Thursday, March 07, 2019

Social Self-Publishing and Rights (Wattpad, What Rights?)

Websites for posting fiction online have been around for a long time now.  Initially they were focused on clearly amateur and non-profit writing, especially in niche areas such as erotica and fan fiction.  As such, the writers were often not very concerned with publishing rights and commercial publication potential. Over time the mainstreaming of online books has continued to be a lesser-thought-of corollary to the mainstreaming of ebooks.  Reading online or through apps has become part of the lifestyle of many people, albeit a group that continues to skew to the younger generations.

In recent years many of these posting sites have developed hybrid schemes for compensation or graduation to a commercially published level.  And in recent years the number of social publishing sites  has greatly increased.  Wattpad has been dominant since its 2006 launch, but inroads are being made by newcomers such as China-based Webnovel.  Other apps are trying to bite off genre-specific market share, such as Dreame (romance).

Social Self-Publishing May Use First Publishing Rights
One thing that is concerning is how these sites represent the impact of posting complete manuscripts online may have on the potential for future trade publishing.  While most indie ebook authors are fully aware that self-publishing is publishing, and uses first publishing rights--online authors demonstrate more confusion in this issue.

It does not help that social self-publishing websites, deliberately or not, post questionable information to encourage participation.  For example Wattprint saying no publisher will consider a manuscript on their site to be a "reprint" when, well, some will.  With the work being fully accessible for free to thousands of people, being behind a member wall may or may not be enough to avoid it being deemed a reprint--depending on individual publisher's policies.

Social Self-Publishing is Self-Publishing
The exchange of information on these topics might be better if it was clearer that publishing online is a form of self-publishing.  Essentially, format is not a defining feature of the activity and most of the needs and considerations of authors are the same whether they use a site, app, or e/book delivery method.  In fact as a reader, the difference between reading an ebook on my phone and reading on the Wattpad app is barely noticeable.

With that in mind this blog, name aside, is open to reviewing books made available for online or app reading.  I currently have a Wattpad and Webnovel account and I am willing to consider other platforms as well.  Feel free to suggest books for review in the comments.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Cover Comment

This little plant's tomorrows are probably going to suck, because it does have any roots.  Which is probably some kind of a metaphor for one of the biggest problems with aggressive futurism.

Friday, October 19, 2018

What, if anything, is "Hybrid Publishing"

"Hybrid Publishing"* is a term I see bandied around a lot these days. Generally speaking it is being applied to any company that represents itself as combining the features of trade publishing and self-publishing.

(*This is completely distinct from the idea of a "hybrid author" who publishes both indie and trade books--but I have some thoughts about that too).

I don't really accept that definition because the one feature most commonly present is charging the author a fee, either directly or by a function such as requiring that they purchase or sell a set number of books before receiving any royalties.

Charging the author a fee is not a conventional part of either trade or indie publishing.  It is a feature of vanity publishing which is another creature entirely. No matter how nicely or euphemistically you try to phrase it, hybrid publishing is wholly within the category of vanity publishing for this reason.

Whether publishing in this manner might work for you remains a matter of individual analysis.  Many hybrid publishers are just as undesirable as the worst vanity publishers, others may be worth considering for certain unique situations.

“Hybrid publishing is a middle-ground between traditional and self-publishing in which the author pays for some of the services.” 

However, I do think the existing definition of the term needs to be challenged, as I think it is simply not true that hybrid publishing occupies some metaphoric middle ground.  Hybrid publishing is within the fence of vanity publishing (by this or some other name).

“Hybrid publishing is publishing that is financially subsidized by the author but may (or may not) offer advantages to the author such as quality standards, favorable brand identity, or enhanced profitability with high volume sales. However this model puts the author at greater risk of financial loss.” 

Monday, October 01, 2018

REVIEW: Power's Wrath by Stephen Shertall

It was the character of Calthus, as described in the blurb, that caused me to request POWER’S WRATH from Netgalley.  There were some strong elements of Arthurian myth in this character and some of the others from the story.  However, Shortall’s writing style made the first few chapters a bit dull and had a wordy and plodding style throughout the book.

The overall scope and direction of the book is broader and more original than I had expected and the better qualities of the work became apparent with each chapter.  While echoing some of the familiar tropes of high fantasy, overall the complexity and aesthetic of the world building is unusual in its quality. The story has some echoes of Tolkien in setting up cycles of existence with the schemes of very long lived beings intersecting  at critical moments with the heroics of mortal champions and the women they love.

Ultimately, I felt that my sympathy for the characters was limited and the “type” of fantasy heroes set up by this opening volume do not interest me to continue with the story.  Readers more fond of male fantasy archetypes and taking a leisurely pace through even the most incidental of scenes may feel differently.  


Sunday, September 16, 2018

REVIEW: How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book: Simple and Smart Strategies to Sell More Books Kindle Edition by Penny C. Sansevieri

I was pleased to be given the opportunity to review HOW TO REVISE AND RE-RELEASE YOUR BOOK. I have been tinkering around on Kindle Direct for a while, but also putting off re-releasing about a dozen books that had reverted to me after the publishers closed.

Any book on a ‘do it yourself’ topic is going to have a certain scope that determines who it will be useful to. In my case this book was a bit hit and miss on that front. For example, the focus is very much on Amazon, which is fine because I am currently Amazon-exclusive – but it is very much as open debate as to whether that is the most profitable choice. In any case most self-publishers are likely to want to start with Amazon. In the majority of cases where the book made a recommendation it was one I agreed with or was inclined to believe. However….

On the other hand the author really only address one option in relation to a lot of other choices that don’t match my situation. For example: always formatting for paperback first. In my case e-books are a heck of a lot easier to start with and sell better so I always start there. The days of most authors coming off print publishing and just starting to enter e-publisher are probably pretty much over. The publisher that reverted my rights were both primarily e-publishers (Samhain and Loose Id). Also: use a freelancer for all internal formatting and cover design. Not a bad rule for a beginner but formatting e-books is not that hard, especially if you use a cheap generic service like Liberwriter. So I don’t really see why directions couldn’t be on how to embark on that part of it yourself. After all, the author does not hesitate to endorse specific fee-charging formatters and cover designers. Why not also point to good pre-made and automated sites and let the reader decide if they will risk cutting that corner. After all, whomever provided these services for this book missed a number of cases of misplaced punctuation marks and typos (example “TThis is next-level bonus content. “) and in the pdf format created a book with two blank pages in the middle . Hopefully I saw a pre-pub version and further proofreading occurred before release.

Somewhat ironically given the topic some of the topics seemed out of date. Considerable space is given to book bundling which is a less effective method since it was over-exploited by for-profit bundling companies. Use of bold and header font is mentioned when Amazon no longer permits this in blurbs. There is a strong push to contact Amazon top reviewers. I am an Amazon Top review—at least enough to get a dozen emails requesting reviews every day. And I ignore them all because Amazon’s rules, as of last year, would penalize me for reviewing free samples and give any such review a low value “non-verified” status. And publicly thinking people for spontaneous Amazon reviews is something many reviewers now consider intrusive and creepy—because the review is not for the author. The suggestion of rewarding people for proof of reviews is particularly dangerous as it is directly against Amazon policy—reviews that are incentivized before or after posting is not allowed. And the value Goodreads giveaways (let alone monthly) is very different now.

And overall the advice is not put in a wider context of the commercial value of books of different types and therefore an appropriate budget to spend on packaging them. It is also with some unease that I read they author promoting their own fee-charging services in some parts of the book. It feels overall like the focus is on things a professional book promoter would be good at and focus on, and neglects the things a profession writer might be better equipped to tackle on their own.

Ultimately if you are planning to outsource book production and rerelease on Amazon to maximum effect this book is likely to be extremely useful for you. And it is very important for self-publishers to open their minds on this topic. The KDP forums are full of people who devoted decades to creating a book, and then just threw it together and jammed it up on Amazon—and are now sad and disillusioned because they have literally zero sales. Many would never even think about re-categorizing, strategic pricing, or effective promoting without advice such as this book provides. But if your focus is (or possibly should be) more on evaluating your books commercial potential and budgeting accordingly, producing your own book, carefully balancing the value or time spent writing versus time spent promoting, or going wide -- much of it will not apply.