Episode 91 – 2015: The Year in Review

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Question of the Week: What do you think was the biggest news story of 2015? How did it make a major impact on indie publishing?

A new year is upon us as Jim and Bryan creep closer to the show century mark! After Bryan announced his temporary course opening ( https://www.sellingforauthors.com/lastchance ) and Jim announced his AMC Lifetime Membership contest winner, they went on with the show. Michael La Ronn and his YouTube channel Author Level Up is the latest show patron (check it out at http://www.authorlevelup.com ) and the dazzling duo is giving him and all the other patrons some awesome new bonuses!
With hankies in hand, Bryan and Jim discussed memories of 2015 and some of their favorite tips, including author branding, virtual assistants, and paid advertising. The trends of the year included trading places, cracking down, indie statistics, the KU-pocalypse, and multiple major indie success stories. This week’s Question of the Week (the final one of 2015!) is: What do you think was the biggest news story of 2015? How did it make a major impact on indie publishing?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How to get a hold of Bryan’s course at 2015 prices
  • Who won Jim’s big AMC Lifetime Membership contest
  • What new perks Bryan and Jim are offering on Patreon
  • Why a high-concept author brand is so important
  • The importance of hiring a virtual assistant
  • How Facebook and Amazon ads have become so important
  • Who has traded places in the publishing world in 2015
  • What companies and individuals cracked down in 2015
  • How Author Earnings opened our eyes last year
  • The impact of KU and the pages read system
  • How many indie success stories showed us the path forward
Question of the Week: What do you think was the biggest news story of 2015? How did it make a major impact on indie publishing?

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  • Michael La Ronn

    Great show and great year, guys. My choice isn’t the sexiest topic, but it’s the VATMOSS and the tax trends that are happening around the globe with authors having to absorb the taxes instead of the reader. While it’s not going to put any indies out of business, 2015 was an important year as more countries are going to start doing it and it will affect our bottom lines. And then we’ll all be proper businessowners, having to worry about sales tax rates. πŸ™‚

    • Bryan

      Ah yes. VATniss Everdeen. How could I have forgotten?!

    • Funny though, my income doubled this year in the UK since putting a couple of my smaller series in KU 2.0 I think us Brits like a pseudo-freebie πŸ™‚ Also, my sales in all the EU countries, tiny though they are, have increased.

      • Michael La Ronn

        It will definitely be interesting to see what unfolds as time unfolds. Nice to hear your earnings went up in spite of the VAT. Can’t argue with that!

      • Bryan

        Good stuff!

  • One of the biggest stories was that while traditional publishing continued to rail against Amazon’s monopoly/monopsony, it wasn’t a big story. Consider how big the similar story was in 2014 involving Hachette, special snowflakes, etc. In 2015, Indies yawned at the allegations and kept writing/publishing.

    • Bryan

      Agreed. That was very good to experience this past year :).

  • Patrick Stemp

    QOTW: I think the big news for me was seeing the success of Andy Weir’s The Martian being put up on the big screen. I can’t think of another example of a self-published author having that happen up to now? Also nice to see Blake Crouch get Wayward Pines made into a TV show, but Weir is the big winner in 2015 I think. Fantastic achievement and something positive to aspire to!

  • My personal big news was Mark Dawson’s Facebook ads course and Michael La Ronn’s You Tube channel. Mark made me try FB adverts again, and test methodically (I gave up last year after a short but good run with FB ads) And Michael taught me that I AM the kind of writer who can learn dictation using Dragon after all. I just needed his video and the inclination to try.

    The big news outside my personal space was KU 2.0 That caused me to lose my audio income, which in turn made me take Mark Dawson’s course in order to reverse my fortunes. Audio boxed sets followed pushed by FB ads, and I’m BACK! πŸ™‚

    I haven’t written enough this year. So 2016 is a year of production again. I need to get at least two books out including paper and audio versions. Wish me luck πŸ™‚


    • Michael La Ronn

      Thanks for the kind words, sir! That’s awesome that Facebook ads have been working out for you. Good luck writing your next books, too.

    • Bryan

      Can’t wait to watch this channel :).

  • I think the biggest news (collectively) is the lengths and slight of hand that traditional publishing is going through to try to keep themselves looking good.

    NY Times changing the rules so that paperbacks don’t make the list
    Trad pub claiming that ebook sales are down when it’s only THEIR ebook sales that are down
    Spinning the drop in ereader DEVICE sales to make is seam that ebook sales are down
    Trad publishers bumping their ebook prices to push paper book sales over ebook sales

    • Bryan

      Yeah. You know Jim wouldn’t have liked talking about this though, so I left it out ;).

  • I also think it’s good news (long term) that trad pub is using some of the same strategies as indies. The more traditionally published books have a 99 cent or free first in series, the less we stand out as ‘lesser authors.’ πŸ˜‰

    • Bryan

      Yes. Good long-term for sure.

  • Chris Shumate

    Since I’m a children’s book writer with one book published and more coming in 2016, my opinion of the biggest news story was The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin. It’s an indie book originally published in 2011 that got a traditional deal. I wouldn’t be surprise if someone is working on a line of stuffed animals and other merchandise to capitalize on the book.

    This story was carried by CBS, The Guardian, and many other outlets. It wasn’t just news in the indie blogosphere, but it hit sections of mainstream media.

    It gives me a sense of hope that if I write a picture well enough that I too could change the landscape of children’s writing. Why can’t I be the new Carl-Johan, or why can’t anyone else who listens to the SMBS?

    • Bryan


  • Here is a fantastic article by Chris McMullen posted on Dan Padavona’s blog about the KDP Advertising. It’s detailed and informative, as Chris has done a lot of experimenting.


    • Thanks for this.

    • Bryan

      Agreed. Might have to use this next week.

  • For me the biggest story was the influx of authors becoming exclusive to Amazon through KU. Amazon has been very, very good to me from the very beginning of my publishing career and continues to be. Being in KU and getting paid for page reads has been a nice bonus. I’ve seen a lot of other big name indies in my genre opt in KU. I do think that authors need to look at KU as option and not the entire picture. Getting paid for page reads alone does not a livelihood make. The ultimate goal is still to sell your books.
    The adult coloring book craze kind of makes me mad only because I was coloring well into my 20s as a stress reliever. If I only knew then, I could have made a fortune. LOL!
    Thanks for all the great info and tips. You guys definitely have me looking at my marketing differently. Happy New Year!

    • Bryan

      Definitely a big story. Thanks, Alison! You too!

  • therealcromar

    IMO, the biggest story in the long run is the NYT altering its rules to exclude more self published books from the list. I think self publishing will soon hit a spilling point where people can see popular self-pubbed authors everywhere, and with that will come the questions: why doesn’t the NYT list reflect what I’m seeing on the ground floor? Before we would have to answer that question with a long explanation about Nielsen book scans, corruption, nepotism, and mahogany desk syndrome, but now we can just hand them a news link.

    Imagine you know nothing about traditional media and you stumble on this story; why, you ask yourself, does the NYT change the criteria the instant a self-pubbed book hits the list? Why do they have criteria at all? Isn’t it based on sales figures? From there you’d go down the rabbit hole until you understand the war being waged in the industry between old and new, and suddenly the gatekeepers lose all of the prestige and social proof you used to assign to them. I think this effect will be most profound with aspiring authors who are more likely to research the issue, but heavy readers will also have their eyes opened, and that means more business for us.

    I picture this story as a weapon we can keep holstered until the moment is right. In a few years, the question “Wait, are you saying the NYT Bestseller List isn’t a bestseller list?” will be the self-publishing entry point for many, many people on both sides of the pen.

    Also, I’d like to make a prediction for the biggest news story of 2016: Google launches self publishing platform to compete with Amazon. Jim Kukral picked as VP of books. You heard it here first.

    • I agree with the NYT changes being a big deal.

      To play devil’s advocate, many of the indie books that have ‘made the list’ in the past were through creative tactics like multi-author kindle box sets, etc. Many of them have been via manipulation and mailing lists, etc. (Not that trad pub doesn’t pull it’s own tricks, of course.)

      I can’t argue that they aren’t anti-indie anyway, but a lot of the ‘mahogany desk’ types really, honestly think most indie authors are crap, true or not. Yes, there are a lot who are out to protect the status quo, but not all are out to screw indies. They may just be trying to protect what they think of as a good system. A filter system that helps to insure that books meet certain standards.

      There are several podcasts and blogs which openly dismiss indies, yet have some indie authors as friends and guests. I think there’s a lot of the ‘some of my best friends are indies’ attitude, but many honestly believe that most indies are still bad and/or unpolished writers who haven’t spent enough time behind a keyboard and collecting rejections.

      It’s not always insidious, sometimes they are just wrong.

    • Bryan

      Yeah. Pretty nuts.

      Kukral for VP of Books!

    • Daniel Martone

      Like the publishing industry, the NYT is a sinking ship… a relic from the last century who’s relevance in every aspect (news, politics, entertainment), is quickly vaporizing before their ink stained fingers. πŸ™‚

  • Daniel Martone

    The saddest story has been Google’s reluctance to re-enter the, open to all authors, ebook market. With the number of android devices out there, it has been a blow to the Amazon competition advocates… which I count myself as one of… Here’s to hoping that Zuck brings FB into the game… that could be the big story of 2016.

    • Bryan

      Agreed. Get it together, Google!

      I’d be interested in FB really going full into the e-commerce game. They’ve already changed their ad minimum because of authors :).