Episode 92 – Consignment, Resolutions, and 2016 Predictions

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Question of the Week: What are your predictions for 2016? If your predictions come true, how will your author business change throughout the year?

It’s our best show of the year (so far)! After Jim responded to a counterpoint about his standby Amazon competition argument, and Bryan drew a winner for the book description giveaway, the astute authorpreneurs chatted KDP ads, BookBub’s new feature, and an audiobook ad trick. They also re-featured patron Crissy Moss and her book Witch’s Sacrifice ( http://bit.ly/witchsac ). News stories this week included how the publishing industry really works, the Authors Guild’s call for contract changes, Joe Konrath’s 2016 resolutions, the importance of used book stores, and several pundit predictions for 2016. This week’s Question of the Week: What are your predictions for 2016? If your predictions come true, how will your author business change throughout the year?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • A counterpoint to Jim’s argument on how retailers can compete with Amazon
  • The winner of the free book description
  • How to improve your KDP ads targeting
  • BookBub’s new feature to alert readers about releases
  • How to use free ads to increase audiobook sales
  • The reality of how trad pub authors earn money
  • What the Authors Guild is trying to change about trad pub
  • Joe Konrath’s resolutions for the last half-decade
  • Both sides of the used bookstore debate
  • Predictions for the upcoming year from multiple POVs
Question of the Week: What are your predictions for 2016? If your predictions come true, how will your author business change throughout the year?

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  • Michael La Ronn

    I think we’ll see social search become more prominent in publishing sector this year or early next. There’s evidence that more people are using social media like search engines, so if you have a lot of attractive native content on a social media platform, it will be good for you. Probably applies mostly to nonfiction authors, but it will open up another avenue to be discovered.

    If that happens, yippie for me and my channel! 🙂

  • Used Bookstores: It’s based on the First Sale Doctrine. Basically, when you purchase the physical copy of the book, you control it. You can lend it to your friends, resell it, burn it…whatever. you own the rights to the physical copy. So selling a used book to a bookstore is no different than selling your used shoes to a thrift shop. It has nothing to do with Profit or Non-profit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine

    Predictions? I think we’ll start to see Fragmentation of the e-book market, much like we’re seeing in streaming TV. Amazon’s monolith will begin to crack as they push the commodification of e-books. Authors will see less and less benefit to staying in Amazon’s eco-system and will seek out alternate distribution and marketing. With mobile getting more and more mainstreaming, I see the ability to sell my book in an integrated e-reader as an app as a needed resource.

  • Chris Shumate

    My prediction is that Google Play will finally get back into the mix of selling ebooks. I also predict they will struggle to maintain relevance into 2017, when they’ll start to be useful to authors. Hopefully, Google will become a world player in ebooks for those who are like me and are anti-Apple. Full disclosure, I’m only anti-Apple for device purposes. I have my ebook, and plan to have my future ones, listed there courtesy of a third-party aggregator.

    Jim must have a lookalike mahogany desk he’s sitting behind, smoking a pipe, and petting a hairless cat. He’s out of touch with the poor people listening to the SMBS. Never been to a used book store? I’m appalled. Only kidding, but I am shocked to hear neither of you had much of an idea how they work. Great places to go and sell or buy movies, games, and music–at least the big one in Knoxville. Much more than used books.

    Thanks for sharing such great information. I was surprised you didn’t cover the selling of Author Solutions that Passive Guy posted Tuesday. I assume it came out after you recorded.

    • I was wondering the same thing about the Author Solutions news, Chris, and wonder if it came out just after they’d recorded. I imagine that Bryan and Jim will end up talking about it via linking to some commentary about it.

      • Chris Shumate

        Thanks for replying @MarkLeslie:disqus! Maybe Jim will bring it up in the unofficial “Kukrants” segment. My opinion of Author Solutions is that it was simply PRH way of distancing themselves from the bad press AS received. Passive Guy pointed to David Gaughran’s statement yesterday that PRH is still in the vanity business.

        HarperCollins has Thomas Nelson which has Westbow Press which is known to be vanity publishing for Christian authors.

        The big publishers will still have their expensive author services even without the stigma of the name. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” or in this case “Author services by any other name would still rip people off.”

  • Chris Syme

    Predictions for 2016? I hate to be a doomsdayer but I think something life-altering will take place with Amazon that will winnow authors who are just toying with selling books or people that are reselling stolen blog content and selling it for 99 cents. It’s coming…maybe an author certification program or something, Who knows…it will involve payment.

    • Daniel Martone

      I don’t see how a certification program would really help that problem… I think what really needs to happen is that the penalties for copyright (flat out stealing content) infringement need to be harsher. Amazon would lose it’s control over the self-publishing world if it required something like that.

      • Chris Syme

        Daniel, you know I’m not sure any of that is the answer but I would guess there is going to be a change. Unless federal laws change, Amazon is not in charge of enforcing copyright infringement and I can’t imagine them being a champion for a cause that would require them to spend more money on people or developers that can put a net out for stolen content. I guess what I am really wondering is if Amazon will do anything to protect authors. What I meant by certification is that somehow I think Amazon may require another level of certification or validation to receive a higher royalty percentage. I think the only way to stop the crap, realistically, is just pull royalties down to zero for people who can’t prove they wrote what they are trying to publish. I don’t know, honestly. What would be a good solution that wouldn’t cost Amazon any money to enforce and would, in fact, make them more money in the long run? Maybe it’s not even on their radar. Does it go with the territory? Just as an example, one day I was searching through Amazon for “fake” books on how to write and publish ebooks. I came across a guy that had a few books on how to make money with ebooks and then he had three cookbooks. I read his author profile–no food background, claimed he was an entrepreneur. Cookbooks are the easiest thing to steal on the internet. Change recipe names, alter a couple ingredients, take out a few categories, change the wording. You could probably have a whole cookbook rewritten in a couple days. How is Amazon supposed to stop that?

        • Daniel Martone

          I know what you mean… obviously this is one of the issues that cause Google Play to shut its doors to new authors. I think in this digital age, it is simply going to get tougher to control piracy / copyright infringement. The music and film industries have both lost this battle, yet they do continue to make money. I know the cookbook market is probably one of the worst when it comes to theft… of course some of the claims of copyright infringement are bogus, brought about by authors who claim rights to recipes they never created in the first place (I’m a foodie and I love to cook, so I do a lot of experimenting)… but there are plenty that almost steal, verbatim, what someone else did. I could see Amazon creating a scanning algorithm that can look for this… maybe that becomes a possible solution. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Half Price Books has over 50 locations with about half in Texas. Most of their stock is purchased from individuals bring them into the store. A box of books will get you about $25 and they also buy records, CDs, or any other printed material. They also stock new releases. Whether they carry your book or not, they’ll let you host a book signing and some will have a local author section. While I don’t depend on them for any significant sales, I feel like I’m part of the book selling community.

  • Predictions for 2016… Hmmm. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see something happen with Google Play/Books (whether they fold or they surge) and more shenanigans from Amazon.

    As for used bookstores, you should totally go to one! They’re a lot of fun. Used bookstores get their inventory a number of ways. Estate sales. Garage Sales. Library book sales. My library takes book donations every year, turns around and sells the books to raise money, and used bookstore owners always show up and fight over the good books! My library almost called the cops on one guy this past year. You can sell your books to a used bookstore and they will turn around and sell them for a profit. There are lots of ways they get their stock. BUT as far as I know, publishers do not resell books that have had the covers ripped off. I’ve never seen one in a used bookstore.

    • Daniel Martone

      I really hope Google Play gets their act together… makes no sense for them not to have a major chunk of the ebook market.

      • With the amount of Droid phones and tablets on the market, it makes the most sense to really blow it out of the park with an awesome Google Books store. Right now, they’re floundering.

  • Spider McGee

    For a while in the ’80s, there was serious talk of used record stores having to pay a percentage of the resale price to the artist. This never happened, though, and the music industry soon had much bigger problems. The record companies (when there were such things) felt they weren’t making enough money on their music and tried to get paid from the same product twice. Again, they had no idea what was in store for them in the ’90s, when they were lucky to get paid *once*.

    Used books stores I can’t figure out. I’m glad they exist (though they don’t here, in rural East Texas), and I tend to spend time and money in them when I can…but I don’t know how they stay open. It doesn’t seem to be a money-making proposition. Even so, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered a used book by a writer I’ve never heard of and quickly was seeking out his other work online. That’s how I found Ross H. Spencer, one of the funniest and greatest mystery writers who ever lived. Used books are good for the book industry.

    Predictions for 2016? Sure.

    A vibrant and talented young writer (I won’t name him, but his initials may be “S.M.”) has a breakout year with his Amazon bestseller and is seen drinking single-malt scotch in the company of busty supermodels. Provided he can finish writing it, that is. Only 40,000 words to go!

    • Bryan

      Who is this mystery man?

      • Spider McGee

        I’m publishing Jim’s fiction under my own name. Mum’s the word, though.

  • jeffadamsnyc

    Used bookstores are awesome! As an author, I’d be thrilled if my book ended up in a used bookstore from a discoverability standpoint. Someone bought it once (which I would be paid for), now it has a chance to find someone else as a used book. Yeah, it’s resold and I don’t get a royalty… but if I hook the new owner they might buy one of my books new.
    As a reader, I love usedbook stores (and bookstores in general). Used bookstores are a great place to find some gem that’s out of print or find something I’ve never seen before. And, yes, if I get hooked on an author I’ve never read before, I’ll buy new works from them. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are three incredible used bookstores.
    Jim, I’m shocked you’ve never been in one! You should.

    For the QoW: I don’t know. It seems anything I’d say now, even if it came to pass it would change in a few months. The key is to stay agile and stay aware of what’s happening/likely to happen.

  • Joe Wocoski

    Predictions: 1. being an election year, Jim will write a best selling how to get elected using modern grassroots email an web media techniques, and turn it into a popular training course for future politicians friendly to indie authors and me. 2. For Halloween, Bryan will unexpectedly write a short funny futuristic YA story which will lead him to produce a new popular series of light hearted scifi books. Which I will enjoy reading 3. Traditional publishers will continue to make inroads into ebooks using amazon ads. Which means I have to continue to market my books 4. Indies increase using Facebook ads to keep ahead of traditional publishers on amazon, me too. 5. The number of ebooks on amazon will increase from 12,000,000 to 18,000,000+. More books and marketing for me. 6. Google search continues to become less friendly to indies and advertising on Google will become to expensive and less focused.
    7. Wal-Mart will expand into ebook publishing with a discount online book store to challenge amazon, at first people will laugh but it will quickly catch on next year.

    I will publish a book of short stories on kdp select, createspace and smashwords.

    Best wishes

    • Spider McGee

      Given Wal-Mart’s history, I wonder what it would and wouldn’t allow on its digital bookshelves. I know it’s not the same company it once was, but it might not be the go-to place for Bigfoot porn.

    • Bryan

      Ooh. I like the sound of this series I’m writing in the future :).

  • Thomas Diehl

    Aside about used bookshops: How else do you get out of print books?

    Now, for my two predictions:
    1. America will get a print-on-demand service that is not Amazon and actually gets books into bookstores. In all honesty, I am bewildered this is not available in the US, coming from a country that has a diverse range of print-on-demand services, some of them owned by major publishers with access to their distribution networks.
    2. I disagree about mobile. 2016 will imho be the year mobile as we know it starts to decline. Smartwatches are going to replace smartphones, making them obsolete and cumbersome machines in comparison. Because the size of screen on smartwatches is very limited, some parts of the mobile business will suffer for it. In return, tablets and convertible laptoops will resurge for uses that are more comfortable to use on a larger screen, such as reading, video, and gaming. On the other hand, some markets such as audiobooks will do great on smartwatches.

    What I will do: I, too, am gearing up to get into the audiobook business.

    • Thomas – I agree with your 1st prediction, with a caveat that it’s already true and has been for several years. There are already dozens of bookstores that have POD capability. Many of them are independently owned or managed bookshops. Here’s a map of locations of the Espresso Book Machine (I used to run one in Canada a few years back – the machine gives access to print from a catalog of several million titles and takes about 15 minutes) – http://ondemandbooks.com/ebm_locations.php

      • I saw one (espresso) in Pasadena the other day. The store even had classes for local authors to help them get self-published (covers, editing, etc.).

        As for a service that’s pod and not amazon, the problem is still that bookstores don’t generally want to stock or our books because they don’t sell. Even most trad pubbed books only get a short life in the stores, with 1-2 copies in every 2nd store.

        • I agree with you, Roland. Stores have to make business decisions and will only stock books they know will sell. Which does make it hard to get them to stock your titles unless you already have a good track record or a relationship with them.

          When I ran my own EBM, for every client who set titles up via the machine, if the book was one I believed we could sell to our customer base, I’d print an extra copy and keep it on the shelves advertising samples from the machine, but then advertised via digital media and signage that we ALWAYS had stock (virtual stock) of certain local author titles — ie, if we didn’t have one on the shelf, we could have it in 15 minutes) — I’d love to see more bookstores take advantage of such opportunities to support local authors and increase their ability to supply more titles than they could possibly afford to keep in stock……

    • Daniel Martone

      I think the Wearables are going to die out over the next year… They are an added expense / accessory that still depends on the connectivity of your smartphone. Very few actually can connect without going through your smartphone to get online… you can’t really text with them effectively… they’re not comfortable to wear… the only one I’d consider is that crazy calorie counting watch, if it actually worked (which is highly debatable).

  • Sorry guys, but I actually thought, for the first minute or two of your discussion regarding used book stores, that you were joking. Finally, Bryan was on to something when he suggested that they might work like used record stores. People bring in their used books and sell them at a low price to the owners (or trade them in for credit to buy more books), the owners mark them up and you’re done. They have always served the purpose of allowing avid readers who either can’t afford books or buy so many that they’d not be able to eat, access to lots of books and discovering new authors.

    It’s really no different than any other used store or antique shop or whomever deals in used goods. Someone brings in an item, the store gives them X $$ for it. Then the store marks that up and sells it to another consumer for X+Y $$.

    Authors have never made any money off used book sales, which can be painful when you take a short-term look at it, but it’s not all that different than books being in libraries or friends giving friends copies of books. Looking at it long picture, it’s yet another way for an author to be discovered and gain more readers. People who read used books still talk about the books they’ve read, which can influence other people to buy the book. So long-live used book stores.

    Predictions for 2016?

    Global ebook sales continue to grow. The US, Canada and the UK saw huge growth in the eBook market 3 years ago and that growth, while still positive, is in smaller numbers. But growth in global markets . Kobo Writing Life authors stats from 2015 show that RoW (Rest of World) – basically, the markets that are outside the 16 major localized territories that Kobo merchandises in (US, UK, CAN, AUS, NZ, IT, DE, FR, SP, NL, IN, ZE, IE, etc, etc) are seeing the most growth and usually represent within the top 5 territories that they are selling in (Canada and Australia are typically the first two) — we’re seeing no slowing down of that growth, so that’s an easy one.

    And I’m also with Joanna Penn in the belief that mobile/smartphone and smaller personal devices are another area where growth will continue. (Hand-in-hand, of course, with the global growth as, in non Western nations, many people skipped desktop and laptop computers and went straight to mobile devices for personal communication and browsing the internet.

    Oh, and flying cars. It’s 2016 already. Where the heck are the flying cars we were promised? (Er, since this is about books/publishing, I should add: flying cars that have amazing dictation “OnStar” style technology built in so that writers can write while driving, to go along with the great Apple/Google enabled cars we’re already seeing to make listening to audio books, and podcasts like this one easier)

    • Daniel Martone

      I keep seeing a video from some company that is developing a flying car… cool concept.

    • Bryan

      Yeah. The used book store thing was definitely my brain fart. FLYING CARS! Good predictions :).

    • Eddie Jakes

      Authors usually make money from sales to distributors anyway don’t they? That whole process baffles me.

      • The book industry can be baffling. 🙂

        Within the print book world, distributors are usually the third parties who stock books in warehouses (usually from multiple publishers to maximize efficiency) and distribute them to bookstores. They make money taking a cut of the retail price. ROUGH NUMBERS: IE, publisher provides book to distributor for 50% to 60% off retail. Distributor provides book to bookstore for $40 to 50% of the retail price.

        AGAIN, really rough numbers to illustrate the “pie”
        – Book Retail Price (Set by Publisher): $10.00
        – Distributor pays publisher: $5.00
        – Bookstore pays distributor: $6.00
        – Bookstore sells book at retail price: $10.00
        – Author gets: $0.80 to $2.00 / unit sold (8% to 20%)
        (All books that don’t sell after 90 days/6 months go back to distributor and back to publisher)

        So, yes, authors make money when their publisher sells the book through distributors.

        Distributors are also known, sometimes, as wholesalers. Ingram is the world’s largest wholesale book distributor in the world. Pretty much any bookstore in North America can order from Ingram, which not only has over half a million titles in stock, but also has POD facilities that are as good as having all those POD titles in stock.

        (Sorry, have been working in the book industry for almost 25 years – and I get excited talking about this stuff)

        • Bryan

          Thanks, Mark! We get excited when you talk about it too :).

    • Crissy Moss

      Exactly this! Someone bought that book, and then they sold it to the used book store for a small amount that they use on buying more books.

      Most used book stores mostly sell lots of popular books in genres (which probably already made the author a tidy sum) and a bunch of random books from different genres and non fiction. The people who go there either can’t afford a lot of brand new books, or they read A LOT and want some of the books cheaper. I also go there because I refuse to pay $20 for a brand new paperback because it was traditionally published. It’s ridiculous.

      Used book stores are no more bad for authors then Goodwill is bad for Nike.

  • Daniel Martone

    2 predictions.
    1. That Facebook will begin testing an online bookstore… not sure if it will be open or curated at first. Hopefully it will turn into a full blown ebook / audiobook market.
    2. There will be a serious increase in affiliate and direct sales from authors. I think we’ll start seeing a lot more sites pop up that curate books and earn their money from affiliate commissions that also allow the buyer to choose which store they will purchase from… and we’ll see a lot more direct from author sales.

  • Prediction for 2016: I’ve seen an increase in trad pub ads on eBook mailing lists (BookBub, BookSends, etc…). I think this will only increase in 2016, making it both more expensive and harder to get the ad approved in the first place for indie authors. This once again points to the need for indies to prioritize building out their own mailing lists.

  • Regarding the point Jim made where phones or tablets are even in the hands of people in third world countries: Actually, they are way AHEAD of first world countries in mobile adoption and have much better networks than we have here in the United States, since they aren’t wedded to decades old technologies that are already in place. Third world countries, especially in Africa, are seeing huge growth in high speed mobile networks, feeding for the most part mobile devices that are cheap and readily available as many of the people who live in those countries do not have computers and do most of their network access on their mobile devices.

    And for most of the used book stores that I’ve been in, which I used to frequent all the time in the 90s but probably haven’t been in for 10 or 15 years, they usually got their books either from buying them from customers for store credits (often at about 25% of what they would sell the book for) or buy in bulk from estate sales and other places where the owners can find good deals on a lot of books at once. The only exception to that and my most recent experience is from my sister in law, who used to work at a used book store in Boston…but they had a high end clientele and would go to auctions and private sales for rare used books that they could then resell for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Next time I talk to her I’ll ask what they did for their non-3rd-floor book sales as she rarely spoke about those, being the person who only dealt with those rare and high priced books.

    My prediction for 2016 is a little different than what was said on the show regarding Amazon and KDP…I don’t think it’s going to change a lot this year. There may be small tweaks here and there, but I expect the next big change to the program to come in 2017.

    My personal prediction is that I’m going to make more of an effort to work on my own properties. I bought Damien, Bryan and Mark’s courses last year and am looking forward to working through them, but the last 2 or 3 years I’ve been working pretty much solely on client books and I need to get back to my intellectual property.

  • Bryan

    As always, you folks rock. I’m having trouble keeping up with all the great predictions! Keep ’em coming :).

  • therealcromar

    QOTW: Somebody will figure out a way to make a lot of money from the romance and erotica markets. The buyers and sellers have both been getting the runaround from Amazon and other services, but the market is ravenous and happy to spend money to get their fix. Somebody with some guts needs to come along and solve that problem. The authors are particularly unhappy with Amazon’s byzantine rules and weak payout structure for short stories. I think someone will come along and solve this problem.

  • I think the disagreement with Jim is different than what you guys are talking about. Jim has said several times over the years that (paraphrasing, of course) that if ______ only made things easy for authors, had a sweet dashboard, and paid authors great royalties, that authors would flock there and things would take off, challenging Amazon, but none of that matters much to readers.

    Readers don’t know or care about any of that. They just want a big catalog and good reading experience. Sure, authors need to put their books in there, but smashwords and D2D do all that, so books can get into any of these places already.

    If someone makes things amazing for the reader and moves books, authors will put up with a lot of crap to get their books in that system.

    When things get big enough on these other platforms, and books outside of Amazon start to make authors as much money as does KDP Select, authors will leave that program.

  • 2016 Prediction – I think a non-Amazon platform will try to become the place to go for good indie ebooks, like indie record stores and bookstores do, today. If it’s good enough, maybe they will have their own programs to challenge KDP Select.

  • Spider McGee

    Google could be that challenge to Amazon. All they need is the will. How about every search for an author or a book turns up Google’s e-book platform? It could be very easily done. Seriously. I think they’re up to something with that thing they just bought, Oyster. Didn’t I have a crappy Virgin Mobile phone named that about 10 years ago?

    Google and Amazon are gonna own everything anyway. It’s like Alien vs. Predator.

    • Spider McGee

      I did! My garbage 2006 Virgin Mobile Oyster Phone. Still…probably sold better than Amazon’s Fire Phone. Ouch.

  • Amar Vyas

    In India fortune tellers usually read the palm of the hand or have a parrot who picks up a piece of paper that has the future written in a cryptic language. So I am going to be my own parrot and pick up one or two predictions from a pile of predictions.

    a. Consolidation of non-print book publishers/ platforms (you can pick the combination of your choice)

    b. The first e-book provider to offer content in regional (non English languages; non-latin font) will conquer the next bastion of ebook market.

    Coming to used books- they have been around forever in India- people typically sell books to them for half or one third the price, or even sell them to the water paper/scrap vendor. Works mostly for textbooks and other academic journals, etc. (saw that in the US during my grad school days too). This is closely followed by fiction. The books are aggregated by wholesalers, and then sold back during exhibits/ weekly markets, etc. by the Kilo (or pound if you prefer). Depending on the market, the rate could be 50 Rs a Kilo (i.e. 75 us cents a kilo or 33 cents a pound) to 200 Rupees a kilo (or 1.35 dollars a pound). as seen in the picture attached- taken in Bangalore on December 26th, 2015

    What does that mean for authors?
    They can either look it as a lead generator, or a marketing ‘expense’ with hard to predict ROI. For example: Jeffery Archer novels are among the highest sold ‘aftermarket’ books in India. And guess who ranks number 1 on Amazon/ Flipkart when their new novel is released?

  • Crissy Moss

    My prediction is it will be harder and harder to tell indie from traditional, and book stores will start carrying self published books.

  • htmljenn

    I finally got a chance to hear this episode. And one thing I think seems to be missing from the used book discussion is that the argument that used book sales help authors in “non-monetary” fashion is EXACTLY the same argument that cheap editors use to try to get authors to write for free. EXPOSURE.

    As Bryan said, this isn’t something you can control. But the point of the article that started the discussion was that authors shouldn’t promote used book stores. And I think her point was well made. Authors don’t make any remuneration from used book sales that can be used to pay the rent or buy groceries. I’m not opposed to used bookstores at all, but authors shouldn’t see them as a way of helping their growth, and if you have a choice between promoting a used book store or a new book store, you should promote the new book store.

    • Bryan

      Great point, Jenn :). Thanks for the comment.

  • I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. I’d like to make a bold prediction. That one of the big five goes down. Suffering from mahogany desk syndrome, one of them folds. We won’t see it coming until it’s already too late. Maybe next November or something, and down it goes. They’ll go from we’re coming into the Christmas season strong to we’re laying off 90% and going into survival mode… before they go out. (But not before all the execs get huge payoffs and yachts.)

  • Wendy Clark

    You guys should hit up Powell’s if you ever come to Portland. City of Books! It’s the ultimate used bookstore, with a rare books room + beautiful and cheap used books + new stuff + author events, coffee shop, etc. It’s a book-lover’s destination.