obvious demand, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has adamantly refused to offer electronic versions of her phenomenally popular series for young adults — until now. As part of Thursday’s launch of an interactive website called Pottermore, the billionaire writer also announced that e-book versions of the novels will be available directly through the site for all major platforms. In one fell swoop, Rowling has cut both her publishers and booksellers such as Amazon out of the picture. Not everyone has that kind of power, of course, but Rowling’s move shows how the playing field in publishing continues to be disrupted.

Rowling's Pottermore Website will offer extra content that she has written about the characters in the books, which have sold an estimated 450 million copies.

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

October 18 2010

16:11

BookBrewer Makes Major Self-Publishing Deal with Borders

This has been one of the most amazing, rewarding and surreal weeks of my life.

Borders has chosen BookBrewer -- the first product of my startup, FeedBrewer, which grew out of a News Challenge grant -- to power the engine for its e-book self-publishing service. You can read about our partnership in the official press release, or in media coverage from a variety of sources including Fast Company, Publishers Weekly and PC Magazine.

Bordersgetpublished_small.jpg

We made the announcement at BlogWorld Expo, one of the largest confabs of bloggers and new media enthusiasts in
the world. The response at our booth was enormous and even overwhelming
at times, with people lined up to talk to me, my team and Borders' e-book manager Kelly Peterson about how they can turn their content into sellable e-books. Their response is not surprising, given the explosive growth in e-book sales in recent months.

About BookBrewer

So what is BookBrewer? It's a web-based tool that helps you turn content from your blog, or Word or PDF documents on your computer, into e-books that can be sold on your through multiple online e-book stores, own through your own website. After importing your blog, you then add posts and organize them into chapters, edit and enhance content, and push a button. BookBrewer then turns your content into an e-pub that most e-book stores require. You can pay one fee to have it published to e-book stores we work with, or another fee to just get the file to do with as you wish.

This video shows how it works:

BookBrewer Help: Building Your Book from Dan Pacheco on Vimeo.


Some highlights on our partnership with Borders:

  • On October 25 the same technology and user experience will be surfaced on a separate site called "Borders Get Published, Powered by BookBrewer." You can enter your email address on the form on Borders.bookbrewer.com to be notified as soon as the service launches.
  • Books published through both BookBrewer and Borders Get Published will be available for purchase on Borders.com and viewable in Borders-branded apps (such as Kobo), but will also appear in other eBook stores that BookBrewer has relationships with. Those include Amazon.com and KoboBooks.com, with more on the way.
  • Borders will use its marketing muscle to encourage thousands of new authors to get published, and will promote promising new authors in its weekly emails and on its website. This is a huge boon for self-published authors because Borders reaches more than 30 million people per week in emails alone.
boothteam.jpg



Our booth team, from left to right: Todd Levy, Laurelie Ezra, Kelly Peterson, Dan Pacheco.

BookBrewer, which only launched last week, will operate as its own entity. We will serve customers through both sites and will roll out more strategic "Powered By BookBrewer" services throughout the year that benefit our company and partners, in addition to other services for authors and content providers. With one of the largest bookstores in the world on board, we're now shifting our focus to companies with content or content relationships.

Given my news background, I know that a lot of newspapers and magazines have "evergreen" packages or investigative reports that would stand the test of time as e-books. I will be reaching out to some of you about that at the Online News Association conference later this month. And you freelancers/entrepreneurial journalists out there? This is a fantastic opportunity to pay for freight while also building your brand.

Borders' Open Publishing Stance

Some people are surprised that Borders would want "their" e-books to show up in competitors' stores, but it makes sense when you think about  the self-publishing customer. They want their content to be everywhere  that people want to buy it.

I can tell you from spending two days in a booth with Kelly Peterson and talking extensively with others at Borders that they're one of the  most customer-focused companies around. They understand that authors -- a category that now potentially includes each and every one of  you -- don't want their content to be defined or confined based on which service or programs they use to create it. The customer always comes first for them, and with self-publishing the book always belongs to the author.

I heard Kelly put it this way: "If you buy a piece of clothing at a store, you expect to be able to wear it everywhere, not just in the store where you bought it." You can see that evidenced with the wide variety of e-book readers and apps Borders promotes, beyond the Kobo reader the company invested in last year.

I'm also excited to work with Borders because they, and bookstores in general, are part of the fabric of local communities -- that rapidly disappearing third place that has been so important in the history of civil life. Other types of third spaces exist online, but at a local level physical meeting spaces are still important. Digital community engagement is the common thread  in my most meaningful endeavors (Bakotopia, Printcasting and AOL Hometown as just a few examples), and as a previous recipient of a Knight News Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation I'm a proud  public champion of helping the news and information needs of communities in the digital age. I see BookBrewer and Borders Get Published being strongly connected to those goals.

No Man is an Island

On that note, I want to once again thank the Knight Foundation for its role in the Printcasting project, which evolved into my company FeedBrewer, Inc., from which the Knight Foundation will one day benefit thanks to a voluntary 6 percent gift to the Knight Media Innovation Fund. While the Knight  Foundation didn't provide any funding for our proudly "bootstrapped" BookBrewer (and we did not ask for any), BookBrewer is an example of how non-profit seed funds can light a spark that continues to burn later.

It's my sincere hope that future successes from BookBrewer will go to help fund other startups that help local news and information.

The technology for BookBrewer is all new and distinct from Printcasting, but the thinking, methodology and customer insights evolved from it. In fact, thinking back, the biggest thing we learned from Printcasting was that even first-time print publishers really wanted to be multi-platform digital publishers. They just didn't know that until they got their feet wet. In the space of a few weeks after publishing a PDF magazine, they would start asking us if they could publish the same stories into Facebook or as a blog, and they would tell us that they saw print as only a small part of their future business.

They also started asking about e-books as the Kindle and, later, iPad grew in popularity.

The feedback we're getting with e-books validates that. People occasionally ask us if we can provide print-on-demand paperbacks for their books, but when we say we're currently focused on digital books they're fine with that. Most just want to make sure older readers who don't have e-reading devices, iPhones or iPads to have a print option. (And we will be looking into that, by the way).

What I've learned through this process is that when you have an idea that you're passionate about, people will step in at the last minute to help you out. I think the BookBrewer product engenders a desire to reciprocate after authors see how much it can do for them. We even had the leader of a writer's group in Florida buy an ad in a conference program for BookBrewer with her own funds -- a first in my 15 years of working on digital products.

I also want to thank Jon Nordmark, the co-founder of Wambo.com and founder and former CEO of Denver-based eBags. He facilitated Denver's inaugural class for Adeo Ressi's Founder Institute, an intensive technology and mentoring program. For four months, I would spend every Tuesday night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. with him, other startup CEO mentors, and founders of 17 other companies. We would sound ideas off each other, refine them, give and receive brutal feedback, and delve deeply into the business behind our businesses. While I had a lot of ideas before, I can safely say that without the Founder Institute program I never would have been able to create this product at this time and get it in front of Borders. Nordmark also helped with the Borders introduction.

Fellow Founder Institute graduate Todd Levy, co-founder of BloomWorlds, and his girlfriend Laurelie Lee Ezra also stepped in at the last minute to man our BlogWorld Expo booth and talked to hundreds of people about BookBrewer as if it was their product. I will never forget that, and can't wait to talk more about BloomWorlds once it launches.

Then of course there's Don Hajicek and Andy Lasda, my amazing team of co-founders, who have worked tirelessly on this alongside me with no pay other than generous equity. You learn a lot about people when you're down in the trenches with them, and these two are solid. In addition to their incredible development and product design skills, they've shown incredible faith and dedication. And a big thank-you to our advisors, especially Kit Seeborg from BumperTunes.

Last but not least, there's my family. My wife Kendall Slee and two daughters have given up many nights and weekends with me, and also helped with ideas and feedback. (My 7-year-old Lauren even published an e-book that was for sale in Amazon, and she's now perfecting a second edition.) My mom and dad even pitched in at the end to handle the logistics of ordering last-minute t-shirts for our BlogWorld booth.

Start Brewing Your e-book!

...But I guess you should expect that from a community-focused product. BookBrewer is and will continue to successful thanks to the community of people behind it. Hopefully that also includes you. Start brewing your e-books so we can help you get published and featured by Borders!

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August 12 2010

17:42

A Self-Publisher's Primer to Enhanced E-Books and Book Apps

In a previous article I described how self-publishers can easily create, market and sell e-books. In this article we'll discuss the differences and steps required to create more complex enhanced e-books and apps based on books.

In a nutshell, an e-book is a digital snapshot of a book, an enhanced e-book adds multimedia and interactive features as interruptions to the linear story, and a book app is based on a book but acts more like a game with multiple pathways that require the user to interact instead of simply scrolling and clicking.


Enhanced e-books are also referred to as rich media books, book mashups, enriched, hybrid and amplified books. The media and interactivity is provided by you, the self-publisher, who collects and integrates music, audio, video and color photo slideshows, news feeds, illustrations and background materials. You may also provide searchable text, tilt scrolling, internal and external links and Flash animations into the linear story. (Here are some video demos of these features.) To create an enhanced e-book requires the skills of a web developer.



A book app can do everything an enhanced e-book does, but crosses the line from linear storytelling to non-linear storytelling, allowing the user to choose from multiple pathways and select from a potentially huge number of photos, videos, audio files, illustrations, hyperlinks, and interactivity. Apps are third-party software programs requiring a programmer with C++ or Apple's Objective C programming skills.

Much confusion arises from the fact that so many books are simply bundled as apps so they can be sold in an app store. In April 2010 there were twice as many e-books as games in the iPhone App Store, and it's been posited by one pundit that Apple may purge such e-books as they have purged other overly simple apps. There seems to be little point to e-book app-wrapping when compared with more elegant, library-based e-book stores and their e-reader apps (the iBookstore download to the iBook e-reader app, for example), which gives customers a more consistent user experience and keeps the device desktop uncluttered.

What makes a good enhanced e-book?

wwwirelandmag.jpg

A few years ago I produced a multimedia e-zine, Ireland: The Sacred and the Profane. It was offered for download directly from the Wild Writing Women website until I recently found it easier to offer it via Scribd. Though most links, audio and video don't work inside their browser-based reader (they tell me they're working on that), they perform nicely when you download the PDF. The magazine was very time-consuming to produce, but incredibly rewarding and the enhancements offered readers extra value.


What's a good enhancement?

"If it's a book about music history, having music people can play at certain points in the book can be useful," says Amazon's Jeff Bezos, in an interview with USA Today. "You're not going to make Hemingway better by adding animations."


"Enhancements should only be in support of the central proposition of the writing rather than a 'I can do it therefore I will do it' approach," says Peter Collingridge of UK-based Enhanced Editions. New Media storyteller J.C. Hutchins also has some good advice, such as avoiding "self-congratulatory 'behind the scenes' content such as author bios, old drafts of your manuscripts."

jobsipad.jpg

The iPad's capabilities quickly made it the enhanced e-book platform of choice. Designers can create endlessly entertaining distractions within a linear story. The "amplified edition" of Ken Follette's Pillars of the Earth promises a huge cache of multimedia, an interactive character tree, video and still images from the Starz television series, the author's multimedia diary with his impressions of bringing the book to the screen, interviews with the actors, director and producers, and music from the series.

How much does this cost in terms of time and money? It took me months to create the Ireland magazine working in InDesign and with my group who painstakingly reviewed and edited every iteration. It would have been a huge project even without the learning curve, so when Collingridge quoted $8,000 to $15,000 for enhanced e-book production, that sounded about right.

Enhanced e-books are not device-specific but it's impossible to optimize for all of them. For example, audio, video and color simply do not work on the Nook or Kindle, and Flash does not run on the Apple iPad. You'll want to format your book for the platforms you think the majority of your audience is using. Popular format choices are:

  • Portable Document Format (PDF) is for very highly-formatted publications and can be read on many devices. Readers are forced to view the book exactly as it was designed, which, while it offers design stability, means users cannot reflow the text or change font sizes or colors.
  • International Digital Publishing Forum's Open eBook standard (EPUB) is a versatile winner. It's the format used by Apple iPad, Sony's reader, the Nook, and many other vendors. An export feature in the InDesign page layout program (on which your original print book was likely designed) lets you output an EPUB file. The results are not perfect, but they're getting there.
  • Microsoft's XPS platform is used by the new Barnes & Noble Blio software platform. They hype their enhanced e-book features and seamless integration with Quark a la the InDesign-to-EPUB export.
  • Amazon's Kindle/Mobipocket (mobi/azw) format is great for e-books but not a good choice for enhanced e-books because it does not display color or video. ebookformats.jpg

Yes, the relationship between hardware devices, software platforms and formats is complicated, especially with Google Editions and Copia entering the game this year along with the Blio, and there are rumors that RIM is planning an iPad competitor.

When enhanced is not enough: The book-based app

When you've got so much material that linear is no longer practical, then it might be time to consider an app as an add-on product to your book. (The fuzzy boundary between enhanced e-books and apps are discussed in the Digital Book World webcast eBooks vs Apps: The Pros, Cons and Possibilities).

To start the process, you'll first need to have a deep discussion about multimedia, formats, platforms and devices with the team you hire to do the work. "Book-based apps are more likely to be ancillary products with complex graphics and page layouts that can't be handled in something that auto-flows," says Michel Kripalani, founder of Oceanhouse Media (OM). "That's where you cross the line into the need for custom code." Kripalani assembled a team of former interactive CD-ROM and game developers to start his business, and has built over 100 since the company was founded in January 2009.

omapps.jpg"Children's books are especially ripe for apps, and compliment the e-book edition," noted Kripalani in an interview with Book Business Magazine. OM has also created a variety of card decks, calendars, and spoken word apps inspired by books from Hay House and Chronicle Books.


The price tag for a complex, quality book-based app? "In the five-figures," says Kripalini, "and requires a team that "includes C++/Objective C programmers, graphic designers, professional actors and custom narration, music soundtrack and sound effects, interactivity, editors and page layout designers for the different devices."



For the budget-impaired, DIY app builders are emerging. Travel guidebook publishers already know their audience is looking online and to apps instead of to the paper book. For them, Sutro Media has created a browser-based tool to let publishers upload material to a content management system, which then gets ported into Objective C on the back end. Co-founder Kevin Collins says, "these apps do things that books can't possibly do. sutromedia.jpgFor example, you can use all the photos you had to leave out in their book versions, and include live maps and hyperlinks, too."



Sutro does not require the author pay any up-front costs, but they carefully evaluate proposed projects. Their payment model is a revenue-sharing agreement with a royalty split of 30% each going to Sutro, Apple, and the author, with the remaining 10% going to their in-house editor.



If you're a technically inclined DIY self-published author, there is a growing list of inexpensive app development options, here are some for the iPhone. And remember, you'll need to decide which devices you want to reach. You can develop for more than one, but that will add to the time and price tag. Today's popular choices are:



* Apple's iBook app for the iPhone and iPad

* The Kindle or Stanza app (both owned by Amazon)

* The B&N eReader, or Kobo (a Borders partner)

* Google's free ebook reader for the iPhone and Android

* The Kobo app for Android

Selling it: The biggest challenge

corydoctorow.jpg

Once you've created your enhanced e-book or app, how do you get it distributed to e-tailers and to readers? Author Cory Doctorow has long and publicly wrestled with these issues, and has had only spotty success with distribution and sales via the major channels. Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been particularly problematic, as some e-tailers require it.

The enhanced e-book and app space is still all very experimental, but expect industry standards to emerge and the market to adjust to the technical possibilities. Apple is letting self-publishers upload directly to the iPad, as long as they adhere to very strict formatting rules.

Personally, I'm offering enhanced e-books on my own websites and on Scribd, amassing digital assets, paying for InDesign upgrades, studying EPUB, renewing my SPAN membership, and keeping an eye on Mark Coker and Smashwords for an easier enhanced e-book aggregation solution for self-publishers.

Carla King is an author, a publishing and social media strategist, and co-founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website.

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May 17 2010

09:20

Next Generation Journalist: leverage your expertise

This series of 10 moneymaking tips for journalists began on Adam Westbrook’s blog, but continues exclusively on Journalism.co.uk from today. Adam’s e-book, Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism will be available to download in full on 20 May.

06. become an ‘infopreneur’

The business model for journalism has always looked a little bit like this: 1) research and collect information about things the public want or need to know about 2) publish that information and sell it to them or 3) charge advertisers to promote their products along side that information.

In other words, journalism has always been about making money from information or expertise. In the new digital information age we should still be exploiting that model. But we’re not.

What is an infopreneur? Put simply, it’s someone who packages and sells information. You’d think that would come naturally to journalists. Instead journalists have struggled to profit from their information in the digital age.

The Next Generation Journalist sees opportunity in the affordability and ease of finding and publishing information online and exploits that.

The internet and the ‘information economy’ we find ourselves in means two things:

  • 1. finding things out is easier and cheaper than it ever has been.
  • 2. packaging and publishing that information is equally cheap and easy

The Next Generation Journalist uses both of these facts to develop exciting new entrepreneurial ventures.

Becoming an infopreneur…

  • is easier than it ever has been in history
  • allows you to build a brand and reputation as a leader in a field you are passionate about
  • enables you to package your expertise in different ways for money

But I’m not an expert!

That’s the natural first instinctive reply. Here’s the amazing thing: it is actually quite easy to become an expert in certain areas. Firstly, the word ‘expert’ is a relative term, it requires you to know more than most people in your field and to develop strategic contacts, but no longer requires a qualification or letters after your name (except, of course, for things like medicine and law).

Secondly, the process requires you to research key resources and share that with the world on a blog or website, build a community (that’s really important), and then start to produce products for that community. Those products can be ebooks, audio downloads, week long e-courses, or physical products like books or DVDs.

Nick Williams, who launched Inspired Entreprenuer, a website built on the same principal, says journalists are perfectly placed to enter this field.

“Many journalists are fantastic at being able to grasp large areas of information…and being able to distill them down to their essence” he says. “Those skills will really be in demand in the world to come.”

Click here to find out more.

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May 03 2010

21:25

How to Pair Smashwords and Scribd for Ideal E-Book Strategy

Self-published authors are in a unique position to benefit from the increasing consumer acceptance of digital books. The challenge, however, is that so many companies are popping up to offer conversion, distribution and sales. It's tough for authors to know which vendor to choose for which services when it comes to their e-book. The truth is that it's wrong to look for a single vendor for your self-published e-book.

After spending time examining the options available, I've hit upon a combination of two vendors that stands out for ease-of-use, breadth of offerings, and fair pricing structures. The magic combination that works right now is to use Scribd for social publishing, marketing and sales, and Smashwords for sales and aggregation to e-book retailers. Here's a look at how -- and why -- it works.

Scribd

Scribd is an easy place for authors to make finished works and works-in-progress available online to the public, to converse with other authors, and to start collecting a reader fanbase. Scribd does not deliver books to e-book retailers; rather, it offers authors a sales and marketing platform via the growing Scribd community. Scribd is all about "social publishing."

Authors upload documents in any format (PDF, doc, PowerPoint, etc.) that readers can then buy or view free. The documents can be read on the Scribd site in slide, single-page or book mode. Additionally, the reader can download the document to their computer or send it to their mobile device.

What makes it social? A widget lets anyone embed the document on a website. Members add notes to each other's documents, subscribe to each other's documents and posts, and "readcast" what they're reading to friends on other social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Members can also become curators by collecting documents on a topic, from the "Best Fiction of 2009" to "Chinese History," for example. These features and functions can help an author spread their work, interact with readers, and build relationships with other authors. All of which can help promote your e-book.

Tool for Promotion

Author Helen Winslow Black uploaded an e-book version of her paperback, Seven Blackbirds, to sell on Scribd and found it sufficient to use the service as her main tool for book promotion.

"Instead of a blog, I publish articles and then people comment on them and I get feedback," she said. "I have conversations and interchange, and since I signed up [in May of 2008] I have over 58,000 subscribers. Scribd is where everybody goes to read me."

Another reason why Scribd is becoming a good option for authors is that it recently partnered with Blurb, HP MagCloud, and Mimeo to provide a print service for documents, magazines and color books. The book printing service isn't yet ready for prime time -- creating covers is awkward and book sizes are limited -- but the company rolls out new features fast, so don't be surprised to see it improve. You can now turn your e-book into a printed product, should the need arise, but not at the same quality that print-on-demand services like Lightning Source or Lulu provide.

Trip Adler

Scribd, which has about 50 million unique visitors a month, has published more books than the entire U.S. publishing industry last year. Their send-to-device service lets readers view documents on the Kindle, Nook, iPhone, Android and other devices, but unlike Smashwords, they are not an official aggregator to e-book retailers. That's why Scribd alone won't fulfil your e-book needs.

Scribd wants to be the hub of publishing. Founder Trip Adler told me their goal "is to make it dead simple for anyone to publish original written works and for readers to discover and share this content." They want "authors to use our social platform as a place to share what they are writing and to connect with other writers and readers, and to get their works in front of consumers when and where they want from any device."

Smashwords

smashwordslogo.pngSmashwords is the fastest and easiest place for self-published authors with text-heavy books to distribute their e-book in all formats. You simply upload the text of your book -- no page numbers, no headers or footers -- as instructed in their simple formatting guide.

Mark Coker created Smashwords when he and his wife spent two years attempting to get their own book published. They discovered that "the publishing industry is broken." A longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Coker joked that "the solution to all the world's ills can be solved with technology, so wouldn't it be cool if we created an online publishing platform that would instantly let authors upload and sell books directly?"

markcoker.jpg"The service works best right now for the vast majority of books -- that is to say, the straight-form narrative," Coker told me. The book needs to be in Microsoft Word format with all the headers and footers stripped out. When you upload your book, you choose the formats to which you want it converted and the Smashwords "meatgrinder" churns them out.

But what if you spent a lot of time and money with a designer to format your book with drop caps and special fonts and dingbats?

"As technology evolves we'll be able to bring back some formatting," he said. "It's hard to ask people to devolve their book. Yes, your print book is gorgeous and that 17th century font you chose is perfect. But in the digital realm you need to liberate your words into reliable, reflowable text that can shape-shift easily across all the different devices."

He said it's important that readers be able to customize a book to match their preferences.

"Readers want to maximize fonts, change fonts," Coker said. "They might prefer pink Ariel font against a carved stone background -- they can do that and they are. It helps to remember that people buy your book for your words. When you give the reader the flexibility to murder your book like that you are actually increasing the value of your book."

There's no cost to sign up with Smashwords' Premium program, but your book formatting has to be just right and it has to have an ISBN. They are an official e-book aggregator (distributor) to many retailers including the Amazon Kindle, and they are the 6th largest aggregator to the Apple iBookstore. (Note that if your book is already for sale with an e-book retailer, for example in the Kindle bookstore, it's best not to offer it via this channel, too. There's no current "rule" but if you confuse Amazon they're likely to drop you.)

If you want to print your book you can use Smashwords affiliate Wordclay, an author services company that competes with Lulu and CreateSpace. It's easy and free, but you'll have to format using their templates or upload a PDF. (See my previous article on self-publishing packages.)

As of April 2010 Smashwords has published over 10,000 e-books. So what's next? "We're just getting started," Coker said. "The next three years will be exciting because we'll see e-books breach 25 percent of the U.S. book market. We want our authors and publishers to get a chunk of that."

Where's the Money?

While Smashwords seems very focused on independent authors and publishers, Scribd clearly has bigger fish to fry. They're wooing that market, too, but are also going after traditional publishing, the general document sharing market, and document management systems for the enterprise.

Both companies take a percentage of book sales: Smashwords 15% and Scribd 20% with a 25-cent transaction fee. When Smashwords aggregates a book to a retailer like Amazon or Apple, the author ends up with about half the cover price. In both cases, a much better financial split than traditional publishing.

Scribd recently made a deal with Author Solutions -- the self-publishing service company that owns iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, and Wordclay -- to sell their customers' books for 50% of the cover price, and have partnered with over 150 traditional publishers for e-books distribution. They're also giving Issuu and Docstoc a run for their money in the business document sharing space.

In both cases, authors get a better deal than with traditional publishing (not counting the fact they have to do all the work), and since their services don't currently overlap, it's a great pairing for indie authors.

The Indie Author's Strategy

Both of these services are non-exclusive and very easy to use, so you don't have to worry about locking yourself in. If you want to combine them to create your e-book strategy, here's a breakdown of when and how to do what:

  1. Sign up with Scribd.
  2. Start contributing to the community, post some works-in-progress, comment, "readcast," curate, and collect subscribers.
  3. When your e-book is complete, upload it to Scribd for sale.
  4. Then go to Smashwords to convert your book into all the available formats.
  5. Join the Smashwords Premium program to aggregate your e-book to the Kindle, iBookstore, Sony, Nook, and all the other readers.
  6. Subscribe to the mailing lists of both companies to stay informed and take advantage of new features as they roll them out.

Photo of Trip Adler by Spencer Brown

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

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