Happy Thursday, writer friends!
I’ve been at the Self Publishing Show in London this week. Before I left, I set the intention to find clarity and confidence in the answer to this one question:
Is it really wise to indie publish standalone literary novels set in India when the readership for that market is so dependent on old-school methods of discoverability?
I didn’t expect any of the sessions to answer that question for me—it is an indie publishing conference, after all. But I figured I’d learn as much as I could, talk to people, just get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t, and where my books fit in.
I did find my answer, two hours in, when I called my husband utterly confused and had a major a-ha moment. And then at a party later that night, my decision was confirmed and sealed with confidence when I made a new friend and we talked through my options.
I’ve come to a decision. But more on that in a future issue.
Enjoy the issue!
NEWS & VIEWS
What giveth must also taketh, or so it seems when it comes to TikTok. BookTok, in particular. We’ve written before about how TikTok has been proving to be an incredible tool for book sales by diversifying book choices, leading younger people to bookstores, and turning backlist books into bestsellers.
But there’s a new trend on TikTok where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks. The #ReadandReturn challenge takes advantage of Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” The trend encourages readers to buy a book, read it within those seven days and then return it for a full refund.
Well-known authors such as Jeanette Winterson and Ian Rankin have criticized Amazon’s policy. “I am appalled,” Rankin told the Times. “Writers have a tough enough time as it is trying to make a living. If someone can read your book without paying you anything for the privilege you’re sunk.”
It gets worse. “When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” romance-fantasy author Lisa Kessler told Vice, after she saw a negative balance in her Amazon account for the first time in over a decade of being an author. This means that many authors are not only losing out on income from books that readers have read (and returned), but are out of pocket on the digital delivery fee they’ve paid, which can add up for a larger number of books.
What does Amazon have to say about all of this? Nothing meaningful. “We have policies and mechanisms in place to prevent our e-books returns policy from being abused,” an Amazon spokesperson has been quoted as saying in multiple interviews.
And so, the big question: What is an indie author to do? A few thoughts:
1. Keep talking about it. Tweet, sign this petition, complain to Amazon. Authors are the backbone of Amazon’s publishing ecosystem. If enough of us complain, Amazon may be forced to listen.
2. Don’t be exclusive to Amazon for your ebook sales. While Amazon is an important player, make sure your books are available on other platforms, such as Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play, and direct from author.
3. Don’t lose sight of the goal. There will always be a small number of people looking to game the system, and sometimes this will impact you in negative ways. Don’t let this, however, become the reason to stop writing or publishing. Do damage control as best as you can, but keep creating positive forward momentum with new opportunities and ideas.
Why does it take so long to publish a book? In this informative post (with an actual publishing timeline for their own book), Lincoln Michel talks about the difference between publishing and publishing well and why it takes so long to get a book out into the world.
There’s a simple key to freelance success: “Of all the values, strategies, and techniques espoused by business, freelance, and self-improvement gurus, there’s one that stands alone by virtue of its simplicity and power: reliability,” writes Steven Toews.
Some calls for submission from Twitter this week:
BuzzFeed News is accepting pitches for their tech desk.
Outside magazine wants pitches on climate change that are not all doom and gloom.
The Telegraph’s education editor wants stories about schools, universities, and further education.
Newsweek has a new deputy editor of first-person experience essays and would like to read yours.
Pink News is looking for freelance journalists comfortable with long and short interviews for their culture section.
The Sun wants beauty related pitches.
Metro wants first-person and opinion pitches.
There will always be something else to do, something easier. Another item on your to-do list, another social event to attend, another friend wanting to meet for coffee, another parent-teacher conference, another opportunity to take a class on writing, another podcast to listen to, another book to read, another something to learn.
You can convince yourself that you MUST do those things, participate in those activities, but sometimes—often, even—aren’t you really just turning to the outside world so that you don’t have to turn inward? So that you don’t have to make yourself vulnerable and write that book, that essay, that short story?
There will always be something else to do, something easier.
Writing will always be the harder option.
Will you choose it again today?
CHINA: Organizers of the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair announced that it’s facing another postponement because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trade show reported a total 1,498 rights agreements made during its 2019 edition. In early March, it was announced that Shanghai’s originally planned dates were being moved to July. Now, the show has had to make another move, this time to November.
SPAIN: The Madrid Book Fair, which ran for 17 days from May 27 to June 12 “reflected the typical book trends seen around the world in the past year, including an increased interest in mental health-related titles, graphic novels and manga, and young adult novels written by social media influencers.”
SRI LANKA: Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is the chief executive of Watchdog, a research collective based in Colombo that uses fact-checking and open source intelligence (OSINT) methods to investigate Sri Lanka’s ongoing crisis. As part of its work, he and his 12-member team of coders, journalists, economists, and students track, time stamp, geolocate, and document videos of protests shared online. Watchdog’s protest tracker has emerged as the most comprehensive online archive of the historic events unfolding in Sri Lanka. Its data set, which comprises 597 different protests and 49 conflicts, has been used by global news organizations to demonstrate the extent of public pushback.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.”
– Anne McCaffrey
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