Expert Publishing Blog

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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...

JUv fiction

Amazon Gambles on the Kids

Amazon’s announcement of their Kindle Kids’ publishing software platform probably caught very few in the industry off-guard. It’s been clear that Amazon’s ambition is to become both the publisher and the retailer, which, irrespective of what the industry feels, lines up perfectly with Amazon’s stated goal of delivering better value to their customers. I...

6 Steps to Overcoming Social Media Writer’s Block, Part 1

Part 1 in a 2-part series For self-published ebook authors, there’s one aspect of marketing that offers substantial exposure at a very low price: social media. It’s free, after all, and with social media, you can reach readers throughout the world. But when it comes to promoting their brands via social media, many authors freeze...

Licensing in China: A Two-Way Street

As I come to the end of a very busy and productive Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), there have been many lessons to reflect on in what has been a fascinating week. As part of IPR License’s full launch in China, through our partnership with the Charlesworth Group, I had expected a challenge of...

New Ebook Production Tools Heighten Focus on Quality

Changes in ebook production and conversion technologies are opening up new opportunities when it comes to digital content. But that expansion is also creating a handful of challenges for those who use such tools, and quality assurance methods will need to adapt to keep pace. On its face, the ebook management app Calibre’s recent upgrade doesn’t appear to concern...

Three Common Mistakes to Avoid When Publishing a Book App

In May, I wrote a post called “Five Myths About Book Apps,” where I shared the most common myths my colleagues at the Book App Alliance and I have heard about publishing books as apps. Now I want to discuss the three biggest mistakes people make when it comes to tackling this kind of project. I’ve...

Digital Apps For Early Learning: A Glimpse At Kumon Publishing

Can digital tablets help children learn skills like penmanship? Can interactive apps foster appreciation for the sounds of language? Kumon Publishing North America is exploring these questions. The company that’s known for its educational learning centers has introduced two digital apps for kids. One, titled Uppercase ABC’s: Learn To Trace Letters, is a digital workbook...

Average Price of an Ebook Best-Seller on the Rise

For two years, we’ve been tracking the average price of a top-25 best-selling ebook: Before I talk about the latest batch of data that we can add to our posts on the subject*, let me just tell you briefly how we get this data and why I think it has some meaning. Every week,...

Before You Make a Fixed-Layout Ebook: Five Things to Watch Out For

So you want to make a fixed-layout ebook. For starters, are you sure? Publishers aren’t yet convinced that the format is much more than a niche market. But as technology evolves and ebook developers get better at producing more sophisticated FXL EPUB content more efficiently, change could soon be nearer at hand. Fixed-layout is a...

Same-Day Book Delivery Doesn’t Best Bookstores…Yet

Want a book, and want it now? Your local bookstore is probably still your best bet. With some out-of-town travel lined up for this evening but no airplane reading on hand, I thought I’d try out Amazon’s new same-day delivery service as well as Barnes & Noble’s Manhattan-only counterpart (not the newly announced Barnes...

Audiobook CDs in MP3: No More Switching Discs

Do you listen to audiobook CDs in the car? I do. They’re a great way to get through all those new titles (I’ve heard 3,500 new books are introduced every day) and it makes the commute more bearable. My only pet peeve is changing CDs—an act that just may be more dangerous than texting while driving. Some...

Does the Acquisition of BookLamp Signal Apple’s Entry Into the Ebook Subscription Service Market?

In March of this year, shortly before Apple bought ebook recommendation start-up BookLamp, music subscription champion Spotify made a very similar acquisition. Spotify bought music recommendation service Echonest of Cambridge, MA. for approximately $100 million and with it secured the industry’s leading music recommendation and data mining service. Why? Many think that recommendation services...