Episode 39 – 2014: The Year in Review

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Jim and Bryan wrapped up 2014 by recapping the top tips and news stories of the year. The top three tips revolved around sales tracking, changing your social media mindset, and a multitude of ideas related to email lists. The top news stories of the year included the concept of the authorpreneur, the EU’s Value Added Tax laws, Hachette vs. Amazon, Author Earnings, and Kindle Unlimited. Jim and Bryan closed by making some big predictions for 2015. The Question of the Week: What are your predictions for 2015?

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What You’ll Learn:Β 

  • Why sales tracking is so important
  • How a small change in mindset will change your social media
  • The importance of email marketing
  • What it means to be an authorpreneur
  • Why VAT will make a major impact on all authors
  • If the Hachette vs. Amazon story was actually important
  • What Author Earnings means to authors
  • What the future of Kindle Unlimited looks like
  • Jim and Bryan’s big predictions for 2015

Links:Β 

Jim’s Predictions for 2015:Β 
A Big 5 publisher will adapt or die
Someone will develop the Napster of ebooks

Bryan’s Predictions for 2015:Β 
Barnes & Noble will close before X-Mas 2015
There will be success stories for new authors
The year will give way to more professional products
Question of the Week: What are your predictions for 2015?

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  • If you take the time to learn Scrivener, you’ll never want to use another writing program. It has saved me so much time with formatting, allows me to easily write out of order, and you can have all your research in one, organized location. It’s amazing!

    • That is so true. I’ve gone through my 30 day trial and can’t yet afford the $40 to purchase the software and I am just plain lost without it. I’m managing as best I can, but that next paycheck can’t come soon enough. πŸ™‚

      • Like Jim said, I love Google Drive. And I love being able to access it from anywhere. But it just doesn’t compare to Scrivener if you are writing a book. It’s not worth the access to me to have to waste time later doing all the formatting and putting things in order.

        • Alyne de Winter

          Its the formatting! The rest I need to spread it out on the floor and make giant plot maps.

          • I agree. I edit and layout my ebooks in scrivener, then create the epubs. I don’t like writing in it though. I prefer to paste the text in after first draft is written on my handheld psion.

    • Bryan

      Cool. Thanks, Zach!

    • John L. Monk

      I’ve seriously considered giving it a try. Much better than littering my word doc with tons of little notes πŸ™‚

    • Perry Constantine

      I also want to chime in with my support of Scrivener. You can automatically sync it to your Dropbox so the files are accessible wherever you have Scrivener and an Internet connection (it could also work with Google Drive, but I’ve never tried it). And your license is a household license, so you can install Scrivener on all your computers (provided they’re all the same OSβ€”you can’t use a Mac serial number for a Windows version and vice versa).

      Give it a try. Their trial period is VERY generous. Thirty days of full usageβ€”that’s thirty days of actual usage, not thirty consecutive days. I bought a license before the end of the first day. Best $40 I ever spent.

  • If I read the VAT law notice that Amazon sent out correctly, didn’t it state that they will be automatically be adjusting pricing and royalties to reflect the law? In other words, we don’t have a choice when we sell books in other countries, correct?

    • Bryan

      Right. We don’t have a choice on Amazon.

    • You don’t have to do anything on Amazon if you don’t mind them bumping your prices up 20%, and leaving them with odd numbered endings. I went in and tidied things by rounding up to the nearest .99 after Amazon got done

  • Pingback: Important Indie News for 2014: Sell More Books Show | John L. Monk()

  • For 2015, I think Serial is going to increase the popularity of audiobooks and “podiobooks”, and indie authors have a great opportunity. I love what many indies are doing with the WhisperSync option on Amazon. I’ve bought numerous books over the past couple of months that I would not have bought if they didn’t have the “Add Narration for $1.99” option. I think that could become the new “free” or “$0.99” book.

    • Bryan

      I hope you’re right. Come on big ACX royalty check :).

    • I’d like to see that happen, Zach. Then again, I’m a little biased towards Podiobooks.com. πŸ˜‰

      • Bryan

        Have you had good experiences with Podiobooks, Evo?

        • Yes I have, Bryan. Then again, I run the place. πŸ™‚ But I can confidently state that hundreds of authors have had (and continue to have) good experiences with Podiobooks.com. πŸ™‚

          • Bryan

            Haha, nice! πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

          • You are welcome. I try to NOT do the drive-by comment thing terribly often. But when my spies and sniffers (not quite as draconian as that sounds) surface a positive comment, I occasionally drop an “I saw this!” note. Cheers!

            (And if you’d like to speak more about the topic of this comment thread, I’m a fairly entertaining guest with my fair share of podcasting experience.)

  • Michael La Ronn

    Nice predictions guys.

    One thing I think is going to happen in 2015 is the rise of video as an instructional method for authors. Udemy and Lynda really picked up speed this year. It’s never been easier to produce video courses, and it’s never been cheaper (which is why most people used to avoid them).

    If you can offer a skill-based video course geared toward the nuts and bolts of self-publishing, writing, and marketing, you can add a new dimension to your income.

    Happy 2015!

    • I agree with that Michael. We’re already doing video courses for authors in our author marketing academy which is part of our Premium membership. Bryan has been helping us make the courses. πŸ™‚

  • John L. Monk

    Couple things on the Napster prediction:

    1) the system you’re talking about already sort of exists: torrents. My book is being distributed that way (without permission), as are many.
    2) an app that would side-load a book easily will be difficult for the average Kindle/Tablet owner to install. Most people go through the built-in app store to their device. Only techies or serious pirate-types will install Napster-like apps, and they might already be doing this. With the original Napster, anyone with “a computer” could install the program and start downloading music within 5 minutes (back in 1999 or whatever).
    2.5) And because Amazon/Apple control their OS updates, they could theoretically hard code a requirement that all apps be installed through “legitimate” sources. This will irritate a lot of techies and “free system” types (of which I consider myself, technically), but I’m just saying what might happen. At the very least, they could make it very difficult to install an app without going through a store. Note: I have installed a non-approved app before, and to do so I had to jump through a few hoops. Imagine that being a lot harder, or even impossible.

    Wonderful show — one of the great joys of 2014 for me πŸ™‚

    • Bryan

      Good points, John. Thanks! It’s been a joy having you as a fan :).

  • John L. Monk

    John L. Monk’s prediction: Apple/B&N/Kobo/Whomever will compete with Amazon on:
    1) royalties
    2) Amazon-like perks like KU, 5 days free, Countdown Deals, “the next new thing”

    • Bryan

      I hope someone does!

    • That would be great, but for the most part, what’s important is where the customers are. I’ll take all the writer’s perks, but a slick Kobo dashboard doesn’t matter all that much if Amazon is where the business comes from. What are they going to do to draw in more customers?

      • Bryan

        Good question for Kobo and all writers to answer :).

    • Connie B. Dowell

      I have to agree… And my bet is it will be Kobo.
      Now the problem with where the readers are still stands.

  • Alyne de Winter

    I for one have mastered failing.

    • Bryan

      Hehehe :).

    • Bryan

      Yay for indie bookstores!

  • I think it’s interesting that you guys predict B&N brick and mortar stores will be totally closed by the end of 2015. I’m not sure I agree with that, particularly if they start installing Expresso Book Machines in all of their stores, because I would definitely want to use that service (at least once, depending on the quality) to make print-on-demand books right there in the store.

    I definitely look forward to seeing more professional products in 2015. My prediction is that more and more people will be turning to Amazon for informational products (how-to books, DIY books, etc.), even when the info is available for free online, just because people want everything in one convenient, easy-to-read, easy-to-download bundle. If Amazon allows authors to bundle up their ebooks, audio books and print versions, that’ll just make everything so much simpler.

    I also predict that more authors will start giving away the audio versions of their books when you buy the ebook or print edition, because customers really want to be able to bounce between the two seamlessly. And if there’s some way to sync where you left off in your audiobook to where you left off in the ebook, all the better.

    • Michael La Ronn

      I agree with you on the B&N front, Laura. I think Barnes & Noble will be around for a bit longer. Nook, on the other hand, is a totally different story… πŸ™‚

      • Bryan

        Oh yeah, Nook Press is gone in six months. Or at the very least someone will buy it.

        • I hope Nook sticks around or that’s yet another $1000 gone from my income a month. How many more knock downs I can take before not getting back up I don’t know, but I fear I’m going find out soon.

          • Bryan

            We’ve gotta talk about your Nook success at some point :).

          • Nook is an also ran in this race, but all those little bits add up. I don’t want to see Amazon as the last man standing in five years.

          • Bryan

            Agreed. Kukypress, perhaps?

          • I’m still waiting for my Kukybub that you two promised me last time!

          • Bryan

            The Kukybub comes when the Kukybub is ready.

          • Don’t tempt me to kickstarter this for realz.

          • Do it Jim, I double dare you! Kukybub Audio for the win!

          • Even if B&N goes, someone will likely buy the Nook business, even if it’s a competitor like Kobo or Apple. Maybe Google could do it. They certainly have an advantage in owning Android and could put the Nook App on every tablet and phone (and Chrome book).

    • Bryan

      I hear two schools of thought on audio. Whispersync lets you sync up a kindle edition with an audio edition, but it also reduces your payout. Some authors I know do everything they can to avoid giving their audio away in a cheap, syncable package to keep their royalty higher.

      But we shall see! Happy New Year, Laura!

    • If, like me, the authors use ACX, then they can’t give it away. Only Amazon has pricing powers at Audible. They already “give away” my audio at $1.99 via whisper synch. That’s the closest they’re got to it so far.

    • Espresso Book Machines are no longer being made, so someone needs to make the next gen version. Maybe the time is right?

      It could certainly allow bookstores to ‘stock’ more books in a smaller space, but the costs are high compared to a centralized print-on-demand (like Createspace) book, much less a book done on offset press.

  • Jacob Williams

    I’m monetizing my YouTube channel by putting links to my book in my video descriptions. I just published my first book two weeks ago. The only price I’ve experimented with is $4.99. Book is nonfiction and is on Ruby Programming. I wrote, edited, and did the cover myself. Here’s the results from the last two weeks:

    9,915 YouTube video views (For the Ruby Programming Series)

    339 clicks to the book from my video descriptions. (Going to lower the price to $2.99 and test to see if it results in more revenue.)

    17 books sold @ 4.99

    I haven’t done any other promotion of the book. (I didn’t want to taint my YouTube results data.) I haven’t notified my email list of its release either. (Testing to see what the optimal price is first.)

    None of you would buy the book given it’s not in your niche. So this isn’t self promotion. If you’re curious here’s the book: http://amzn.to/1B5SvKD

    I’ve attached screenshot for you data hoars. πŸ™‚ -Jake

    ps. I’ve been looking forward to this show all week. I think Jim and I were birthed in the same hospital or something. His no bullshit attitude is refreshing.

    • Jim “No Bullshit” Kukral. I like it. πŸ™‚

    • Bryan

      I’m a data whore, so I love these results! Thanks for sharing. How often do you email your 6k+ subscribers?

      • Jacob Williams

        I can’t email my YouTube subscribers. My email list has 636. I get about 10 new subs a day. All from referring from my YouTube vids. Here’s the landing page for that sign up. http://wildacademy.co

        Okay. I’ll share more YouTube insights:

        The YouTube subscriber metric isn’t as valuable as it once was. There’s a term called subscriber burnout. Which essentially means YouTube doesn’t show your content to the subs that don’t watch a lot of your content. If you have 100 subscriber, be happy with having 10 views within the first 24 hours of an upload.

        I would try to go for evergreen(ish) long-tail and series based videos. Create a channel that doesn’t require constant life-support. You want to be able to go a month without uploading anything and still see channel growth. Look to make it passive.

        Be the tortious, not the hare.

        Be organized and be strategic about sponsors and the demographic of viewers you want. Higher level content makes A LOT higher CPM than low level stuff. A video of a cute cat might get $1-2 cpm. However, videos about say…. Microsoft Exchange Server will get $20-$40 cpm. Yes, it is that drastic of a difference. -Jake

        Video on Subscriber burnout:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLJQ0gFHM8s

        Bonus: Videos over 10 minutes long will play preroll ads more often. Also, you can insert midroll ads only if your video exceeds 10 minutes.

        Bonus Bonus: Video view count doesn’t affect search relevance anymore. Watch time is the most important metric now.

        Example:

        Video A = 1M views with an average watch time of 1 min.
        Video B = 500K views with a 3 min average watch time.

        Video B will typically come up higher in search results.

  • Patrick Stemp

    I’m going all in with my prediction for 2015. Stephen King is going to buy out of his publishing contract, get the rights back to all of his work, and start self-publishing – we’ll get the old stuff at a reasonable price, and new stuff faster.

    Dialing it back slightly – I do think we might start to see some trad authors doing exactly that – maybe not King, or Preston & Child…but someone big is going to pull that trigger in 2015.

    • Bryan

      Haha, he would make SO much money :). I agree, someone big is gonna make the leap.

  • Great episode as ever. But I’m very sad to hear that people are removing their books and courses to protest VAT. Sure, it sucks. But if your books have any value for the world, go with the flow. Don’t punish your starving readers in favor of politics. And rest assured that more tax and bizarre laws will be coming. Those willing to shoulder it and push on in the face of adversity will win.

    Plus, you get to keep 100% of what you keep. But you lose 100% of money you never earn trying to spit in the face of sovereignty. Their wind is stronger and that spit can only wind up in your own hair. Anyhow, my international tax accountant sent me a nice letter explaining the whole thing and offering to take care of it.

    And that’s going to cost me even more.

    But here’s the thing: Not worrying about it, handing it off to a pro and bending like grass instead of standing like a brick wall against something beyond my control gets me back to writing and serving my market. And that will be true for you too.

    So authors, please don’t remove your surfboards from the ocean. You cannot ride the waves standing on the shore.

    • Bryan

      Good stuff, Anthony! I was planning on doing more direct selling in 2015, and I figured I’d just figure out this vat stuff along the way. Maybe I’ll sell enough to hire an international accountant like you πŸ™‚

      • I’m sure you will, Bryan!

        But thinking of your “maybe,” authors should keep in mind that the cost of tax help is not a loss. It’s what I would call “deductucation.”

        Work with me here: One doesn’t really pay for an accountant because it’s a write-off. The amazing things you can learn from a good one are more than worth it even if you can’t accept that deductions aren’t losses to the bottom line.

        • Bryan

          I totally agree with that POV, Anthony. I’ve never had an accountant do my taxes, but I have hired one for an hour or two of consultation. It was completely worth it.

      • If you use a service like sendowl.com as your payment processor, they collect the required data and charge the right amount for the taxes, plus store the data for the required time period, post sale.

    • The thing with any law is that the good abide, and the bad say two fingers to you!

      I don’t like taxes, but then who does? If we all said screw you, I’m not paying, we wouldn’t have civilisation, we would have anarchy. I’m sure the US government would have something to say if the rest of the world said screw US law, we don’t recognise it.

      This kind of thing extends beyond taxes. When countries start ignoring each other’s laws, watch out. Having said all that, in a 21st century globalization means the only way to plug loopholes in ALL taxing issues is to have a one suits all policy. So all countries get together and agree a common sales tax, and corporation tax.

      It will never happen though. Tax havens make too much money ever to agree.

  • I predict a third party group will appear and start a program to vet Indie books for minimum quality standards. It won’t be perfect, but it will help.

    • Not to say that traditionally published books are exempt from things like horribly poor (or non-existent) editing, but the odds are better.

      • Bryan

        Truth!

  • Perry Constantine

    Great episode as always.

    In regards to your predictions, I think I may have been a bit confused by what Jim was talking about with the Napster for books. While there’s not a Napster specifically for books, I believe the majority of file-sharing is done through torrents, and torrent sites do have both audiobooks and ebooks on there. So this does exist, unless I’m mistaken about what Jim meant.

    I think a Big Five publisher will adapt or die, but I think it will first have to be prefaced by some big name authors going indie. The Big Five are all backed by larger media conglomerates, aren’t they? They could prop up those publishers (maybe shift to digital/POD to cut corners) provided the publishers continue turning out content that can be adapted into movies or TV shows. I know that’s why Time Warner and Disney keep both DC and Marvel Comics in business, despite the continual decline in sales, because the movies and TV shows based on those characters are the real money-makers.

    As far as Bryan’s predictions, I think Jim was right when he said that not all B&N stores will close, but that a lot of them will. I think B&N could adapt if they do something similar to what Jim suggested in an earlier episode about those POD kiosks. What if instead of POD kiosks, they had Nooks locked into the coffee tables? Buy a cup of coffee and feel free to browse B&N’s library and start reading a recommended book on the Nook while you sit. Might help B&N increase the sale of Nook devices and if you like what you’re reading, you can send a link to your email to buy that book. Not sure if that’s even feasible, but it’s the first thing I thought of.

    Agreed completely on success stories and more professional products.

    For my predictions, I think Apple will finally do something with BookLamp. They bought that start-up back in the summer and we haven’t heard anything since. I think that’s because Apple’s developing something with it they’ll unveil in 2015, something that will probably coincide with the release of the new iPads and iPhones. And given the potential BookLamp had for discoverability, I think it will be a HUGE game-changer.

    I think Google Play will also become a bigger player. Just like Kobo acquired Sony’s customers when they got out of the ebook business, I think something similar could happen with Google and B&N.

    It will be really interesting to see what happens with KU. I’m of two minds on it. One part of me thinks Jim is right and Amazon will double down on it, but another part of me thinks that if enough authors leave, Amazon may give up on it or alter the terms. In an ideal world, I’d like to see Amazon make KU separate from Select and allow people to enroll in it without the exclusivity requirement, but I also know how completely unrealistic that is.

    Also, I’m going to throw my support behind Jim’s sound effects. I actually didn’t care for them much at first, but ironically enough, it was Bryan’s reactions to the sound effects that always made me chuckle.

    • Bryan

      Are you saying I amuse you, Perry? Thanks for your thoughts on the predictions. I hope Apple does something with BookLamp. Love the idea about the Nooks locked into coffee tables. I’m really interested in what Google Play does this year too.

      • Perry Constantine

        You are very amusing, Bryan! Now go get your shinebox!

        • Bryan

          Yes, sir.

  • Crystal Marie

    Love, love, love the show! Downloaded all the
    previous episodes to my MP3 and listen to them in the car. Keep up the good
    work!

    RE: Kindle Unlimited – As a reader, I love KU. From the author
    side, my hubby’s book is $9.99 in digital format so the amount received for each
    borrow (so far) has been less than 25% of the royalty on sales. Do we care?
    Nope. Based on my own behavior and the price of the book, I’m certain that the
    borrowers would never have bought the book anyway, so we’re reaching more readers and
    making money we wouldn’t have otherwise.

    The buy vs borrow decision for his book is likely based on more than just price. Impossible Beyond This Point is the true story of how his family moved to the wilderness back in the 60s – interesting and entertaining but not like a reference book that someone would refer to over and over. So for us, KU is a win-win.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Crystal! Glad you’re having a great KU experience and thanks for listening :).

  • jasonmbrooks

    Great wrap up for 2014. I just discovered your podcast last month and have to say that I have listened to a lot of half baked efforts to podcast about self publishing and am excited to finally find someone who has done it well. You two make a perfect team and are doing outstanding work. Keep up the good job.
    To add to your 2014 year in review, I would like to chime in on the discussion over the use of sound effects. Sound effects (I know this is old news, but I’m still catching up on the backlist of episodes). Sound effects are great if used right and not forced. If you have to dig for a sound effect after the moment has passed, then don’t do it. It just sounds forced and out of place. If you use a sound effect in a timely manner, then it can be funny and add a little something to the moment. The best example was Jim’s overuse of the turkey gobble throughout the dialogue. Bad timing and not funny. Now, if you would have opened the episode with a Happy Thanksgiving and a little gobble gobble to go with it, then perfect. But it just gets uncomfortable when you do it over and over. But by all means, don’t just give up on sound effects. The right one at the right time can be funny.
    Now on to 2015 predictions:
    I disagree with the idea of a Big 5 dying – but I am on board with one of them altering course and embracing real change. I feel they are much smarter than we give them credit for, they just happen to be very suborn and slow to change. One of the Big 5 will most definitely adapt to the changing market and they will profit greatly from it.
    My prediction for 2015 is based on an idea that Jim mentioned a few episodes back. He had thought of a mass consumption/subscription based way of releasing books much like Netflix and how they release all of their house produced episodes in full season lumps for binge watching. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for authors to develop and seize the moment (I happen to be working on my own series as we speak). I think a number of authors will launch something on this line and it could be a huge way to build an author platform.
    Releasing a full length, stand alone novel will still be done, but with Social Media becoming a pay to play type deal, I think finding new ways to build interest in an authors work will be important and doing something like subscription based, mass consumption reading, could become a great tool for building an author platform and email lists.
    Continue the great work you two. I enjoy the show a great deal and look forward to hearing you reach episode 52 (1 years worth of work)!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Jason! Good points on the sound effects ;). We appreciate having you as a listener.

  • Connie B. Dowell

    I predict some service to reach casual readers or indirect readers. (For genres like educational nonfiction or children’s literature, the buyers are often not the readers themselves but parents or teachers.) Perhaps Kookybub will fill the gap? πŸ˜‰

    Regardless, I think something is coming to reach these folks. I know if I had even an inkling of an idea of what to do, I’d be on it right now. There is a big need here.

  • Kim Smith

    I predict that in 2015 this podcast is going to have higher subscriptions than any other podcast on the Internet and will be able to host any of the big names in self-publishing that they want to. And Jim and Bryan’s individual endeavors will benefit successfully from their SMBS fame. Oh, and they likely are going to have at least two more live events this year.

    • Bryan

      Kim, you are too kind :).

  • I’m wondering how the whole Napster for books thing could even happen today. The music one was sued into oblivion. People still file share – music and books – illegally, but the whole idea of a central clearing house to manage illegal file sharing seems unlikely to me because…it’s illegal. Individuals might get away with breaking copyright law a little. But the bigger the target, the more likely it is to be burned down.

    • Bryan

      Well, the illegality didn’t stop Napster. Maybe it won’t stop its book successor. Who knows? Maybe Jim is totally off on this point :).

      • The illegality is what killed Napster. πŸ˜‰

        But it could always go differently with ebooks. What I am waiting for (not in a good way) is for the EU court to extend their software resale law to ebooks. It’s coming. Ebooks are clearly identified as software in the new VAT law – and you MUST be able to resell all software under EU law. That’s why Adobe and Microsoft went to subscription plans for their software – to prevent resale.

        Once ebooks are legal to resell in the EU, it’s going to get messy. Imagine big (legal) ebook resale clearing houses based in the EU? Yikes.

      • I don’t think the illegality will be why, but that the number of people who read A LOT is pretty low in comparison to music listeners. People listen to music all day long, day in, day out. And the people who can least afford it (youth) listen and collect the most. There are just not enough readers at that level to warrant an app or organized sharing site. IMO.

        People who are techie enough to steal books do it now. The popular ones are already out there. I’ll be honored when someone finds my book out there.

        From what I remember, Napster ‘pretended’ to not understand the laws so they could do a runaround them by creating a file sharing network vs a storage facility, thereby allowing them to claim ‘they were following the laws’ even when they knew they weren’t or played the technicality card.