Speaking of New Models for Self-Published Authors . . .

swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
edited March 5 in General Discussions
Creating an online platform for book promotion. How about it fellas and ladies here? Another unpromising effort to parlay the digital revolution for the hapless self-published author?

"Reedsy —a U.K.-based publishing startup that connects authors with editors, designers and marketers who can help them with their projects—has announced a new service to help them called Reedsy Discovery. Reedsy Discovery, which launched today, will let readers know about books its expert reviewers have recommended every week. Those who join are able to look through curated “bookshelves,” preview chapters and connect with other readers. Reedsy Discovery will also issue a weekly newsletter of top books in popular genres and books curated by trusted reviewers. It will also offer a leaderboard where readers can vote on their favorite titles."

"In the not so distant past, self-published books, issued by 'vanity' presses, were often dismissed as work that could not pass muster with traditional publishers. That’s changed, thanks to self-published best sellers such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield and Switched by Amanda Hocking.  The Martian, by Andy Weir, was adapted into a 2015 film starring Matt Damon.

"Today, many entrepreneurially-minded authors prefer to self-publish, so they can keep a greater share of the cover price than they would if they went the traditional route, where a commercial publisher takes a large cut. There were more than 1 million independently published books in the U.S. in 2017, compared to 300,000 conventionally published books, according to data that bibliographic information provider Bowker released in October 2018. Self-publishing grew at a 28% rate, a sharp increase over the 8% increase the previous year."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2019/03/04/new-platform-connects-self-published-authors-with-readers/amp/
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Comments

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    swmirsky said:
    Creating an online platform for book promotion. How about it fellas and ladies here? Another unpromising effort to parlay the digital revolution for the hapless self-published author?

    What? You mean another one?

    "Reedsy —a U.K.-based publishing startup that connects authors with editors, designers and marketers who can help them with their projects—has announced a new service to help them called Reedsy Discovery.

    That's not what I see. I see a site only requesting the submission of finished books for a fee of $50. (Not £50, seeing as it supposed to a UK based site?)

     Reedsy Discovery, which launched today, will let readers know about books its expert reviewers have recommended every week.


    They are going to read all the books submitted for just $50? They must be astonishingly fast readers. But then they will only tell people about the books that they like?!

     Those who join are able to look through curated “bookshelves,”

    Curated meaning what exactly?

     preview chapters and connect with other readers.

    As per Goodreads? Which is free to mention one's books on.

     Reedsy Discovery will also issue a weekly newsletter of top books in popular genres and books curated by trusted reviewers.

    Not all of the books submitted for $50 each then?

     It will also offer a leaderboard where readers can vote on their favorite titles."

    The ones put forward by the reviewers?

    "In the not so distant past, self-published books, issued by 'vanity' presses, were often dismissed as work that could not pass muster with traditional publishers. That’s changed, thanks to self-published best sellers such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield and Switched by Amanda Hocking.  The Martian, by Andy Weir, was adapted into a 2015 film starring Matt Damon.

    There's been millions of books published  before and since then, both by trad and by SP, that had nowhere near that success, so really to mention just those three is irrelevant.

    "Today, many entrepreneurially-minded authors prefer to self-publish, so they can keep a greater share of the cover price than they would if they went the traditional route, where a commercial publisher takes a large cut. There were more than 1 million independently published books in the U.S. in 2017, compared to 300,000 conventionally published books, according to data that bibliographic information provider Bowker released in October 2018. Self-publishing grew at a 28% rate, a sharp increase over the 8% increase the previous year."

    There's different scales of self-publishing. Those who do it all themselves via sites like Lulu, and those who pay many experts to create their book for them. The latter not exactly Vanity publishing using just one 'publisher', but finding and contracting all the experts themselves, including marketing experts and agents. Basically they became a publishing house, just for one book. The latter type are also included in the Self-publishing statistics.

    Reedsy's success, like all other start-ups, will depend on how they promote it. TV adverts for example? Otherwise no one will know they exist. For now I will hang on to my $50.

  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    You are so darned negative, Kevin! The point is they aspire to create a credible website platform to do for books (particularly self-published books) what existing channels (in-print book reviewing and advertising in mainstream and even smaller periodicals) currently do. Since most reviewing entities pass up self-published books, they want to offer a domain that can have a degree of independence and credibility with prospective book purchasers. Seems interesting to me if only because it COULD some day happen that people looking to find the next book they want to read would turn to sites like this one as much as or more readily than they now look to the NYT Book Review section or other reviewers. The issue isn't what we now have but what we might have if this sort of thing were to find its sea legs.

    As usual I am less negative about such efforts than you are, even while recognizing the obstacles to their success. As you note, they want to charge to get access to their services. Well a lot of people may well pull back and say NEVER and sometimes that IS the right decision. But think about it. Professional reviewers get paid for their efforts. The magazines or newspapers who carry their reviews make money from selling their wares and (more importantly) from the advertisers who pay them to carry their ads. No credible site can get going unless it's generating revenue for its owners. Is $50 too much? I don't know. But I have been willing to invest that in my books in the past if I think there is a potential for more sales for them.

    There have been other online sites that have done the book review thing. The Midwest Book Review site comes to mind, as does the SF Site in Canada. (I've been lucky enough to have both review my first book though I don't think any real sales came of that -- but the reviews, well written, in both cases, lent credibility to the book's amazon page so that was a plus!) What's needed to make a difference is for a shift in the paradigm, i.e., for people looking for their next read to head for a site like this one as readily or more readily than they turn to the New York Times. That's not going to happen overnight and, frankly, this site is going to have to have some selling points besides providing a "curated" (that means vetted) shelf of new books for those looking to find a good book to pick up and read. Others, like Lunch.com, have tried this model and, of course, GoodReads which, as you know, Amazon took over -- though I don't know if it's doing much for their bottom line!

    So I think this is a good idea though certainly not proven yet. It's a little early, Kevin, to complain about it or to badmouth it but, of course, if you don't want to pay $50 to try them out I can't blame you. But I might if and when I finish my next work of fiction.      
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited March 5
    Well, it all sounds kind of good...but one does sort of wonder what makes Reedsy very different from a literary agency? I  mean, other than the fact that a literary agency charges the author no fees and will be proactive in promoting a book to selected, targeted publishers rather than waiting for the publisher to stumble across the book? In fact, this proactive nature of the traditional agency is what sets it apart from Reedsy, which is essentially passive: it waits for publishers to find its authors and books. Since Reedsy evidently has thousands of author-clients, you can just imagine what your chances are of having someone run across your book. This is opposed to the traditional agent who will take your book in hand and directly approach a publisher or editor.

    And a point I mentioned above is worth emphasizing: a traditional literary agency never charges an author a penny. For that matter, a traditional commercial publisher never charges an author a penny, either.

    But, as we will see, Reedsy is not really about representing your book or making an effort to present it to publishers.

    Reedsy is being disingenuous in citing "self-published best sellers such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield and Switched by Amanda Hocking [and] The Martian, by Andy Weir..." since these are a vanishingly small proportion of the number of books published every year. Indeed, The Celestine Prophecy was published 26 years ago! In fact, Reedsy itself emphasizes this miniscule success rate by pointing out that 1,000,000 self-published books hit the market every year. The four titles they single out account for just 0.0004% of this total, if we include a book that was published a quarter of a century ago.

    The sad fact is that when Reedsy claims that "In the not so distant past, self-published books, issued by 'vanity' presses, were often dismissed as work that could not pass muster with traditional publishers," this is something that has not really changed.

    Reedsy is also being a little cagey when they say that "Today, many entrepreneurially-minded authors prefer to self-publish, so they can keep a greater share of the cover price than they would if they went the traditional route, where a commercial publisher takes a large cut." It might be true that the self-published author may be able to get a larger percentage of the cover price of each book but...

    The self-published author is also responsible for all of the costs of promoting, marketing and advertising their book. They are also responsible for the costs of (if they are smart) having their book professional edited, copy-edited and designed, which includes the cover art.

    All of these are costs that are absorbed by the traditional publisher.

    In fact, if you dig deep enough into Reedsy you will find that they estimate the costs of "developmental editing, copy editing, proofreading, cover design and typesetting [which they explain actually means formatting]" of a self-published novel as being between $4000 and $5000. The costs for cover art, for instance, range from $300 for a "newcomer" to $1500 for an experienced professional. These are in addition to the fees that Reedsy itself charges. There are no estimates for advertising, promotion and marketing (for instance, if the author wants to run an ad, print posters or postcards or send out review copies of their book, they have to pay for these things out of their own pockets).

    This $4000-$5000 is what Reedsy is hoping you will pay them.

    And all of these are expenses that have to earned back before the author can make a single penny.

    In fact, it appears that offering these services on a commercial basis is really what Reedsy is all about rather than promoting your book or acting in any way as an agency representing it. And these are all services you can find elsewhere. All you  have to do is a little shopping.

    And, of course, in self-publishing there is the absence of a non-refundable advance. This is money paid up front by a commercial publisher. This may range anywhere from just a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on circumstances. The important thing is that this is money the author gets to keep, even if the book never sells a single copy.

    But one of the most important differences is the issue of volume. It is all well and good to get two or three times the royalty on each book you sell if you self-publish, but if you sell only a few hundred books you will not make as much money as you would have with a smaller royalty from a publisher that sells a thousand books or more. (For instance, a book of mine that was published in October 2017 has averaged 30-35 copies sold every day since according to the last accounting I got.)

    Let's say an author has a 300-page novel published as a trade paperback. The going cover price for a similar book by a commercial publisher is between $15 and $20. Lulu's cost for such a book is $7.25. This means that the author would have to sell at least 400 copies at $20 each just to break even if they use Reedsy's services and undertake no promotion or advertising. I'm not familiar with how earnings work when a book is carried by Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but the earnings per book may be less. If so, that means even more copies will have to be sold for the author make back their expenses. (Others here in the Forums have more experience with this than I do.)

    It's all well and good to try to develop new models for getting books published and sold, but there also has to be a dose of reality involved. Reedsy may be the harbinger of things to come, but if I have a book I want to have published, promoted and sold, my responsibility would be to pursue the course that would be best for my own immediate future, not what may or may not be to the benefit of some new system or any other authors.



    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited March 6
    What I see in Reedsy is the potential to "curate" books for prospective readers who would otherwise find their next book through more traditional channels (other than word of mouth, of course) like reading book reviews, seeing ads, perusing bookstore shelves. The idea that THIS one is about agenting like TaleFlicks and VoyageMedia is wrong, I think. Not that commercial publishers and producers might not find their next idea this way, too. But the takeaway I took away from that article is that the goal they are looking to hit is that of becoming a credible, independent source of good reading ideas for readers. I don't know if they can make this work but I expect that as the digital age continues to edge out the analogue past, many of the old models will fade,  to be replaced by new ones, the same way Amazon smashed the big box book selling model.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    swmirsky said:
    You are so darned negative, Kevin!

    No, I am realistic. Look behind the blurb for the details.

     The point is they aspire to create a credible website platform to do for books (particularly self-published books)

    For a fee.

     what existing channels (in-print book reviewing and advertising in mainstream and even smaller periodicals) currently do.

    You have used the important word there. Advertising. If they do not advertise the site as a place to find books, no one will know it exists. Even the mighty Amazon still advertise.

     Since most reviewing entities pass up self-published books,

    That's not true. There are many places that will review books, even Lulu  have such a service, for a fee.  http://www.lulu.com/services/marketing032019

     they want to offer a domain that can have a degree of independence and credibility with prospective book purchasers.

    Unlike all the existing book retail sites on line?

     Seems interesting to me if only because it COULD some day happen that people looking to find the next book they want to read would turn to sites like this one as much as or more readily than they now look to the NYT

    What's NYT? Oh you mean the New York Times? The USA is not the entire world you have to realise. Here's just one example of other places people often look   https://www.richardandjudy.co.uk/home

     Book Review section or other reviewers. The issue isn't what we now have but what we might have if this sort of thing were to find its sea legs.

    But it's just another site amongst thousands.  https://writerswin.com/the-ultimate-list-of-book-review-websites/

    As usual I am less negative about such efforts than you are, even while recognizing the obstacles to their success. As you note, they want to charge to get access to their services. Well a lot of people may well pull back and say NEVER and sometimes that IS the right decision. But think about it.

    I did. I got the impression that they do not read all of the books submitted. To do so is unrealistic.

     Professional reviewers get paid for their efforts. The magazines or newspapers who carry their reviews make money from selling their wares and (more importantly) from the advertisers who pay them to carry their ads. No credible site can get going unless it's generating revenue for its owners. Is $50 too much? I don't know.

    No, it's far too cheap. How many hours does it take to read a novel? Divide $50 by that. Who is going to work for that?  It's one other reason I think they do not read them all.

     But I have been willing to invest that in my books in the past if I think there is a potential for more sales for them.

    Here's the price one well-known review service charges >>  "****** promises you a review in 7–9 weeks for $425. You can purchase an expedited review for $575, and they will deliver it in 4–6 weeks. They tell you the review will be 250–300 words"

    There have been other online sites that have done the book review thing. The Midwest Book Review site comes to mind, as does the SF Site in Canada. (I've been lucky enough to have both review my first book though I don't think any real sales came of that -- but the reviews, well written, in both cases, lent credibility to the book's amazon page so that was a plus!)


    Hardly, not since it became known that many of the reviews on Amazon had been paid for and all too often dictated by the payee.

     What's needed to make a difference is for a shift in the paradigm, i.e., for people looking for their next read to head for a site like this one as readily or more readily than they turn to the New York Times. 

    Why do you think that's the only place that people look? Not everyone lives in the USA.  https://www.mirror.co.uk/all-about/mirror-book-club

    That's not going to happen overnight and, frankly, this site is going to have to have some selling points besides providing a "curated" (that means vetted)

    Indeed. One pays them $50 and they then decide to stick it on their site or not. (to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, "

    shelf of new books for those looking to find a good book to pick up and read. Others, like Lunch.com, have tried this model and, of course, GoodReads which, as you know, Amazon took over -- though I don't know if it's doing much for their bottom line!

    I am sure it's doing them no harm, because most links point to Amazon.

    So I think this is a good idea though certainly not proven yet. It's a little early, Kevin, to complain about it or to badmouth it but, of course,

    It's hardly anything new.

     if you don't want to pay $50 to try them out I can't blame you. But I might if and when I finish my next work of fiction.


    Feel free to do so.  :)      

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    swmirsky said:
    What I see in Reedsy is the potential to "curate" books for prospective readers who would otherwise find their next book through more traditional channels (other than word of mouth, of course) like reading book reviews, seeing ads, perusing bookstore shelves. The idea that THIS one is about agenting like TaleFlicks and VoyageMedia is wrong, I think. Not that commercial publishers and producers might not find their next idea this way, too. But the takeaway I took away from that article is that the goal they are looking to hit is that of becoming a credible, independent source of good reading ideas for readers. I don't know if they can make this work but I expect that as the digital age continues to edge out the analogue past, many of the old models will fade,  to be replaced by new ones, the same way Amazon smashed the big box book selling model.
    Well, if your goal is to spend thousands of dollars just so someone can get “good reading ideas,” I guess this is perfect. In any case, I don’t see any real “curating” taking place since, apparently, if you pay the fees you are in.

    In any event, I can see where this might be great for Reedsy and its ilk, but how does it really benefit the author? In other words, who is profiting from this? In traditional publishing, the publisher is the one who puts everything at risk financially...if the book succeeds both the publisher and author gain, if it fails only the publisher is the substantial  loser since they will have lost all of the costs attached to the publication of the book, including any advance paid to the author. But in this new model it appears that all of the investment, and attendant risk, falls on the author’s shoulders. On the other hand, Reedsy loses nothing no matter what happens.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    Kevin writes:
    For a fee.
    Yes, that's how the world works. Otherwise, if there is no revenue for them, why go to the trouble of trying to create such a platform. The real question is whether the investment is worth it for an author. In this case that will depend on the author's goals and, also, on the quality of their product (their platform) in terms of how it looks, track record, buzz in the public sphere (are people talking about finding books there?), etc. So a "fee" may or may not make sense. Just dismissing it because a fee is involved doesn't.

    When I  wrote "since most reviewing entities pass up self-published books, Kevin responded:
    That's not true. There are many places that will review books, even Lulu  have such a service, for a fee. 
    Of course, that response isn't relevant to what I actually said since I was in context referring to reviewers in the traditional media like the NYTimes Book Review and similar reviewing entities. That there are other options available to self-publishers, some on a paid basis, is beside the point. No one was talking about those which are largely ignored (often not even seen) by the wider reading public.

    Kevin writes:
    Here's the price one well-known review service charges >>  "******promises you a review in 7–9 weeks for $425. You can purchase an expedited review for $575, and they will deliver it in 4–6 weeks. They tell you the review will be 250–300 words"
    The point is not that there are options for paid reviews. Of course there are! The point is whether or not they can create a platform which people looking for reading material will go to for that purpose. That is, their challenge is to build a broadly based, popular readers' guide website, something with credibility with the general public and, hence, the capacity to help shape book buyers' choices. There are already sites like this which we have both already mentioned: The SFSite, Midwest Book Review, Good Reads, Lunch.com. But none have, to my knowledge, achieved a broad acceptance as a source of vetted book recommendations. I think to get that they will have to build a robust site which gives people lots of reasons to look at them, not just to find their next book. They will have to have the attractiveness of a general readership magazine with significant circulation and reputation. Can they do that? I don't know. But given all the changes so far wrought by the digital revolution, I wouldn't bet against it.

    Kevin wrote:
    . . . it became known that many of the reviews on Amazon had been paid for and all too often dictated by the payee.
    Old news, old boy! And amazon has taken steps to address that, among which include requiring reviewers to post with a name only (no more anonymous using pseudonyms) which they do by requiring reviewers to register by having an amazon account (includes a credit card registration). I believe they also have some checkers who review the reviews for various red flags and intervene before posting or after. It's called a learning curve.
       
    Ron wrote:
    I don’t see any real “curating” taking place since, apparently, if you pay the fees you are in.
    Assuming the fee is for access to the stable of reviewers, I would presume it does not guarantee a good review or any review at all. If it did, that would undermine the credibility of any review offered and I should think they'd want to avoid THAT.

     Ron adds:
    I can see where this might be great for Reedsy and its ilk, but how does it really benefit the author? In other words, who is profiting from this? In traditional publishing, the publisher is the one who puts everything at risk financially...if the book succeeds both the publisher and author gain, if it fails only the publisher is the substantial  loser since they will have lost all of the costs attached to the publication of the book, including any advance paid to the author. But in this new model it appears that all of the investment, and attendant risk, falls on the author’s shoulders. On the other hand, Reedsy loses nothing no matter what happens.
    Well first, unless it benefits the owners of the site, they will have no incentive to build and maintain it. So that's no knock against them. How does it benefit authors? If it leads to more book sales it does, and if as a result of the sales more interest from, say the film industry or a publisher materializes, that benefits authors, too, just the way selling traditionally published books benefits those who write and publish them. In the case of self-publishers, the writer wears both hats. The problem that we are all familiar with is the limited visibility and credibility of self-published works. This site is another apparent attempt to overcome those obstacles.

    So what does Reedsy lose if the undertaking fails? Well it's owners lose whatever they invested to set up and run their site as well as the time lost doing so plus the opportunity they presumably hoped to make real by creating the next big online digital platform. The participating author(s) lose whatever the invested in getting their book seen and reviewed on the site, presumably fifty bucks.    
        
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited March 6
    swmirsky said:
    Kevin writes:
    For a fee.
    Yes, that's how the world works. Otherwise, if there is no revenue for them, why go to the trouble of trying to create such a platform.

    There is, of course, another platform: traditional publishing, which does not charge an author for these services. While an author may wind up self-publishing in the end, I always try to urge beginning writers to make a serious attempt at traditional publishing before turning to doing it themselves. The potential advantages of traditional publishing are great enough to warrant making an honest effort.

    The real question is whether the investment is worth it for an author. In this case that will depend on the author's goals and, also, on the quality of their product (their platform) in terms of how it looks, track record, buzz in the public sphere (are people talking about finding books there?), etc. So a "fee" may or may not make sense. Just dismissing it because a fee is involved doesn't.

    When I  wrote "since most reviewing entities pass up self-published books, Kevin responded:
    That's not true. There are many places that will review books, even Lulu  have such a service, for a fee. 
    Of course, that response isn't relevant to what I actually said since I was in context referring to reviewers in the traditional media like the NYTimes Book Review and similar reviewing entities.

    Which has in the past reviewed self-published books. There are many other respected reviewers who have no qualms about considering self-published books.

    And, as I have also said elsewhere, while is a nice feather in the cap to get a review in the NYT, it is not the be-all and end-all of respected review sites. For instance, I was just as happy to see Zoomable Universe get positive reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Nature and Publisher's Weekly.

    That there are other options available to self-publishers, some on a paid basis, is beside the point. No one was talking about those which are largely ignored (often not even seen) by the wider reading public.

    Kevin writes:
    Here's the price one well-known review service charges >>  "******promises you a review in 7–9 weeks for $425. You can purchase an expedited review for $575, and they will deliver it in 4–6 weeks. They tell you the review will be 250–300 words"
    The point is not that there are options for paid reviews. Of course there are! The point is whether or not they can create a platform which people looking for reading material will go to for that purpose. That is, their challenge is to build a broadly based, popular readers' guide website, something with credibility with the general public and, hence, the capacity to help shape book buyers' choices.

    There are already sites like this which we have both already mentioned: The SFSite, Midwest Book Review, Good Reads, Lunch.com. But none have, to my knowledge, achieved a broad acceptance as a source of vetted book recommendations. I think to get that they will have to build a robust site which gives people lots of reasons to look at them, not just to find their next book. They will have to have the attractiveness of a general readership magazine with significant circulation and reputation. Can they do that? I don't know. But given all the changes so far wrought by the digital revolution, I wouldn't bet against it.

      
    Ron wrote:
    I don’t see any real “curating” taking place since, apparently, if you pay the fees you are in.
    Assuming the fee is for access to the stable of reviewers, I would presume it does not guarantee a good review or any review at all. If it did, that would undermine the credibility of any review offered and I should think they'd want to avoid THAT.

    I will often take a paid review with a grain of salt, but there are places like Kirkus, which has been around for nearly 90 years, who have impeccable reputations for being fair and impartial.

    Ron adds:
    I can see where this might be great for Reedsy and its ilk, but how does it really benefit the author? In other words, who is profiting from this? In traditional publishing, the publisher is the one who puts everything at risk financially...if the book succeeds both the publisher and author gain, if it fails only the publisher is the substantial  loser since they will have lost all of the costs attached to the publication of the book, including any advance paid to the author. But in this new model it appears that all of the investment, and attendant risk, falls on the author’s shoulders. On the other hand, Reedsy loses nothing no matter what happens.
    Well first, unless it benefits the owners of the site, they will have no incentive to build and maintain it. So that's no knock against them.

    True, but neither is it up to me to see that they are successful. 

    How does it benefit authors? If it leads to more book sales it does, and if as a result of the sales more interest from, say the film industry or a publisher materializes, that benefits authors, too, just the way selling traditionally published books benefits those who write and publish them.

    And, as I have pointed out elsewhere, this is a passive service. Film producers and traditional publishers looking for material would have to spend the time and effort to go through literally tens of thousands of books when there are professional agents with known reputations who bring them material that has already been carefully vetted. 

    Unless I am being obtuse, I cannot find anywhere on Reedsy where one can simply browse through available books. The entire site seems to be focused on selling editing, design and marketing services. So it eludes me how, say, a film producer is supposed to find a book via Reedsy.

     In the case of self-publishers, the writer wears both hats. The problem that we are all familiar with is the limited visibility and credibility of self-published works. This site is another apparent attempt to overcome those obstacles.

    And again, where in the world on Reedsy can one find any books, of limited visibility or otherwise?

    The real problem facing the self-published author is how to make their book stand out among the 1,000,000 other self-published books that are also vying for the reader's attention. This requires promotion, marketing and advertising. That is, more effort than simply sitting back and hoping that A. someone will review your book and B. someone else might read that review. First of all you need to get your book in front of the reviewer, which might very well entail sending a physical copy of the book---which is probably going to be necessary for any newspaper or magazine review. You might want to take out ads in relevant publications. Say, for instance, you wrote a book about skiing. You may want to not only send a copy of your book to a skiing or winter sport magazine but take out an ad as well. Posters and post cards at events, bookstores, etc. are also good promotion, as are a presence a book fairs and arranging for interviews on radio, TV and podcasts. All of these and other methods of promotion are proactive...and potentially expensive. But probably more effective than taking the passive route of simply hoping that your book might get noticed among a million others.

    So what does Reedsy lose if the undertaking fails? Well it's owners lose whatever they invested to set up and run their site as well as the time lost doing so plus the opportunity they presumably hoped to make real by creating the next big online digital platform. The participating author(s) lose whatever the invested in getting their book seen and reviewed on the site, presumably fifty bucks.

    Fifty dollars at the minimum. Reedsy is really all about trying to entice authors to employ their full range of services which, as I have pointed out, can be as much as $5000 and more. 

    The only real advantage I can see to Reedsy is that it provides the self-published author a one-stop source for professional editors, designers, etc. but, as near as I can tell, at no real savings in cost.
        

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • SeamusSeamus Creator
    edited March 6
    whoa! The Celestine Prophecy was a self-pub? That book changed my life for like.. 6 weeks!
    Swirmsky, I appreciate these interesting links you bring up. I think it's great you are always on the lookout for different opportunities to get your work out into the world. No one is out there promoting our stuff. We chose to be our own promoters, that's what we signed up for, at least I did.
    So keep sharing news about these outlets.
    I'll be over here sending more books off to publications and putting a new batch of stickers onto chairlifts this weekend.
    Tim Reinholt Author of Pow, a ski bum heist adventure
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited March 6
    Ron writes:
    I will often take a paid review with a grain of salt, but there are places like Kirkus, which has been around for nearly 90 years, who have impeccable reputations for being fair and impartial.

    Of course, we all would. But as you note there are some paid review sources which have more credibility than others. Kirkus reviews books for the industry rather than for the general public and so it has plenty of reason to seek credibility. That, presumably, is the kind of profile Reedsy wants, too.

    Ron adds:

    The real problem facing the self-published author is how to make their book stand out among the 1,000,000 other self-published books that are also vying for the reader's attention. This requires promotion, marketing and advertising. That is, more effort than simply sitting back and hoping that A. someone will review your book and B. someone else might read that review.
    Goes without saying, doesn't it? The point is whether or not a site like this one can be one of the legs upon which the book promotion stool can stand. It's not about whether it replaces all the others.

    Ron went on:
    Reedsy is really all about trying to entice authors to employ their full range of services which, as I have pointed out, can be as much as $5000 and more.
    So are most sites, including this one! They are in business, seeking to generate revenue and make profits. That's what keeps these sites going. Otherwise they would just close down and go away. But as long as there's money to be made, they continue to offer their services. That helps self-publishing authors given that self-publishing is so easy and cheap to do today compared to where it was in the pre-digital world.

    No one forces anyone here to avail themselves of other services offered through Lulu or, for that matter, through Reedsy whose premise is not that they are the POD provider but a provider of promotional support, in this case "credible" book reviews by leveraging the Internet for that purpose. More power to them if they can make a go of it. If they parlay their idea into a successful business that works for the potential users of their services, too.

    But no one here has urged anyone to go straight to POD self-publishing instead of going the traditional route first. Why keep bringing that up anyway? I would presume that anyone who is here aiming at or working on self-publishing his or her work has already tried the traditional route and either obtained some modest success which they think they can better by publishing themselves OR has faced a brick wall and decided to just do it themselves. I get your recommendation to go the traditional route Ron, but why keep kicking that horse? Do you really suppose there are large numbers of people here, if anyone, who haven't already gone the traditional route and found good reason to do otherwise here?
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    swmirsky said:

    But no one here has urged anyone to go straight to POD self-publishing instead of going the traditional route first. Why keep bringing that up anyway? I would presume that anyone who is here aiming at or working on self-publishing his or her work has already tried the traditional route and either obtained some modest success which they think they can better by publishing themselves OR has faced a brick wall and decided to just do it themselves. I get your recommendation to go the traditional route Ron, but why keep kicking that horse? Do you really suppose there are large numbers of people here, if anyone, who haven't already gone the traditional route and found good reason to do otherwise here?
    I bring it up as often as I do because, having contributed to these forums for something like a decade, I have heard pretty much every reason an author can have for going directly to self-publishing---and sites like Reedsy really do nothing toward making anyone think that otherwise than that doing so is the best route to take. Most of the reasons I have run across are erroneous. In fact, you yourself brought up one of these yourself when you mentioned that the self-published author can get a larger percentage of the cover price of a book. As I pointed out, this is true---but the author also has to subtract all of the costs they must bear in publishing and promoting their book. And, as Reedsy itself points out, the author also has to deduct the time spent in promoting their book. Among the other reasons that come up most often is the fear that the author will lose control of their book or that a publisher will undertake to rewrite it or make changes without the author's knowledge. There is also the idea that publishers are interested only in established authors or that you have to have an "in" in order to get published. None of these things are true.

    So long as sites such as Reedsy encourage authors to go directly to self-publishing, I will continue to urge them to be more cautious and realistic, especially when it comes to expectations. I have no problems at all with self-publishing---I think it's wonderful, otherwise I wouldn't have self-published books of my own---but authors need to be not only realistic about self-publishing but also realistic about traditional publishing. In other words, they need to make genuinely informed decisions and not decisions based on mistaken notions.

    By the bye, speaking of bringing things up often, I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy as a way of promoting a book. I have yet to find any way on their site in which an author can do that directly through Reedsy. That is, there is no place to browse the books they have helped create. However, Reedsy does offer marketing and advertising as among the paid services they offer.

    I do give Reedsy full marks for generally being pretty upfront and honest about most things. For instance, in talking about marketing they point out that "authors are expected to take on the lion’s share of marketing efforts, regardless of the publication path" and that "most successful independent authors admit to spending a large part of their day marketing their books rather than writing."
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited March 6
    Ron wrote:
    you yourself brought up one of these yourself when you mentioned that the self-published author can get a larger percentage of the cover price of a book. As I pointed out, this is true---but the author also has to subtract all of the costs they must bear in publishing and promoting their book.
    But I never suggested that one does better selling a few books with a higher royalty than many with a smaller one. The advantage I have heard from commercially published authors who've gone the self-pub route is that they can do better given that they already have a following. I don't know if they really do or not. Frankly I think some of it must be just sour grapes when, say, a publisher declines to take their next book or one they have written outside their usual genre, though I doubt this sort of concern applies to the likes of a Stephen King who surely can write his own ticket though may choose, occasionally, to go the self-pub route just for exploratory purposes.

    Ron added:
    By the bye, speaking of bringing things up often, I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy as a way of promoting a book. 
    Since when does being interested in an idea or interested in talking about its potential count as promoting?

    As it happens, I am in the midst of writing a new one and have been thinking a lot about new ways to promote it and so, naturally -- and given my interest in how the digital revolution has changed publishing and book selling -- I am looking for new approaches to doing this via online capabilities. And needless to say, of course I will pursue the traditional routes first but I don't plan to do it like I did back with kvs when I spent two years seeking a publisher before finally tossing in the towel and deciding to go POD. I'm a bit more savvy now and don't want to waste a lot of time so, instead, if when it's done I don't get a positive response in about three months, I will go the tried and true POD route. In that case I expect I will need a strong online presence and a promotional strategy to fit the book. Reedsy might offer that.

    More, it might be a new model which can achieve success in our modern digital world in which case it might also be an interesting investment down the road.

    None of this is about "promoting" the site though.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    swmirsky said:
    Ron wrote:
    you yourself brought up one of these yourself when you mentioned that the self-published author can get a larger percentage of the cover price of a book. As I pointed out, this is true---but the author also has to subtract all of the costs they must bear in publishing and promoting their book.
    But I never suggested that one does better selling a few books with a higher royalty than many with a smaller one. The advantage I have heard from commercially published authors who've gone the self-pub route is that they can do better given that they already have a following. I don't know if they really do or not. Frankly I think some of it must be just sour grapes when, say, a publisher declines to take their next book or one they have written outside their usual genre, though I doubt this sort of concern applies to the likes of a Stephen King who surely can write his own ticket though may choose, occasionally, to go the self-pub route just for exploratory purposes.

    Ron added:
    By the bye, speaking of bringing things up often, I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy as a way of promoting a book. 
    Since when does being interested in an idea or interested in talking about its potential count as promoting?

    As it happens, I am in the midst of writing a new one and have been thinking a lot about new ways to promote it and so, naturally -- and given my interest in how the digital revolution has changed publishing and book selling -- I am looking for new approaches to doing this via online capabilities. And needless to say, of course I will pursue the traditional routes first but I don't plan to do it like I did back with kvs when I spent two years seeking a publisher before finally tossing in the towel and deciding to go POD. I'm a bit more savvy now and don't want to waste a lot of time so, instead, if when it's done I don't get a positive response in about three months, I will go the tried and true POD route. In that case I expect I will need a strong online presence and a promotional strategy to fit the book. Reedsy might offer that.

    More, it might be a new model which can achieve success in our modern digital world in which case it might also be an interesting investment down the road.

    None of this is about "promoting" the site though.
    I didn't say you were promoting the Reedsy site. I said that you have repeatedly suggested that Reedsy was a viable method for promoting books. They offer services in marketing, etc. but don't themselves appear to promote books. That is something that Reedsy itself says is up to the author to do.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Gosh, this has grown large. But isn't the bottom line to places like reedsy is that there's no real shortcut to being 'discovered,' and that's really all they offer. In fact such 'passive' endeavours to selling anything rarely works.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited March 7
    Ron wrote:
    I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy as a way of promoting a book. 

    Unless I've lost something of my reading comprehension skills you DID say "promoting Reedsy" and my response was that talking about Reedsy's operation is not to "promote" them. If THAT were so, anything we ever mention would also be promoting. But maybe you just misspoke as we all sometimes do in conversations?

    As to Reedsy promoting books, my take accords with yours. They claim to offer services to help authors promote their books, not to promote books for their authors. The service that caught MY attention, as it did the author of the Forbes article from which the story came, was that of "curation," i.e., creating an online platform to vet books for prospective readers the way traditional professional book reviewers (and, frankly, publishers) do in the non-digital self-pub domain.

    I find that especially interesting.


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    It would indeed be interesting, but I will have to see how it looks once they begin doing something like that. There might be one difference between what they may do and what a book reviewer does: the reviewer is free to pan a book they don’t like...and often do just that. So we will have to see if they will list both the good and bad points of a book.

    (PS: I think it’s your reading comprehension. Just to be really, really clear, I never once suggested that you were promoting Reedsy. I only referred to your implication that it is Reedsy itself that was already promoting books...something they are not yet doing.)
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited March 7
    Well you DID write "I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy" and, as I said, talking about does not equate to promoting (though it can in certain contexts, of course, but that is not the case in this one).

    As to panning books, the general tendency, even among traditional professional reviewers, is to basically say nice stuff, even when some criticisms are included. There are lots of reasons for that including the fact that most reviewers are also writers and so generally have books of their own, so there's a kind of professional courtesy at work, and, of course, self-interest. Also the media which publish the reviews have relationships with publishers in terms of advertising and don't really want to harm that revenue stream so it's in their interest to make their periodicals or newspapers friendly places for authors, too.

    It's very rare, though not impossible to read a very negative review of any book. But the potential for that must be maintained if the reviewing entity is to retain credibility so full on pans do occasionally show up. Obviously this doesn't happen in a paid for milieu where the author/publisher is buying the review and that adversely affects credibility. Given the Reedsy concept of authors paying a fee to get their books into that reviewing process,  that dynamic poses a problem to credibility and will need to be overcome.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    After looking over Reedsy more carefully, I realized that some of my original comments were colored by your initial description of the site rather than what it is really meant to do. When you said, in your very first sentence, that it is "an online platform for book promotion," I am afraid that I didn't look too closely until much later to see if that was actually true. It turns out that it is not. Reedsy is in actually a one-stop resource for such things as editors, copy editors, designers, etc., making it not only easier for self-published authors to find such things but to have some assurance that the help they are getting is genuinely professional. Nowhere on the current site does Reedsy claim to do more than that. While it appears to have plans to eventually allow promotion of books (at least those books that have passed through its vetting process), it does nothing of the kind now.

    And, frankly, what Reedsy offers now is indeed a valuable service, which is something that I am afraid I lost track of in going off on a tangent that, in fact, had nothing to do with the services Reedsy currently offers. 

    That being said, I still stand by my assertion that too many people looking to self-publish are not being realistic. And this is something that Reedsy, to its discredit, actually reinforces when it brings up the handful of self-published books that have become best-sellers as examples or suggests the possibility of being able to earn more money by self-publishing.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited March 7
    swmirsky said:
    Well you DID write "I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy" and, as I said, talking about does not equate to promoting (though it can in certain contexts, of course, but that is not the case in this one).

    Here is the complete sentence I wrote: "By the bye, speaking of bringing things up often, I am not sure why you keep promoting Reedsy as a way of promoting a book. I have yet to find any way on their site in which an author can do that directly through Reedsy." The issue was clearly (well, to anyone else, evidently) about whether or not Reedsy was promoting books. 

    But just to make this as simple as I can, let me substitute a different word for promote: " I am not sure why you keep emphazing Reedsy as a way of promoting a book." 

    That help?

    As to panning books, the general tendency, even among traditional professional reviewers, is to basically say nice stuff, even when some criticisms are included. There are lots of reasons for that including the fact that most reviewers are also writers and so generally have books of their own, so there's a kind of professional courtesy at work, and, of course, self-interest. Also the media which publish the reviews have relationships with publishers in terms of advertising and don't really want to harm that revenue stream so it's in their interest to make their periodicals or newspapers friendly places for authors, too.

    It's very rare, though not impossible to read a very negative review of any book. But the potential for that must be maintained if the reviewing entity is to retain credibility so full on pans do occasionally show up. Obviously this doesn't happen in a paid for milieu where the author/publisher is buying the review and that adversely affects credibility. Given the Reedsy concept of authors paying a fee to get their books into that reviewing process,  that dynamic poses a problem to credibility and will need to be overcome.
    "It's very rare..."

    You probably just need to read more reviews.

    In any case, here is an interesting take on the question from a NYT book reviewer: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/books/review/do-we-really-need-negative-book-reviews.html

    The NYT Book Review editor Pamela Paul addressed this direct question:

    It’s so hard for good books to get attention. Why bother publishing negative reviews?

    We don’t try to! We send out books because we think they are worthy of review. But that does not mean that our reviewers will always like them. For us to edit those reviews in a way that altered their judgment or to kill reviews because the editors disagreed with the reviewers would be journalistically irresponsible, unethical and unfair all — to the critics, to our readers, and even, one can argue, to the authors who might value the criticism.

    That said, negative reviews have a function. Our responsibility is ultimately to our readers, who are trying to make informed decisions about which books are worth their time and money. If all reviews were positive, it would be awfully hard to pick out the truly great from the merely mediocre.


    And while we are on the subject of bad/good reviews, there was a study done about such things that came to a pretty interesting conclusion. https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mksc.1090.0557

    (Here is the paper itself if you want to read it )
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited March 7
    From that link to the abstract Ron offered:
    Whereas a negative review in the New York Times hurt sales of books by well-known authors, for example, it increased sales of books that had lower prior awareness. The studies further underscore the importance of a gap between publicity and purchase occasion and the mediating role of increased awareness in these effects.
    We all know that in some spheres ANY publicity is better than none, just ask Donald Trump! But in some spheres negative publicity isn't. I had direct experience of this with my first book, The King of Vinland's Saga, which, in its first couple of years on Amazon

    https://www.amazon.com/King-Vinlands-Saga-Stuart-Mirsky/dp/0738801526

    and other online retailers sold extremely well (from about 1999 -- it came out in the late fall of 1998 -- to about 2001 or 2002). I did a very aggressive individualized email campaign and also went to bookstores, organized a related major event, etc., but the real powering impetus for sales were lots of good reviews that started appearing on amazon as a result of those sales (driven by my promotional efforts). However, some time around 2001 or 2002 a few highly negative reviews started showing up. Sometimes they were just one liners. One I recall went like this: "This book sucks and I ought to know because I am as much of a viking as anyone."

    I was taken aback and complained about it to Amazon because it really said nothing about the book itself and used what I took to be an offensive term and Amazon took it down. However, soon after several other highly negative reviews began appearing, more substantive in their comments (so I couldn't complain that they really said nothing) and without offensive language (so I had no beef there either). These reviewers apparently just hated my book. Given that, I felt I could not, in good conscience, complain. What readers think is what they think and reviews are useless if they are pitched to only be positive. But as a result of those few reviews (being more recent they tended to show up on the book's page under the old Amazon standard of newest first) my book's sales collapsed. And I decided to let that happen because I could see nothing I could do to argue against highly negative reviewers.

    One review did insult me personally so I responded to that reviewer on the Amazon page but I made no effort to have the review removed. And so the newer generally negative reviews edged aside all the positive ones the book had once garnered and sales suffered for it. I wasn't quite sure why there had been such a sudden turn in reader sentiment but reading the comments more closely I came to think that the problem lay in my decision not to write a blood and guts "viking" tale but a nuanced and character-driven saga pastiche, the kind I liked and had wanted to create when I first undertook to write the book.

    I concluded that these new readers had been put off by my effort to emulate the saga "voice" and/or by my failure to make it a story of heroic toughs bullying their way by rapine and pillage through the countryside or across oceans the way so many modern (and successful) viking novels do. My book wasn't really about vikings at all. It's just that in our common usage we tend to call the Scandinavian- based sailors and adventurers of that period by that name (which really refers to a vocation and not an ethnicity). Obviously I had begun to reach a readership with different expectations than the ones who had written all those earlier reviews. Given the abrupt plunge in sales, I decided to end my promotional efforts. Perhaps, I thought, I had reached all of those who were attuned to a more literary effort that I was going to reach and was now left only with readers who wanted the titillation of rape and pillage and the vicarious thrill of the viking life.

    So I can say that negative reviews DO affect book sales even if someone like Trump exults in generating coverage whether it's negative or not!

    As to the surfeit of viking books today, I have to admit I have little interest in most of them and don't read them though there are so many now I can't count them anymore although when I wrote mine you could count the available titles focused on the Norse world on one hand (maybe two at most)!

    Perhaps, then, I was ahead of my time?     
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited March 7
    Other studies have made it clear that there is a sharp difference between the effect of reviews in print media (such as the NYT, which were the only type of review the paper considered) and reviews posted on line and on social media which, as you point out, are all too often unprofessional at best and snarky at worst. 

    At least the five reviews you excerpt on the Amazon page are not only enthusiastically positive but from respectable sources.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    There's no question that online reviews don't have the same impact that print reviews do . . . for now. But my experience with kvs showed that amazon reviews mattered, too, since while I was getting generally positive reviews (including some three star but with a generally positive tone), the sales kept going strongly. Only when a few late arriving reviews with highly negative assessments appeared did sales crunch to a grinding halt. Perhaps there will come a time, though, when online reviews will attain the more professional cachet of their print relatives and have an influence similar to those. That is the reason I found the article about Reedsy intriguing and put it up here! 
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Well, once Reedsy enters stage two of its development, where it presents a "curated" list of books to its audience, it might conceivably make a difference...though, as you say yourself, the credibility of any source of reviews depends entirely on its reputation. And that is something that Reedsy will have to earn. However, at the moment Reedsy is limited to being solely a gateway to publishing resources so we will just have to wait and see.

    And I suppose it's worth keeping in mind that Reedsy will be advocating only a tiny fraction of the 1,000,000 self-published books that are appearing every year. It would be great to be among one of those chosen, but one will have to be realistic in one's expectations. In other words, it might be a wonderful way to get your book promoted but it will have to be one of the ones that passed through whatever curating gauntlet Reedsy will have. I hope KVS makes the cut!
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    Thanks but KVS is old hat for me now. I do hope, though, that the one I am struggling with these days will break through. But that remains to be seen (and finished)!

    One thing about the Reedsy possibility is that, even if only a few books "make the cut" as you say, THAT provides a valuable service to self-publishing writers because it sets a standard to shoot for, thus improving our overall output at least among those seeking to reach that standard. And also, IF THEY SUCCEED IN BUILDING THEIR CREDIBILITY, they can provide a valuable vetting service to give confidence to prospective readers looking for places to spend their money on new books.

    If you recall, I first started posting here with an idea that some authors here band together to try to create a curated (I like THAT word) imprint which would stand out from the run-of-the-mill self-published books. I see this move of Reedsy as similar to that earlier proposal of mine. Only it's better because, if done right, Reedsy (or some other outfit that might adopt the approach) can play a disinterested role in the process. It would have been a challenge, as you and Kevin suggested, to have achieved real credibility with a band of self-interested authors doing it on their own. But maybe Reedsy or some group like it can serve that crucial intermediary curation role down the road.    
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    We all know that in some spheres ANY publicity is better than none, just ask Donald Trump! But in some spheres negative publicity isn't. I had direct experience of this with my first book, The King of Vinland's Saga, which, in its first couple of years on Amazon

    You keep saying that, but one only has to look at the star ratings, and you have to look hard to find a bad review within the 48 in total.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    As to the surfeit of viking books today, I have to admit I have little interest in most of them and don't read them though there are so many now I can't count them anymore although when I wrote mine you could count the available titles focused on the Norse world on one hand (maybe two at most)!

    Perhaps, then, I was ahead of my time?      

    I think it's been pointed out here many times that there's always been fiction about Vikings in book, film and TV series form. The two latter two when those media were possible of course.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I will have to be cynical here, and say there's a possibility that reedsy will only put forward books that have paid for their many services.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    I'd like to register a complaint. The title of this thread is contains the word "models" but the thread has no pictures of models. Not even a model T.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    That could soon be sorted.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
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