Expert Publishing Blog

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Lessons and Expectations as the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey Evolves

This year marks the third year that Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest are surveying authors on their publishing experiences and income. When I came on board last year, I began by revisiting the numbers from the inaugural Author Survey published in early 2013. While Digital Book World’s then–editorial director Jeremy Greenfield had already...

Top Four Best Practices for Writing Great Book Blurbs

When you sell your book online, your book description, or blurb, must be persuasive enough to compel people to buy. According to the Pew Research Center, 38% of readers rely on the information presented on your book’s online sales page when making a purchase choice. Your blurb must convince your audience that there’s no better...

Self-Publishing Reaches the Summit

I recently took part in New Generation Publishing’s annual Self-Publishing Summit in London, now in its third year. It is always a good opportunity to stop and consider how the self-publishing sector has evolved. The is no doubt that self-publishing, often derided in its former forms, has made a huge mark in the last three...

Book Marketing the Old Way Versus the Way That Works Today—Part 3: Ignore the Expensive Launch

Effective book marketing today is a different game than it used to be. This post continues my recent series comparing traditional book marketing methods with newer, more effective strategies. This article (the third installment) focuses on the strategic decision forego a big launch at a book’s introduction into the market. Traditional book publishing once put...

Resuscitating Enhanced Ebooks

There has been some debate recently regarding the time of death of enhanced ebooks. While the distribution of books has changed enormously over time, from the invention of the printing press to e-readers, tablets and mobile phones, how we read remains much the same as it did 2,000 years ago. Despite frequent and vocal...

Book Marketing the Old Way Versus the Way That Works Today—Part 2: Email Promotions

Selling a book today in either the self-publishing or traditional publishing worlds confronts authors with a marketing dilemma. Older methods no longer have the purchase they once did in the digital age. I’ve written a series of articles on that subject in an effort to compare traditional book marketing with more modern, effective strategies that work. This installment focuses on...

Does the Closure of Atavist Books Signal the End of Enhanced Ebooks?

Was last week’s announcement of the closure of multi-platform book publisher Atavist Books the beginning of the final death knell for enhanced books? Hardly. This is a death rattle that’s apparently been dragging out for twenty years. At least that’s if you believe, as I do, that the enhanced ebook finds its roots in the wonderfully...

Browser-Based Ebook Publishing: How Come and How-To

In the past few years we’ve seen the sales figures of tablets and phones begin to eclipse those of the e-ink e-reader, and in many developing countries access to mobile phones is often a reader’s best or only access to a digital device. Many publishers and retailers have responded by creating apps for each...

Facing Higher Education Challenges: Publishers Rethink Student Experience Lifecycle

This content is sponsored by HCL Technologies. The higher education world is going through an uncertain period. Rising costs, digital disruption and fluctuations in government policy have made it tough for institutions and publishers to chart a way forward. Amidst falling enrollments and course completion rates among students, many education publishers are charting a new...

Big data features

Big Data: Dispelling the Myths About One of Publishing’s Hottest Buzzwords

Introduction Big data was one of Frankfurt Book Fair’s hottest topics of discussion this year among digital publishing professionals. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute and author of the recent international best-seller Big Data, spoke forcefully about big data’s relevance to publishers and the insights they can...

Digital Book World 2015 Agenda Evolves With Publishing Industry

I joined the Digital Book World team just weeks before the 2014 Conference + Expo kicked off in New York City last year. A few days ahead of the event, I wrote about my expectations for the three days of programming in terms of how they’d offer publishing professionals the resources to improve what they do, both on an...

More Crowdsourced Content on Its Way

Last week Amazon confirmed it’s adding a crowdsourced-based option to its current slate of self-publishing offerings. While details are still forthcoming, the fact that Amazon is taking greater interest in exploring crowdsourcing as a publishing model suggests its profile is on the rise. To be sure, that observation could rest on a chicken-or-egg formula that doesn’t reliably...

Wattpad: Digital Storytelling With a Social Twist

The digital marketplace has changed the rules for both readers and writers. Authors no longer need to be separated from their readers. Readers no longer have to wait for books to be complete before getting a peek at authors’ work. The landscape for storytelling is changing and one of the leading innovations in this...

frankfurt

Why an Innovation Firm Goes to an Old-Fashioned Book Fair

Beer swilling and book selling are the two most common reasons to go to Frankfurt in October. And good reasons both. But we’re headed there for another reason: business innovation. Here’s why. Over the last few years, the Frankfurt Book Fair has undergone a steady transformation from a traditional and transactional rights fair to...

The Content Flood and Authors Whining

Sales are down for most authors. You don’t see blog posts about it or tweets, but it’s a reality. And the reason is simple: there’s more content out there than ever before. Jon Fine of Amazon calls it a tsunami but at least a tsunami recedes. This is a flood that is going to...

Want to Sell More Books? Understand Your Readers

Every self-published author wants to sell the most books possible. But not every book appeals to every reader—not even books that achieve best-seller status. The cold, hard fact is your book has unique characteristics that only interest a select group. The good news is you don’t need to appeal to everyone to experience brisk sales....

Quality Not Quantity for Self-Published Writers

One of the complaints the self-publishing community often hit traditional publishers with is that they license authors’ work and then hold onto it for 1-2 years before publishing it. I would agree the time taken to get books into the market is too long and traditional publishers can often be out of touch when...

Writing With Pictures: The Inside Story of a Wordless Picture Book

Wordless picture books are a special sub-category of children’s books. Even digital books are going wordless. What does it take to create such rich non-verbal tales? All the drama, action and emotion are conveyed with illustrations, not words. I spoke with Anne Belov, the author/illustrator of Pandamorphosis, a new picture book available on the...

Team-Produced Stories: An Author Perspective

The stereotype of the lonely writer scribbling away in isolation is an old and entrenched one. And for good reason. Being the vessel for great stories and characters to emerge into words takes a lot of thought, writing, and re-writing – and these are solitary activities. But the way we entertain and inform these...

India’s Ebook Industry Shows Great Potential

The ebook industry in India is still an emerging market but feels like it’s about to grow – it’s like a storm brewing in the distance. It continues to swirl and swirl, yet it’s not certain when it will unleash in full force. As founder and managing editor of e-Books India, India’s largest online...

This summer, Canadians were inundated with emails requesting us to opt-in to email lists. The pleas were sparked by Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL, commonly pronounced castle), which came into effect July 1. Canadians can no longer send commercial emails, text messages, or instant messages without consent. The new legislation has put a strain on many publishers, as they struggle to modify their direct sales and marketing tactics to comply with the legislation.

“A huge part of our business is course adoption, so we email professors very regularly introducing books in their subject areas . . . We send out thousands and thousands of those emails every month,” explains Laraine Coates, marketing manager for UBC Press. “When CASL came down, I was quaking, because I was thinking, How are we supposed to reach these people?”

Many publishers undertook time-consuming opt-in campaigns over the summer, to try to obtain express consent from the people on their current email lists. The publishers I spoke with for this blog post all said their mailing lists dropped by about half. Most publishers are putting a positive spin on the drop. As Erin Creasey, Sales and Marketing Director for ECW Press, says: “It doesn’t matter if you have those names on there if those people aren’t engaging and don’t get it.”

Implied consent
CASL also permits businesses to send commercial emails if they have implied consent. There are a few forms of implied consent, including:

  • Conspicuous publication
: The recipient’s contact information is published in plain sight, for example, on a website or in a trade magazine.
  • Disclosure
: The contact information is given to the business, for example, if people give you their business card or address.
  • Existing business relationship: 
The person has made a transaction with the company or inquired about purchasing its goods or services.

Problems with data management
The implied consent rules come with an additional challenge: the consent is only granted for two years. That means publishers have to track how long they’ve had an individual’s email on file. “Trying to manage our list is completely daunting,” says Coates. For example, a publisher may have implied consent to email a professor whose email address is available on a university website, but they now have to go back to that website every two years to confirm that his email addresses is still up. Multiplied by many thousands of email addresses, and you have a data-management nightmare.

UBC Press now notes in its spreadsheets where they got the email addresses and when; every time they update a list they indicate the date it was updated. “We have a lot more work to do now,” Coates says.

The impact on bulk sales
Margaret Bryant, director of sales and marketing for Dundurn, says one of the bigger shifts for them relates to bulk sales to companies and organizations. “We’re no longer allowed to do unsolicited email communication with these people,” she says. In the past authors would give Dundurn a list of leads, which a sales person would follow up on. Now their authors have to qualify their leads.

“It’s actually made us stronger,” Bryant says. “There were a lot of unqualified, blind leads that didn’t amount to sales…By asking them to be more precise about those leads, [we’re] using [our] time more wisely.”

Grey areas
The Association of Canadian Publishers engaged a lawyer to provide its members with advice around the legislation, and they held a webinar on the subject. Other publishers have been guided by in-house counsel or have been interpreting the legislation themselves. Still, there’s a lack of consensus among Canadian publishers about which sales and marketing activities are legal and which aren’t. For example, some think making the equivalent of an email cold call for bulk sales is in fact legitimate.

“The point of the law seems not to be preventing these types of genuine business interactions,” says Creasey. “We all know what email spam looks like, and that’s not what we’re sending.”

There are also a lot of grey areas. For instance, in the case of a publisher subscribing to a third-party database for publicity outreach, does the publisher need to get consent from the people in that database? Does the database provider? A lot of these questions won’t become clear until the legislation is challenged in courts.

Three-year grace period
CASL gives businesses a three-year adjustment period. No one can be charged under the legislation until July 2017, after which the CRCT (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) can issue warnings and penalties. Penalties for very serious violations can go as high as $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.

For now Canadian publishers and self-publishers are busy trying to build legitimate email lists. Meanwhile, Canadians continue to receive unwanted emails from other jurisdictions, leaving some to question how useful CASL is at protecting Canadians from spam.

Charting Nook’s Decline

Barnes & Noble’s Nook division hasn’t fared well over the past four years. What was once thought to be the only credible challenger to Amazon’s dominance of the ebook business in the U.S. has fallen into a distant second or third position in the marketplace (Apple at this point may sell more ebooks than...

6 Steps to Overcoming Social Media Writer’s Block, Part 2

Part 2 in a 2-part series. If you’re an author who currently avoids social media, don’t be embarrassed. Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. In my work helping authors promote their brands, I’ve only known a couple of writers who are naturals at social media. (Their books sell well, by the way—coincidence? I...

Enhancing Ebooks: An Author Perspective

Right now we are facing a game-changing moment in publishing, where publication is possible for those who might never have achieved it before, an opportunity created by the rise of digital publishing. As an author I am excited by the opportunities that the digital medium presents and keen to find new ways to entertain...