Injuries, wounds and healing… information to aid your accuracy.

 

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This is far from my normal ‘Rambling’, but…

After reading several books over the last few months I have realised the need for authors to portray far more realistic accounts of their victim’s injury and healing processes.

Getting this wrong not only disrupts the believability flow of the story but often wrong-foots the reader’s perception regarding the course of the true timeline.

How many times do we such inaccuracies represented in ‘blockbuster’ movies? One moment the protagonist is beaten to a pulp and cannot stand, the next he is running after the perpetrator of a crime with nothing more than a slight limp in his left leg… oh, now it’s his right leg… no left again.

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Of course, when our hero takes the full impact of a 9mm parabellum, it is nothing more than a flesh wound and within a day he has discharged himself from the hospital and is fighting, and winning, against a dozed bad guys.

Okay, a film has a limited time to play out, often between ninety and one-hundred and twenty minutes. However, with a book, there can be no such excuse. Authors are not restricted to a timeframe and, in all honesty, not as hobbled by word count as they once were.john-wick-chapter-2

The modern reader demands accuracy in the authors account and rightly so. It is easy to browse the net and check for details of even the most obscure event or condition your characters may encounter. Therefore, research is becoming the defining line between a ‘professional author’ and a ‘hobbyist writer’.

If you scroll down and/or browse through the posts here, on Ramblings from a Writers Mind, I am certain you will find a wealth of helpful and useful information, much given in my usual random and wayward manner, which I hope most people find entertaining too.

Interspersed between my ramblings are some direct and useful bundles of information, such as the following which focuses on wounds, injuries and the healing process.

I shall not give any written account regarding the following as I think the illustrations say all that is required.

You may wish to download and file the images for you own reference records, please do, Particularly if it will assist you in creating far more realistic situations and timeframes in your works… of which you may always send me a copy.

Keep happy, Paul.

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I hope the information above makes you consider reading one of my books, maybe my short novelette, A New Summer Garden, which you can download as an eBook here, or order as a ‘Pocketbook’, a small-sized paperback which will slip into the rear pocket of your denim jeans… or into your bag, handbag, rucksack, or just about anywhere. Get the pocketbook version here.

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Unconnected connections of habit.

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I recall reading Roald Dahl’s ‘Georges Marvellous Medicine’ to my son when he was a child. One phrase I found particularly hilarious was when George’s grandmother said, ‘Growing was a nasty childish habit’.

I’ll give you a short extract for context.

‘You know what’s the matter with you?’ the old woman said, staring at George over the rim of the teacup with those bright wicked little eyes. ‘You’re growing too fast. Boys who grow too fast become stupid and lazy.’

‘But I can’t help it if I am growing fast, Grandma,’ George said.

‘Of course, you can,’ she snapped. ‘Growing’s a nasty childish habit.’

As it happens, in the ensuing years I found my son adopted other ‘nasty childish habits’ growing boys seem to enjoy. I mentioned most of them to him in much the same way as George’s grandmother, not that it had any effect!

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However, it is not childhood or growth or adolescence peccadillos I speak of today, but one of habits.

You see, like many other authors, my mind is constantly working overtime. Even when I am ignoring it, doing regular stuff like cleaning, gardening or shopping, it is whirring away noticing things, listening to other people’s conversations, reading notes, lists and phone screens over people’s shoulders and so forth.

It really is a bit of a rouge in many ways.

Rotational_symmetries_in_designs_produced_by_a_kaleidoscopeDSCN2440The thing is, those subconscious bits of my mind remember it all, record it and mull it over, twisting totally unrelated events, jiggling individual occurrences, shaking them together until a kaleidoscope pattern of instances which hold the possibility of illusory whimsy form.

This is when it digs a sharp elbow of attention into the soft kidneys of my platitude, painfully jerking my ‘normal’ daily thoughts away from the mundane and into the imaginative world of fantastical conception.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I felt the aforesaid sharp elbow ram painfully into the soft parts of my consciousness.

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A voice in my head spoke excitedly to me.

 

 

“You know,” it started, “you write a fair bit about remembering the past, about nostalgia and stuff?”

“Um, yes,” I said, not sure where this was leading.

“Well, what about if people get all nostalgic because they survived it?”

“Survived it?” I questioned.

“Yeah.” The voice was shouting in my brain. “Think about it.”

“I’m going to bed,” I said. Trying to placate my thoughts.

“Yeah, but you’ll not sleep, not until you understand this.” The voice said sounding a little annoyed and a more than a little bit smug.

Of course, it was right. I needed to do this now, as tired I was. So, I grabbed a notebook and pen. I have several dotted around the house exactly for moments like this.

“Okay,” I said, “fire away.”

“How about if… people love the past, the recent past, like the times in and around their childhood because they lived through it, or most of it. They survived relatively unharmed. Well, they must have done or they wouldn’t be here now, would they?”

“Um, no,” I replied, “I suppose not.”

“So, just like in a good book, or a movie, where the hero rides off into the sunset at the end, that’s what you have done, along with everybody else who reminisces. You rode off into your sunset and arrived in the here and now.”

“Well, maybe, sort of.”

“I’m right. The past is where your parents were. They helped keep you safe, mended your cuts and bruises, kissed your grazed knees. It was home, comforting, warm. Your bedroom your inner sanctuary, guarded by your parents.”

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“I guess so.” I was chewing my inner lip. Something I rarely do. “But not all memories are good ones, bad things happened too.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” my mind said, “I’m not talking about those bits. No one gets all sentimental over the bad stuff. We remember it when we must, but not in a nostalgic way. Nostalgia is reserved for nice memories.”

“I’ll go with that,” I said, nodding to myself.

“Well, that’s the key,” my mind continued.

“The key to what?” I asked.

“The key to writing something captivating in your books, especially when you’re basing them in the past, or have characters talking about ‘back when’ & ‘do you remember’ and stuff. It’s great for flashbacks, prequels and shit like that. Think about it.”

I was thinking about it.

“Even a futuristic story must have its past.”

I scribbled a few rough notes, odd aide memoir single word notes I could refer to later. (That later being now).

The thing is, after a good night’s sleep, a day carrying out family chores and a visit to the dentist for a clean & polish, I have mulled over my conversation with the excitable voice from last night and my conclusion is… I agree.

It makes a ton of sense for us to hold fond memories of good times. They could well be recollections of childhood events, maybe a loving mother tucking you into bed, possibly escaping an annoyed farmer when scrumping for apples, or like some of the memories I have written about previously, such as days out for a family a picnic or a train journey to the seaside; all exciting experiences for a child.

My teenage years hold more life events which have helped forge who I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I have instances of near-death, but… I survived to tell the tale. I did ride off into my sunset… although some moments may be more akin to crawling along a drainage ditch in inch thick cloying mud… but those tales are for another time.8ZXBf5MBEC-10

It’s called living life.

As an author, I feed on such memories, use them to build my fictional worlds, create my characters, lay plots and write scenes. It is a habit I’ve adopted.

Until now, until the conversation with myself, I did not consider why nostalgia, which is according to the dictionary, ‘A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past; even one never experienced,’ is such a powerful apparatus to use to elicit emotion.

Now I have spent time complementing the reasons, it makes perfect sense and one I shall be far more aware of when employing it in my writings in the future.

So, while scrumping for apples and reading George’s Marvellous Medicine may be unconnected events, both in time and geographical distance, the voice in my head found a way to join them together into a cohesive entity.

You could say they were unconnected connections of habit.

Keep Happy, Paul


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I would love you to check out my books, you can see them all on my website, even those not available on Amazon, including exclusive hardcovers.

Don’t forget to look at my Electric Eclectic books, eBooks and Pocketbook paperbacks You can find them on my website or on @open24, the Amazon store for readers & writers

I am open to comments and communication, so feel free to contact me at pwauthor@mail.com or via Facebook.

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Amazon’s A9 algorithm, dispelling a myth and the future…

Amazon-A9

In most of my posts, I ramble away in an unplanned manner, eventually making sense of, or come to a conclusion, about whatever topic is being discussed.

I tend to stay clear of jargon and try not to get too bogged down with the technical aspect of… stuff.

I have tried to do the same here; if you really want to get all techy and scientific you’ll need to undertake some research of your own.

Otherwise, please read on, some explanations, tips, and links are included.


‘A9’ is the proprietary search algorithm developed by Amazon. It is named after the company’s subsidiary which handles SEO

It has one job, to answer customer’s purchasing queries.

Please note, it is NOT Google.

Amazon is the primary destination for book searches, so understanding A9 is critical to your author success on this platform.

Amazon is happy to let A9 fly under the radar, even with A9 being somewhat revolutionary, to say the least.

We all love how Google seamlessly adapts its SERPs to your browsing habits, but A9 floated this idea successfully way back in 2004. A9 also pioneered visual street views long before Google Maps was a thing. The point is, despite being the most valuable company in the world, Amazon isn’t keen on pushing A9 through as a wide-lens search engine. In fact, you won’t find many people who have heard of the A9 algorithm.

The simple reason is, as I said above, it is NOT Google.

Amazon is not in the Searcher Intent business. Searcher intent is simply the type of request or query a specific user is looking for. For example, searcher intent is extremely obvious when terminology such as “buy” or “sell” is used. This is 100% commercial intent. E.G. “buy shoes” “sell my car” etc.

Whereas other intents, such as informational, e.g. “how-to” is also searched by users in YouTube, Google and other major search engines.

Amazon though, being a product-based search engine, doesn’t have this issue. That’s because people coming to Amazon are looking to do one and one thing only: Buy Stuff, like YOUR books. Unlike a traditional search engine, A9 does not need to consider whether someone searching for say, ‘Stephen King’ wants to learn more about the author or if they want to buy his books, Amazon it ‘knows’ they want to buy his books… and this is the most important factor. It is what shapes the way you need to work with A9 to gain higher rankings on the platform.

To place your book in a ‘high’ and visible position the A9 algorithm needs to consider factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history.

Therefore, optimizing your books potential rating on Amazon begins before your listing goes live. There are several optimization elements you have control over and need to address before you sell even a single book.

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1, Book Title and Brand Name, (if any)

The most relevant keywords will be the title and subtitle (if any) of your book. As with Electric Eclectic branded books, the brand name is used as, or as part of, the subtitle.

This allows people optional and assorted methods of searching for your book. They can key in your book title if they know it or remember it, or at least search for something similar. Alternatively, they can use your author name, or simply type in the brand.

For example, when you enter ‘Electric Eclectic books’ into your Amazon search bar you will be presented with a list of all the titles, from authors who have written under the Electric Eclectic brand.

Check out Electric Eclectic at https://electriceclecticsblog.wordpress.com/about/

 

2, Book Description

While it is clearly important to write a compelling description to entice the person browsing to buy your book, consider using three to four ‘bullet point’ at the top of your description, such as, ‘Fast-paced Thriller’ or ‘Romantic Fantasy’, to clarify the genre of the book.

Bullets naturally stand out and make content easier to read than a block of text and help increases conversion rates.

Other bullet point options are such things as ‘Revised Edition’, ‘Prequal to ….’ and so forth. Not only does this help your potential buyers to decide, but it also reduces the risk of bad reviews due to a purchaser buying a book outside their regular choice/comfort zone.

A9 will also pick up on the words used, helping to target your book towards those who will enjoy your story.

TIP: Try by selecting three top-ranked competitors, (Mainstream publisher/agent listings are great for this) chose ones which boast the greatest number of reviews.

With the list of keywords in hand, remove those that aren’t relevant. As easy as that, you’ve got a handy list of keywords in your arsenal

In most cases, data from 3 or 4 competitors is enough to get started.

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3, Pricing

Your books must be strategically and competitively priced. If they are your conversion rate will benefit.  Analyse the book pricing of those with high volume sale in your book’s genre, ensuring they are of similar page count/format. Find the ‘sweet spot’ price points, both on and off Amazon and price your book accordingly. Do not overprice or under-price, doing either will reduce your potential sales.

A9 takes pricing into consideration as it is in Amazon’s best interest to prioritise products (books) that sell.  To better your chance of being listed next to, or in the proximity of a ‘Best Seller’, you need to be thereabouts.

 

4, Cover Images

Although images are not a direct, performance-related Amazon ranking factor, they play a critical role in both your click-through and conversion rates.

While cover images are not factors A9 specifically evaluates, (presently) They are very important for your potential customers and can have an impact on your sales.

High-quality images which view clearly when enlarged can increase sales by as much as 10%, according to Amazon, and the A9 algorithm rewards products that sell well.signature

Are you looking for a bespoke cover? Email Peejay Designs at PeeJaydesigns@mail.com

 

5, Customer Reviews

Genuine, unsolicited, un-incentivised reviews are an ‘indirect factor’ which may impact your product’s rank on Amazon. Customer reviews can significantly influence the conversion rate, demonstrating their role in Amazon SEO. Books with strong ratings (four stars or higher) are more likely to rank higher in Amazon search results than those with less than four stars.

Although your Amazon ranking, as discussed, is dependent on many other factors; so often a two-star review rated book will show next to four and five star reviewed books. This could simply be because it is a new book is without enough reviews to give a true indication but more often it is because the author simply got everything else perfectly set up for A9, so the book appears higher on the pages.

You should constantly monitor your reviews to ensure customers do not abandon their potential purchase due to a negative review.

By responding to negative reviews in a timely fashion, you are showing your prospective customers you hold a value of their comments. This helps maintain positive overall customer experience.

You will notice at the start of this section I used the wording ‘Genuine, unsolicited, un-incentivised reviews’. This is because these are the ONLY reviews that Amazon A9 is concerned with.

Many authors believe that paid for, swapped, coerced or otherwise incentivised reviews help with Amazon rankings. Well, maybe they once did, but Amazon has been working extremely hard and are finding ways to validate every review.

Amazon uses a number of various systems to log everything… the numbers, the names, usernames, associated usernames (friends of), web locations, physical locations, device ID’s of reviewers, ISP addresses associated with reviews and many more data points.

This information is used to monitor the posting of fake and incentivised reviews, along with authors and businesses linked to enticing fake reviews. You may get away with one or two, but that’s about it, many more and A9 will flag your account(s). This may mean the reviews will be deleted, your account may be suspended or closed, just as those posting the reviews.

As A9 and its associated crawlers and bots develop and gather more information about each author/users’ actions and their algorithms enhanced, Amazon has vowed to clear all fake and incentivised reviews from the platform to improve quality.

Read more… https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1kR

 

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6, Sales

The most important thing to remember about the A9 algorithm, and what differentiates it from traditional search engines, is that it exists to facilitate one thing: sales.

A9 looks at your title, product descriptions and the price you set to determine relevance. Together, these factors create a flywheel effect where improving one element of your product marketing also increases sales velocity which, in turn, improves your listing’s visibility.

Higher A9 ranking means more targeted exposure by Amazon, such as showing on ‘Also bought’, ‘Also viewed’ and ‘Frequently bought together’ directed to a relevant audience.

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7, The Future for A9

Looking at how Google evolved over the years gives us a look into how we believe Amazon is expected to change.

Amazon’s A9 algorithm will follow a similar trajectory, albeit more slowly and less aggressively (remember, as effective as it is, A9 is not one of Amazon’s most important ‘products’).

Amazon is working to fix many problems: low-quality listings, broken English, higher return rates and how people generate reviews (fake reviews, for example). Amazon has aggressively targeted fake reviews in the past few years, going so far as suing Fiverr directly.

In February 2011, Google released an update called Panda.

Despite its tame name, this update wiped out millions in affiliate marketer & SEO consultant earnings. Superficially speaking, the update itself was aimed at low-quality sites from a content point of view. Copied, scraped and poorly created content was the chief target, meaning that millions of low-quality sites were hit very hard and de-indexed. 95+% of traffic and all the income associated with it, poof, GONE.

Amazon is looking to publish a similar update; the goal to have listings that read well and avoid broken English, duplicate content and generally poor optimization overall, instead of just basing the majority of factors on sales directly.

One of the reasons this makes sense from a business point of view is to reduce the number of low-quality Chinese sellers driving out genuine, quality-focused businesses. (Think future competition, think Alibaba).

There are multiple other reasons it makes sense to Amazon’s business model.

This ‘Amazon Panda’, or whatever they may call it, will change the game, but what will ultimately turn Amazon SEO services & marketing agencies on its head would be an algorithm update similar to Google’s ‘Penguin’ update.

The Panda update in 2011 was big but the Penguin update actually changed the SEO game forever. Released on 24th April 2012 (version 1) it impacted close to 3.1% of search queries. If you’ve ever implemented an SEO campaign, you’ll know it’s a massive amount of organic search results.

In short, this update aimed to remove link spam. Any site which was using questionable link building tactics was hit and penalised. Organic traffic for some companies went to zero and some never recovered.

Amazon’s ‘Penguin’ update, a form of which is under construction (I have been told), will involve targeting elements such as sales manipulation, discounted product giveaways, which they are already combating, and overall search engine manipulation.

Other trust signals will become more and more important.

Industry chatter tells me that generating more than 3 reviews per day is a signal that Amazon uses to identify review manipulation. Other tools such as Fakespot or Reviewmeta are also very common for spotting fake reviews.

Third parties are building tools that identify fake reviews. Amazon has signals and software to reduce the amount of review spam on their platform.

The end result is if you want to stay 100% safe, ensure you stay within Amazon’s terms of service and avoid any algorithm manipulation

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 One final ‘thing’  to end this post..

Myth: Discounted books and Giveaways Still Work.

NO, they don’t.

This is an Amazon SEO myth we have to cover… discounted and book giveaways. They just don’t work anymore.

This was a very sharp change Amazon made almost 2 years ago now. The main tweak involved how Amazon weighted the ranking signal for discounted product sales.

Previously Amazon weighted discounted products (80%+) still relatively heavily. So, a small amount of discounted product giveaways resulted in large organic ranking movements.

The tweak Amazon added downgraded the weighting used. With this in place, running discounted giveaways just doesn’t make economic sense anymore.

Read more… https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1fn

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Publishing trends, predictions & forecasts for 2020

Those of you who follow Ramblings from a Writers Mind will know this time of year I put my ‘professional neck’ on the line by expressing my prognostications regarding the publishing industry for the coming year.

The first of these predictive posts was made way back in December 2017, when I forecast my assumptions for 2018. Looking back now, you will agree I pretty much nailed it. See for yourself,Insights & Publishing Trends for 2018′ 

Last year I published, on the 27th of December 2018, my review for this year, 2019. How accurate is this forecast? ‘Publishing Trends & Indie Author Insights for 2019′ 

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This year, I am once again sticking my neck above the parapet by suggesting what will be happening through 2020, regarding the publishing industry worldwide, especially that which affects the Indie Author.

I have been asked why I post this forecast every year.

My answer is simple; if you have an idea of what is happening, going to happen or reasonably likely to happen, you can plan your writing, your genre, your book and cover design, marketing, promotions, and social media content to take full advantage of the markets predicted movements and organic flux.

In simple terms, you can be proactive rather than reactive and keep up, if not stay one step ahead, of the game.

I have not organised the following in any particular order, so scroll down and pick out the areas which interest you the most and then work through the other sections as there is, most definitely, information you really do want, (or need,) to be informed about in each section.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

2 – Audio/Audiobooks

3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

4 – Emerging reach methods

5 – Social Media

6 – Telling Stories on social

7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

8 – India

9 – Authorpreneurs

10 – POD/Inventory

11 – Author Alliances

12 – Crowded Social

13 – Fundamental Shifts

So, without further ado, this is my insight and predictive forecast into the indie book market and international publishing industry worldwide for the year AD 2020.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

As a digital artist and book cover designer, this is one area I personally enjoy keeping a close eye on.

There are many elements to good design and bringing them all together in a limited space while incorporating all the necessary text elements is an often-underrated skill.

With the lists of newly released and soon to be released books now in the public domain, it is easy to see the prevailing design trends. Many of which, I suggest Indie Authors should take heed of.

  • The first is those where the designers create Technicolor covers, washes of psychedelic textured rainbow patterns, which appear to be moving across the cover or jacket. It is their dimensionality that tricks the eye.
  • Continuing from 2019 is text and images which overlap images and text, and become interwoven with them, lending an almost 3D effect to the cover.
  • Minimalist covers, such as monochrome with basic lettering, will carry over into 2020. The simplicity of such covers, usually using a bold background image, works well against shelves full of multicolour and bright renditions.
  • Handwritten style fonts, occasionally used with ‘crossing out’ of bolder texts, do not seem to be going away but are becoming more inventive and eye-catching.
  • Staying with text. A resurgence, in a modern form, will be shuddering, shading, glows, bevels and reflections. Big bold typographic statements that ‘jump-right-out’ at you.

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2 – Audio/Audiobooks

The audiobook market has grown in double figures for six straight years with a 37.1% growth in the USA in 2018. (latest figures)

The original audiobook provided a way of reading for those with visual problems and the elderly. The CD market for audiobooks formed 54% of sales in 2010 with digital downloads at 42%.

This has changed in recent years, partly because older people tend to be more tech-savvy and partly because the audience is becoming younger. The average listening age has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 now.

As technology advances, so does demand. Smartphones, tablets and more recently, the growth in artificial intelligence have all contributed to the rise and fall of different markets with physical products taking a hit.

2020 will continue to bring a more diverse listener as marketing targets people of all ages from all walks of life.

The rise of the podcast has, in part, been responsible for the popularity and growth of audiobooks and will continue to bring in new listeners (across all ages) as its popularity transfers across to audiobooks.

People utilise the ability to listen to books while doing other things like gardening, travelling, jogging, knitting. Despite advances in screen technology people still drop devices in the bath or struggle with the sun when on holiday, not to mention the need to hold the device while sunbathing. Audiobook offers a solution to these problems with obvious benefits.

The Big Five publishers have only recently recognised that the audiobook market is the only sector demonstrating year on year growth, but boy are they noticing now. They have huge marketing budgets which will have a big impact on future audiobook trends. There is already and will be more aggressive marketing by the big players who will want to dominate and take their share of the pot. Targeting has only just begun to attract under 45s who use smartphones and AI more than older generations.

Indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production is prohibitive. Having said that, many have entered via the royalty share option offered by producers such as ACX. Early adopters found more success with non-fiction books and these are hugely popular with figures for the final quarter of 2018 making up 25-50% of sales in some non-fiction genres.

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3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Firstly, I am touching on a subject which is pertinent, but one which I expect will see smaller businesses and Indie Authors woefully trailing behind. It is one, however, which opens new opportunities or expands on the offerings of those already in the market.

This is the new wave of IT, or AI, as this in the next organic technological expansion. This evolution of IT will allow the integration of content, engagement and auto-tagging to scale and create process efficiencies.

While basic SEO will continue for the foreseeable, AI leveraged contributions will be at the forefront of the shift to mobile-first index and aid continued spotlighting of both local and personalised search results.

Publishers will start to create platforms to collect and visualise audience and community data as the focus on segmentation grows even more. This will lead to building branded lean sites featuring authentic storytelling and content native to the digital platform.

While content remains king, site architecture will focus on redistributing the information in forms which ensures easy to find and easy to access content for customers.

None of the above,  which may be some time before becoming widespread and accepted, should detract from already accepted processes.

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4 – Emerging reach methods

It is important for Indie Authors and small press publishers to monetize traffic whenever possible.

This should not simply be considered a ‘secondary’ income stream but needs to be considered as part of the mainstream income.

Podcasting and 4K video are two areas Indies can consider. Both need a savvy website design and high-speed Internet.

Note: As mobile use continually grows users expect all content to load just as quickly and easily on their phone as on their computer. Since websites play such a vital role, trends surrounding them range from AMP to PWAs to Schema markup.

Okay, let’s get to some facts.

  • You will need to leverage podcasting with publishing. In 2018, podcast listeners in the US grew from 40 per cent to 44 per cent of the total population.
  • The top revenue stream for worldwide news publisher became digital publishing subscriptions with 44 per cent of the world population reading online.
  • Printing is not going anywhere. Most businesses, 64 per cent, told the Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study printing will remain important well into 2025.
  • While the global book publishing industry is worth about $103 billion, it has continued to experience 0 per cent annual growth five years running.
  • Self-publishing continues to provide an “in” for those who want to publish, but self-published e-books provide better response for the author. On Kindle, 17 of the 100 top-selling books are self-published.
  • Publishers report their highest priority in 2020 is audience growth and marketing with 34. 2 per cent placing it at the top. Second priority comes successful SEO, say 25.8 per cent.
  • Publishers have deserted traditional media as a source for information and instead, 64.2 per cent say they read blogs with second place going to forums with 11.7 per cent of publishers reporting it as their source for industry news.
  • Publishers say their biggest challenges of 2020 include creating unique content that readers want, 23.3 per cent, keeping up with Google algorithm changes, 22.5 per cent, and diversifying website revenue, 20.8 per cent.

Okay. that’s the ‘techy’ stuff and what the larger publishers think. So, what can the Indie do, what are the trends to follow, or even lead on, regarding Social Media?soc

5 – Social Media

Habits change, platforms evolve, and new platforms come into existence. All this influences how people use and react to social media marketing, as well as how marketers can reach their audience.

What you did last year, or the year before, probably will not give the same results now. Like giving away your books for free… that is a big NO-NO for 2020.

There are now 3.484 billion social media users across the globe, which is a 9% increase compared to last year. This equates to 45% of the world’s population being on social. It also means social media adoption has beaten previous estimates, which estimated 2.82 billion would be using social media in 2019.

Saying that, more people are choosing to “detox” from social media, deleting apps and profiles to step away. This is more than the usual changes seen, in terms of people choosing to use one platform less in favour of another, such as Facebook seeing users decline but Instagram attracting more, this trend is seeing people take a temporary or permanent break from all social media.

One in three adults in the UK are reducing their social media use. Some 6% of users have removed an app from their phone, 6% have permanently deleted their accounts and 8% have deleted their accounts and removed social media mobile apps. A big reason for this is people feel overloaded by social media, with the permeation of social media affecting mental health and wellbeing. Others choose to detox because they don’t trust social media platforms, either due to issues like Fake News or because of privacy and data concerns.

This is not to say social media will become void in terms of digital marketing, but marketers do need to understand the impacts.  It’s also vital you ensure your social media presence is as meaningful as possible. Your brand needs to offer more than memes, you need to deliver content which is positive and memorable. Content that makes an impact on your audience and provides as much value as possible.

While sharing posts you believe your target audience will enjoy is part of maintaining your social media presence, but you also need to encourage and cultivate interactions which are more than a simple like or share. Many brands/other authors have large numbers of social media ‘followers’ yet, their engagement levels are almost non-existent. Don’t be them. Be a brand who attracts engagement from their followers by building communities around your content.

Encourage your(self)/team to create their own social presence to promote content and increase overall brand trust. This tactic leads to an authentic voice for your organisation/brand.

Twitter chats help create a strong sense of community through content, bringing thought from all areas together in a real-time conversation. It gives your brand the perfect opportunity to engage directly with current and potential customers/readers.

Building social media communities help with word-of-mouth marketing, which is another big social media marketing trend for 2020. Communities allow engagement with nano and micro-influencers. many who will already be advocating your brand. Give them more reasons to share honest views and experiences of your products/books/author services.

Note: I mention Nano & Micro-influencers above. These are the people you need to create ongoing relationships with, not the ‘big influencers’ ones often associates with that term.

‘Big influencers’ are no longer trusted by consumers as their activity is clearly biased and devised for commercial reward. They no longer have the impact they once did and are seen as disingenuous.

In comparison, smaller influencers, ones who are likely to be part of your communities, tend to have better relationships with their followers, benefiting from a higher level of trust. This can lead to more engagement, thus increasing levels of trust in a brand/author/books which is more likely to culminate in conversion.

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The rise of alternative platforms

Whilst Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to be the core platforms, many users are growing fatigued with their continuous ‘moving of the goalposts’ in order to generate even high levels of their already extreme profits, seemingly at the expense, or disadvantage of their users.

This has led to brands, including the individual entrepreneur/author having to fight harder than ever before to achieve good levels of organic reach and engagement. While Twitter has seen some growth during 2019, its active user numbers are far from its all-time 2017 high.

Similarly, Facebook has seen a huge drop in users, especially younger users, over the last two years, with the younger audiences opting to spend time on other platforms. Combine the above with the increasing pay-to-play format of social media channels means brands are not seeing the result from the core platforms.

Be prepared for more changes through 2020 as these core platforms jostle for users and introduce alternative and optional platforms and media channels.

  • TikTok, with a younger target audience (41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24) could be a great platform to encourage engagement with users who are stepping away from more traditional social media platforms. TikTok is the destination for short-form mobile videos.
  • Although Pinterest is far from new on the scene, it has experienced a recent resurgence. Pinterest has found it fits well into the e-commerce space and has an audience who are engaged with the idea of buying products they see on the platform. 75% of Pinterest users say they are “very interested” in new products compared to just 55% of people on other social media platforms. Brands report success on this platform, reporting 2x higher returns on ad spend from the platform than other forms of social media and a 1.3x higher return than traditional search.
  • Consider Virily is a relatively new Blogging Platform which opened its doors in May of 2017. Its offices are located in Estonia and Macedonia.

Virily practices revenue sharing, which for the small publisher and Indie Author, means the content you post and the interactions you make on the site earn you a share of the platform’s income.

So, by simply posting your engaging content via Virily, sharing that to your other social sites, from which your posts will be viewed, you will earn some revenue. Don’t hold your breath though, you will not earn a fortune, but if you are constantly posting engaging content, which you should be, then why not do it via Virily and earn a few cents per post?

The one downside is, you cannot post long/large blogs (like this one). But you could break it down into three or four shorter articles.

Utilizing alternative platforms allows you to engage with an audience who may not be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, as well as providing you with different ways to share your content.

This could help deliver better results and shape your future social media marketing strategy.

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6 – Telling Stories on social

I have given this short section space of its own. Although it is still focused on social media, it is also at the core of what we authors do… tell stories.

Allow me to elucidate.

A long time ago I offered my services, on a commercial basis, to companies seeking ‘alternative’ marketing options. By a long time ago I mean the early two-thousands, so around twenty or more years ago.

This involved something I termed, CBNM, or ‘Creative Brand Narrative Marketing’. Not to be confused with ‘Narrative Marketing’.

I promoted the idea thus:

Unlike regular or standard brand narrative, CBNM uses flash fiction, short stories, essays and other narrative mediums to embed brand awareness and responsiveness into the consciousness of the consumer as a cultural and social standard, making it familiar and customary, thus creating longevity of brand loyalty.

CBNM is well suited to the internet; particularly Social Media Platforms, Web Communities, Forums and Blogging chains. Yet can be designed in such a manner that also allows inclusion in traditional and established marketing mediums.

CBNM is pro-active, flexible and adaptive. It can change and adjust your communications to express any modification or revision as and when required.

While I was more focused on the written word at the time than the current fashion for image-led ‘stories’, I see no reason the two cannot be combined and, with the option of linking the message to various other platforms, like Instagram, Amazon or ones own website. I see sharing ‘stories’ is a growth area for engagement.

I was way ahead of the game and now the rest of the world has caught up, as CBNM still holds true today, in fact, even more so. CBNM is all about engaging with one’s audience, about creating great content, about engagement and about eliciting response… the current mantra of all marketing gurus and one of the ‘must do’s’ of 2020.

Since the launch of Snapchat, other social media platforms have rushed to add the Stories format to their offering. The result has been huge growth in the usage of this format for Instagram in particular, which as of January 2019, boasts 500 million daily active Stories users across the globe.

On average, brands are posting Stories on around seven days a month, averaging out to one Story every four days.

Instagram.

  • Instagram Stories are more authentic than traditional Instagram posts that allow for heavy editing and altering.
  • Content is only available for 24hrs, therefore, it is current and will not become outdated.
  • Consumers want live updates and real-time content. Instagram Stories are normally the most up-to-date content a business can offer a consumer.
  • Through Instagram Stories, you can share other people’s Instagram posts. This function allows people to connect easily with other accounts and businesses.

Stories are not a suitable option for every brand, but as stories are engaging and seeing increased use, will lead consumers to expect brands to create Stories, it is worth assessing if and how you can utilize them.

An ongoing question I am asked is, “What’s the future of reading regarding eBooks and Print.”

Since the creation of eBooks, reading on the go has become so much easier… or has it?

Whether you daily commute or travel by plane, seeing people with e-reader devices in their sticky paws, rather than a traditional paperback book is not an uncommon sight. The prime difference is most devices avail the user to such a range of activities, it is so simple to flick, slide or click onto the next thing that comes into the user’s mind. From bidding on that must-have from eBay to browsing Amazon, to looking at pictures on Instagram before opening an eBook and reading another chapter, all can be done almost instantaneously.

Oh, for any doubters out there, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Reading a book is alive and well.

A recent Survey Monkey report revealed people have read eleven or more in the last twelve months. Uncategorised fiction came in first at 26%, with mysteries and thrillers coming in at a close second (22%).

What is interesting is the majority preferred to go with a print book when reading, with around 58% saying they purchased books in both formats. It seems people like the e-readers because they can store more, but overall, most people prefer to read a traditional printed tome whenever they can (70%).

Even with so many people liking the smell and feel of a paper book, curling up on a rainy afternoon with a mug of tea and a thriller may become a thing of the past, feared 45% of respondents.

What has not changed is peoples’ love of reading, no matter what shape, size or format the stories come in.

However, the above are just a few results from a relatively small market sample which was mostly based on people opinion rather than die-hard facts.

The following is a look at the state of the book market and takes its lead from industry published facts.

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7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

Two new sets of numbers covering 2017 (latest available figures)show ebook sales are on the decline, both in terms of unit and dollar sales.

NPD’s PubTrack Digital, saw the unit sales of ebooks fall 10 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016. In absolute numbers, that meant the roughly 450 publishers represented saw ebook sales drop from 180 million units to 162 million over a year’s time.

The second, The American Association of Publishers, reported a decline in overall revenue for ebooks, a year-to-year decrease of 4.7 per cent in 2017. AAP tracks sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.

This ebook decline occurred in an overall publisher revenue environment that AAP said was essentially flat in 2017. So, some other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback books, went up as ebooks went down. For its part, NPD says when combining print and ebook unit sales, ebooks’ percentage of the total dropped from 21 per cent in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2017.

Children’s ebooks had the most dramatic decline in unit sales, and children’s/young adult ebooks have suffered double-digital revenue drops ever since the year 2015. Whilst adult fiction remains the most popular ebook category, with 44 per cent of all adult fiction sales in digital form.

However, neither NPD and AAP measure indie sales.

This is simply because centralized reporting of direct-from-author sales is tougher to come by, but by all anecdotal measures the independent market has taken off, notably in the also-still-large category of adult fiction.

One serious source of numbers for online book sales, including for indie ebooks, was the website Author Earnings. (Recently defunct) It estimated that traditional publisher reporting is, “now missing two-thirds of U.S. consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend.”

They say; “Ninety per cent of all romance purchases are ebooks,” the site’s latest report for Q2-Q4 2017 stated. “And we can see that science fiction and fantasy, with roughly 75 per cent of sales now ebooks and audio, is not that far behind.”

For all categories of ebooks, Author Earnings figures purely “indie” publishing accounted for at least 38 per cent of ebook units and 22 per cent of ebook dollars in the last nine months of 2017. And that doesn’t include micro presses, Amazon’s imprints.

“The indie share of the entire U.S. ebook market … now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings concluded. “In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.”

So, you may be wondering: Are people buying more ebooks or more print books, overall? It’s hard to tell, across all kinds of books. Author Earnings doesn’t track physical bookstore sales, and NPD and AAP only track traditional publisher sales.

Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon distributes a lot of independently published ebooks, made it a point to note in his annual letter to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

Part of the apparently increasing shift of authors to indie status may be about the money.

 “In traditional publishing, the writer sees a sliver of the profits — 5-15 per cent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo, herself a hybrid author, told me. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”

The future of ebook publishing may increasingly belong to the independent author, especially as traditional publishers shift more marketing weight onto the writers while charging a premium for their traditionally published product.

2020 will see the market share of Indie Authors and Publishers increase again. More traditional published authors will move, at least part of their catalogue, or new book publishing, to the Indie market and in doing so will bring subsequent changes to the way the Indie market operates.

Mainstream publishing houses will also continue to encroach into the indie field as Penguin has with their Independent Publishing arm… which I find a contradiction in terms… but there we are.

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8 – India

India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth-largest in the world and the second-largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020.

General and literary fiction is ranked the number one genre in the books segment while “test prep” was the most sought-after genre in Academic books.

The consumer data survey, (Nielsen India Book Market Report) shows, on average people read books 2.1 times a week while nearly two-thirds read the book occasionally; interestingly, 56 per cent of the respondents bought at least one e-book a year and nearly half of these bought at least 3-4 e-books a year indicating a growing demand for digital books.

Fifty-five per cent of trade sales are of books in English. Books in Hindi account for 35 per cent of Indian language sales.

While the market is highly fragmented, it is also experiencing consolidation, partly due to presence of the merged Penguin/Random House/HarperCollins’ acquisition of Harlequin (all companies with substantial presences in India), but also in educational, with S Chand’s acquisition of Madhuban, Vikas Publishing House and Saraswati Book House, and with Laxmi Publications’ acquisition of Macmillan Higher Education.

Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen Book India, adds,

“There is enormous potential in the Indian book market which has been highlighted by the report, enabling publishers, booksellers and libraries to gain a deeper understanding of the market, pin-pointing areas that can be developed and those pinch points that need to be addressed in order to bring more efficiency and cost savings to the Indian book market and its supply chain.”

Those authors who are part of Electric Eclectic will know this marketplace is already being explored by Electric Eclectic. For those authors who are not part of Electric Eclectic… then maybe now is a good time to join us.

I cannot write this forecast without mentioning Amazon… so, here is a brief mention…

Amazon has reported strong growth metrics across business segments in recent years. Much of the company’s top-line growth has been on an organic basis, with the only major exception being the $13.7 billion addition of Whole Foods and resulting physical stores to Amazon’s offerings. (latest available figures.)

Expect Amazon’s combined global online sales to increase from $130 billion in 2018 to over $180 billion by 2020.

The company’s net revenues to increase from $178 billion in 2017 to $235 billion and increase to over $340 billion by the end of the decade.

Accordingly, the online sales business is expected to contribute around 44% of Amazon’s overall revenue growth in the same period.

No one predicted, 10 years ago,  Amazon would emerge as the world’s largest cloud provider, or it would be opening physical bookstores, or offering innovative ways for customers to shop without cashiers (Amazon Go stores). I say Amazon will be pursuing a growth opportunity a decade from now that no one is talking about currently.

I cannot say what Amazon will look like in 2029… but…

Although Amazon is already enormous in size given its nearly $233 billion in annual revenue, there are still many places around the world where Amazon hasn’t penetrated. International revenue makes up about 28% of the company’s total revenue, and the largest market outside of North America is Germany.

Amazon will need to overcome obstacles as it expands internationally.

In China, where Amazon has less than a 1% share of e-commerce sales, Alibaba has a stranglehold on the market.

In India, where Amazon has been investing heavily, it has run into an obstacle in the form of new government e-commerce and anti-monopoly policies that force foreign competitors to compete more on quality of service instead of price.

But Amazon is just getting its feet wet.

In 2019, Amazon started to expand in Brazil and just opened its first e-commerce store in Turkey.

Amazon has generally run its international operations at a loss, but that’s indicative of Amazon’s moat. It requires billions of dollars to build the infrastructure in these countries, not to mention navigate around complicated laws and regulatory environments. There are not many companies in the world, except maybe Walmart, that have the capital and patience to lose money for several years while building the necessary scale to earn a profit.

While Amazon doesn’t disclose advertising revenue specifically, its “other” revenue category, which primarily includes ad revenue, increased 117% to $10.1 billion in 2018. Amazon’s ad business is growing at a faster clip than Facebook’s and Alphabet’s. It’s estimated that by 2020, Amazon’s ad business will reach $15 billion, which eMarketer expects to come at the expense of Google’s digital ad share.

While Amazon’s core retail business will continue to grow around the world, investors should keep their eye on Amazon’s cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS helps companies connect and scale a host of services and systems in the cloud, including machine learning, blockchain, storage, database system hosting, analytics, and business applications, among several other services.

Revenue from AWS has more than doubled to $25.7 billion over the last few years. It was estimated that Amazon had a 52% share of the public cloud service market in 2017, according to research firm Gartner.

What’s more, AWS contributed nearly 59% of Amazon’s total operating profit last year. One analyst with MKM Partners thinks that AWS alone could be worth $1 trillion by 2024, which is more than Amazon’s current market value of $871 billion (total shares outstanding times the share price).

Over the next decade, you can expect Amazon to continue to push forward internationally and penetrate the crevices of commerce and help migrate more people over to a digital economy. There’s still a lot of opportunities domestically, as well, given that e-commerce sales still represent less than 10% of U.S. retail sales.

International, advertising, and AWS are some of the big things that will drive growth going forward, but CEO Jeff Bezos is never short of ideas of where to steer the company. With Amazon currently pursuing opportunities in non-retail industries, such as the $135 billion video game industry and the $3 trillion healthcare industry, the company will likely look very different a decade from now. But that is what makes Amazon one of the most dynamic companies in the world, and why it’s a great growth stock to tuck away in your nest egg.

That’s it on Amazon. (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)

I don’t really need to say much else, except to ask where would we, as Indie Authors, would be without it? You may consider Amazon to be a Marmite company, love or hate. For me, the benefits of association far outweigh the alternatives… so, I’m in the love camp.

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9 – Authorpreneurs

I expect to see more self-publishing authors taking the role of “authorpreneur.” Publishing a book is a business venture, one with you, the author, as the brand.

Many successful and experienced authors now build their brand and establish their credibility in a given field. It is not enough to simply write a book; authors must market themselves, become involved in their own promotions and advertising.

This opens opportunities to help, aid and coach other authors, and to create other revenue streams. This can be in editing, proofreading, promotions, marketing, design, virtual assistants, virtual customer services, the supply of hand-crafted merchandise, online stores and more.

Some author organisations, such as Electric Eclectic, allow their authors to use established branding and to work with other EE authors.

2020, I am sure will see many Indie authors utilising their skillsets in this way.

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10 – POD/Inventory

Print on demand remains an important option for indie authors, one of the key factors which allow the independents to compete with their larger and better-funded competitors.

While eBooks are still in (slight) decline, print books show no such signs and allow the Indie Author the freedom of not having to hold a large inventory. An issue even large companies must contend with… even Amazon.

To deal with congestion at its warehouses, Amazon has cut book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. (reported by Publishers Weekly, Nov 19

The head of a publishing company said,

“if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks we could lose the entire holiday season.” He added, “that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations.”

It is this freedom from having to batch print and hold physical stock (of any quantity) which allows the Indie Authors to compete.

I don’t think 2020 will see any major movement from the likes of Barnes and Nobel or Walmart with regards to carrying indie-published books directly, but I am certain these companies are looking into the possibilities of creating their own POD systems.

If they do, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for the Indie Author… stay tuned, folks.

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11 – Author Alliances

This is not new in concept, but these cooperative associations are morphing into successful unions.

In 2020 I expect many more Indie Authors to pull together to advocate for themselves. For example, authors are challenging the control ACX, a marketplace owned by Audible still wields over the audiobook industry.

For uploading an audiobook, and perhaps a simple quality check, they ask for a percentage of sales twice the size the author receives. Authors are starting to question this and, now, more equitable alternatives are starting to appear.

An important shift now is that predatory and fraudulent companies are being exposed, as authors come together to protect their best interests.

ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, is helping authors sort the legitimate actors from those that have been subject to repeated customer complaints and legal action. Their ranking offers a one-stop resource for authors to determine if a publishing service comes vetted and recommended, with a Watchdog Advisory, or somewhere in between.

Another form of author alliance is common branding.

For example, Electric Eclecticallows its members, Indie Authors and small press publishers, to use the Electric Eclectic branding and share in the brand and individual author marketing initiatives.

My own expectation is, it will be harder to survive without forming an alliance, partnership or collaborating with others.

Take note from some of the big brands who partnered up to expand their reach and increase sales. For example, Starbucks and Spotify, giants in the coffee and music streaming business. They integrated the Spotify mobile app with the Starbucks My Rewards program and app. When customers were in the store, they could use either app to find out what music is playing in the store and add it to their saved music in Spotify.

The payoff for Starbucks was that the collaboration drove customers to download the app and join their customer loyalty program. As for Spotify, users who subscribe to their paid memberships get extra points for Starbucks My Rewards program. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and both companies have the potential to reach the other’s audience without sacrificing their brand.

And that is the key, Mutually beneficial’. Time to get you Mutually Beneficial coalition(s) up and running.

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12 – Crowded Social

Indie Authors must contend with far more than the competition of other books. You must also compete for space and attention which a million and one other products and services are fighting for.

This is most obvious of these are other forms of entertainment.

Almost every day some newform or platform for entertainment is announced. The sources proliferate online, authors compete with not only radio and TV, but the new streaming services beyond just Netflix, including Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, along with sports, live theatre, podcasts, video games, and more.

It can be difficult to stand out, to be seen when you are alone. To stay relevant, Indie Authors need to brand themselves and, as above, share branding, at least for some of their works.

One area where indies can have an upper hand is on a local basis, one’s hometown and county. This year 2020, make it a prime task to link up with your local media, radio stations, newspapers and television. Find out who runs Podcasts and blogs with local content in your area.

Once you have some airtime under your belt or even scheduled, you will find organising book signings far easier as your target destinations will be more receptive.

If you get on extremely well, why not have your local radio broadcast their show from the premises you are holding your signing. You make the radio happy, the bookstore happy and get a ton and a half of great exposure in your local community… hey, celebrity status at last!

Basically, as with all marketing. Think ‘outside the box’. (At least a little)

 

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13 – Fundamental Shifts

Of course, fundamental shifts in publishing will continue and not all of them will be predictable. (Except maybe by me? Lol) Authors do need to stay informed, this year 2019, we saw Sci-Fi, Cosy Mysteries, Women’s fiction and Historical fiction all come to the forefront of ‘trending’. I expect this to continue, at least for the first quarter of 2020.

Over the past years, we have seen Amazon grow from a minor player to the largest book distributor. Borders and the subsequent focus on B&N and Waterstones. Direct to consumer marketing, the vexing issue of ‘Discoverability’ and powerful trends like Open Access. Increasing globalised markets, innovations of workflow, and so much more.

But above them, all were the sea changes in how books of any kind were bought and sold, whether print or ebook and what this meant for the process and structure of publishing.

I think, starting now, we will see the effects of consolidation. Maybe. Eventually, an emergence of supergiant companies, such as the joining of forces of such giants as Pearson, Bertelsman, RELX and Lagardere… all as one? Maybe.

It is not so farfetched. Penguin (&) Random House, now incorporates Harper Collins. Nature and Springer are now one company. Each is a behemoth in comparison to what was considered ‘big’ just 20 years ago.

So, what does this hold for the Indie, the single hard-working writers such as you and me?

Thankfully, I see the road ahead as favourable.

While scale and centralisation may well be the future for the giants, the smaller ‘Davids’ of the world can look forward to continued diversity. Which is a good thing.

The growth of writing platforms, like Wattpad, YouTube for words, Vice, Buzzfeed, blogging and niche newsletters, are all thriving, which proves the case for more an unfiltered environment, rather than a controlled one… (one of the reasons Facebook is losing users.)

Think about the indie publishing markets future like the ripples caused by a stone being dropped into water.

Today, we are in the centre… time to ride the ripples outwards as they and the market expand.


Did you know Electric Eclectic has its own Amazon store?

@open24 lists all Electric Eclectic books, books from associate publishers and a range of gifts for writers and readers.

Have a browse now, @open24, an Amazon store.

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Authors, are you sitting on a fortune without realising it?

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A short while ago I wrote a post about the different ways and reasons authors might sign their books. Why you should take signing and inscribing your books very seriously…

This post follows on from that one, but not along the route you might think.

Once again, this is an in-depth and informative article, from which I think you will take far more than just the main points I make.

At least, I hope so.


The idea for this post came about while I was chatting away with a friend, discussing how easy it is to recycle print books nowadays, especially since the introduction of environmentally friendly inks, papers, films, card and such.

However, as with most conversations, our chat wandered across many subjects, soon I found myself explaining how I sold several uncorrected proof copies of my books, ones which included errors, misprints, formatting issues and so forth to either fans or collectors.

My friend, who happens to be an avid collector of rare books, said this is not such an unusual occurrence, many book collections would not be complete without an uncorrected proof copy or two.

He said, some of these proofs are produced without cover illustrations, so the books are, in his words ‘raw’, just containing the writer’s words and little else. The resulting post is formed both from the information my friend shared and from research I undertook following our meeting.


I do understand why people collect first editions.

I the early days of printing presses the plates were made of lead, the sharpness of the edges on these plates would, after a number of impressions, wear. Thus, the earlier impressions would be far sharper and clearer than those printed later.

This was most important where the printed work contained illustrations or maps, which were generally finely penned pen & ink drawings or engravings, so clarity of reproduction was all-important.

In modern times, first with off-set printing and now with digital technology, this is no longer a factor and collecting ‘first’ or ‘early’ editions is now more of an act of faith than a practical necessity.

If one was to take the ‘early’ edition to its most, but logical, extreme, then it is the authors manuscript would be the rarest and most valuable version of ‘the book’… which it is.

Most collectors, including institutions, cannot collect authors manuscripts as widely, or as thoroughly, as they may wish.

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There is, however, a preliminary state of a book, prior to the first published edition and therefore closer to the authors manuscript so it still holds a high rarity value yet is more readily available.

These fall into two categories.

The first is the authors proof copy(s). Dependent on how many ‘proof’ editions are required.

The second is the ARC’s or ‘galley’ proofs, which often need final-final proofreading before publication and printing start in earnest.

These copies of your own books can also hold a higher intrinsic value than those of your production run, including POD’s.

The reason is twofold; the first is they are early examples, so they are rare, most being produced in low quantities of a dozen or so.

Secondly, most books will undergo their final revisions, by the author and editors, after the printing of the proof copies; meaning these books often show a state of the authors work otherwise unpublished. This is enormously interesting and informative for scholars and students of literature and language studies.

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The history of producing proof copies for distribution dates to the partly printed ‘salesmen’s dummies’ of the 19th century.

But ‘proofs,’ as part of the publication process, has a shorter history.

Advance copies of books for in-house use by the publisher are customary,  either as long galley proofs or in other formats. Printed and bound advance copies for distribution were rare in the 1930s and 40s, only becoming regular practice in the 1950s and 60s.

This was mostly due to Crane Duplicating Service, a Cape Cod printer, who promoted the idea to the publishing industry. Those who had a ‘Crane’ could print inexpensive prepublication editions which they could send out for early reviews, thus tempting the major wholesalers and retail buyers to place larger orders. Another development to assist with this was also devised by Crane, this was the placing of promotional ‘blurb’ on the rear covers or dust jackets of these promotional books.

This practice gained such wide acceptance proofs became known as ‘cranes’ by the print industry for many years, a practice which has only recently fallen from fashion.

You can see the natural, almost organic progress of how this influenced the concept and design of the modern book, which still sports the back cover and dust jacket ‘blurb’ first fashioned by those early publishing houses.

The number of proof copies is a secret kept by each publisher, but some figures have escaped, such as the 57 copies of Robert Stone’s first novel, The Hall of Mirrors, or the 39 proofs of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

One of Phillip K Dick’s novels contained ‘potentially libellous’ text. It is said that 19 proof copies of this book still exist… somewhere.

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Not satisfied with these simple proof copies, many publishers (since the 1930s) issue elaborately produced prepublication volumes in hope of generating further interest in forthcoming releases.

Raymond Chandler’s first novel, The Big Sleep, was issued in such a prepublication form, as were Dashiell Hammett, and James M, Cain and, in 1961, an ‘advance reading copy special edition’ of a forthcoming first novel called Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, was created.

Since then, ARC’s have become commonplace, they are now par-for-the-course for most releases, such is the case for ‘The World According to Garp‘, John Irving’s breakthrough novel, which used 1500 advance copies printed for promotional purposes. Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park had two printings of ARC’s totalling 2500 copies; it was his first bestseller. Since which he has become one of the most popular and successful thriller writers of all time.

Examples of textual changes in proofs abound.  Most are never discovered until someone does a line by line comparison with the final book.

Tim O’Brien revised his National Book award-winning novel, ‘Going After Cacciato‘, after the proof was printed, and O’Brien’s own copy has whole paragraphs marked out and rewritten. His second novel, Northern Lights, has a two-page section in the proof that does not appear in the finished book.

Peter Matthiessen’s National Book Award-winning ‘The Snow Leopard‘ has major changes made after the proof was printed, after he sent it to a friend, and Buddhist scholar, for comments on his references to Buddhism.

Kent Anderson’s powerful Vietnam war novel ‘Sympathy for the Devil‘ has the most stunning passages excised after the proof was printed, perhaps because they were deemed by editors to be too harsh for publication.

Oh, and no one would have known just how bad Ernest Hemingway’s Spanish was in the late 1930s if the proofs of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls‘ was not found.

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So, even if you change, finalise, re-edit sections or whole parts of your book after feedback from your ARC’s, this may not be a bad thing.

There is a case made because proofs are printed first and are distributed outside of the publishing house, they comprise the ‘true first edition’ of a book, as such distribution constitutes the ‘publishing’ of said work. i.e., making a book available to the public, however limited the availability may be.

Combining their historical scarcity, and likely future scarcity, with the textual variations which are often found and which, by definition, represent a state of the text closer to the author’s original manuscript, the value in collecting proof copies is self-evident.

Which brings me, albeit by such a circuitous route, to where this post links back to my previous one about book signings.

http://www.peecho.com/checkout/14716200169619823/234509/doveshardv3I have sold all the copies of my own proof books and intend to do so in the future as I release new works.

I combined the rarity of such with the opportunity to sign and/or inscribe each copy as described in the previous post on this blog.

Of course, the cost of these rare editions is a little higher than the general releases and, as I have the physical copies, shipping charges are also paid by the buyer.

Some may think this would dissuade the regular purchaser, but I have found otherwise and, on two occasions, had people bidding against each other.

I no longer allow people to get embroiled in this way and set what I consider to be a fair and reasonable price for each book.

Taking this one step further, I would also welcome the sale of my original manuscript, should I have handwritten, typewritten or even made handwritten alterations on hard copy, which I have, sadly, not.

Personally, I do not work that way. I do know some authors who prefer to do so and maybe this is an option they may like to consider?


To cap this post off, here are some points you may like to consider in your future marketing plans. Please note, these are ideas for Paperbacks and Hardcover books, they are not ideal or workable for eBooks.

The following notes are based on the premise from which I started this post… “are you sitting on a fortune without knowing it?”

1, Create a ‘first edition’ short run of your next book.

You could do this as a time-limited promotion or for a set number of books. Of course, you may find some little niggly alterations you need to make, which would only better the rarity of this first edition run.

2, Use any ARC copies (which could simply be a small number of the above or a set number of pre-proofread editions) to your benefit.

Don’t just send them to ‘reviewers’ or ‘friends’ seeking Amazon/Goodreads reviews. Such reviews now lack credibility as their authenticity is under challenge, which is why Amazon deletes so many ‘reviews’.

Instead, give them to your local radio and TV stations; in the UK seek out the local BBC stations as well as the independent ones. Do the same with your local newspapers. Give one to the manager of your local Waterstones bookshop, (these managers have a say in selecting the books their stores stock.)

The main reasons I suggest ‘local media’ is they are constantly hungry for ‘local’ news, so an author from the area who has or shall soon, be releasing a book is exactly the type of story they need. You may well get an interview or be asked to appear as a guest.

Try and milk the airtime. Do a pre-book release show with the ARC & get invited back, in say, two weeks, once your book has been released and is ‘live’ online. (Get two bites of the cherry & create a relationship with the host(s))

I have appeared on two of the three local radio stations in my hometown. Including several guest appearances on the primetime breakfast show.

Note: Do think outside the box, which is especially relevant for certain genres and non-fiction. I have some of my own books in maritime museums, seafarers, and naval heritage centre gift shops and online websites.

You can try your local tourist information centres if your book is about, or set in, the locality. Check out your local museums, galleries and tourist hot spots. Your book may just be welcome on their shelves.

3, If you want to try to attack the regional market, which will encompass your ‘State’ in the USA, then why not produce your own ‘special prepublication edition’ to send to the key organisations? (This would work for National campaigns too, but they are far more difficult to organise and manage.)

As with #2 above, only offer to sign or inscribe these ARC’s for the host when you are interviewed or appear on their show, or when your recorded slot has been aired. Try not to do it pre-show or during recording sessions.

After which, it is always worth turning up ‘out-of-the-blue’ on another day to sign the book when the show is on-air. (It is to the hosts benefit… they will almost certainly ‘fit-you-in’. Trust me, I have done this.)

Even if you do not get lucky with more airtime immediately, you can arrange a time to go back for the signing, even offer to give a signed book or two to the listeners, suggest holding a little quiz or competition. Anything that engages the station’s listeners will make them jump all over you for the privilege.

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4, Manuscripts.

A, If you handwrite and are willing to sell your manuscript, either your first draft of your final draft, then please offer it for sale at a price that reflects your love for your story, (i.e. not cheaply). You could fashion a loose cover or folder to keep the whole thing neat, or at least together for presentation purposes. If this has your signature or additional notes written on it, it will add to the overall provenance.

B, If you use a computer to write, as I do, why not consider printing out your draft, at least the ‘final/final first draft’ and making your own handwritten editorial notes on the physical copy, along with and as, you edit the on-screen copy.

This could then be treated as the manuscript above.

Please, however, only have one copy of your first draft and one of your final draft, (although other working copies are acceptable, such as the ARC draft, bot ONLY as long as each is a sole copy and unique), any other/repeat copies will only devalue your manuscripts and will be considered fraudulent, which is not, I am sure, a label you want to associate with your good name.

The more handwritten crossings out, margin notes, additions and so forth the better. These are the things collectors, libraries, scholastic establishments and museums adore. Such items tend to lend people a sense of ‘knowing’ the author as they work, an insight into their mindset if you will.

Well, that’s it from me for this post.

I do hope you can use some of these ideas or, indeed, find fresh ones which suit your own unique situation.

Finally, I can’t help think of eBooks as being ephemeral, subject to being lost in a power outage or, as Amazon.com did with a number of George Orwell books, when it found it sold them without having rights to them, simply erased them from the face of the earth. Something which is far harder to achieve with printed books…. note Fanrenhight 451.


Find my books, even those not available on Amazon.

Get a preview of my current Works in Progress.

See my Artworks and Photography.

Find my Biograph. 

Visit my website

HERE

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A bit about indies & readers…

I was having a conversation with a fellow indie author, Kazz Mossman, a founding member of Electric Eclectic books, sometime last week.EEgrunge

During our natter, Kazz raised a point I have never considered, or at least I have not pondered consciously before now.

The point she raised is the fact many people, especially those who are not associated with writing or authorship, have little, if any, understanding of what an ‘indie author’ is.

As I cogitated this, I found myself needing to consider my own position as it was many years ago… no, not that long ago, cheeky. But since the advent of, what was originally referred to as ‘desktop publishing’ became available to anyone who owned a ‘home-computer’…. you thought you had forgotten those terms, didn’t you?

At that time, except for scribbling out a few lines of poetry, a couple of song lyrics and jotting some rough, (very rough), handwritten notes of story ideas on scraps of paper, I could not be termed as a writer, even in the furthest stretch of anyone’s imagination.

I was, however, an avid reader. I found I could devour books in a matter of hours or days.

During my childhood I rapidly progressed from ‘Janet & John’ books to ‘Walkabout’ & Lord of the Flies, venturing on to Dennis Wheatley, Bernard Cornwall and James Clavell. Surprisingly enough, these books were interspaced with works from Thomas Hardy, W. Somerset Maugham and H. H. Monroe.

By the age of thirteen, I was absorbed by Wilbur Smith and the lives of the Courtney and Ballantyne families. I also found books by Deirdre Cash, who wrote under the pseudonym Criena Rohan and whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me to this day.41ESMEKARML._SL500_AA300_

Other authors I enjoyed were Joseph Heller, John Irving and David MacCuish’s ‘Do not go Gentle’, the story of a second world war American Marine’s life, both before and after conflict. I would recommend to any book lover to read both ‘Down by the Dockside’ & ‘Do not go Gentle’… but I digress from this premise of this post.

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The point I am making is, I liked to read good stories, ones which took me away from reality and into the world of fantasy and fiction. I liked to escape the humdrum and, for those few moments, allow myself to be transported to somewhere else, to be someone else, in another world, another time… I did not care which author wrote what story, as long as it totally absorbed my mind.

In that respect, nothing has changed for me. I still want precisely the same from any work of fiction I read. If I cannot lose myself in a book, then that book is not for me.

I think this is the same for many avid readers.

Yes, we all find our ‘favourite’ authors; the one’s whose writing style and narration ‘clicks’ with our own personality. These are the ones we watch for, patiently waiting for their next release. But once, even they were unknown to us. There was the ‘first time’ we opened one of their books, read the first chapter or two before we fell in love.

Did we, at that time consider if it was written by a ‘mainstream’ or ‘indie’ author?… did we heck, we simply chose the book because the cover attracted us enough to pick it up, the blurb explained it was the type of story we fancied reading at the time, and when we flicked through the pages, reading an odd line or two we liked the flow.

So, we took the chance and brought the book, hoping it was going to be money well spent.

This is what and how most people tend to select their next reading material. It is not a science, but one of personality, temperament, disposition and, often, mood.

With the above in mind, I ask; do you think it matters to prospective book buyers if they know the author was mainstream published or an independent author?

Do you think it may influence their decision on which books they purchase?

But mostly, do you think the general public know the difference between an indie and a contracted author?

Should we then, as indie authors, indie publishers and self-published writers enlighten, dare I even use the word ‘educate’, the world of bibliophiles and bookworms on this subject?

Do you, as an indie know the difference between these three terms and the basis of each… where/which and how would you classify yourself?

While I await your answers, I shall endeavour, in my usual haphazard and rambling way, to write a post explaining and clarifying the distinctions of being an indie author, a self-publisher and an indie-published writer.

You may find all is not quite what you expect and, possibly, taken for granted… until now.


If you are looking for your next great read why not visit my website where you will find a book to suit whatever mood you may be in right now.

Bronze Rabbit

I have a children’s book, another about musical legends, non-fiction works regarding the Royal Navy, short story collections on Crime, Life and being human, another for when you are feeling down, books of poetry and a full-length novel which will make you both laugh and cry.

Along with these are my Electric Eclectic books, mostly shorter works, so a good introduction to my style of writing and narrative form. They cover psychological drama, high-speed urban adventure, ghost-in-the-machine, crime, and pulp fiction/comic book style capers… and more.

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You can find my Electric Eclectic books on my website, the Electric Eclectic website, (along with books by other Electric Eclectic authors), or by visiting Amazon’s @open24 store, the choice is yours.

Wherever you choose to go and whichever books you buy, enjoy them.

Happy Days, Paul