Tag Archives: Self-Publication

Big Six Shift to E-Originals Places Authors – And Editors – in Jeopardy Part 2

In the first part of this article I described a fundamental shift under way in the book industry from original paperbacks to original e-books – “e-originals” in Publisher Speak – and its depressing effect on author compensation. These deals point to sharp reductions in advances and royalties and acceleration of the flight of authors from traditional to self-publication.

Impact of E-Originals on Publishers

The impact of the shift on publishers themselves is less quantifiable. It is, however, potentially far more devastating.

You can define publishers in many ways but their unique claim and strong attraction for authors is that they distribute printed books in brick and mortar stores. By forsaking the very element that defines and distinguishes them, however, publishers are at risk of becoming unmoored from the comfortable physical terrain of the book business and floating up like a balloon into the unfamiliar and turbulent stratosphere of Cloud publishing.

I say “unfamiliar” terrain. Though legacy publishers have adapted admirably to the challenge of digital publishing, few who work in the industry them have truly grasped the stupendous upheavals that come with full commitment to all-digital publishing, and who can blame them for being in denial? The truth is that a purely digital book industry is nowhere near as dependent on people, places and things as the traditional one.

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Big Six Shift to E-Originals Places Authors – and Editors – in Jeopardy Part 1

In the last year a number of major publishers have begun offering authors contracts for “e-originals” – books released originally – and exclusively – in e-book format.  Though this is a logical step in the evolution of traditional publishing houses from tangible to virtual formats, the deflationary nature of its business model poses a serious threat to author earning power. Less obvious but ultimately more dangerous is the implosive effect the shift may have on the publishing companies themselves and the people who work for them.

What’s Wrong with Paperback Originals?

The first and obvious question is, what’s wrong with paperbacks books, that publishers are abandoning them in favor of digital originals? The fact is that in the past fifteen or twenty years, mass market paperback books have  transformed from a breeding ground for fresh talent to an exclusive club for bestselling authors.

The reasons for this metamorphosis are complex (you can read about them in The Rise and Fall of the Mass Market Paperback: Part 1, Part 2), but in essence the ruthless math of an industry based on the returnability of books has made it almost impossible for fresh talent to develop over time in the nursery of original paperbacks.  Though many promising genre authors, especially romance writers, continue to be introduced in mass market paperback, the sales thresholds they must achieve in order to make a profit for their publishers have risen to almost unattainable heights.

Cue e-book originals.

At first blush, e-originals appear to be the perfect way for publishers to pull authors out of this death spiral, for many of the costs of manufacturing and distribution are lower or negligible. You would think that the savings would be passed along to authors in the form of higher advances and royalties.  So far, that has proven far from true.  Why?

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How Much Does It Cost You to Produce an E-Book? Part 1

In a post last spring DBW’s Jeremy Greenfield wrote,”Publishers are making a killing on e-books because they cost nothing to produce, distribute and sell and are almost 100% pure profit. At least, that’s what many consumers think.” I’ve been brooding about it since then and thought it might be helpful to give those consumers some insights into how publishers arrive at their prices.

Few subjects have elicited as much wild conjecture as the prices of e-books. Reading rabid allegations of price-gouging, one has to wonder what these critics know about manufacturing costs that we in the e-book industry don’t. Following the proverb Don’t judge another until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, it might be educational for you to imagine what it would cost you to duplicate the processes that at least one publisher – my own, E-Reads – performs to get a book into the marketplace from raw state to finished product.

E-Reads is among the oldest independent e-book publishers. From its founding our principle has been to split all net receipts with authors on a 50-50 basis. Although we occasionally publish original books, our stock in trade is reprints of previously published ones, particularly genre fiction such as fantasy and science fiction, romance, and action-adventure thrillers. Unlike self-published authors for whom the publication process is generally fast and inexpensive, E-Reads’ production line is artisinal, calling on skills – many of them quite demanding – drawn as much from Old Publishing as from New.

All publishers  incur three fundamental types of expense: hard costs, labor and overhead. Many authors contemplating self-publication look at the hard costs but don’t always focus on the softer ones, namely the value of their time and the cost of living.

Let’s, therefore, start with this question: how much is your time worth?  If you earn, say, $60,000 a year, your time is worth a bit under $30.00 an hour for a forty-hour week. That is the cost of your labor for publishing your own e-book.  But you also have overhead expenses to meet such as rent or mortgage, utility bills, transportation, computer equipment, depreciation and countless other necessities and amenities. When publishers prepare a profit and loss analysis for books they contemplate publishing, they tack on to their hard expenses something like 30% or 35% as the cost of overhead, and you should too.  By adding $10 – around 30% of your $30.00 an hour – onto your labor cost,  your true hourly expense is more like $40.00 than $30.00. Obviously, you should adjust these numbers if your time is worth more or less than that.

The first task we perform to reissue a previously published book is to accurately reproduce the printed text as a digital file. Even if you possess the original text file, for publication purposes it’s useless. The text you turned in to your publisher was subsequently copyedited and proofread. You may want to key into your computer the changes that your publisher made to your original text file.  That will probably take you a minimum of a week – 40 hours. If your hourly cost is $40.00 that’s $1,600.00, a foolish expenditure when it is so much cheaper to have your printed edition scanned.

Scanners in effect take a digital photo of every page of your book and create a crude computer-readable text. I say “crude” because although good scanners are 99% accurate, a 1% error rate in a 300 page book amounts to as many as 900 errors. In any event, scanning costs vary widely from $50.00 a book to several hundred dollars.  Let’s say $150.00, plus, say, an hour packing up and delivering or sending your book to a professional scanning firm.

You will then need to proofread your digitized text. Reviewing and correcting should take about one or two minutes per page, or about 450 minutes for a typical novel that will end up at 300 printed pages.  That’s about eight hours.

Once you have a clean file in hand you’ll want to convert it to ePub, the universal language of e-book publishing. The conversion software is a free download, but the time to convert your text and make sure it’s properly formatted for various retailers may take three or four hours. Say four.

You’ll have to make a cover.  If you choose to buy or commission commercial art the sky’s the limit. We use, and adapt, stock art, also known as clip art. We subscribe to a stock art service to guarantee that the rights to the images we use have been cleared. To the cost of clip art fees or subscription add the value of your time to produce the cover and write jacket copy (and don’t forget the bar code!).  This will all take two hours if you’re lucky. Better allow for three.

You’ll need to furnish a variety of metadata to retailers or they won’t accept your upload. That includes list price, territory, ISBN number, BISAC code, foreign currency conversion, sample chapter, and many other items. For a taste of what you’re getting into, you might want to read Mastering the Mysteries of Metadata first. But allow one or two full days. For the sake of argument we’ll split the difference at 12 hours.

If you want your book printed on paper you can do it cheaply enough through a variety of commercial processes. How good the book will look – many have special formatting issues – is hard to say. Because we are a professional publisher and our POD titles are sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, we take great pains. It may take a day or two of special formatting for print on demand, for the editorial processes are quite demanding. If you want to adhere to our standards, let’s say one eight-hour day.

Assuming you’ve performed these tasks to perfection you will want to upload the book to various e-book retailers and a print publisher as well. E-Reads’ uploads are managed by Ingram’s excellent CoreSource, but as you’re only uploading one or two books it makes no sense to subscribe to such services. You can distribute via Bookbaby for $99.00, but if you prefer do-it-yourself uploading to all significant retailers it will take several hours of trial and error, for retailers often send you error messages and you will need hours more to troubleshoot and re-upload.  Three hours sounds about right.

There are other functions but these are typical ones.  Tallying up the hours you’ve spent we get 31. At $40.00 per hour that’s a cost of $1,360.00, plus several hundred dollars in hard costs.  Let’s round it off at $1,600.00 to get your previously published book back in print in all formats. That doesn’t include a penny for marketing and publicity.

In the next installment of this posting we’ll set some price points for your book and figure out how many copies you have to sell to make your money back plus a profit.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published on Digital Book World as Are Publishers Making a Killing on E-Books? Part 1

 

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Are Self-Published Authors Lazy?

Author at work

Bestselling novelist Sue Grafton recently triggered a near-nuclear conflagration when she described self-published authors as “too lazy to do the hard work” She subsequently apologized to the community of independent authors who swamped her with righteous indignation, and admitted she had acted hastily and out of failure to appreciate how greatly the world had changed from the one in which she became a megastar.

Our response to this incident is – Good for Sue Grafton for saying it. And good for Sue Grafton for taking it back.

Good for Sue Grafton for Saying It

Grafton, author of the bestselling romantic suspense series with alphabetical titles (the first of which is A is for Alibi), “advised young writers not to self-publish, because ‘that’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work’,” reports Alison Flood in The Guardian. “The self-published books she has read are ‘often amateurish’, she said, comparing self-publishing ‘to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall'”.

The reason we’re glad she said it is that it highlighted a serious generational dissonance over the definitions of such fundamental processes as writing, publishing and work, and it opened the door to a constructive dialogue between old and new regimes.

Grafton’s orientation is the school of hard knocks of twentieth century print publishing. There was no alternate, digital business model at the time. Her success in overcoming that obstacle course is laudable and she deserves the wealth she has reaped.

That’s why she wrote with complete sincerity that “it seems disrespectful … that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time.”

These considerations are universally true, whatever era you write in. Unfortunately, Grafton’s success may have blinded her to a completely different kind of success enjoyed by twenty-first century authors using tools, business models and skill sets unheard of when she brought out A is for Alibi in 1982.

Thus when one denizen of that new world read her remarks he rose up in outrage. Indie author Adam Croft, who The Guardian says had 250,000 sales in 2011, wrote that “The complete opposite is true. Self-publishing means finding your own proofreader, finding your own editor, finding your own cover designer (or designing your own), doing all your own marketing and sales work, etc. Having a publisher is lazy as all you need to do is write a half-acceptable book and allow your publisher’s editor to make it sales-worthy. Self-publishers must do it all – we have no one else to pick up the slack.”

Good for Sue Grafton for Taking It Back

Under bombardment by other self-published authors Grafton issued a genuinely humble apology and a confession that she had not been fully aware of the extent digital technology had revolutionized the publishing business. “It’s clear to me now,” she admitted, “that indie writers have taken more than their fair share of hard knocks and that you are actually changing the face of publishing. Who knew?! This is a whole new thrust for publication that apparently everyone has been aware of except yours truly. I still don’t understand how it works, but I can see that a hole has been blasted in the wall, allowing writers to be heard in a new way and on a number of new fronts. I will take responsibility for my gaffe and I hope you will understand the spirit in which it was meant. I have always championed both aspiring writers and working professionals. I have been insulated, I grant you, but I am not arrogant or indifferent to the challenges we all face. I am still learning and I hope to keep on learning for as long as I write.”

Grafton’s thrust, the independents’ parry, and her recognition of a new publishing world order offer a learning opportunity for old-timers and new-worlders to exchange wisdom and experience from which both can vastly benefit and even forge an amalgam of the best of both worlds. Grafton has listened to her critics. Her critics would be well served by listening to Grafton in return.

Details in Self-published authors react with anger to ‘laziness’ charge

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Grafton Apologizes to Indies. Will They Accept?

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To Be a Writer You Have to Suffer. So, No Froot Loops for You, Junior

“The first time I held my own book, it was just this amazing feeling,” said a first-time author, echoing the soaring intoxication that every writer has expressed on beholding his newborn literary baby.

Had this writer toiled for decades in obscurity, enduring rejection and and scorn, sacrificing comfort and security, tormented by self-doubt and discouragement?

Well, not exactly. This author was fourteen years old. The book in question had been self-published. Or, more accurately, Mom- and Dad-published, subsidized at the cost of four hundred bucks.

The boy was one of “hundreds of children and teenagers who are self-publishing books each year,” writes Elissa Gootman in the New York Times. “The mothers and fathers who foot the bill say they are simply trying to encourage their children, in the same way that other parents buy gear for a promising lacrosse player or ship a Broadway aspirant off to theater camp.” The analogy doesn’t really hold up, however.  The child lacrosse player doesn’t automatically get a trophy, nor does the child thespian a Tony.  But the child author gets a book to show off – gets five hundred if his folks want to sport for them.

What has triggered this effusion of literary endeavor? “Over the past five years,” Gootman explains, “print-on-demand technology and a growing number of self-publishing companies whose books can be sold online have inspired writers of all ages to bypass the traditional gatekeeping system for determining who could call himself a ‘published author’.”

The low cost of self-publishing and absence of gatekeepers – other than one’s parents and dozens of charitable friends and relatives who buy copies – foster the illusion that artistic achievement is as cheap to purchase as an Xbox 360.  In truth, for all but a handful of true prodigies it’s hard-won through determination, discipline and courage. “You can basically do anything if you put your mind to it,” said one young author.  Your mind, yes, and your checkbook.

“What’s next?” asks Tom Robbins, author of nine novels including Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. “Kiddie architects, juvenile dentists, 11-year-old rocket scientists?”

To learn what’s next, read Young Writers Dazzle Publisher (Mom and Dad)

Richard Curtis
Note to readers: Digital Book World has invited me to post my blogs initially on its website before releasing them on E-Reads, and this content is re-published with DBW’s permission. Click here to view the original posting.

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Is Self-Publishing a Ponzi Scheme?

Throughout history speculative bubbles have whipped people into such a state of euphoria that they lose all prudence and set themselves up for the collapse of their dreams and fortunes. It happened with investment as disparate as tulips in Holland, England’s South Sea Company, dotcom madness and American mortgage derivatives.

Ewan Morrison, describing the self-publishing craze in The Guardian, thinks this phenomenon perfectly fits the classic signposts of an incipient bubble.  He even suggests it smacks of a Ponzi scheme. “There is now,” he writes, “a boom industry in ‘How to get rich writing ebooks’ manuals, as well as a multitude of blogs offering tips and services, and a new breed of specialists who’ll charge you anything from $37 to $149 to get your ebook into shape. This all seems like a repeat of the boom in get-rich-quick manuals and ‘specialists’ that appeared around blogs and etrading.”

Drawing on the economic theorizing by twentieth century economist Hyman Minsky, Morrison develops parallels between such bubbles as the US stock market of the 1920s and the one shaping up in self-publishing. The following are direct quotations from Morrison’s article The self-epublishing bubble

Stage One – Disturbance.  Every financial bubble begins with a disturbance. The creation of Kindle led to a new generation of ereaders which, with Apple, launched an economic boom in a previously non-existent market.

Stage Two – Expansion/Prices Start to Increase. The ebook explosion is coupled with the rise of the e-reader… A brand new market of consumers for these products has appeared from nowhere. The change to cheap ebooks and self-published ebooks is a “change in underlying fundamentals”.

Stage Three – Euphoria/Easy Credit. Every financial bubble needs fuel; cheap and easy credit is that fuel. Without it, there can be no speculation… “Easy credit” in this case relates to the plummeting costs of digital content… The whole point of self-epublishing is that the market “brings in people who would not normally be there”. Like the promise that we can all have an affordable home with a cheap mortgage, we are being told constantly by digital businesses and the media that we can all be writers and even be successful as writers.

Stage Four – Over-trading/Prices Reach a Peak. As the effects of cheap and easy credit dig deeper, the market begins to accelerate. Overtrading lifts up volumes and spot shortages emerge. Prices start to zoom, and easy profits are made. This brings in more outsiders, and prices run out of control.  This is the point that amateurs – the foolish, the greedy, and the desperate – enter the market.”

Blogs now give advice to start-up writers, telling them to give their work away for free to gain audience share and get reviews, and only then attempt to raise their prices. The zooming prices here refers to the zooming down of prices. For example self-epublishers are now giving books away for free – see the Kindle Top 100 Free books. Furthermore, in this ecstatic push to self-epublish, there are hundreds of thousands of new ebooks for which there are almost no readers at all because they have zero visibility.

Stage Five – Market Reversal/Insider Profit Taking. Warnings sound that the boom will turn to bust; that the models on which success is based are unrealistic and overblown…The models of Doctorow or Hocking are misleading to say the least. For the hundreds of thousands of newcomers to self-epublishing to believe that they can become as successful as [Doctorow and Hocking] is a dangerous delusion, and one capitalised on by companies who have an interest in maximizing internet traffic and selling e-readers and internet advertising.

Stage Six – Financial Crisis. Just as the euphoria consumes the outsiders, the insiders see the warning signs, lose their faith and begin to sneak out the exit. Whether the outsiders see the insiders leave or not, insider profit-taking signals the beginning of the end. Already the stars of self-epublishing are leaving the system that launched them. Hocking signed a deal with Macmillan that gave her a $500,000 advance on four separate books in a series – a total reversal from the way self publishing is done (with zero advances being paid and all work being done on “spec”)… And then comes the collapse – if you work for free and have to slash your costs to be competitive – to, say, undercut the vast 99-cent market…, then your chances of ever seeing a return on all the free labor you’ve put in diminish accordingly. Add to this the fact that hundreds of thousands of others are competing with you in this pricing race to the bottom and the possibility of any newcomers making any money from self-epublishing vanishes. The bubble bursts.

Stage seven – Revulsion/Lender of Last Resort. Panic starts and euphoria is replaced with revulsion. Outsiders start to sell, but there are no buyers. Panic sets in, prices start to tumble downwards, credit dries up, and losses start to accumulate. After a long year of trying to sell self-epublished books, attempting to self-promote on all available networking sites, and realising that they have been in competition with hundreds of thousands of newcomers just like them, the vast majority of the newly self-epublished authors discover that they have sold less than 100 books each… They come to see self-epublishing as a kind of Ponzi scheme – one created by digital companies to prey on the desires of an expanding mass of consumers who also wanted to be believe they could be “creative”. The “Lender in the Last Resort” cannot really step in to save the “investors”, as these are the hundreds of thousands of hopeful and now-disappointed first-time epublishers.

Richard Curtis

 

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85,000 Titles Strong, Smashwords Pitches the Agents

Smashwords Introduces Ebook Publishing and Distribution Service for Literary Agents

Powerful, Proven Tools to Manage Ebook Publishing, Metadata, Distribution and Sales Reporting

LOS GATOS, Calif., November 17, 2011 — Smashwords, the leading distributor of indie ebooks, today introduced a new service for literary agents. The service provides literary agents simple but powerful tools to manage the publication and distribution of their clients’ indie ebooks. Service highlights include free ebook conversions, centralized metadata management, distribution to major worldwide ebook retailers, time-saving aggregated sales reporting across all retailers, and special merchandising at Smashwords.com.

“Literary agents will write the next chapter of the indie ebook revolution,” said Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords. “Agents represent the most commercially successful authors. These authors are now asking their agents to add e-publishing services to exploit the potential of their reverted-rights works and unpublished works. Although all authors have the freedom to self-publish, many would prefer to delegate the e-publishing and back office duties to their agent so the author can focus their energy on writing.”

Over 32,000 authors, small presses and literary agents have utilized Smashwords to release 85,000 ebooks in the last three years. 7,500 of these titles were released in the last 30 days.

Until recently, the Smashwords platform labeled literary agents as “Publishers,” even though most agents consider their authors the publishers of record. To address this subtle but important nuance of metadata labeling, Smashwords created this new service expressly for literary agents.

Agents have the ability to upload multiple books on behalf of multiple clients.Agented books appear as “Written by [Author Name], Agented by [Agency Name].”

When Smashwords distributes the book to retailers such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel, the author is recognized as the publisher, not the agent.

Smashwords has also introduced a new home page catalog to showcase agented works, making it easy for readers to browse ebooks represented and curated by literary agents.

To work with Smashwords, agents simply sign up for a free Smashwords account, upgrade the account to Agent status (also free), and then upload books and metadata on behalf of their clients. A co-branded bookstore within Smashwords showcases the agency’s clients and allows readers to view books by recent releases, best-sellers, and highest rated. When readers browse the book pages of agented books, they enjoy contextual discovery links such as “Other books by this author” and “Other books from this agent.”

The Smashwords Agent service makes e-publishing fast, free and easy for literary agents. Service benefits include:

• Centralized metadata management – Agents control the book’s price (Smashwords retailers don’t discount), marketing description and other metadata at their Smashwords Dashboard. They make a single change once and Smashwords propagates
the update to all retailers.
• Aggregated sales reporting saves time – Each quarterly payment includes a downloadable report that makes it easy to map earnings to each of the agency’s authors. Agents can perform custom queries to provide authors granular sales reporting by title, date and retailer.
• Distribution to leading e-retailers – Smashwords distributes to the Apple iBookstore (32 countries), Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBookstore. Amazon distribution is available through Smashwords on request. Books are also distributed to the native catalogs of leading mobile e-reading apps including Aldiko for Android devices and Stanza for the iPhone/iPod Touch. More distribution points in the works.
• Free – No fees for ebook conversion or setup. Smashwords earns a 10% of list price commission for books sold through major retailers (agent receives 60% list). The commission for sales through the Smashwords.com retail store is 15% net after credit card fees, with 85% net going to the agent.

Multiple literary agencies – including Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, the Beverley Slopen Agency and Larsen Pomada Literary Agents – are utilizing Smashwords to publish and distribute ebooks on behalf of their clients. Diversion Books, a publisher founded by literary agent Scott Waxman, is also a Smashwords client.

What literary agents are saying about Smashwords: “Smashwords has offered what many other self-publishing platforms do not, a way for agents to be involved with digital publishing without having to take on the title of ‘Publisher,’” said Abby Reilly, E-Book Project Manager at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, based in New York. “Giving our clients a space in the new and exciting world of digital publishing, while continuing to shepherd all aspects of their literary careers, is a thrilling challenge for our agency. We are delighted to be working with Smashwords to make this happen.”

“Smashwords makes it easy to begin exploring the new digital terrain,” said Beverley Slopen, whose literary agency shares her name and is based in Toronto, Canada. “It is an exciting time in publishing, a time like no other, and our authors want to be there. They are pushing us to broaden our knowledge and our skill set. While ebook publishing is not a substitute for traditional publishing, it adds an amazing new dimension.”

“I have been an avid Smashwords supporter since its inception, and over the past three years have integrated digital publishing initiatives in the career plans of all my clients,” said Laurie McLean of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. “Most of my clients have both traditionally published books and ebooks in their bag of tricks, and it is exciting to see how they complement each other. While many people have been bashing literary agents as gatekeepers of the old guard in publishing, I feel that digitally-engaged agents are the perfect mentors to guide authors through these turbulent waters of opportunity. The new Smashwords Agent service has made my job even easier.”

Literary Agents – How to Get Started with Smashwords

Visit www.smashwords.com to sign up for a free account in the name of your agency. The confirmation email you receive will walk you through next steps. The “How to Publish at Smashwords” link on the home page at https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords provides helpful links to a vast array of Smashwords resources.

For an online presentation outlining the opportunity for agents to serve the indie e-publishing needs of their clients, see this post at the Smashwords Blog and its accompanying Slideshare presentation, the Literary Agent’s Indie Ebook Roadmap: http://blog.smashwords.com/2011/08/literary-agents-indie-ebook-roadmap.html
or visit www.slideshare.net/Smashwords

About Smashwords
Founded in 2008, Smashwords is the world’s leading distributor of indie ebooks. More than 32,000 authors, small presses and literary agents publish over 85,000 indie ebooks at Smashwords. Smashwords has released over 7,500 ebooks in the last 30 days.

Smashwords makes it fast, free and easy for the world’s authors, publishers and literary agents to publish and distribute multi-format ebooks. Smashwords distributes to major online retailers such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store, and also distributes to the leading mobile e-reading apps such as Aldiko, Stanza and FBReader. Smashwords is based in Los Gatos, California, and can be reached on the web at http://www.smashwords.com/. Visit the official Smashwords blog at http://blog.smashwords.com/.

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85,000 Titles Strong, Smashwords Pitches the Agents

The following is an excerpt from a press release issued by Smashwords.
************************
Smashwords, the leading distributor of indie ebooks, today introduced a new service for literary agents.

The service provides literary agents simple but powerful tools to manage the publication and distribution of their clients’ indie ebooks. Service highlights include free ebook conversions, centralized metadata management, distribution to major worldwide ebook retailers, time-saving aggregated sales reporting across all retailers, and special merchandising at Smashwords.com.

“Literary agents will write the next chapter of the indie ebook revolution,” said Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords. “Agents represent the most commercially successful authors. These authors are now asking their agents to add e-publishing services to exploit the potential of their reverted-rights works and unpublished works. Although all authors have the freedom to self-publish, many would prefer to delegate the e-publishing and back office duties to their agent so the author can focus their energy on writing.”

For details, click on Smashwords’ release.

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Old Slush in New Bottles

Attention Slushers. Here’s your chance not just to review slush but to fund it.

That may sound like the first line of a satirical story in The Onion but in fact it’s the pitch for a startup venture called Pubslush, which describes itself as “a revolutionary publisher that utilizes the power of community support and social networking to select books to be published by connecting writers directly with their readers.

“Through a collaborative method,” the venture’s press release explains, “Slushers (registered users) review, share, and fund their favorite submissions. Upon reaching the required support level, Pubslush will facilitate the complete publishing process , including editing, design, marketing, distribution, etc. Also, Pubslush simultaneously acts as an agent, allowing editors at major publishers to easily browse the top submissions and extend deals to authors if they wish.”

The scheme is reminiscent of AOL Time Warner’s ill-fated iPublish program launched at the dawn of the Digital Revolution.  “The centerpiece of iPublish.com is iWrite, a community area that offers writers a direct way to get their work in front of other writers and iPublish.com editors. Writers must review at least three short excerpts from works by other authors before they can post an excerpt of their work for consideration. If an excerpt receives high ratings, an iPublish.com editor will read the full manuscript and decide if the work should be published as an e-book and, if it meets certain requirements, as a print-on-demand book. ”

iPublish lost an estimated $13 million.  But maybe Pubslush founder Jesse Potash knows something that AOL Time Warner didn’t?

Read details in Publishing Startup Offers Aspiring Authors New Opportunities

Richard Curtis

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Perseus to Distribute Self-Pubbed E-Books for Agents

Is the pen mightier than Perseus's sword?

Perseus Book Group, a leading publisher and distributor for small presses, has announced a service to distribute and market self-published books, particularly out of print titles whose rights have been reverted to authors.  It will pay a 70% share of net revenues to content providers, as opposed to the 25% share paid by major publishers and 50% by some independent e-book publishers including E-Reads.

“The service,” writes the New York Times‘ Julie Bosman, “arrives as authors are increasingly looking for ways to circumvent the traditional publishing model, take advantage of the infinite shelf space of the e-book world and release their own work. That’s especially the case for reviving out-of-print books whose rights have reverted back to the author.”

The service is not offered to the general public but is open only to authors represented by literary agents. And though it offers distribution (to such retailers as Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo and Sony) it does not produce the books themselves, meaning that the authors have to create (presumably through scanning) text files, proofread them, format them (such as putting them into ePub), design covers, and undertake other editorial functions now performed by full e-book publishers such as Open Road, Rosetta, and E-Reads (full disclosure: Richard Curtis is CEO of E-Reads).

Perseus CEO David Steinberger made it clear that while the new company, called Argo Navis, “provided distribution and marketing services, the author remained the publisher,” writes Bosman. “While authors get a much higher share of the revenue under this arrangement, they’ll receive fewer of the services, and financial support, provided by publishers under more conventional contracts.”

Authors and agents interested in Perseus’s offering will undoubtedly factor in the time and labor involved in producing books themselves, but this service nevertheless opens the door for literary agents to find a comfortable place in digital publishing on behalf of their clients.  By helping their clients to produce books, they can justify the higher commissions or management fees that many agents now seek to balance softening revenue flow resulting from a struggling book industry.  It is also a way for agents to strengthen bonds with their clients whose eyes may be roving in the direction of independence and self-publication.

New Service for Authors Seeking to Self-Publish E-Books

Richard Curtis

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