Episode 154 – Verified Reviews, Patricia Cornwell, and Bookouture

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Question of the Week: With word spreading that Amazon can get books to #1 with some major launches and better terms for authors, will more big-time trad pub authors join Amazon imprints? Why or why not?

What do Adam Croft and Patricia Cornwell have in common? They’re now both with Amazon imprints, which is this week’s top story. After thanking their patrons The Tilt, Twins of Prey, and Carnal, Jim and Bryan tackled tips on forwards, bios, and writing contests. News stories included traditionally published teen authors in India, Hachette’s acquisition of Bookouture, Dean Wesley’s Smith’s proposed change for agents, Libro.fm’s new audio subscription, Amazon’s latest review policy change, and Patricia Cornwell’s new deal with Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint. This week’s Question of the Week: With word spreading that Amazon can get books to #1 with some major launches and better terms for authors, will more big-time trad pub authors join Amazon imprints? Why or why not?

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What You’ll Learn:
  • How authors can convince bestsellers to write their book foreword
  • How indies can take their author bios to the next level
  • How indies can use Reedsy’s new resource to discover writing contests
  • Why publishers in India are recruiting teenagers to write YA novels
  • Why one indie says the relationship between authors and publishers is backwards
  • What new subscription service Libro.FM is offering and how it helps indie bookstores
  • What new ebook acquisition Hachette has made and how it will affect authors
  • Why reviews from ARC readers and book bloggers may become less effective
  • Why one bestselling author traded in her traditional publisher for an Amazon imprint

 

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Question of the Week: With word spreading that Amazon can get books to #1 with some major launches and better terms for authors, will more big-time trad pub authors join Amazon imprints? Why or why not?

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  • Lavie Margolin

    It depends on the author. I believe the biggest of the big (top 1% or less), no, as many of their sales still come from traditional outlets- large bookstores/big box stores with prime points of sale, airport bookstores and other areas of visibility that Amazon cannot provide (huge ads on buses/subways, tv/radio support, NY Times review of books cover…). The other authors in the top 5% of sales who are making a great living off mainly internet (Amazon) sales? Sure! No one can get you out there on Amazon (and Amazon devices) like Amazon.

    • Bryan

      Great points, Lavie. If only we could get a ad on the subway! 🙂

      • Lavie Margolin

        Does an unsolicited flyer in Subway Restaurant count? 🙂

        • Bryan

          Of course!

  • C.E. Martin

    Answer of the Week: No, I don’t think traditionals would change, or they would have already. Those trapped in traditional publishing just can’t comprehend that Amazon moves more books than the dinosaurs of publishing. It’s going to take someone huge, like Stephen King, or JK Rowling to join an Amazon imprint to attract the authors of old.

    Also, I wanted to comment on something from this week’s show:

    Jim says if he were a traditional publisher, he’d look for what is already selling and approach the author (rather than slum it in the slushpiles). That doesn’t make much sense to me.

    First, why would a successful indie want to go traditional and sacrifice some of their royalty percentage just to sign with any publisher? They’ve already done it on their own. What would Jim The Publisher really have to offer them?

    Secondly, there are many authors out there that just need discovered. The fact they aren’t “successful” doesn’t mean they couldn’t be made that way if a traditional publisher got behind them and promoted their work.

    I’d think Jim would be better off Venture Publishing–seeking out good authors hidden in the sea of indie work, and pushing them to the top. That’s effectively what traditional publishers do now with slush piles, and it often can really pay off. Chasing after indies that are “successful” on Kindle may mean passing on someone who could earn a lot more with just an investment of a little help.

    • Bryan

      Good points, C.E. I wonder who the first huge one will be…

    • Jim wants to increase the odds. How many thousands of authors are there waiting to be discovered in slush piles vs how many hundreds are proving daily that they can write stories and sell a lot of books?

      Also, in the business world (like sales) it’s commonly said to spend your time, money, and focus on the already successful ones or rising stars. The ones that need a lot of help aren’t [statistically] a good investment. Yes, there are tons of great ones in that group, but you wait for them to show themselves, then jump on their bandwagon.

      The Venture Publishing thing could work if there was a way to ferret out the good ones from the bad. That’s what agents traditionally do, and it’s hard work. And it appears that agents are now looking at the top selling indies and trying to work traditional deals for them because the slush piles are filled with non-proven books that would all have to be read.

      • Wattpad is a good example of how some are looking for new talent. In non-fiction, agents might look to bloggers who are amazing.

        Agents and publishers love to find and nourish new talent, but for every one they try to pushup, many more fail. Today’s technologies (which includes indie publishing tools) allow agents and publishers to increase their odds of finding good writers whose books will be loved and purchased.

    • In defense of trad published authors (*puts on hard hat and wades in*). I’m traditionally published with a small publisher. I’ve always kept an eye on the indie publishing world because it makes total sense to me to keep control and most of the royalties. HOWEVER, there’s a lot of work and initial investment required to publish a book the indie way (cover design, editing, marketing etc) and I couldn’t fit it all in around the day job and the family. Also, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the publishing process etc through having a publisher. Different people need different things at different stages in their career. I know a lot of trad authors who are doing the same – staying trad for now, but keeping an eye on things. So, not 100% dinosaurs. Just saying.

      I agree with your point about why would someone who is already successful as an Indie go the other way. Venture Publishing makes sense too.

      • C.E. Martin

        I beg to differ. It costs NOTHING to self publish, but time.

        You can write it yourself, proof it yourself, edit yourself, make a cover yourself and edit it yourself. How well you do these things depends on your skill level in each area. Spending money is an OPTION to increase the odds of a sale. Likewise, paying for advertising is an option.

        My point is that it’s a lie to say it costs to self publish. IT DOES NOT. And you can make a handful of sales without buying any advertising.

        What does a trad publisher really do then, other than take your royalties and ferment your work on a waiting list?

        • While this is technically true, most authors can’t and shouldn’t make their own covers. You can get a decent premade cover that fits your genre for $40, $50, to $75.

          If one’s goal is to have published a book, then do it all yourself, but the evidence is pretty clear that a professional level cover, book description, and editing is key to selling more than just a few books.

          I’d say that doing it yourself is an option, not the other way around.

          I’m also NOT saying that traditional publishers do it better than an indie author could. There are many examples of bad covers and all the rest coming from publishers of all levels.

          • C.E. Martin

            You miss the entire point, Roland. Self Publishing means SELF publishing. You don’t need anyone else. The means is there to do it all by your lonesome. Throwing cash at certain areas where you lack the skills is an option.

            Look at indie bands. I personally know kids who have home studios, composes and play their own music and make their own CDs–which are selling online. No record company needed.

            We don’t NEED traditional publishing. It’s a dinosaur stuck in the tarpit of tired, outdated ideas. The means to do it yourself is here. Don’t listen to the indie cottage industry that tries to sell services and convince you that self-publishing just means you’re the boss. You CAN do it alone.

          • Of course we don’t need traditional publishing.

            As to doing it all yourself, selling books or cds while doing it all yourself doesn’t mean you’re doing great. An author or musician might sell much more than a handful with a professional level cover, book description, and editing.

            No one is saying you have to spend thousands of dollars on a cover. Not every artist or designer is out to scam indies out of their money. $50-200 will get you a good cover tailored to your genre.

          • Bryan

            Great points all around, Roland and C.E. :).

      • Bryan

        Thanks for the post, Rhoda. Really appreciate you going into the mine field with this and sharing your experience. It’s definitely a lot of work to be an indie. No question.

  • Two things stuck out to me at this show.

    1 – A forward from someone famous can hurt your sales. A few years back I had a very good friend have his book forward written by Tony Robbins. I am not a fan of his and even though I had read all that authors books once he had that forward written I haven’t read any of his books. Trust was broken. Never to be rebuilt.

    2 – Jim is right about the audio book authors being the next big thing. Think my free audio book site is a few days away from launch 🙂

    3- I also call it Hatch-ette 🙂

    4 – I can see the day when verified reviews are useless if Amazon knows you haven’t read the book all the way to the end. Advance copies that have verified reviews will be a thing of the past.

    • Bryan

      Wait, isn’t that four things? Thanks, Vinny :).

      • 2 for you and 2 for Jim lol. Lets say its a bonus 🙂

    • Advanced copies are already not verified reviews. You have to purchase the book through Amazon and write the review, in that order. If not it’s a review, but not verified.

  • Sure. I think there are some trad authors who are ready to go indie out of frustration, but don’t want to truly go it alone. They might very well jump on an Amazon imprint for a new book or series, just to test the waters.

    • Bryan

      Agreed.

  • It all comes down to how dogmatically theu stand with the Amazon Is The Evil Empire crowd. That group will never go to Amazon and put up a lot of pressure to keep others from abandoning their art. This results in a large number of people in the middle who may or may not consider the move based upon who they listen to the most. Still others are on the constant look out for the best deal they can get, which includes the option of going to Amazon.

    • Bryan

      Good point, Edwin. I hear other blogs call this Amazon Derangement Syndrome :).

  • Laura Martone

    Just because a lot of trad publishers still seem to be in denial about the current state of publishing doesn’t mean their big-time authors are. Many of them have noticed how well indie publishers are doing – and I have no doubt that we’ll see more hybrids (if not, actual defectors) in the near future. So, yes, while some big-time authors will staunchly refuse to “get their hands dirty” among us indies, I believe we’ll definitely see more of them opt for Amazon imprints. I mean, who in his/her right mind is gonna say no to a chance at being #1?

    • Bryan

      I LOVE being #1.

  • Daniel Martone

    Question of the week: I think you are going to see more and more big-time authors testing the self-publishing waters (or Amazon imprints) with new series, while trad pub continues to pay them for the established work. Once they recognize the power of self-publishing, some of them will begin leaving the world of the mahogany desk.

    • Bryan

      The POWER!