Episode 184 – iBooks Issues, Draft2Digital Affiliates, and Amazon X-Ray

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Question of the Week: Do you use iBooks? How do you think it compares to other ebook marketplaces and why?

With a trio of massive tips, Jim and Bryan brought the fire for episode 184. After thanking their patrons Carnal, Twisting Fate, and Character Sketch & Color, the publishing prima donnas discussed tips on nonfiction books, beta readers, and relaunching your books. News stories included romance publishers falling short on diversity, using Amazon’s built-in X-Ray feature, Draft2Digital’s new affiliate program, romance authors’ frustration at a recent New York Times piece, and why iBooks may slide from its #2 spot. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you use iBooks? How do you think it compares to other ebook marketplaces and why?
What You’ll Learn:
  • What indies can learn from a non-fiction author who broke seven figures
  • Why one prolific author thinks indies should do away with beta readers
  • What indies can learn from one author’s failed relaunch attempt
  • What one survey of traditionally published Romance books says about diversity
  • How authors can improve reader engagement with Amazon’s X-Ray
  • How authors can benefit from Draft2Digital’s new affiliate program
  • Why Romance authors are upset about a review in The New York Times
  • What changes Apple made that could hurt its place in the ebook market

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  • Do I use Ibooks – nope, never. I think Apple has moved on from that and are letting it die on the vine like so many other legacy systems (i.e. Google Play).

    • Bryan

      *a single tear*

  • Nope. Terrible author platform. Like my sales, 85% use Kindle, 10% Nook, and a handful use iBooks.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing, Darren!

  • I don’t use iBooks, but I’ve heard a few years back that it was the #1 reading platform in Australia. Not sure if it’s still true now.

    Also, in response to the NYT review about Romance books, I found the article humorous and satirical. Of course, the guy is seemingly oblivious to the Romance genre. I don’t think this is reason for everyone to get up in arms about it. Everyone has a right to their opinion. He wasn’t calling names or being racist or whatever. By the way, I am a Romance author (Contemporary, New Adult, Multicultural) of color. Some people like to take things out of proportion or twist it in ways that make it sound different than what was intended. I read this article as satire and poking fun at all the obvious tropes that appear in the Romance genre.

    This is one person’s opinion about a genre that he’s seemingly unfamiliar about. I’m with Jim and Bryan on this one. Authors just need to move on and continue writing more books and stop worrying about what other people are saying.

    • Bryan

      “Some people like to take things out of proportion or twist it in ways that make it sound different than what was intended.” Yes they do! Thanks, Marie :).

  • Kelly Brockett

    I’ve used iBooks a little for audiobooks, since I have an iPhone and find it convenient, but I’ve never used it for ebooks and after hearing this news, I don’t foresee ever doing so.

    • Bryan

      Haha, thanks, Kelly. Never done much with audiobook listening with iBooks. Have you ever compared it to the Audible app?

      • Kelly Brockett

        Believe it or not, I actually still don’t have an Audible account! It’s something I’ve been intending to get for a while, but I still have not. Do you use the Audible app?

        • Bryan

          I do. I like it!

  • When I looked at what X-ray does, it seems like a neat feature, especially for Fantasy authors who have names and terms that can be confusing to readers. However, it would take time to master-time away from writing as you guys mentioned. I wish Amazon Kindle had an example, like an interactive feature you could use to see what it would mean. That way, we authors could determine if it was worth it.

    • Bryan

      “I wish Amazon Kindle had an example, like an interactive feature you could use to see what it would mean. That way, we authors could determine if it was worth it.” That’s a great point, Marie. I wish they would do that too! Thanks :).

  • Laura Morelli

    Wow, guys! I’m really surprised at these responses. I buy books from Amazon when it’s the ONLY choice. I go to iBooks FIRST. For me as an Apple user, I find the interface more friendly. Plus, as authors we feel Amazon’s dominance in the book marketplace more acutely than anyone else. I try to give as much of my business as possible to the other book retailers, and I encourage my friends to do the same.

    With regard to Amazon X-ray, this is a very tempting feature for those of us writing historical fiction set in different eras and locales. I see the potential for it. However, I will not be using it because I direct readers to my web site for features like behind-the-scenes research, glossaries, maps, etc. My readers get this premium content in exchange for an email address. For me, that’s much more valuable that what Amazon X-ray is offering.

    • Bryan

      “I will not be using it because I direct readers to my web site for features like behind-the-scenes research, glossaries, maps, etc. My readers get this premium content in exchange for an email address.” Great point, and this is sort of the fiction version of what Joseph Alexander was saying on TCP. Thanks, Laura!

  • All the talk on being offended reminded me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-mju_gW3c8

    • Bryan

      Lol. Pretty funny.

  • Beta readers – I’m not sure the author suggesting that using beta readers is stupid knows what Indie authors mean by beta readers. Does the book or story make sense? Any gaping holes? Do I flip-flop between Bryan, Brian, and Brain?

    Maybe there are some who take all the feedback and lose their author voice as a result, but I think the lack of distinctive author voices in the indie community is because of lack of writing experience, lack of professional level feedback, and because of seasoned authors telling Indies not to rewrite or edit their works.

    Of course, that advice often comes from authors with 50-100 books, who probably have the book writing process down and can’t remember when they didn’t.

    I’ve only had one beta-reader suggest I change my author voice, and it was because he thinks non-fiction shouldn’t be funny. Well his FACE shouldn’t be funny, either, and…

    • Bryan

      I love it when people call me Brain! I think he’s specifically talking about folks with 50 betas, but yeah, it’s easy to give advice like that when you’ve written 200 books!

  • CE Martin

    RE: Diverse romance books
    Doesn’t matter how many books they’re publishing by “people of color”; it’s how many they’re SELLING. If there’s not a market, then why produce it?

    • Bryan

      Good point, CE!

  • The article by Dean Wesley Smith suggesting beta readers only exist to shore up shaky writers’ egos and dumb down their books is incredibly one-sided. As someone who has a dedicated Facebook group and a mailing list of beta readers numbering in the hundreds, I can attest that engaging beta readers is the best way to turn fans into super fans. Besides being a great way to spread word of mouth, gain numerous reviews during launch, and enlist valuable proofreading and copyediting services, beta readers eventually become friends. Before wasting an opportunity for success, writers should listen to those using beta teams well, and not just one guy who thinks he’s too good for them.

    • Bryan

      “Before wasting an opportunity for success, writers should listen to those using beta teams well, and not just one guy who thinks he’s too good for them.” I absolutely agree, Nathan. Thanks!

  • Itunes is the only Apple product I use, and that’s because I have a store credit and don’t know of another place to acquire digital music in Canada.

    I also prefer my Kobo experience over Kindle. Looking forward to seeing how the new audiobook offerings develop.

    • Bryan

      “I also prefer my Kobo experience over Kindle. Looking forward to seeing how the new audiobook offerings develop.” Me too! Thanks, Edwin :).

  • Crissy Moss

    I don’t have any apple products because they seem to run twice the price for often less functionality (since most of my games aren’t mac compatible). That barrier to entry is enough to keep me away from iBooks.

    • Bryan

      Gaming is definitely a PC thing, for sure. Not gonna get much from gaming on a Mac.

  • Crissy Moss

    Also, on the first story there are so many reasons why trade publishers might not meet goals. Like POCs that just go self publish because they don’t want to deal with trade publishers, or even because they feel they might not have the same chance. I’ve read a lot of books by POCs this year, and all of them self published, so it’s not far fetched.

    • Bryan

      Good points, Crissy. Thanks!

  • Nicolette Pierce

    I only use iBooks. For me it’s the easiest to use since it’s already on my iPhone and I have an account established. I’m always sad when I can’t get an Amazon exclusive book, but I’m too stubborn to move. So, help me out and publish wide.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the wide opinion, Nicolette :).

  • Natasha

    I always debate with myself whether to respond to these podcasts with news items about the lack of POC. On one hand, I prefer to lurk and keep my head down. On the other, I feel I have a take on it you’re missing and if I don’t speak up you don’t have other POC in your audience who will.
    Calling out the gatekeepers in this instance is not about getting in their heads to divine their intent to judge them for it. It’s about showing the current outcomes of their efforts which they may have not realized. The ones who affirmed their commitment to publishing more POC are like people who resolved to loose weight or go to the gym more often. From tangible consequences to tangible outcomes, there needs to be something to make the promise less squishy.
    Many POC have gone indie and are trying capitalize on marketplace opportunities but they are still faced with a mindset which views what they produce as a niche or special interest on par with guitar instruction manuals or Dutch dog fancying even when targeting less specialized genres and topics.
    How many times have successful indies pointed out people really do judge a book by its cover? Fair enough when you are deciding to put a dragon or a spaceship on the cover. What about deciding whether to feature a POC or not next to it?
    I could write another wall of text, but I’ll stop there.

    • I have a few points/comments/thoughts, so forgive me for working it out sort of as I go. POC “in books” is not just one thing.

      I do think there should be more books (and everything) that include more POC. I think it is good for society to get people seeing everyone and a variety. Over time, that will help us all, IMO. I really don’t care who writes it as long as it’s good, fair, and accurate representations.

      There’s also room for books that feature POC, books that have POC in them, and then those that are about the issues unique to POC. I’m totally happy with POC in Star Wars, but I want Star Wars to be about Star Wars. That’s just a for instance. On the other hand, I’d love to read good sci-fi/space opera where they look at the issues POC face. I think sci-fi is a great way to introduce people to these issues, even if it’s subtle.

      I’m also good with more authors who are POC. It seems that a lot of organizations/companies say they have the goal to hire or use more POC, but then don’t. Whether they can’t find what they are looking for, don’t really look, don’t recognize talent, or are being disingenuous, I can’t say, and I’m sure it varies quite a bit.

      On the other hand, I’ve seen some POC write books that other POC thought didn’t go far enough. The author was just trying to write a fun book, and got slammed for not covering the issues. 🙁

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Natasha! I completely agree that understanding what benefits these publishers are getting out of it (or will get out of it) would make the promise much less of a New Years’ Resolution.

  • Natasha

    I think the last time I opened iBooks was accidentally on purpose about 2 months ago as a .PDF viewer

    • Bryan

      Haha, thanks for sharing.

  • Mediapig71

    I use a mac and iphone, and the only time I open ibooks is when I click on a generic epub, and it opens as the default instead of Calibre.

    • Bryan

      Pretty much the same for me, MP. Thanks.

  • Your number 1 news story had me scratching my head, because it seemed to conflate the new IOS release and no longer being able to download iBooks via iTunes on an Android device or PC. Since this didn’t make sense to me, I came here to check the linked story. But the linked story contains NOTHING about iBooks in it.

    FYI, iBooks was split out from iTunes years ago on Apple devices. I can’t speak to whether iTunes ever included iBooks on non-Apple devices because I haven’t used any in a very long time. I doubt that it ever did because I remember lots of angry discussions about not being able to read iBooks on other than Apple devices and lots of comments about how dumb this was.

    As to reading iBooks myself, the answer is not usually. I spent enough years in frustration with B&N and the nook before throwing up my hands and switching to Amazon and a Kindle. I’ve tried the iBooks store a few times, but rarely can find what I’m looking for there. I also prefer the e-Ink screen of my Paperwhite for reading. My iPad and iPhone screens are too bright and have too much glare.

    The only books I read on my iPad are those I download from my library via Overdrive. Again, it’s simplicity. The process to add a book to the Overdrive app on my iPad is one I’m now familiar with. I’ve read the instructions for downloading to my Kindle, but it seems to require more steps, so I stick with the epub versions.

    • Bryan

      Sorry about the story link, Elise. Since it was from an article behind a pay wall, we tried to find the closest thing to it that was partly mentioned in the article. Thanks!

  • Oh, so many things to comment on. iBooks never use it. That’s the easy one.
    Romance novels in NYT – I agree with Jim’s view that NYT ran a controversial piece to get people talking and it worked. I think people had to comment on it, because otherwise you appear to give tacit approval to the article. Generally speaking, we romance writers are used to this nonsense. Our readers like the genre and that’s what matters.
    POC in romance – there’s some background to this in that last year there was a lot of kerfuffle in the romance world about the lack of POC in trad published romance. All the publishers said they were working hard to redress the balance (and were making an effort to include POC writers as opposed to asking white writers to write more POC characters). Clearly, the words haven’t matched up to the actions. To Jim’s comment about accusing the industry of racism – I don’t think that’s the intention (I could be wrong). I’m a person of colour. I live in the UK. I don’t think the industry is racist per se, but (I believe) they have a clear view that books about white people sell better than books about non-white people. I have written romances books with non-white protagonists – which I struggle to place with a publisher. I have also written romances with white protagonists, which have found a publisher relatively easily. In both cases, I submit books under my real (and clearly non-Caucasian) name, so the difference is in the content of the books. I’m self publishing the other books now – and echo Natasha’s comments below.
    Right. I’ll shut up now. Great show. I’m a relatively new listener and I’m really enjoying it.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for listening, Rhoda! We appreciate your thoughts here and having you as a listener!

  • Kate Stead

    We sell and read on iBooks. As someone else mentioned in Australia iBooks is much more popular. I think now it’s sitting at about 50/50 between it and Amazon so it’s not a platform to ignore if you think you’ll have an Australian audience.
    They also offer a much more interactive experience for children’s books which is our specialty. We can easily add pop up text, sounds and animations to our children’s books in iBooks whereas it’s much harder to add those in the kindle version.

    • Bryan

      I’ve heard iBooks is great with kids books. Now that I have a kid, I should probably test it out :). Thanks, Kate!

  • Elizabeth Lynx

    I would like to state that I listen to your show weekly and love your thoughts on publishing and the book world topics. With that said, this was the first episode where my mouth fell open in surprise. You both are usually so knowledgeable about the subjects you speak about and to be totally clueless on the POC topic and Romance topic shocked me.
    I have noticed in past episodes when you guys don’t understand or aren’t aware of the topic being discussed you usually say something like, “If what they say is true than it’s a problem.” Those aren’t your exact words but you state something similar. I always valued both your opinions because you gave a person or persons making a claim honest consideration, whether it was proven true or not. That did not happen in this case. You complained about the women of the Ripped Bodice accusing an industry of discrimination. Which they didn’t. They were simply putting out facts and figures. That they were having trouble meeting the demands of their customers because they couldn’t provide enough books by POC. And yes, I have been following the traditional publishing industry’s comments on wanting more authors of color.
    Am I a POC? No. But I don’t have to be to be informed about the ups and downs of my fellow authors. How on earth do I expect them to help me fight or move ahead, if I don’t help them? Also, as a human being living in this society, I will always make myself aware and fight for anyone who may not have the power to do so themselves.
    Let’s move on to the New York Times Romance opinion piece. Yes, it was total BS. Yes, they were catering to their readers while at the same time getting more press for themselves by having a clueless old fart discuss romance. I have lost all respect for the New York Times when it comes to anything about books. They are from an era that is in its death throes. Sure, authors and publishers still clamor to be on their list or be mentioned by them, but we are staring at their spiral downward on control. As indie authors move up, they will ultimately, move down the importance ladder unless they accept indies and what is the future.
    I agreed with most of your discussion about the NYT piece until you got upset that the Romance writers were so offended. That it was just someone’s opinion. That people are allowed to have opinions. You’re right. He is allowed to an opinion. His opinion further spreads the falsehoods and stereotypes long believed by a lot of people (even other authors and publishers) outside of romance that romance is fluffy, silly, and cute. That serious authors would never dare write romance. And smart readers would never dare read romance.
    Not only does his piece help stoke the flames of misinformation about one of the top selling genres in fiction, but it’s condescending, dismissive, and misogynistic. And yet, you couldn’t understand why romance writers and readers were complaining. After all, aren’t we all entitled to our opinion? Even when these authors and readers have been inflicted with this opinion longer than you have been alive. Even when women have had to deal with these ‘opinions’ about anything they like or, gasp, are successful at, since the dawn of man.
    After all, men will be men.

  • I am like you Jim and opened once by accident about 5 years ago. We get a few authors that want to link to all the places they sell in their promo listing. I usually talk them out of it because too many choices = no sales at all.

    • Bryan

      Yup. Too many links is like too many cooks in the kitchen!

  • Patrick O’Donnell

    I do not use Ibooks. I love me some Apple products, except for the books. I have a Kindle Fire and listen to audiobooks. I used to listen to audiobooks using itunes, now I use audible. I buy the majority of my ebooks on Amazon.

    • Bryan

      I’m in the same boat with all this, Patrick :).