Entries Tagged 'Digital Publishing' ↓
October 11th, 2012 — Creative non-fiction, Digital Publishing, Market Profile
Journalism, like every facet of the publishing industry, has undergone a slew of changes, and Editia has emerged to make the most of these so-called exciting times. Editia is a digital-first imprint devoted to longform journalism and non-fiction shorts spearheaded by the dynamic Charlotte Harper.
Since 2010, Charlotte, and her corporate advisory board (consisting of an impressive range of experienced industry professionals), have been laying the groundwork for the emergence of Editia. This year saw the launch of the imprint’s first title, Anna Maguire’s Crowdfund It! Check out the Editia blog for full details about the title and the array of publicity it’s been receiving.
Cutbacks to newspaper and magazine editorial teams and freelance budgets have meant that longform journalism has become increasingly difficult publish. Strict word limits in the print media all too often constrain the potential of longer journalism, and the slow turnarounds in print publishing have meant that it’s been difficult to publish newsworthy creative non-fiction in a timely manner. Editia, seeing this as an opportunity, has responded, capitalising on digital publishing’s ability to respond immediately to the moment of note.
If you are a journalist or a non-fiction writer, Editia is looking for well-researched, narrative-driven longform journalism or creative non-fiction, between 10,000 and 35,000 words, in a diverse range of areas. For information on Editia submissions visit their website. Submissions for the Editia Prize for creative non-fiction also open on November 30, and this promises to be an exciting endeavour indeed.
We at Speakeasy were thrilled to get the opportunity to speak with Editia doyen Charlotte Harper about her exciting new project.
Speakeasy: Can you tell us how Editia came about and what your hopes for it are?
Charlotte Harper (CH): I’ve always wanted to be a book publisher. In fact, I published my first book, Mr Water, back in 1978, when I was 7, and sent it off to then favourite author Roger Hargreaves. He sent me back a lovely letter featuring Mr Funny.
I fell into journalism as a uni graduate, but kept an eye on the book world, completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing at Macquarie University in 1999 – the same year my own book, Weird Wild Web, was published by Penguin Australia – and spending three years as a newspaper literary editor soon after.
My background in online journalism and technology writing meant I was well positioned to keep track of the digital revolution in the book industry between 2009 and today. I remember seeing tweets featuring the hashtags #appletablet and #islate in late 2009 and knowing that with the impending arrival of the iPad came my opportunity to launch a start-up that would make the most of social media and ereader technology – and of my own skills and career experience – to help writers to reach readers who are hungry for digitally driven content. I registered the business name Editia in early 2010.
I spent a couple of years researching and tracking industry developments for my then blog, ebookish.com.au, as well as other media outlets, meanwhile putting money aside to fund the business. I have worked closely with a group of like-minded, digitally savvy book industry types who now form Editia’s corporate advisory board.
As for my hopes, I’d love to sell enough copies of our first title, Crowdfund it!, to be able to cover all of our costs for 2013, and then within a couple of years to be able to start hiring staff and building our list from a handful of titles a year to many more.
Speakeasy: In your blog post ‘What is Longform Journalism?’ you say that longform journalism is ‘a popular genre, and the rise of the ebook will only boost it further.’ Can you talk a little about what the rise of the ebook means to forms of writing such as longform journalism? Do you think that longform journalism has been under-represented in traditional media?
CH: There is no doubt that as newspaper and magazine publishers have tightened their belts, the opportunities for in-house journalists to spend the necessary time to write quality longform journalism have dwindled. These same publishers have cut their budgets for contributors too, leaving freelance writers with little scope to dedicate themselves to longer works.
Ebooks offer the potential for writers to reach readers directly, and to be paid for their work on a per sale basis, whether they self-publish, or work with a start-up like Editia in Australia, or the Atavist and Byliner in the US. The Kindle Singles program has proven the model can work.
Longform works are easier to consume on a dedicated ereading device like a Kindle, Kobo or Sony Reader, or a tablet like the iPad, than on a website too.
Speakeasy: As we’ve begun to see with digital-only fiction journals, like the Review of Australian Fiction, the nature of online journals offers a freedom from the constraints of the word limit, allowing a piece to run to its natural length. In your opinion, what does this freedom offer to journalists and other non-fiction writers?
CH: I have been frustrated throughout my career as a journalist at the constraints print places on writers, in terms of space and time. Deadlines for newspapers and magazines are based around printing and truck distribution schedules, rather than the optimum timing for a story or its readers.
Word lengths are dictated by the space available in a particular edition or on a particular page. Advertising levels and editorial judgement of individuals who have no interest in a particular story can mean an excellent feature is slashed in half. I hate to think how many fine words I’ve had to cut out of colleagues’ print articles over the years.
Then there are the pages and pages of research and audio recordings of interviews that journalists collect and often archive without using it at all. With ebook-length journalism, this material can come to life.
The freedom to publish works of journalism at their natural length is, for me, one of the main attractions for working with ebooks and print-on-demand. The ability to make corrections and publish fast turnaround updates are equally wonderful.
Speakeasy: Can you talk a little about the potential that digital publishing has to capture/engage with the Zeitgeist?
CH: I wouldn’t use the word potential here. Digital developments have already shaken up the publishing industry so dramatically that nothing will ever be the same.
Independent authors are going it alone and reaching audiences they could never have dreamed of in the pre-ebook and pre-social media era.
GoodReads groups and global networks of readers sharing comments and highlights via Kobo, Amazon and ReadMill are replacing book clubs in living rooms.
Major publishing houses are publishing fewer and fewer high-cost print titles like cookbooks as content consumption patterns change.
Readers are increasingly discovering (and instantly purchasing) new titles online, leaving newspaper section editors and bricks and mortar stores to ponder their futures.
I hope desperately that the best publishing houses, newspaper sections and bookshops will survive and thrive; mind you, I suspect there will be more pain in all three sectors in coming years.
Meanwhile, lean start-ups like Editia are nimble enough to react quickly to developments in the market. Who knows what will be next for the industry, or for us? We can’t wait to find out.
Speakeasy: Editia has recently launched its first title Crowdfund it! by Anna Maguire. Can you tell us a little about the response this book has received and what you think it means for the Editia project?
CH: The response has been wonderful. My favourite so far was when Sydney Morning Herald literary editor Susan Wyndham described Crowdfund it! as “Zeitgeisty” in an article about Editia’s launch in the Saturday Spectrum liftout (our favourite newspaper section of all).
It was really important for us to launch with a cutting edge title by a digitally-savvy author, and we have done just that. Crowdfunding is huge right now, and growing in profile all the time. If anything, Anna’s book was a little ahead of its time in terms of mainstream reach, because we still meet potential readers who haven’t yet heard of crowdfunding. Fortunately, there are also plenty of filmmakers, entrepreneurs, musicians, writers and artists looking for expertise on the phenomenon, as well as hipsters who just like to be up with the latest tech and cultural trends.
Speakeasy: I understand that although much of Editia’s 2013 list is already full, submissions are still open. Can you offer any insight into what you might be looking for regarding submissions?
CH: We’re particularly keen on narrative longform journalism works, so true stories told using narrative techniques usually found in fiction, and particularly those that demand quick turnaround publishing due to their newsworthiness. The word count is between 10,000 and 35,000 words.
In terms of subject matter we’re interested in the arts, culture, literature, media, travel, technology, politics, business, economics, science, sport, crime, society, life and food.
The work should be insightful with substance that demonstrates a depth of reporting about a real life situation filled with emotion and intrigue. The writing should be well crafted, contain accurate and thoroughly researched information and hold the reader’s attention throughout.
Speakeasy: Entries for the Editia Prize will be opening soon. Would you like to talk a little about this prize, and what it means to Australian journalism?
CH: The Editia Prize is a new award for original and unpublished works of longform journalism of between 10,000 and 35,000 words. It’s open to residents of Australia and New Zealand, and the winner will receive a publishing contract with Editia and a $2500 advance on royalties.
Personally, I’m really excited about it because I think it has the potential to attract both experienced journalists who have recently left the newspaper or magazine business due to shrinking editorial teams there, and young journalism students and those who are starting out in their careers and looking for a challenging way to make their mark.
The opportunity to receive feedback from journalism gurus like Matthew Ricketson and Malcolm Schmidtke would be invaluable to the latter, while the former would benefit from exposure to new digital audiences.
Entry details are available at http://www.editia.com/editia-prize.
Speakeasy: Are there any other upcoming Editia events, developments, or opportunities you might like to tell us about?
CH: We’re planning to publish the print on demand version of Crowdfund it! later this year or early next year, and hold another expert panel event on crowdfunding in our hometown of Canberra to mark the publication of that edition. For regular updates on our events and upcoming titles, readers should follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Speakeasy: Is there anything else you might like to mention to our readers?
CH: My second child will be born in mid-November, so things will be quiet on the Editia front for a few weeks over the summer. It’s been a big few months!
In the meantime, become a crowdfunding expert – or just enjoy reading about the successes of those creative types who already have – for just $7 when you order your ebook copy of Anna Maguire’s Crowdfund it! directly from www.editia.com or via Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Booku, Bkclb.co or Booki.sh partner stores including Readings and Gleebooks.
Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication
, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.
September 20th, 2012 — Digital Publishing, Market Profile, Self-Publishing, e-Publishing
Are you tired of hearing that it’s never been more difficult to get your book published? Do you want to get published today and reach a potentially huge international audience? Are you sick of doom-and-gloom assessments of the publishing industry? Do you find interminable lists of rhetorical questions irritating? Then perhaps it’s time for me to shut up, and give the floor to Smashwords founder, and self-publishing guru, Mark Coker. According to Mark ‘There’s never been a better time to be a writer.’ And that’s what we like to hear.
For a long time, self-publishing has been seen as the pariah at the publishing party, with the dubious practices and poor production values of vanity publishers largely to blame. This has all changed. The recent phenomenal commercial success of a number of self-published authors (one in particular, who shall not be named here…) has done much to change that perception, as has the emergence of Smashwords.
After launching in 2008, Smashwords turned the self-publishing industry on its head by offering authors free access to digital self-publishing and distribution services. The Smashwords business model is based on the idea that authors should retain complete control over their works, and that they should receive the lion’s share of all royalties. Oh yeah, and Smashwords only makes money if your book sells. Nice.
Speakeasy recently caught up with Mark Coker. He offered a fascinating entrée into the dynamic world of digital self-publishing, explaining to us why ‘The future of digital self-publishing is the future of publishing.’ Read on to find out more.
Speakeasy: There has long been a stigma attached to self-publishing. Do you think this has changed, or is in the process of changing? Why?
Mark Coker (MC): Four years ago when I started Smashwords, there was a definite stigma associated with self-publishing. Self-publishing was viewed as the option of last resort for failed authors who couldn’t get a traditional book deal. Today, the stigma is disappearing. Here in the US, people who scoff at self-published authors reveal themselves as out of touch dinosaurs. Self-publishing is gaining increased respect and credibility in the publishing industry thanks to the enormous commercial success of many indie authors.
The other week, four Smashwords authors hit the New York Times bestseller list in the same week. The naysayers can’t argue with the success of self-published authors. Something very profound is happening now in self-publishing. Although industry-watchers realise something is happening, most don’t truly grok the significance. Self-published authors are learning to become professional publishers.
Speak to any self-published author, and you’ll understand why self-publishing, and specifically ebook self-publishing, is the future of publishing.
Agents no longer discourage self-publishing, and many agents are now actively supporting the self-publishing efforts of their clients. Agents and publishers are scouring the best-seller lists of major retailers as the slush pile loses its luster. Agents and publishers are beginning to realise that consumers are the best curators of books worth publishing.
Within the next couple years, I think the stigmas will flip. It’ll be common for us to hear industry observers speaking about limitations and drawbacks of traditional publishing, and the rising stigma of traditional publishing.
Writers are beginning to realise they don’t need the blessing of a publisher to become a published author. They’re asking what publishers can do for them that the authors cannot do for themselves. Authors are also starting to realise that there can be significant disadvantages to working with a publisher. Publishers can actually harm an author’s ability to reach readers, because publishers are over-charging consumers, paying low royalties, and are slow to get the product to market.
A few years ago, authors had no choice but to work with a publisher. Publishers controlled the printing press, they controlled the all-important access to bookstores, and they controlled the knowledge to professionally publish. Without a publisher, you couldn’t reach readers.
Today, thanks to ebook publishing and distribution platforms such as Smashwords, the printing press is available to all authors at no cost, and the distribution to ebook stores is fully democratised. At Smashwords, we’re doing our part to promote best practices, because we believe knowledge in the hands of authors is power. Our mission is to shift the power in publishing from publishers to authors. A few months ago, I published The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, a free ebook that identifies 28 best practices of the most commercially successful ebook authors.
Continue reading →
September 6th, 2012 — Digital Publishing, Market Profile, Publishers, e-Publishing
The Review of Australian Fiction is rapidly establishing a reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative new fiction journals around. Emerging as the hyperactive brainchild of Matthew Lamb and Phil Crowley, the journal has already corralled an impressive and eclectic array of established and emerging Australian literary talent. I would love to say more, but in light of what follows, it seems a little redundant.
Speakeasy recently pitched a few questions at the RAF kingpin, Matthew Lamb. His responses were expansive, to say the least, but we forgive that (in fact we encourage it) because they offered an entertaining insight into the beer-fuelled birth of one of Australia’s most intriguing literary projects.
Speakeasy: How did the idea for the Review of Australian Fiction emerge?
Matthew Lamb (ML): The idea for the RAF came from a number of sources, and evolved slowly over time. The RAF (version 1.) was actually to be a print journal, published monthly in a book format. It would have looked a bit like Kill Your Darlings, but probably not as cool. It was to contain fiction and essays, reviews and author profiles.
The key to that version was that each issue also contained a book-notice for every work of Australian fiction published in that month, as well as a review of every work of Australian fiction published in the previous month. The ad was to replicate what people did when they browsed books in a bookshop (read cover, blurb, and first page of text), which is actually the main way most people choose what books to buy (other than recommendations from friends). Reviews are actually one of the least important ways that people learn about new books (so we were going to have them in the subsequent issue).
The idea behind this was to develop a model that consolidated all the arms of publishing fiction in Australia: publishers, bookshops, reviewers, authors, and readers of Australian fiction.
But when we approached publishers with the idea that they paid a nominal sum for us to run these ads—thus helping them sell their books, while they helped us publish our journal—they baulked. Some even said that, if anything, we should be paying them for allowing us to print the first page of text from their books.
I guess the idea that advertising is not about persuading people to buy what they don’t need, but is actually about informing people about things they want, but may not know what is available or where to get it, is strange. But that is what advertising used to be about. And it’s a pretty good bet that anyone reading a journal called the Review of Australian Fiction, which actually referred to every work of Australian fiction published in that month was already predisposed toward reading Australian fiction, and the only question left facing them was, What to read? We would then—or so we proposed—provide a near complete range of choices available to them.
Such a journal may seem strange, maybe new. But it is actually an old idea. It is the format that journals and periodicals first took when they emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries in England. We just wanted to replicate the old ‘book-notices’ idea. All this other stuff—reviews, essays, and so on—historically, came afterwards. And it is what aided in the development of a reading culture that has shaped pretty much everything we today take for granted in the publishing and reading of books, but which we are also at the risk of losing today if we don’t work together in coming up with some ideas (either new or old) that will help us all reconstitute this waning reading culture, particularly in Australia…
That’s the sort of drunken rant I would launch into at the slightest provocation, back in the day, and they would often be patiently listened to by the now manager of RAF, Phil Crowley. He doesn’t rant as much as me, because it eats into his drinking time. But I am a faster drinker, and can multi-task, so we can pretty much keep up with each other. Phil was doing a PhD in economics at the time, on Arts funding: film funding, in particular. He would offer a real-world economic counterbalance to my often directionless meanderings into the cultural history of publishing and reading, and this then formed the basis for what was essentially a beer-plan, guided by the question: what would an economically viable lit mag look like?
Continue reading →
August 6th, 2012 — Digital Publishing
Patton Oswalt delivered a brilliant keynote address at this years Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal a few weeks back, addressing a letter to the comedians in the room, and another to the gatekeepers of the stand-up comedy business.
Oswalt’s first letter, to his fellow comedians, could be addressing writers with the substitution of a few words. It revolves around acknowledging the enormous about of lucky breaks he’s been given in his career, about the sole path that seemed to be open to him when he started his career, about the opportunities he’s been lucky to capitalise on when they’re given to him. And he acknowledges that:
“…if you listened very carefully, you would have heard two words over and over again: “lucky” and “given.” Those are two very very dangerous words for a comedian. Those two words can put you to sleep, especially once you get a taste of both being “lucky” and being “given.” The days about luck and being given are about to end. They’re about to go away.
Not totally. There are always comedians who will work hard and get noticed by agents and managers and record labels. There will always be an element of that. And they deserve their success. And there’s always going to be people who benefit from that.
What I mean is: Not being lucky and not being given are no longer going to define your career as a comedian and as an artist.”
Technology has changed thing in the comedy industry, making it possible to find an audience without being given the opportunity by the gatekeepers. The future, Oswalt argues, lies in finding an audience instead of being granted one. To stop waiting for the lucky break, and start making opportunities for himself.
If this rhetoric sounds familiar to many of the militantly independent writers embracing epublishing, there’s an enormous amount of grace and gratitude in the way Oswalt speaks to the institutions that have fostered his career. More importantly, his advice to the gate-keepers in his second letter is no less genuine than that he gave to his fellow creatives:
“Comedians are getting more and more comfortable with the idea that if we’re not successful, it’s not because we haven’t gotten our foot in the door, or nobody’s given us a hand up. We can do that ourselves now. Every single day we can do more and more without you and depend on you less and less.
If we work with you in the future, it’s going to be because we like your product and your choices and your commitment to pushing boundaries and ability to protect the new and difficult.
Here’s the deal, and I think it’s a really good one.
I want you, all of the gatekeepers, to become fans. I want you to become true enthusiasts like me. I want you to become thrill-seekers. I want you to be as excited as I was when I first saw Maria Bamford’s stand-up, or attended The Paul F. Tompkins show, or listened to Sklarbro Country….”
Gatekeepers, Oswalt argues, should look past the panic and see the advantages of the new world: creatives love to to create. Gatekeepers love to nurture, to promote. The match-up should be obvious, but the old power dynamics have shifted and some people still need to adjust to that.
Together these two letters are a brilliant call to arms for comedians and gate-keepers alike, and the points being made are just as poignant when looked at through the lens of writers and publishing. Inspiring, compelling, acknowledging the difficulties without getting caught up in the sturm-und-drang.
Oswalt’s speech is recommended reading for anyone in the early days of their writing career, and I encourage you to check it out.
August 3rd, 2012 — Agents, Business In The Industry, Craft of Writing, Digital Publishing, Editors, Freelancing, Friday Fry-Up, Self-Publishing, e-Publishing, social media
We kick this fry-up off with a boldly-titled article from John Barber: There Will Be No More Professional Writers in the Future. It takes a pessimistic point of view of the changes undergoing publishing, bringing forth a series of arguments about the aggregation of free content and the rise of self-publishers who have outflanked the traditional industry.
In contrast, Stephanie Lauren’s has delivered the keynote at this years RWA conference in the USA that celebrates the changes in publishing and the ability to focus on connecting with readers, rather than publishers, as the measure of success.
Guy Kawasaki looks at the increasing lack of limitations in his Doctrine of Self Publishing post at the Kirkus site. While his Doctrine post is all about the advantages of self-publishing, it’s followed up by Plan C in Self-Publishing that succinctly outlines some of the things that self-publishers are giving up.
DearAuthor.com have been following the Roni Lauren lawsuit regarding pictures used on her blog, and have posted The Principle of Fair Use and Image Use for Bloggers.
There’s a language warning on this link, but it’s a great one for when you get stuck. Help Me Be Fucking Creative uses twitter to curate a list of advice for creatives who a suffering a creative blank, and offers up one pearl of wisdom every time you go to the site.
J. W. Manus argues that Electronic Files Shouldn’t Be This Hard that talks about what is, and isn’t, achievable with current ebook conversion technology.
Rachel Hill offers up some advice about approaching magazine editors with freelance submissions.
Jane Gleeson-White has blogged about her experiences at the Reality Bites non-fiction literary festival.
Porter Anderson asks What if your platform becomes your shadow career?
Finally, there’s been a run of guest-post at Louise Cusack’s site every Wednesday, covering topics such as How to use a writing contest to score a book contract, dealing with the media, and some advice on self-publishing an ebook from an Australian perspective.
July 27th, 2012 — Craft of Writing, Digital Publishing, Freelancing, Friday Fry-Up, Uncategorized, e-Publishing, social media
First up, a handful of links for writers just beginning to build their online platform. The Booklife Now blog offers seven core pieces of advice for those new to blogging in So You Want To Star A Blog, covering everything from scheduling to platform. It’s a good base-line understanding for newcomers.
We also recommend YA-author Lili Saintcrow post about Basic Internet Safety for Authors. It’s a topic that’s frequently under-represented in terms of advice aimed at authors, and we’d be interested in hearing about the kinds of precautions Speakeasy members have instituted.
Finally, a cautionary tale from Roni Lauren, who discovered that You Can Be Sued for Using Pics On Your Blog without getting the permission of the copyright holder. Lauren’s tale is based on an innocent mistake, perpetuated throughout the internet, and her post includes some advice on where to find images that can be used safely.
From promotion we move onto process, with Christina Katz’s advice on How to Impress the People You Interview. Conducting a successful interview is one of those things that seems easier than it is, so we’re happy to consume any advice we can on the topic.
YA author Justine Larbalestier has posted a streak of great content over the last couple of weeks, but we’ll cherry-pick our favourite and direct you towards her post on Becoming a Brand versus Writing What You Want and, ’cause we’re feeling a little retro, her 2008 post on rewriting which is a perennial favourite we were reminded of by one of Justine’s more recent posts.
In other parts of the internet, Australian author Kim Wilkin’s celebrates publishing over 2 million words of fiction by sharing some particularly blunt advice about writing. The link does come with a language warning, but with twenty novels in publication, we’re prepared to overlook a curse-word or three.
We get a little digital when The Hub poses the question: Have eReaders Killed the Book Cover, which was a particularly timely question in light of our post about ebook covers earlier this week. Does the adoption of a thumbnail sized image destroy the book cover, or does posing a new design challenge simply create new opportunities?
Finally, Mashable presents a round-up of 8 Tools to Create Irresistible Ebooks. The tools actually cover each stage of the process from production to process, and includes some old Fry-Up favourites such as 750words.com.
Those are the links that caught our attention around the office this week – how about you? Let us know about anything we’ve missed in the comments.
July 23rd, 2012 — Digital Publishing, Marketing, Self-Publishing
In a world where big brands frequently misunderstand the internet, it’s refreshing to see one of the worlds most polite cease and desist letters sent to US author Patrick Wensink regarding the similarities between his book cover (above) and the Jack Daniels whiskey label. In a situation where the could have come accross looking like a bully, the corporate entity behind Jack Daniels comes off looking classy:
“We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we can appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s, we also have to be diligent to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly. Given the brands popularity, it will probably come as no surprise that we come across designs like this on a regular basis. What may not be so apparent, however, is that if we allow uses like this one, we run the very real risk that our trademark will be weakened. As a fan of the brand, I’m sure that is not something you intended or would want to see happen.
“As an author, you can certainly understand our position and the need to contact you. You may even have run into similar problems with your own intellectual property…”
The letter then goes on to ask that Wesnick change the cover of his book on subsequent reprints, and even offers to contribute to the cost of doing so (Wesnick and his publisher, Lazy Fascist Press, have agreed to do so but refused the offer to contribute funds). Wesnick’s also posted a copy of the full cease and desist letter to his website, and it’s truly worth reading as an example of internet diplomacy handled well. The story has already been picked up by Mashable, where we first came across it, and looks to be generating positive results for both Jack Daniels and the author in question.
Positive though the outcomes may be, this story can also serve as an object lesson for writers getting involved in the design process. There’s certainly an increasing number of designers offering cover design services listing in the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, and the hows and whys of establishing an ebook cover are a recurring question among writers interested in self-publishing.
In the past writer’s have been free to ignore design altogether, leaving it up to their publisher to determine a books look and feel. Now, as more authors opt for independent publishing routes, it’s a smart move for any new writer to have at least a passing understanding of effective design.
We recommend checking out 10 Tips for Effective Book Covers that covers the basic mistakes, and one of our favourite resources for understanding ebook cover design is the monthly eBook Cover Design Awards over at thebookdesigner.com. Every months the awards display the winners, runners up, and other submissions along with some commentary from the judges about what works, and what doesn’t.
Beyond that? Writers and ebook designers need to learn the importance of a design that looks good when reduced to thumbnail size to ensure the book isn’t lost in digital marketplaces, know where to source art and how to create a unified look for their work, and the importance of contrast and colour in the design. Even if you’re not planning on designing the cover yourself, it’s worth getting a grounding in the basics to ensure you getting what you need when paying a professional.
We’ve touched on some of the great advice out there, but there’s bound to be more. What book covers really tickle your fancy? What cover tips have you come across? Any hard-earned lessons you’d care to share?
July 17th, 2012 — Business In The Industry, Digital Publishing
If you’re on the internet and even vaguely interested in the arts, you’re probably aware that crowdsourcing is the new black. And with musician Amanda Palmer raising over one million dollars in support and Rich Burlew raising over one million to fund his self-published comic, it’s easy to understand why creatives of all types are excited.
There’s no doubt that Kickstarter is the king of the hill when it comes to crowdsourcing sites, with many of the big success stories using the platform. It’s also started raising some interesting questions, such as the Publishers Weekly post asking whether Kickstarter is the #2 Graphic Novel Publisher in the world right now, citing gross revenues generated through the site that are comparable to the revenues of established comic book publishers such as DC, Marvel, and Image.
Plenty of people have critiqued the article, including Stephen Padnick on Tor.com, who points out the obvious flaw with the question being posed:
First off, to be blunt, Kickstarter isn’t a publisher. Of any kind. I don’t mean to be glib, but it’s a major point Allen skips over. Kickstarter is a funding source. It is a way for people to make start-up capital for their projects. I guess a publisher could be described as a funding source, in that it pays artists and writers to make books, but the publisher also edits books, and advertises them, and prints them, and distributes them.
Even if you disregard the fact that Kickstarter is a funding source, there’s the added complication that many Kickstarter campaigns aren’t just collecting pre-sales. Take the phenomenal successful Kickstarter for the Order of the Stick comic book mentioned in our introduction, where lower-tier funders were purchasing a fridge magnet and digital comic, while upper tier funders received personalised illustrations, board game expansions, back-issues of the comic, and more. The rewards were funding were varied across the project, and all have their own production cost.
Consider, also, that many Kickstarter campaigns benefit from the generosity of fans who are willing to contribute and ask nothing in return. UK Publisher Stone Skin Press’ recent campaign has received donation at their lowest tier of funding, an option whose sole reward is to contribute $3 that will be used to “improve our managing editor’s productivity by providing her with a cupcake.”
While upper tier pledges are effectively pre-ordering books and other products from Stone Skin Press’ line (and some have willingly added the $3 to their pledge in order to give Beth a cupcake), this initial tier speaks directly to the power of fan goodwill and a carefully crafted story at work within the Kickstarter campaign.
Is the excitement warranted? Several companies and individuals have had phenomenal success with Kickstarter, to the point where it’s been suggested that crafting a campaign with an artificially low goal is now a core part of the campaign, allowing for sensational headlines about the unprecedented success of the crowd-sourcing model. It’s when you look past these outliers that the numbers get more sobering, with roughly 50% of all campaigns failing to reach their goals.
When those statistics are limited to publishing projects, the results are even lower (around 32%), which suggests there’s an art to crafting a successful kickstarter. Fortunately there’s plenty of advice out there for creatives wanting to build their own campaign, and the most important element plays directly to a writer’s strengths – a good crowdsourcing campaign isn’t selling a product, it’s selling a community on a story.
While Kickstarter isn’t available to the vast majority of Australian creatives, there are alternative crowdsourcing platforms available and the recent news that Kickstarter will be opening up to British residents suggests the site is looking to expand its reach. Several projects have already been funded, including last year’s Digital Writer’s Conference run in Brisbane by the Emerging Writer’s Festival team, and it seems more Australian artists and writers are turning towards Crowdsourcing an an option for financing their work.
If you’re interested in exploring crowdsourcing in more details, we recommend checking out the following platforms, campaign advice, and commentary on the phenomenon.
- Pozible.com – an Australian crowdfunding platform community for creative projects and ideas.
- Indiegogo.com – international crowd-funding site featuring campaigns ampaigns in areas such as music, charity, small business and film.
Crowdfunding Campaign Advice
Commentary About Crowdfunding
- Lisa Dempster, Writers, Money, and the Web: Further Thoughts on Crowdsourcing
- Meanjin, Pozible, Crowdfunding, and the Emerging Writers Festival
- Stephen Padnick, No, Kickstarter Is Not The #2 Graphic Novel Publisher
- Amanda Palmer, How Amanda Palmer Built An Army Of Supporters: Connecting Each And Every Day, Person By Person
- John Scalzi, Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter, and Everything
June 22nd, 2012 — Digital Publishing, Funding opportunities, Self-Publishing, Writers, e-Publishing, social media
Story Shots has a list of 22 Storybasics I’ve picked up in my time at Pixar, featuring a range of advice from the expected (“1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes”) to the surprising (#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?).
From Scribendi, there’s Five Habits to Avoid in Fiction that should prove handy to anyone at the stage of editing a short story or novel.
YA author Lili Saintcrow posts about how she doesn’t believe in writer’s block, taking apart many of the usual excuses people are using when they use the phrase. And, honestly, I’m a fan of any advice that ends with “now go kick some pen-and-ink ass.”
Writers’ Unboxed has a post on How to Maximize Ebook Royalties and Minimize Hassles that details the royalty rates used by many of the major ebook markets and aggregators. Meanwhile, Indie Jane looks at some of the changes that have taken place in the Amazon ranking algorithm.
Authonomy has an interview with Dave Kuzminski, Editor and founder of the website Preditors and Editors, about identifying a legitimate opportunity versus dealing with a predator. As always, we recommend the Predators and Editors site alongside Writer Beware as tools that every well-informed writer should know about.
Caitlin Mur offers some advice for entering Zen Mode in Wordpress - a useful tool for any writer whose using the popular blogging platform to host their website. It transforms the writing portion of the blog into a full-screen mode, allowing you to craft without being distracted by Wordpress’ various bells and whistles.
Kickstarter has been getting a lot of press as a crowd-funding resource for artists recently, largely driven by the success of various musicians and game companies (Australian’s aren’t able to access the site as kickstarters, only supporters, but there are local alternatives such as Indiegogo offering the same service). Despite it’s increasing media attention, it’s interesting to note that more than half of the projects listed on Kickstarter never get off the ground, and that publishing focused kickstarters are statistically less likely to get off the ground.
Those are the links that caught our attention at the AWM offices this week. As usual, we’re keen to hear about your favourite links in the comments.
May 18th, 2012 — Craft of Writing, Digital Publishing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, e-Publishing, social media
According to the New York Times the rise of the ebook market has come with one indelible truth for writers: One Book a Year is Slacking Off. It seems writers in every genre are being asked to produce that little bit faster – whether it’s an extra story or novella, or a whole new series of books.
This isn’t the first time such things have been posted either – the publishing world is undergoing upheaval and the long-term tactics that make a successful writer seem to be changing with them. It’s easy to turn yourself into a nervous wreck when this kind of news comes out, which is why we’re coupling it with Monica Valentinelli’s response to the Times article, Where Author Insecurity Comes From.
Another follow up – albeit with a slightly different tone – is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s response taking issue with the Times articles characterisation of 2,000 words of fiction a day as a “brutal” writing schedule. Her response moves from examining the double standard being applied, given the author of the times article wrote four additional articles that week that were easily a thousand words long, then looks at some of the elements of genre and publisher expectations prevalent in the original article.
When Self-Publishing is More Useful as a Marketing Tool is a great post about one of the core things that’s overlooked when it comes to successful self-publishing – shifting your mindset from writer to creative entrepreneur – and why self-published ebooks can still be useful even if you aren’t interested in being a small business. Joanna Penn’s Self Publishing and the Definition of an Indie Author covers similar territory, and it’s a great post for anyone interested in the difference between Indie and Self-Published.
The April e-Book Cover Design Awards have been posted over on Bookdesigner.com. The commentary is a great resource for any writer wanting to learn the basics of ebook cover design.
Mashable offers up a Beginners Guide to Facebook – a great primer for anyone who’s just starting to dabble in the social media field and build their online platform. Already a Facebook fan? Mashable also has a post containing 10 Facebook Tips for Power Users that can help you fine-tune your engagement with the social media site.
Over on The Idea Logical Company Mike Shatzkin puts forward the argument that Everyone In Hollywood Needs an eBook Strategy. It’s a brilliant essay in and of itself, but it also name-checks a couple of projects I hadn’t heard of prior, such as the recent move by Warner Brothers to release over 300 classic film scripts in digital formats.
Those are the links that caught our attention at the AWM offices this week. As usual, we’re keen to hear about your favourite links in the comments.