Since my first year-end report in 2010, the world of self-publishing has stabilized significantly with vendors steadily improving their features and partnering with others to offer more robust services. Still, there’s always an overwhelming amount of activity in this rich marketplace, so I want to provide a curated a summary new developments in 2015 that will matter most to indie authors.
1. Ingram Acquires Aer.io
The most exciting news this year was broken just this week. Ingram Content Group acquired San Francisco-based Aer.io, a service that allows publishers, retailers, and authors to sell and fulfill print and digital books directly to readers via their websites, blogs, and social networks.
I know both these players well as Aer.io’s Ron Martinez and IngramSpark’s Robin Cutler have both participated in my Self-Publishing Boot Camps. And I’m really happy about what the Ingram acquisition means for indie authors. In an interview with Porter Anderson for The Bookseller, founder Ron Martinez explained, “that for the first time, we’re putting a self-service front-end on the Ingram infrastructure. Now Ingram is offering retail as a service.”
Why is this important to self-publishers? In The Bookseller interview, Martinez points out that, “In the same way that distribution is a service, and print-on-demand is a service, and digital fulfillment is a service, now there’s retail as a service. That’s closing that last mile to the customer’s doorstep. Or to the device in their pocket.” (I know that mobile has always been a priority with Aerbook/Aer.io, Martinez has optimized for it because it’s simply the way people shop now.)
When I asked Martinez why this matters to indie authors, he said, “Aer.io is being fully integrated into IngramSpark, giving self-published authors an unprecedented range of direct retailing and social marketing capabilities. Even today, you can upload and sell direct in multiple formats, optionally send buyers to other retailers, and let others add your book to their store inventories. For the first time, book retailing is every bit as indie as indie publishing.”
Take a look at the three services offered by Aer.io.
Aer.io Retail: Use this free service to upload your e-books to for sale alongside print editions drawn from the millions of books in Ingram Content Group’s warehouse. Then brand your offerings and sell on your site and on the social web. There’s no setup or annual fee for Aer.io Retail. Aer.io earns 10 percent.
Aer.io Plus: For $49 per year you can add links to retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Limit sales to only your Aer.io store, and ask get your readers’ email addresses from within the sample you upload. Aer.io earns 10 percent.
Aer.io Flyer: For $99 per year you can send buyers to any retail destination from your social media platforms and even offer free giveaways. Aer.io earns 10 percent of each sale, and handles fulfillment and support.
Anderson, in his The Bookseller article, notes that “when an industry-spanning force the size of Ingram allows users to get their own hands on its services and direct them as needed—-call those users clients, vendors, or that celebrity with a lot of books to sell—-then a sea change is under way, the promise of digital, an engine of distribution, is being fulfilled: tools and levers are being placed within reach of the makers.”
Mike Shatzkin’s blog post on Wednesday focused on the acquisition, and I hope you read it carefully. Specifically, with this product, authors can “build a small-and-not-unprofitable sideline to their current activities and it would be one that would underscore their knowledge, promote their brand, and provide real value to their site visitors and other stakeholders. Thousands of these businesses could be consequential; millions could be game-changing. How many will there be? That’s impossible for me to predict, but the Aer.io proposition is totally scaleable, so the answer depends entirely on how enticing it is for various entities with web traffic and brands to have a bookstore.”
That’s you: Author, entity, blogger, curator, online retailer. Read “Can crowd-sourced retailing give Amazon a run for its money? in The Shatzkin Files. I’d love hear how you imagine using it.
2. PubSlush Closes, PubLaunch To Open
In October, the crowd-funding site PubSlush closed after an acquisition by PubLaunch fell through. PubLaunch is scheduled to open in February. I liked PubSlush, and I don’t know how much of PubSlush’s business model PubLaunch will incorporate, but so far it seems that their crowdfunding platform will remain focused on authors. They also say they are building a vetted industry marketplace where you can find the right publishing professionals for your book. It could be a good one-stop-shop for authors who need money and professional help. And what author doesn’t? I’m imagining a combination of author crowdfunding platforms Inkshares and Unbound and BiblioCrunch and directories of curated professionals like BiblioCrunch and Reedsy. Stay tuned.
3. PressBooks Public gets your e-book into libraries
PressBooks is a cloud-based book creation platform based on WordPress. In November, PressBooks and BiblioBoard announced PressBooks Public. This is a new partnership with BiblioBoard and Library Journal to distribute books you create in PressBooks to libraries.
SELF-e was launched in May 2014 by Library Journal. Last year, Reedsy published a detailed interview with Mitchell Davis of BiblioBoard on getting indie authors into libraries and how they and Library Journal worked together to create SELF-e. SELF-e is free, it’s great for author exposure, but does not pay royalties.
4. Smashwords gets your e-book into even more libraries
Smashwords was founded in 2008 even before Amazon came onto the scene and founder Mark Coker continues to work tirelessly to expand e-book distribution for their authors. I always expect this annual review to include a big dose of news from them and they did not disappoint.
This month, Smashwords finalized a partnership with Tolino, Odilio, and Yuzu to give their authors greater international reach in bookstores and libraries. Tolino powers the e-book stores of several of Germany’s largest e-book retailers. Odilo gives Smashword’s authors access to 2,100 libraries in 43 countries across Europe, Latin America, and North America. Yuzu can get your book into Barnes & Noble College, a digital education platform and retailer that operates 473 college bookstores serving five million students and faculty members.
Earlier this year Smashwords formed a relationship with Gardners Books (the UK’s largest book wholesaler) to give Smashwords authors access to Askews & Holts. A&H is a Gardner partner and the UK’s largest library service.
The A&H channel makes your Smashwords titles visible to UK library patrons even if the library hasn’t bought them yet. If your book is priced at free, patrons can check it out. Even if it’s not free, they can check out your book — their checkout will trigger a purchase. (Don’t you just love technology?) If the library’s budget is exhausted, patrons will be given the option to purchase your book. Read more about it in their October 2015 announcement.
Smashwords distribution to libraries is not new. Coker organized distribution to libraries in 2012 with the groundbreaking Library Direct a service that distributes their top sellers in each genre to U.S. libraries. In 2014, they partnered with OverDrive to bring 200,000 more indie e-books to libraries.
5. PressBooks adds a book cover creation tool
I’ve always liked the WordPress-based e-book and print book creation tool by PressBooks. In fact, I’ve used it to create three books of my own. A notable new feature from PressBooks includes a cover creator so that you can create a complete book, both the interior and the cover, inside PressBooks. Once done, you can output a PDF for print, a MOBI for Kindle, and an EPUB for all of the other e-book retailers.
The PressBooks engine looks like the back end of your WordPress blog and, like your blog, lives in the cloud. (You can even create a first draft of a book from your blog by importing your blog posts.)
The cover creation tool calculates the number of pages and type of paper you want and calculates the correct spine width. All you need is a background image for the front cover (1650 x 2550 px). Upload it, choose the background and font colors, and voila! You have an e-book cover and a PDF cover (front, back, and spine) for print.
This is a great tool for authors who are creating drafts and beta books. But remember, like editing, cover design is best left to a professional. Ask your designer to use the PressBooks cover creator.
6. Canva launches a book cover creator
Canva is a free, browser-based design tool that offers templates in all sizes for social media and print media uses. They launched a book cover maker this year that provides templates for Kindle covers, or you can create custom dimensions. I’ve used to Canva for a while now, and it’s incredibly easy to use and very affordable. Experiment with their professionally designed layouts and customize your cover with over 130 fonts, over one million stock images, or upload your own image. Add text boxes and filters, change the background colors, and save as an image for e-books or PDF for print.
7. New York Book Editors pairs indie authors with editors
The next best thing to a New York publishing contract might be a New York book editor. Guess what? Now you can have one. New York Book Editors is an affiliation of editors who have edited for Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and many prestigious independent publishers. Founder Natasa Lekic personally takes a look at your manuscript and matches you with an editor who is experienced in your genre. This is followed by a sample edit and a phone consultation to make sure you work well together.
Don’t look for bargains. These are highly trained professionals who know your market. And it’s worth it. Great editing by industry pros can make all the difference in your book’s salability.
Focusing on Craft
The publishing industry has been in great upheaval since the mid-90s, sending published and unpublished authors into a panic when faced with unknown options and complicated processes.
Today we have the benefit of trusted resources to help us ease our book creation, publishing, and marketing strategy. This means we now finally have more time to focus on what drew us to this in the first place: our craft.
Correction: Item No. 2 has been updated to reflect that the PubLaunch’s acquisition of PubSlush fell through in October.
Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program and the Indie Book Summer Camp starting in June. The program provides books, lectures workshops and group support for indie authors. Carla has self-published her adventure travel stories since 1994 on the internet and in print. She authored PBS MediaShift’s How to Self-Publish Your Book: A Practical Guide to Creating and Distributing Your Ebook or Print Book, which describes today’s self-publishing landscape. A great companion book is her step-by-step Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, found on SelfPubBootCamp.com.