Episode 111 – Gatekeepers, BookExpo America, and Goodreads Deals

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Question of the Week: Will Goodreads Deals overtake BookBub as the #1 author email marketing service? Why or why not?

With their sights always set on the next big game changer, Jim and Bryan took on the latest in publishing news. After thanking their latest patron Ladey Adey (and her book Unfrozen http://www.ladeyadey.com/author/ ), the dynamic duo covered tips on indie promo sites, digital publishing pitfalls, and Audible’s new gifting feature. Stories included a crowdsourced sci-fi novel, one publisher’s argument for gatekeepers, the Amazon ebook giveaway system, publisher contract terms, BookExpo America, and Goodreads’ new deal site. This week’s Question of the Week: Will Goodreads Deals overtake BookBub as the #1 author email marketing service? Why or why not?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How to research indie promo site results
  • How to avoid common digital publishing pitfalls
  • One way to send free Audible copies to your entire list
  • Why Jim thinks crowdsourced books will be hard to come by
  • What Jim and Bryan have to say about the “need for gatekeepers”
  • Why authors shouldn’t expect a sales rank boost from giveaways
  • What trad pub is doing to keep shooting itself in the foot
  • What worked and didn’t work about the recent BEA
  • What Goodreads Deals will have to do to overtake BookBub
Question of the Week: Will Goodreads Deals overtake BookBub as the #1 author email marketing service? Why or why not?

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  • Great episode. Learned a lot! Interesting about GoodReads Deals.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Jason!

  • Lavie Margolin

    If Amazon is all in on this, they certainly could. If Bookbub is reliant upon linking back to Amazon, Amazon could certainly exert some leverage- like they did with the fussy librarian.

    • Bryan

      I bet it’s not a happy week at the BookBub office.

  • Spider McGee

    Jim sure had a lot of comments about the estate question from last week. Is he planning to fake his own death? It sounds like maybe he’s planning to fake his own death. Don’t do it, Jim!

  • TT

    Re Estate Planning. The problem with the checks (or direct deposits) ‘keeping coming’ is that once a person is dead their bank account (and any joint accounts they held) are closed as part of the probate process, and so there would be nowhere to deposit the check or funds. Hence you can’t NOT tell Amazon when an author dies, unless you don’t mind their royalties never being available to the heirs. The simple workaround is to incorporate and hold the rights in the corporation. Shares or control of the corporation can be passed to heirs, and that change wouldn’t make any difference to the bank arrangements (so DDs and checks could still deposit). I’m not a lawyer or accountant, but I have been involved in banking and asset protection for a long time, and that’s what I would do. BUT it’s not professional advice, please consult with your own CPA or attorney for appropriate counsel.

  • Dan Thompson

    RE: Estate planning. Amazon will find out about the author’s death through the tax system if nothing else. When Amazon sends you the 1099 at the end of the year, they also report that to the IRS. When you die, the IRS notes that your Tax-ID number (social security number for private citizens) is for a now deceased person. Even if you do nothing to notify your bank or Amazon directly, the IRS will tell Amazon at the end of the year that they are reporting income to a dead person. They might not do it the very first year, but they’ll do it eventually. Considering that copyright is now death + 75 years, that’s 70+ years of income that will need to be managed beyond merely hoping it will “roll over” automatically.

  • jamiearpinricci

    I think that Goodreads is poised to be a major player in competition with BookBub, but it has far too much that needs to change before it could give it a run for #1 (i.e. the site needs a design overhaul). In the end, it is too soon to say given that so little detail has emerged at this point. Certainly worth watching and has me paying more attention to my own presence on Goodreads.

  • QOTW – they might overtake goodreads, but if you have to keep your TBR list up to date, maybe not. Who does that? 😉

  • Regarding the Goodreads question, let’s remember one thing (and something Bryan was witness to last week in Chicago at BEA) – the overall book industry is still 80% PRINT books. Yes, eBooks are continuing to grow (heck, my belief in eBooks is solid, since I’m staking a career in it, but what was, several years ago triple digit growth has slowed down to a slow and steady growth — that being said, print books STILL represent the majority of the industry, which is likely why it appears to most familiar with the indie space that the big publishers have their heads stuck up their, er, up inside their mahogany desks. 😉

    Goodreads is an all-encompassing reading platform, with a focus on sharing love of reading, not hunting for bargains. BookBub is 100% about (for the consumer), getting access to a great daily curated list of bargain eBooks. And on Goodreads, I’m not sure how many of the users are eBook only readers, whereas BookBub members are 100% ebook readers. So, yes, Goodreads certainly has big advantages in terms of offering a run at a BookBub experience, but I don’t think they’ll overtake them.

  • Just for fun, since Bryan made the Jedi mention in the “Kobo won Kenobi” story, I give you me as a young ObiWan (or KoboWan)

    • Bryan


  • A D Davies

    re estate planning: I don’t know how it goes in the States, but here in the UK simply banking cheques addressed to a dead person is a crime, so probably not worth taking the chance. With the tax implications, which could result in some serious fines (in both countries, I suspect), I’d suggest going through the proper channels, if only to avoid greater pain down the line.

    • Exactly. Also, Amazon doesn’t withhold tax for my company. That’s based upon the beneficial owner (me) and my tax status on file with all the vendors. When I die, all accounts and business is frozen. All vendors pay me electronically, but the money will go into frozen accounts. Money in is okay, no money out though.

      The moment someone dies here in the UK, the death cert has to be used in conjunction with a will for the heirs to access any money and property. A lawyer closes out all accounts, and splits the money to the heirs along the lines of the will, AND the flaming government takes a cut. We have this horrible thing called inheritance tax.

      So… the only answer I see is to make my nephews nonvoting partners in my publishing business, sign over all copyrights to my company, and have my nephews added to the company bank account. I ASSUME then, the company bank account won’t be closed… but what do I know? I’m my company’s only employee and also its director. WOuld a living trust work? I have no clue!

      EDIT: Who uses paper cheques anymore? No one in the UK, or rarely any way. Last year they were talking of phasing out cheques AND cash money here.

  • with the BEA comment, I’ve never been to one but I’ll say that with so many comic cons and movie tie ins, I’m gessing its a lot cheaper to venaeu at this comic cons. I know that vender’s booths are cheaper then 150k. There’s a very large presence of book publishers and indie publishers at nycc and some other cons. Its only about 70$ for a ticket and you’re selling to the direct market not to other business. comic cons are basically large advertising expos, very little fan stuff is going on.

  • “The deals are offered based on the books a member has on their Want to Read shelf, or on their Already Read shelf.” BookBub targets the email recipient’s selected genres. The Goodreads version seems dependent on books the reader has placed in those shelves. I really don’t even use that shelf. This seems like they’re limiting the target offers. Something tells me they really will target genres of books on all your shelves (read, reading, and want to read).

  • Victoria H. Smith

    Longtime listener first time commenter 🙂 I just wanted to chime in on the question because I actually received a deals email this week from Goodreads. It was on a book I put on my shelf years ago and I thought this odd because well it hadn’t happened before and also because it was a smokin’ deal! It was a big five pubbed book on sale for $1.99 and guess what? I bought lol. So it totally worked on me. I will add I did NOT opt in for this service so I’m assuming something in my membership tells them it’s okay for them to do this. I definitely don’t mind either. I love the idea of being emailed a sale about a book I already wanted to read and if GR allows authors to buy into this program a la Bookbub this screams giant competitor coming to the game. If ppl already want to buy your book nothing will send them to Amazon quicker than seeing a deal in their email about it I think. Like I said it worked on me! Anyway love the show guys! Keep up the good work <3

    • Bryan

      Hey Victoria. Thanks so much! Yeah, maybe they’ve ignored the whole “opt-in” thing. Guess we’ll see what happens with this!

  • I can see the potential in this new Goodreads offering but am also aware of a lot of people who don’t like Goodreads and won’t rejoin without some major incentive to do so. That puts this in a wait and see category for me. Until then I won’t be doing any opt-ins.

  • Ethan Jones

    Goodreads has the potential of becoming a BookBub-slayer, but it will take a lot of smart work. Not all GoodReads readers are active all the time, and the interface of the system is cumbersome and not very user friendly. BookBub, on the other hand, is lean and pretty and fast.
    My two Canadian cents,

  • I think the Goodreads email list is another brilliant move by Amazon to try and keep consumers within their own marketplace. They provide the ereaders, the apps, unlimited access to books, the paperbacks, their imprints, the audio books and now a bookbub-ish emailing list.

    Instead of people complaining about the behemoth that is Amazon, we should marvel at their skill and try to mimic their ability to see an opportunity, capitalize on it (even at a loss), build a trusted brand, put customers first, and continually looking for ways to expand and innovate to maximize profits and grow customer loyalty.

    Every business should be as proactive as Amazon.

  • Catching up on this week’s and last week’s podcasts. Estate planning for authors is a big deal. We’re creating intellectual property assets, and they’ll have ramifications for decades after our deaths.

    My dad and I have had a similar conversation. He owns a utility contracting company, and years back made sure he had things in order with his estate and the business. The reason? He’d seen colleagues who’d passed, did nothing to set out what they wanted to happen to their businesses and other assets, and it wound up being a huge mess. Had they made arrangements so they had a will to carry out, a lot of trouble could have been avoided.

    If an author doesn’t set out what they want to happen to their intellectual property, then no one will know what they want to happen.

    John Scalzi had a great post on this a while back, because he had just updated his estate:

    In Which I Harangue Creative Types to Update Their Wills and Estates – Whatever : http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/06/04/in-which-i-harangue-creative-types-to-update-their-wills-and-estates/

    Here’s a notable snippet from that post:

    “And yes, it does matter to your legacy if you don’t give direction for what happens to your work after you die. Academic James Boyle notes that something like 95% of all copyrighted material since 1900 is “orphaned” — that is to say, material for which there is no clear owner (either an estate or designated individual), and so cannot be legally reproduced. If you want your work to be legally available after you die, the best thing you can do is leave clear instruction as to what or whom owns the rights (including, if you so desire, giving the work a Creative Commons license until it makes it into the public domain a ridiculously long time after you are dead).”

    Does Scalzi have more assets than a lot of us? At this point, sure. But as I run my business and think ahead, I want things set to where my wife and kids won’t have to suddenly make decisions about publishing, rights, etc., without any guidance from the person who created the stuff.

    As SMBS so often points out, we authors are running businesses. And part of running a business, whether as a small company, sole proprietor/trader, etc., is making sure our estates and wishes are set so that once we’re gone, it’s easier for our loved ones to know what to do.

  • Robert Scanlon

    Based on previous experience with Goodreads (running giveaways; “banking” on Amazon’s incorporation of GR into the Kindle and expecting Amazon to automatically pick up recommendations from the TBR shelf; running ads) … I’d say they have absolutely no chance of ever competing with BookBub. Also, it’s a reader social platform; not very author-friendly in places (literally) and wasn’t built to “connect” the subscriber with a deal like BookBub (as others here have said).

    Having said that: Facebook used to be a crap place to advertise – now look at it.

    So it’s worth keeping an eye on, even if just for early-mover advantages, or they finally employ some decent management who “get” marketing – or to find a new way to game the system (wink-wink, Jim).

    Re: the estate planning (since many others have continued the discussion). So many official establishments require notification (and in some jurisdictions, accounts may be frozen for withdrawal); there are different rules for when there is a surviving spouse (so many thing pass ownership automatically). I don’t think it is smart to just try to fly under the radar and expect the money to keep coming in (@ Mark E Cooper: Exactly – who uses freaking “cheques” anymore? I seem to pay for everything with my phone here now, LOL). Consult an estate professional. Some of our copyright and trademarks are held in a family trust, so that’s easily passed down – assuming there is a family to pass it to.

    It did get me thinking though – perhaps you could get Jo Rowling on to talk to this (notice how I used her name casually like I know her?). I hear she’s got a pretty decent estate and has had a lot of experience with death. Or was that in fiction? My world blurs sometimes.

    • Bryan

      You and Jo are like this *two things that are close together*