Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Melee continues ...

About IndieReader and The Vault over on Writer Beware. The Podpeople have already voiced our individual opinions on the matter and wish both sites and the authors choosing to invest in them the best of luck.

Edited to add: Nothing Binding's information has been moved to its own post.

All commentary related to this thread will be restricted to informational dialog only. Further inflammatory, tainted, or baited comments will be deleted and the thread will be closed.

We here at The Podpeople appreciate open communication, and we thank you in advance for respecting our site.

27 comments:

Shannon Yarbrough said...

Another one? My goodness! These writer and reader communities are almost as rampant as MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I do like what he pointed out about the small number of decision makers deciding what we read and how less and less of us are listening. Amen to that! It's exactly why I've never cracked a JK Rowling book to this day and never will.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Agreed. A zillion places to list your Indie book, all of them with the same marketing platform, and yet each individual in what they say they offer.

But whenever money changes hands between author and service providor, speculation ensues with regard to ethics and integrity. It's bound to happen. One side will say it's just marketing dollars, although if it's well spent marketing dollars that remains to be seen, and the other side will say it's extortion.

Until we get valid statistics as to how effective these listing sites are via how many Indie books actually get picked up by the mainstream, I can't in all honesty take a side. So I won't. Daily, I get at least 4 or 5 emails from book marketing companies all promising mainstream exposure, but how many Indie authors have seen that sort of success in the last few years? Few. There are some, but it's a very low percentage compared to how many Indie authors are publishing books. The truth, those authors who saw success hired PR firms and worked their asses off for exposure.

For an Indie author to expect a mere listing site to bring them notice is very naive. There are a ton of places to use viral marketing to sell your book. I always suggest that as a first effort before putting out any marketing dollars.

Indie authors just need to be savvy. that's all. Not that these sites are scams. I don't think they are, and their hearts are in the right place, but again, the value remains to be seen and there is risk involved with any business venture. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. They will walk the hot coals for a while, no doubt about it.

April L. Hamilton said...

Actually, NothingBinding doesn't offer the same sort of recognition as the Publetariat Vault, and neither does Indiereader. The Vault is not a listing service, peer review site, showcase site, community for authors, readers or publishers, nor a curated bookstore. The Vault is a totally new paradigm in trade publishing acquisitions, and maybe that's why so many people don't seem to understand it. Let me begin with the reasons why I built the Vault.

Self-publishing is exploding, partly as a result of authors' frustration with the gatekeeper system. Occasionally a self-published book becomes so successful that it becomes newsworthy, at which point the rights are easily sold to a mainstream publisher because the book is a proven quantity, the closest thing to a sure thing they will ever see. Publishers would rather acquire the rights before such a book breaks through, when it's trending positively but not yet on competitors' radar, but there's never been a way for them to identify such books.

Many self-published authors have self-published specifically in order to prove themselves and their work worthy of mainstream attention—but their books are lost in the sea of the internet. There are plenty of positive-trending self-published books out there, but publishers can't easily find them.

So - I've designed, built and launched the Publetariat Vault to bridge this gap. The Vault is a searchable database of self-published books for which the author still owns all rights free and clear, and is interested in selling those rights. Instead of passively waiting around for a manuscript that suits their needs to come in from gatekeepers, and then risking huge quantities of time and money developing and releasing a product they can only hope will succeed, acquisitions pros who use the Vault can approach their task proactively and locate books that are already succeeding because the Vault provides all the usual catalog information, plus actual sales figures, author platform, publicity and reader review data. There is no other site or service that provides the same level of searchability, nor as complete a market picture of both the book and author, because there is no other site or service built for this specific purpose.

To quote Laura Hazard Owen's reaction, "pretty cool--like eBay for rights?" Yes, exactly like.

I know it's a viable idea, because a similar service already exists for spec screenplays, The Inktip Executive Index, and it's been very successful for screenwriters and producers alike for years even though it exists right alongside a traditional gatekeeper acquisitions system in that industry. (cont’d in a 2nd post, to address the fee issue)

April L. Hamilton said...

I've taken a sound thrashing from Mike Cane and JM Reep because regular Vault listings will cost $10 per 30 days (following an initial, free 30-day trial period), as they seem to think I’m a scam artist trying to get rich quick off the naivete of authors. This, despite the fact that the first 300 Vault listings will be free for 90 days after the Vault opens for searches, all renewals are month-to-month (no minimum subscription period, no big fee upfront), and any listing can be cancelled at any time. If this is a get-rich-quick scheme, I'm clearly going about it all wrong.

What they don't seem to be taking into account is the fact that self-published authors who've published in an effort to prove themselves and their books worthy of mainstream publisher attention already spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a throw pursuing that attention. Whether with a splashy website, attendance at publisher conferences and pitch-fests, mailing out quantities of their books for reviews, or investing in outside publicity and advertising services, those authors are already investing heavily in activities that---unfortunately---aren't very likely to raise their visibility where mainstream publishers are concerned until or unless they've got a breakout hit. This is because there are thousands of indie authors doing these same things, and tens of thousands of indie books on the net, and nobody in mainstream publishing is actively scouting for those authors or books---it's too big and inefficient a job.

The Vault creates a single, centralized repository where acquisitions people can easily search for indie books that meet their specific content criteria, then click through to view the full listing and see how the book is performing in terms of sales and reader reactions.

Emily Veinglory: said...

I would have to agree that $120 a year is, IMHO, steep. The time may come where it is shown to be worthwhile investment for some authors but I would admit to skepticism give the modest sales of authors outside the freakishly successful few.

April L. Hamilton said...

Emily -
Those who fear their sales are too modest to cause publishers to prick up their ears probably wouldn't want to list in the Vault, because they're probably not doing much to actively promote their work. You don't have to have hugely impressive sales, though. After all, the idea is for publishers to find books that are trending well but have not yet broken out, and those publishers know self-pub books are at a disadvantage in terms of mainstream promo and publicity.

A book that only moves a handful copies a month but has lots of great reader reviews, buzz and a fabulous author platform is worth a second look, as is a book that reliably sells hundreds of copies a month but has few reviews and little author platform to speak of.

RE: $120, it's only $120 if you keep renewing every month for a whole year. There's no minimum listing period, and there's no big upfront fee. Besides that, authors who get in on the grand opening promo offer won't be asked to pay a single cent for their listings until around Halloween. If they still don't want to pay, they can cancel. But if they do renew the listing at regular rates, they'll get an additional 30 days free at the beginning of the listing period, just like all regular Vault listings.

Finally, as I said above, a Vault listing is an investment in getting mainstream attention for a book; it's not your usual promo activity or expense. And any author who's already attending pitch fests & publisher conferences, sending out review copies and paying for outside promo help in order to attract mainstream attention will find $10 per 30 days is MUCH less than any other activity they can undertake to get mainstream attention.

When I sent out 20 review copies of one of my novels (in the hopes of building readership, not attracting a publisher), I was out over $200 in one week and ended up with nothing to show for it but a brief mention on one website. We're talking a *phrase*, not even a whole sentence about the book.

If authors who want mainstream attention look at where they're already spending their money on the effort---and how little return they're getting on the investment---I think they'll find the Vault is an absolute bargain by comparison.

Ann Somerville said...

"the idea is for publishers to find books that are trending well but have not yet broken out"

Anyone know which publishers have such a small slush pile, they're driven to ransack lists of self-pub books? I mean, other than vanity publishers?

Don't suppose I'll get an answer any more than I did the last time I tried to find out.

Nothing Binding is such a worthy idea, I wish it would be all that it claims it can be - but purely as a consumer and reader, it's suffering from the same fault as a lot of author promo sites, blogs and lists. It's aimed at *authors*. It's authors chatting to each other, trying not to smell too badly of desperation. As a *reader*, I'm looking for reviews (and I know they offer reviews, but reviews on a site for authors are as reliable as reviews on a publisher site, i.e. not), I'm looking for discussion with other readers, I'm looking for ways to know from someone not selling something that the products on offer are any good.

Authors can't sell to readers if they're facing other authors. None of these listing sites are hooking *readers*.

Now if NB were acting as an organiser to collect suitable works to send out to reviews and reader lists, and promoting that way, then they could really do some good. What self-pubbed authors need is not someone standing in place of a publisher, but as an agent/marketing assistant. Just offering to vet stuff and list it isn't doing *more* than I can do myself. Speaking for myself, I need someone/an organisation who can use the muscle to get attention from reviewers, consumer groups and so on. Be someone who can say to the big review sites/magazines or whatever that here is this novel or anthology, and we can guarantee it's properly edited and doesn't suck in the basics, and be believed.

I guess what self-pubbed authors need is a union. Which would be like herding cats :)

Shannon Yarbrough said...

I don't think the $120 price tag on a year of the vault is that bad. I'd probably have to see some success from others come out of it first before I invested in it myself, but that's just me. Kudos to April for at least offering it free for the first 300 to try to drum up some interest.

We all know the POD industry is expensive across the board whether your investing in a $900 publishing package at Xlibris or $200 dollars in review copies. Your chances of investing that money in lottery tickets or playing a slot machine has better odds at winning than gaining success in self-publishing. It's a chance you take either way. Most others don't have that kind of income laying around, which is why they sell less than 1.5 copies and then give up.

So, the Vault may not be for everyone. And as far as its success goes....time will tell. At least April is working hard and bringing another service to the community for those authors who can afford its services.

April L. Hamilton said...

Ann -
You didn't get an answer last time because the thread was shut down before I could respond to you.

As I've posted in response to the same concern at Self-Publishing Review:

Pros are not even able to register for site membership yet, so how can I provide a list of such members? I do have a lengthy list of pros who’ve expressed interest via email or tweet and several who’ve signed up to register even though their registrations won’t be processed till the Vault has 300 listings, but it’s premature to publish such a list.

I suspect that to do so would only draw more fire anyway, since some suspicious critic or other would no doubt decry this as misleading since no one on that list is actually registered to use the Vault yet.

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Damned if I even try to do, apparently. =’/

I don't expect this to clear up everyone's concerns, just on my say-so, but what more can I do or say at this point? Nothing. Remain dubious if you like, it's your right. But when the Vault opens for searches I will be posting a list of registered pros and it will be regularly updated, so why not reserve your judgments and assumptions till then?

April L. Hamilton said...

Ann -
One more thing...the Vault is far more appealing to pros than a slush pile, because a slush pile isn't searchable and doesn't contain books that are already published and performing in the marketplace.

It takes a LONG time to go through a slush pile, and if you find anything you like there, it's STILL an unproven quantity. Since the Vault is a searchable database that contains actual sales figures, reader reviews, author platform pieces and more, it's FAR more appealing to pros than a slush pile. In fact, several with whom I've corresponded have said that if they find quality stuff in the Vault, they'll redirect at least some of the time they currently spend on slush---or more accurately, that their interns spend on slush---searching the Vault instead.

It's a no-brainer: hours slogging through slush vs. minutes searching the Vault.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Actually, Nothing Binding, Indie Reader, and The Vault do offer the same thing: in broad strokes, that thing is exposure. The targets may be different, but the principle is the same: You list your book with us, and we will provide this "specific" targeted exposure. Obviously, the specifics vary from site to site.

I compared your site more to Authonomy than to Nothing Binding. Authonomy is a listing service that claims to provide acquisition recognition. Slightly different platform with the voting thing, but still, Harper editors are supposedly looking. Your site will operate much the same, without the silly voting, add some sales figures, and hopefully, more Acquisitions Editors from a wider variety of industries.

We understand April. The Vault is an acquisitions model sans the agents. Indie Reader is a bookseller model with "vetting." Nothing Binding is a marketing model with social networking. It all still amounts to exposure.

No one is arguing that or the gatekeeper issue. Not here anyway. What is being argued is whether or not each of the three models will work as intended, and are they worth the cost. The marketing hype is the same for all three sites: We can get your work looked at. That is what you are offering? Right? The who, what, how, and the cost might be different, but that’s the bottom line, and I like it. I am all for new models. I am all for gatekeepers. I am all for Anarchy, good grammar, and stories people want to read. I am an Indie myself.

However, I, personally, cannot pass judgement until I see some stats. I am an analytical girl, what can I say. I have renewed my consumer reports subscription religiously, every year for the last 15 years.

April L. Hamilton said...

"However, I, personally, cannot pass judgement until I see some stats. I am an analytical girl, what can I say."

This is entirely reasonable and fair. I'm an analytical girl, and I like evidence, too. =')

Ann Somerville said...

"You didn't get an answer last time because the thread was shut down before I could respond to you."

April, you know that's a lie. I asked you which publishers had shown an interest in your site and you did indeed reply:

"Ann, given that you have a bad opinion of virtually everyone whose path you cross online, I feel I’m in good company and trust that anyone at all familiar with you will take your remarks in the spirit in which they’re intended: inflammatory for the sake of being inflammatory. "

And that's all you said. So, plenty of chance to answer the question, and you responded with abuse.

I notice that you still haven't answered the question, yet you claimed on the previous discussion:

“I’m already getting interest from both publishers and authors”

All I want is some names. Which companies have shown interest? Because everyone I've read who actually works in the business says that the idea of publishers looking for self-pubbed books is complete nonsense. I have books with small presses, even one which has taken up a self-pubbed book of mine but I had to send the publisher that book. Small presses owners are time-poor. They barely have time to read direct submissions. They don't have time to go looking for stuff. I know the epresses don't either, and as for New York, well, we know about the slush pile.

So other than Publish America and the like which actively solicit authors to submit to them because of their, uh, dishonest business practices, what kind of publisher goes looking for books? I really want to know this.

"it’s premature to publish such a list."

No, it's really not. One or two names, big players?

"Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Damned if I even try to do, apparently. =’/"

Damned if you start being nasty to people who ask questions about your service, in my case. And damned if you make claims about who might take an interest in your site without backing it up.

I really want answers to these questions.

Shannon Yarbrough said...

Ann-

Coffee At Kowalski's by Miranda Dickinson landed a traditional publishing contract after being spotted on Authonomy.

The same thing happened to Reaper by Steven Dunne.

And to Never Say Die by Melanie Davies and Lynne Barrett-Lee.

And while all three of these examples came through Authonomy, let's not forget Amazon's recent venture down this path with the self-published book they are taking under their wing and re-releasing.

Publishers know they aren't making a dent in the slush pile. So, they are indeed turning to haystack websites like the Vault to help them find the "needles." It's why Authonomy was created in the first place.

Ann Somerville said...

Er, Shannon, a site developed by a publisher's own editors is a slightly different creature than one set up by an independent third party with no named affiliation to any publisher.

Authonomy was set up so far as I can tell, to act as a kind of slush pile filter by Harper Collins. If April could demonstrate she had that kind of backing, well, no one would have to ask her to prove she could catch any publisher's eye.

But a number of people have commented on her claims, people who work in the industry, and they all say what I have - publishers don't work like that.

Amazon's altruism is not necessarily what it seems, and as it's not a publisher per se, I don't see how it's relevant to my point anyway.

April L. Hamilton said...

Ann -
YOU know it is NOT a lie, because you posed the same question a second time and---I suspect because of the ugliness of your remarks to me---the thread was immediately shut down. Since you've quoted me in an effort to make me look bad, let me share some of the remarks YOU made to and about me (on the post from which you quoted as well as in the comments thread of a prior post on the same site) that led me to post that response to you; people reading this can decide for themselves if I was wrong to say what I did in response to you.

"Sigh. You know how most ‘self-published’ and vanity authors end up trying to make money? Selling books on how to make money through self-publishing/vanity publishing. As they say, if you’re so clever, why aren’t you rich?"

"It only reinforces my view that you and your colleagues are naive at best, arrogant at worst."

"And this is complete ignorance at its finest."

"All you and Ms Winters have done by your nonsense is convince me of the impoverishment of your arguments and your intellect. Call yourself what you like, but you won’t ever convince me that you’re anything but a damn fool for what you’ve just said."

And no, I will not be sharing any of the searchers' names until those people are officially registered for Vault membership, which won't happen until the Vault opens for searches.

Given that this will happen when the Vault has 300 published listings, and those first 300 listins are free for 90 days beginning the day the Vault opens for search, any author who signs up and publishes a listing before the list is posted is doing so completely cost- and risk-free, so the lack of that list need not be a concern to anyone. If an author looks at the list the day it's posted and finds it dissatisfactory, he or she can simply cancel his or her listing---and won't have incurred any cost or risk up to that point.

It's obvious you have no intention of ever using the Vault, regardless of who is or isn't on the list of searchers, nor how much it does or doesn't cost. But authors who *do* see the Vault as something with potential are completely satisfied with my plans to post that list only *after* the searchers are official, registered members. You may believe me to be a "damn fool", but I'm smart enough to know that so long as the people who actually intend to *use* the Vault are content with my plans, there's no reason for me to waste my time or energy trying to change things for, nor defend my plans to, people who will never be affected by any of it.

April L. Hamilton said...

Anne -
Since you're so keen on naming names, why don't you share the names of people to whom you were referring in this remark:

"But a number of people have commented on her claims, people who work in the industry, and they all say what I have - publishers don't work like that."

I am familiar with the thread in which the ONE comment to which you refer was made (I can provide a link if proof is required); it was made by someone claiming to be an author, not a publisher, and it was made under a pseuodonym.

Ann Somerville said...

Actually, April, a less personalised interpretation of the closing of that thread on SB was that you had already derailed a lengthy discussion about IR to shill your own, unconnected, project, and since you had point blank refused to answer questions about it, SB Sarah thought the conversation had run its course and was becoming repetitive.

An uncharitable person might wonder why you couldn't have answered my original question with a simple 'Sorry, client confidentiality precludes answering that at this point' and put a less than favorable interpretation on the fact you claimed here that you didn't answer because you had no chance to, when that's not true.

If you can't name publishers, how about naming kinds of publishers? Are they big NY outfits? Small presses? E publishers? I don't think that would violate any privacy. And yes, you're right - I wouldn't deal with your company because I have reservations about you. But people read my blog, where I will pass this information on, and they read this one. So...how about answering that question?

To answer your own, Anion is one (and despite your implication, she's a real person, and a real author.) Frank Tuttle is another:
http://www.franktuttle.com/blog/?p=204

And I've read the same remarks elsewhere. More to the point, I've seen no one post in contradiction of this opinion (well, other than people like yourself who are selling a product.) If publishers *are* in fact quietly trawling through self-pub back lists looking for bestsellers, I'd have thought this would be huge news, and something you would want to share with us. After all, that's going to make Vault look a lot more interesting to your customers, right?

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Ok ... I think we need to reign in the discussion here. Everyone has made their point and counter-point, several times over. Things are getting a little too volatile for me.

I like a heated debate as much as the next person, but we are getting very close to the line. Let's all just take a breather.

Zoe Winters said...

In response to Shannon: I thought Harry Potter was great. It was rejected several times and started out small press published, it was the rabid fans that pushed it through the stratosphere, the marketers and publishers were just running to catch up. :D

I won't reject something just because it has a lot of hype, sometimes the hype is deserved, in the case of Harry Potter I felt it was well-deserved, others mileage may vary. Now I'm going to read the rest of this. :D

Zoe Winters said...

I'm going to try not to add to the *heat* of this post by agreeing with April.

She's stated more than one time in more than one place that publishers will be listed at the time it's open for them to sign up.

At THAT point no one signed up will have paid a dime, nor will they have to start for at least 3 months from *that* time.

Who is or isn't going to be involved as a publishing pro is absolutely and completely irrelevant in judging the value of a service you aren't being asked to pay for yet.

If people don't like the list when it's posted or it's not the kind of list they were looking for, they can unsubscribe without incurring any fees.

Also, $10 a month is not a lot of money, people keep mentioning $120 a year as if it's a flat fee, but in order for *anyone* to pay $120 they would have to be happy with the site for a full year. If they're happy with the site, the fee won't matter, if they aren't, they will have unsubscribed *way* before they have spent $120 on it.

I'm thinking the most *anyone* would spend on the Vault if they weren't happy is $30. But they will have willfully chosen to keep the renewal going to even get to that point of expense.

You can't even get 2 triple cheeseburger combos for $10. I will go out on a limb and say, even in this economy $10 a month isn't a lot of money for anything. And if you don't like it, you can cancel.

Shannon Yarbrough said...

Zoe-

Thanks, but many people have defended ole Harry to me and that's fine. I'm glad JK got kids to start reading and opened up a whole new "book" when it comes to reading in general. Tim LeHaye did the same thing back at the beginning of this century, and I haven't read him either. Way before JK and Harry came along, I've always preferred NOT to read what everyone else is reading. I'm just weird that way.

Ann-
Whose to say The Vault won't be the first to break the mold? You're just upset because you didn't think of it.

April-
Keep on keepin' on!

Cheryl-
I'm putting my boxing gloves away. ;-)

Ann Somerville said...

"You're just upset because you didn't think of it."

Stay classy, Shannon.

Zoe Winters said...

hehe Shannon, Oh I'm not trying to change your mind. Okay, not *much* but what if you were one of the first people who discovered Harry Potter before it was famous? Would you have read it then? (Not trying to pick on you, I get what you're saying, but the what if's surrounding it still fascinate me.)

Shannon Yarbrough said...

Ann-

That post on your blog today speaks volumes of "classy." And I quote...

Remember little April Hamilton and her wonderful new business that is going to revolutionise self-publishing? Remember her response when I asked her to actually name the publishers she claimed? I’m paraphrasing slightly but it was something like ‘Not telling you, biotch’.

Well, I asked her again, since she popped up to shill her crappy project again. I pointed out that she hadn’t answered me the first time I asked. Well, to my surprise, she said “You didn’t get an answer last time because the thread was shut down before I could respond to you.”

Say what? She did respond – by telling me to f*ck off.

And now she claims she can’t tell people because nobody’s officially signed up yet. So why not say that in the first place?

And of course she got abusive and nasty. Again.

http://logophilos.net/blather/?p=1878

Bitter...party of one...your table is ready...bitter...party of one...

April L. Hamilton said...

I never said any of the things Ann attributes to me on the blog post Shannon quotes above, and anyone who's followed my blog, my site, or my comments anywhere on the web knows I never *would* say any such thing. Personal attacks and namecalling aren't part of my communication style.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Ok. I have to ask one more time. All points have been made and taken under advisement.

Any additional inflamatory commentary should be restricted to personal websites.

We have gotten past informative dialog here. I consider the line crossed.

This thread is now closed. Please people, I don't want to have to delete the entire thread.