Rachel Ward

Sell Yourself First

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Self-publishing digital content can grow to be an incredibly lucrative business. Although individuals might feel like it is easier to publish their work, rather than dealing with big businesses and the possibility of rejection letters, that means the work falls on the writer’s shoulders.

But the work of self-publishing does not have to be daunting. With proper preparation, publishing the individual’s work can be incredibly rewarding. Self-publishers have to consider everything that any company would when marketing a book or any other content.

Authors who make content that might not be picked up by larger publishers can find an income from self-publishing and marketing themselves and their writing. The author can find an alternate route, through digital publishing, that is not readily available to print publishers.

Effective self-publishers should begin marketing their content before the content is even complete. At this point, they are marketing themselves, and perhaps some previous writing they have done. For those without previous writing, they are marketing themselves as an author.

 YouTube has become one of the tools of marketing. A community of “BookTubers” exists on YouTube that discusses books with their fans, and some are currently working on projects.

Popular “BookTuber” Savannah Brown, with roughly half a million subscribers, recently posted a video about how her self-published book of poetry sold 20,000 copies. For the past five years, on and off, she has been able to posts poetry videos. Then for two years, she has been posting various snippets of the writing process and has accumulated a following that would go on to purchase her books. Although she did not digitally publish, she self-published to Amazon through their print on demand service (copies of her book are printed only when they are bought).

The service she uses for print on demand is Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows anyone to publish their book with Amazon freely. Writers can “earn up to 70% royalty on Kindle eBook and 60% on paperback sales.”

Brown talks openly about pricing, especially regarding her first attempt to publish her book of poetry with a small publishing company that she worked directly with, and it adds up to roughly $1,000. However, through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, the fees are minimal until they take a 30% royalty fee.

However, there are plenty of platforms to self-publish on. Brown talks about building an audience so that new writers are not throwing a book into the void of these platforms.

She expresses how she had garnered a following through YouTube long before she ever published her first book. She states how people can develop a following on Instagram. With social media, a single author can reach millions of people and is the most effective way to build an audience when self-publishing.

Building an audience is slow-going, even with an interesting novel idea. In some cases, it requires that the author goes viral in some meaningful way so that an influx of people go to their social media.

Digital publishing expert David Gaughran talks about:”

a completely different approach to marketing is emerging, based on a constant drip approach, heavy on email marketing, big on lead-gen ads, adopting a ‘micro-targeting’ approach to finding readers.

Email marketing allows authors to develop a loyal audience. Emails go directly to the audience, rather than posting exclusively on social media and hoping they will come across it. Blogging can be another effective way of garnering an audience, especially because your readers already enjoy reading lengthy posts. Typically, bloggers will have a pop-up on their website, inviting people to sign up for their email subscription.

Perhaps the most important part of social media marketing is engaging with your audience. Depending on the author and the genre, they will have to create an audience that is most likely to be drawn to their writing. For young adult novelists, their audience might be found more on Instagram or Snapchat. Something more niche, like magical realism, might find an audience in blogging and advertising on all social media, including Facebook pages.

Advertising is another important step in marketing. Advertisements cost per day, and the cost increases based on how long it will run and how many users the ad will reach — all of the marketing for a novel starts with the individual advertising themselves and their social media. Facebook or Instagram are payable platforms to broadcast a post or photograph to the rest of its users.

Once an author has developed a loyal audience self-publishing a book does not seem nearly as daunting. If Properly done, the audience will enjoy the author and the work they have previously read and more than willing to buy the book.

Many of these steps can be repeated and continued to grow a larger following and sell more books after you have already published your book. With curating a following on social media comes more opportunities for cash flow, more eyes on the individual and their work. The possibilities are endless, and, with self-publishing, they are all in your hands.

Data Analysis for the Publishing World

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The digital publishing environment has transformed into a business that requires authors and publishers to explore data capture tools to stay relevant. Kevin Petrie, Dan Potter, and Itamar Ankorion, authors of the free e-book Streaming Change Data Capture: A Foundation for Modern Date Architectures found on Qlik  write:

Data is creating massive waves of change and giving rise to a new data-driven economy that is only beginning. Organizations in all industries are changing their business models to monetize data, understanding that doing so is critical to competition and even survival.

A good bit of the data analysis explored in this text focuses on big businesses, such as Ford or Fanatics. But digital publishing is a business in and of itself.

The data collected by big business matters for the small business entrepreneur as well; they need the same information to intelligently navigate the field. Although curated analyses such as these are difficult to access for the average Joe, one could take a single Google search and transform it into usable data easily.

Publishing Parameters

The content authors release should fill spaces that are most likely to host the author’s target audience; whether the author writes textbooks on Medieval literature or high fantasy fiction novels, each topic requires its own audience.

The audience’s age, profession, education, and interests form the foundations of publishers’ data analysis. All of these factors contribute to what each reader wants and where they will retrieve the content from. An academic audience might be less likely to search for textbooks for an e-reader but would rather search on Chegg Books, whereas high fantasy seekers might search Amazon or Barnes and Noble for these novels.

Keep in mind that publishing for specific e-readers (like the Kindle) isn’t smart either, though, seeing as “sales of e-reader devices are falling rapidly.” However, Amazon provides a free Kindle app for smartphones, and according to Derek Haines people are using their cell phones to read e-books more than ever. While e-reader sales decline, e-books continue to rise in popularity for this reason. Amazon’s e-reader might not be declining, but their free app is readily available for the few who might loyally continue using the device.

The Methods of Data Collection

Most publishing services provide a dashboard for screening published material’s visitors. Adobe’s Audience Manager also offers a popular data management service. Otherwise, a tracking pixel, or a graphic that tracks user behavior and other information, can be activated on the publisher’s website to gather this sort of data. Facebook also provides a way to create a pixel to add to the publisher’s website.

Minute details such as how the audience will read their e-books are important factors of data analysis. Given these findings, the author must consider font, type size, and other features that they otherwise would not have because their audience is more likely to be reading on a smartphone.

Uses for Data in Digital Publishing

In an interview between the head of Global Automated Monetization at Watson Advertising and eMarketer’s Ross Benes, they discussed how “few publishers have created new revenue lines out of their data, even though the digital publishing industry is struggling during a time when data is alleged to be the new oil” Rather than just selling the information to publisher’s advertising clients, as many already do, it should be used to strengthen their own business

SailThru provides guidance on how to use the 1st party data that comes from the audience to create a better publishing business.

  1. Develop ownership of an audience
  2. Personalize content that people will pay for
  3. Sell a better audience to advertisers
  4. Use a subscription model

All of these ideas can be implemented at the self-publishing level and higher.

The collection of data is also beneficial for the consumer because the content they will receive will be more tailored to their interests. Consuming this content will be more worthwhile, worthy of precious time and money: both publisher and consumer benefit from this collection of data.

Proceeding with Data Incorporation

With Facebook’s recent data breach breaking headlines, it is in the user’s best interest to carefully vet the institutions privy to the collected materials. Along the lines of best practices, usually, publishers decide what to do with the data they receive from their audience.

They can easily put the information out onto the internet for any advertiser to purchase, but they should be selective with who the information is shared with and who it is purchased by so that the audience does not end up finding out that their information was spread on the internet and feel betrayed.

With these best practices and publishers can make data analysis into an incredible tool for identifying the biggest source of income. People want to feel like their money is serving them well, and investing it into a business that prioritizes things that interest them will make people feel better about spending their money on the publisher’s product and content.

The Digital Rights Tragedy of Microsoft’s E-Book Market

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Microsoft’s discontinuation of their e-bookstore means that consumers will no longer be able to access and view Microsoft’s e-books. Customers who purchased the right to view the e-books within the past two years from the company are now unable to read them.

Microsoft updated their Edge browser to support e-book consumption in March of 2017 and began to sell e-books through the Windows 10 Storeapp. Microsoft then ceased selling e-books in April of 2019, resulting in the revocation of each consumer’s purchased right to view the e-books.

Consequently, buyers have been robbed of the transaction experience: I give you money and you provide me with the product.

Microsoft has shattered the trust given by consumers in a supposedly fair transaction. The e-books are simply gone with the wind “because company executives have decided it’s no longer worth keeping the store running.”

Companies are setting a precedent of making their products obsolete. Dave Lee writes about how there is no concrete equivalent that mimics the loss of ownership that is possible because of Digital Rights Management; physical bookstores are unable to take a customer’s material, purchased books away from them.

Digital Rights Management and Microsoft

DRM (digital rights management) is a systematic attempt to prevent the piracy of e-books. Microsoft utilized DRM and then had the issue of revoking every consumer’s right to view Microsoft’s e-books. Cory Doctorow writes that “this puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast.” Doctorow still owns e-books and MP3’s from organizations that are long gone, but Microsoft is forced to reimburse consumers because the company’s e-books cannot be viewed outside of Microsoft Edge.

Similarly, Josh Axelrod and Lulu Garcia-Navarro write about how cars and various smart home appliances are under DRM-lock as well. The permanence of cars, much like Microsoft’s e-books, are no longer guaranteed. If Tesla were to go under, a smart car can lose everything that makes it a Tesla. People paid for the car but not the ownership of the software.

Microsoft’s Downfall

A major issue for Microsoft was the lack of users for their Edge browser. Ed Bott states that “in the first three months of 2018, Microsoft Edge accounted for a paltry 8 percent of the 1.2 billion visits to government websites from consumer and business PCs and Macs.”

The minimal impact of Edge users combined with a system that was not built for convenience was too much for Microsoft.

In contrast, Amazon’s Kindle exemplifies e-book convenience. Amazon provides an inexhaustible source of e-books along with a portable device for reading them, and a free Kindle app which may be used when not connected to the internet.

For the few people using Edge the medium was ill-fitted for e-book consumption. Edge requires that the consumers view the e-book through the browser rather than allowing users to download the book. Having to view the e-book through Edge limits many users to only being able to view the e-book on a PC. Further, this exclusivity did not allow for e-book compatibility with Apple devices.

While exclusive compatibility is not without precedent, Microsoft lacked the fan-base that allowed for the complete alienation of competitor’s operating systems.

Further, Microsoft Edge users must be connected to the internet to view the e-books. Connectivity issues, lack of compatibility, and the requirement that the e-book be viewed in-browser stifle the appeal of Microsoft’s e-books.

What Microsoft Has to Say

Microsoft has not given many statements about why they are ceasing the sale of e-books. The first mention came in June when they posted on their website about the closure of their e-book store and eventual refunds for customers.

The FAQ mentions giving an additional $25 credit to individuals who annotated in their e-book. Microsoft is essentially paying for the consumer’s intellectual property which will be lost along with the rights to view the e-books.

The consumer reimbursements and Edge’s lack of traffic imply that Microsoft did not have many e-book sales in the first place.

Microsoft also recently indicated that e-books are not their focus, but rather that their app store is their priority when Microsoft stated that the company is “streamlining [its] focus’ on the store.”

The Future for Microsoft in E-Books

Microsoft’s foray into e-book sales utilizing Edge was not their first attempt at entering the market and it will likely not be their last. Microsoft invested $300 million in Barnes and Noble to create a separate Nook Media company in 2011, but this venture was terminated in 2014.

David Grossman writes that “MS Reader tried to sell books for LCD screens” in 2011. However, this project fell through in the same year due to a lack of usage and routine updates.

Whether or not Microsoft has given up on e-books, the company’s blunder has made evident the possibility for massive loss of content for consumers when dealing with DRM-locked content. Consumer trust will be difficult for Microsoft to earn back if they decide to wrestle with e-book sales again.

Whatever the future holds, hopefully Microsoft has learned from their past mistakes to avoid any future losses of this caliber in the e-book game.

in Law | 898 Words

Why Copyright Protection Isn’t Protecting E-Books

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E-book publication is threatened by the assumed “free” nature of the internet. For individual publishers, attempting to protect their work on their own, it’s nearly impossible due to the internet constantly changing. Authors want to to be able to put their books out but manage it as well.

Effects of Piracy for the Author

 According to E-book Piracy Is Rampant And Impossible To Stop, there are situations where an individual is publishing a novel and, moments later, finds pirated copies through a mere Google search.

The Authors Guild explains “how the major contributing factor to the rise in book piracy and counterfeiting is that the law does not hold internet platforms accountable for the illegal activities that occur through their marketplaces…” The acting policy’s lack of foresight puts the burden of fighting piracy on the backs of authors.

The first suggestion is to ignore piracy altogether. Then there is the suggestion to contact the site manager directly. Dave Chesson suggests that it is easier to reach the poster of the pirated work, or the host site, rather than attempting to contact the DMCA.

The What To Do If Someone Steals Your Book offers the final suggestion to submit a formal complaint with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

For authors, the effects of e-book piracy can be devastating. As recently as July 2019, Adam Rowe on Forbes.com wrote about the loss of money through e-book piracy. According to U.S. Publishers Are Still Losing $300 Million Annually To E-book Piracy, “$300 million in publisher income is lost annually as a result of online piracy.” Even if an author only loses $500 to e-book piracy, that can be a month’s groceries or rent.

Protection for Authors

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted in 1998, at the beginning of the digital age. DMCA is not an autonomous system, but one that authors must submit notices of piracy to, along with a host of other information. An individual contacting a government organization is hardly a drop in the water, compared to the larger corporations they deal with daily.

However, there is an organization called DMCAForce which provides anyone with the capability to be proactive about protecting their content, rather than retroactive, as with the government organization. The article mentions “unique algorithms we create a digital fingerprint of your content.”

DMCAForce is perhaps one of the most accessible forms of protection against e-book piracy. It gives the author copyright protection for up to 5 pieces of content. They also provide higher levels, of increasing prices, for individuals with more copyrighted material, or corporations.

Digimarc, founded in 1995, provides several innovative solutions for attempting to protect authors against piracy. They are well-known for their digital watermarking, along with their specific technology used to locate these watermarks. Although they are invisible to consumers, Digimarc actively searches various well-known piracy sites for these watermarks, for individuals that use their services.

However, they work for larger corporations, so they do not provide services to self-publishers. Digimarc has partnered with companies like Walmart and Rakuten OverDrive to “identify and understand emerging market needs and demonstrate immediate and sustained return on investment.” They are marketing their company of fighting piracy as a significant return on the cost of their services. Digimarc decreases the likelihood of obtaining these e-books for free, thus rerouting people from paying for them.

Kitaboo suggests that individual publishers should set up Digital Rights Management to protect their E-books. DRM “ensures that the digital documents, e-books, and web-based content protects against data leakage, theft, and misuse. It’s a data encryption method which prevents anyone from accessing content without a proper access key.”

CapLinked protects PDF’s and Microsoft Office files through their DRM’s, which blocks downloaded content behind a wall where users must sign in to view the document. The author can revoke access to downloaded materials through this service, which might help with fighting against piracy, for those who attempt to put up protected e-books on piracy sites.

Why Are These Efforts Not Working?

Piracy is evolving and refusing to truly cease-and-desist. As a result, E-book piracy is still taking up to $300 million from publishers in the United States alone.

Michael Kozlowski writes extensively on the poor job done by the government, or anti-piracy companies, attempting to fight against e-book theft. Pirates can instantly provide free downloads for books as soon as their published on the internet.

Once these downloads are found, individuals may attempt to contact the publisher, citing the copyright issue and asking for the content to be taken down. If that does not work, then the next step is to fill out government forms.

Most people wish publishers would fight harder against piracy. According to E-book Piracy is on the Rise in 2019 publishers, “take pirates to court and shut down entire sites instead of arguing over individual titles.”  Kozlowski writes about the newest form of piracy for 2019, which is mainly undetectable by traditional forms of copyright detection. The article mentions pirates “provide adverts that for a small fee can send a list of requested E-books, right to your email address” and “since there are no links to infringing content, the entire process is immune from most anti-piracy laws.”

For individual publishers, attempting to protect their work on their own, it’s nearly impossible due to the internet constantly changing.

in Law | 905 Words

The 2019 Digital Book Awards and Conference

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Digital Book World posted their finalists for the 2019 Digital Book World Awards on August 12. The awards will be given on Tuesday, September 10, between 5:45 and 7:15 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. The finalists for every category of the 2019 awards can be found on Digital Book World’s website

Whether the nominees were published digitally, or if the book was published digitally at all after a physical release, each of these categories has something related to digital publishing. Through cursory research of the books in each Best Book category, it is difficult to see if these books are being featured in this awards ceremony for their particular contribution to digital publishing, or if they are merely showcasing some books that have e-book options. Most books have both an e-book option and a physical novel, even on their specific publishing company site. 

Some exceptions to this do exist such as Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. It is available through Harper Collins Canada on the site Rakuten OverDrive, where you cannot purchase the e-book, but find out if it is at your local library. There is clearly accessibility in mind by aiding in locating it for free. At Amazon, it can be purchased through Kindle, or paperback for ninety-nine cents cheaper. Another exception is Civilian by Deonte Osayande, through Urban Farmhouse Press. 

The goal of the Digital Book World and awards does appear to be more about highlighting the digital aspects of a shifting world, which still includes print publication. In the 2019 conference, a breakout track included will be Print Book World: “Best practices in the print publishing world, with specific attention paid to the emerging, yet very under-discussed, world of augmented print books utilizing micro digital technologies.” Even while recognizing the world of print publication, they are focusing on it in a digital light. 

On DBW’s website, the CEO of Score Publishing, which owns the Digital Book World, wrote an article entitled “Barnes & Noble: How Can We Miss You, If You Won’t Go Away?”. Within it, Bradley Metrock writes the following:

One of the persistent topics of discussion at a conference like Digital Book World is the relationship between digital books and print books. We’ve all endured the absurd ‘print is dead’ trope, and have collectively reached the understanding that print books will always be with us, even as digital books become more and more ubiquitous and evolved.

Despite the critiques of Barnes & Noble, along with physical book locations in general, there is the recognition of the market still present for print publications. 

Digital Book World will hold a pre-conference on September 9, including workshops that feature topics such as Book Marketing for Independent Publishers and Leveraging the Colibrio Reader Framework.  

On September 10, there will be several speakers and events, featuring people from Simon & Schuester and panels featuring Amazon Alexa. The final event will be the awards dinner for the announcement of the Digital Book World winners. 

On September 11, the day following the awards ceremony, there will be more speakers and attention paid to some of their breakout tracks, which were not covered previously at DBW Conferences, such as the Marketing Book World and Academic Book World. 

The final day, September 12, will focus on Building Direct Connections with Readers and the political side of digital publishing, closing with a keynote presentation from the US Army: Our Nation’s Newest Publisher. 

Click here (Links to an external site.) for more information on the speakers and presentations available at the 2019 Digital Book World Conference, and here (Links to an external site.) to find available tickets to attend. 

in News | 659 Words