Audio books

Audible

In a previous post I mentioned the share of audio books in China. The rise of audio books is a worldwide trend.

One big player is Audible, the audiobook publisher and retailer with more than 425,000 titles in its online store; Amazon is the parent company and has been pushing audio books on its platform.

audio booksAudible is a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. (Wikipedia).

“Audible is the leading creator and provider of premium digital spoken audio content, offering customers a rich destination for insight and inspiration to enhance their daily lives.” (source: https://www.audible.com/about/our-company/)

Bypassing print

A growing group of well-known authors is bypassing print and releasing audiobook originals, hoping to take advantage of the exploding audiobook market.
Read the full story: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/02/books/audible-michael-lewis-audiobooks.html.

It’s the latest sign that audiobooks are no longer an appendage of print, but a creative medium in their own right. The rise of stand-alone audio has also made some traditional publishers nervous, as Audible strikes deals directly with writers, including best-selling authors.

Other players in audio: Hachette, Penguin Random House and Macmillan Audio.

After years of stagnation in the industry, audiobooks have become a rare bright spot for publishers.

For decades, the audiobook market was limited by physical constraints: Listeners had to lug around cassette tapes or CDs, and bookstores devoted fewer and fewer shelves to the format. Digital technology upended that. Cellphones now function as audiobook players.

Books are alive

Not the end of print

Contrary to the prediction of many, books are alive, in print.
The year 2018 has been, much to everyone’s surprise, a blockbuster for the publishing industry. Despite the relentless bad news, readers have bought books in droves. Hardcover sales are up, and unit sales at independent bookstores have risen 5%.
But what should be good news for publishers, agents and authors has created headaches during the crucial holiday sales season, as printing presses struggle to keep up with a surge in demand, creating a backlog that has led to stock shortages of popular titles.
The biggest cause of the bottleneck, publishers and agents say, is consolidation and collapse among printing companies.
The printing industry has its own problems, including paper shortages and price increases. And the low unemployment rate has made it harder for printers to hire additional workers.
Surprisingly, some of the current chaos has come about because the publishing industry is not only stable but seems to be thriving. After years of declining print sales, hardcover and paperback editions have been rising recently, while e-book sales have fallen.

The full story

Read the full story here:
23 December 2018 – Bottleneck at Printers Has Derailed Some Holiday Book Sales
The New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/23/books/paper-printers-holiday-sales-books-publishers.html

Alive and thriving, illustrated by cartoons

 

Some consider book readers to be “suspicious” people, as per a French cartoon (“I am worried, he has bad friends… they all read books.”)
And a double-meaning cartoon in French gives the correct message: “This is one of the big pleasures in life… Read a book!” (If you see something else, please consult a psychologist!)
Reading a book is indeed taking a bath in culture and dreaming.
Obviously there are countries where bookshops are closing in favor of more sinister outlets…
And some of the young might be clueless looking at a “book” (with no batteries).

How to self-publish

I want to publish my book!

Once an author decides to become an “indie”, the question is how to self-publish.
Why do writers end up there?
Basically there are 3 ways: the traditional publishing companies, the vanity press and self-publishing.

Indeed, for the great majority of aspiring writers the traditional publishing houses don’t work (again, read David Caughran). They rarely accept your manuscript and if they do, they take away most control over both your writing, the pricing and your net income. The other way is to be an “indie writer”, basically doing self-publishing by yourself and ignoring the traditional publishing companies. But there are two ways to do it.

What to avoid: the “vanity press”

There are a number of companies that claim to assist indie writer: the “vanity press”. They offer several “plans” to help the authors to publish their book, most often promising a lot and doing much less than what the author expected. The plans can be pretty expensive (easily over US$10,000). Some of those companies are real mafia-type and use deceptive tactics.

The most infamous and biggest is the group of Author Solutions, coming on the market with different company names to give the author the false impression they have a “choice”.
Unfortunately they are all the same working under the umbrella of the mother company.

Author Solutions

Author Solutions was acquired by Penguin parent company Pearson in 2012 and became part of Penguin Random House following the 2013 merger of Random House and Penguin. PRH has sold its Author Solutions division to an affiliate of the Najafi Companies, a private investment firm, in December 2016.

All those member companies of Author Solutions are to be avoided at all cost. For more, see the books and blog of David Gaughran who unmasks their shady tactics. See among others: https://davidgaughran.com/2014/06/03/the-case-against-author-solutions-part-1-the-numbers/

Those companies are also called “vanity press”, a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published; vanity publishers have no selection criteria to accept a manuscript as opposed to the traditional publishing companies.

What to do?

The obvious choice for self-publishing: Amazon. More about that in another post.

 

Print is not dead and making a comeback

See the interesting article:
22 September 2015 – The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead
Media New York Times
By ALEXANDRA ALTER
New York Times

Some of the interesting facts, read the full article for all details:

E-book sales soared, up 1,260% between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers; print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open. Analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015 but digital sales have instead slowed sharply. E-book sales fell by 10% in the first five months of 2015. Digital books accounted in 2014 for around 20% of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.
Sales of dedicated e-reading devices have plunged as consumers migrated to tablets and smartphones. And according to some surveys, young readers who are digital natives still prefer reading on paper.

Independent bookstores are showing strong signs of resurgence. The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago.
The big publishing houses are pouring money into their print infrastructures and distribution. Most booksellers agree that they are witnessing a reverse migration to print.

Some 12 million e-readers were sold in 2014, a steep drop from the nearly 20 million sold in 2011, according to Forrester Research. The portion of people who read books primarily on e-readers fell to 32% in the first quarter of 2015, from 50% in 2012, a Nielsen survey showed.
Higher e-book prices may also be driving readers back to paper. With little difference in price between a US$13 e-book and a paperback, some consumers may be opting for the print version.
It is also possible that a growing number of people are still buying and reading e-books, just not from traditional publishers. The declining e-book sales reported by publishers do not account for the millions of readers who have migrated to cheap and plentiful self-published e-books, which often cost less than a dollar.

At Amazon, digital book sales have maintained their upward trajectory. In 2014 Amazon, which controls some 65% of the e-book market, introduced an e-book subscription service that allows readers to pay a flat monthly fee of US$10 for unlimited digital reading. It offers more than a million titles, many of them from self-published authors.

The “swindling tactics” of Author Solutions

Falling into the scam trap of Author Solutions

My (first) book, Toxic Capitalism, was published through AuthorHouse UK, which, as I found out later, is part of the global book publishing company, Author Solutions (AS).
In 2012 Pearson (who owns Penguin) bought Author Solutions, the parent company of dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango. Add to the club: Archway, Partridge, etc.
So, when I opted for AuthorHouse UK, I was simply falling into the scam trap of Author Solutions.
I was lucky to get this link:
http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/penguins-solution-for-authors-one-racket-to-rule-them-all/
The excellent overview is highly critical of all those AS self-publishing companies. “Author Solutions’ modus operandi is pretty despicable, and they’ve been badgering, swindling and confusing writers out of money—and lots of it—for years.”. “Author Solutions is incapable of handling day-to-day operations for their current customers. Erroneous royalty reports and non-payment of royalties are frequent complaints given by authors”. And so on, reads the review.

My personal major complaints:

–  Services they offer to “promote and market” the book are misleading, overpriced and largely useless;
–  The media promotions they announce are simply opening accounts at Facebook, Twitter etc. and making e-mail address. That’s all. Anyone can do that.
–  The editing work was somehow reasonable but far from being perfect; I agree that my book is difficult because of the specialized vocabulary.
–  The transition from the approved manuscript to the publishing version was a disaster: they built in far over 100 mistakes that I failed to see at first; most were removed in the e-book version.
–  I have to pay IRS tax for books that are not even that much sold in the USA; they are printed and shipped from the UK; were they not a UK company?
– They still pay by CHECK, who still uses that in the 21st  century? An send them by snail mail to China. Result: you get nearly nothing left of the royalties. As the sales lady made the mistake to promise me by e-mail payment by electronic transfer, they are now a bit in a bind; as for now payments are on hold.
– Their reports on sales/royalties are slow. Still waiting for their 4Q 2012 report.
– Overall the major problem is the lack of coordination. A writer has no single contact person who can guide him through the different departments. Instead, we are sent from one person to another, each time for a different reason or step in the process. Each new individual has no idea about the writer’s background and previous discussions.
– AS always asks us to call. As people like me are on the other side of the world, that is very inconvenient time wise, always troublesome to call internationally. E-mail addresses are mostly general, so one does not know whom to contact. It is like walking in the dark.
–  Any payments need to be done through the phone. This is so-called for “security reasons”. Seems Amazon and others are more advanced and you can simply execute the payments online. Once again, AS has not yet entered the 21st century.
So, be warned. Don’t fall for their trap.
I will have to look around for other options if I have a new book.