Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the category “e-books”

YA Market and the E-book Revolution

I have entered my Young Adult epic fantasy novel into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. My plan is if I do fall at some point to send submissions to about 20 agents and try to publish in the conventional way.

If this does not succeed, I assumed that I would then join the e-book revolution and hope to create enough splash to be picked up in the footsteps of Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath. I have read closely John Locke’s successful business model and would love to try it.

But today something hit me. Do young adults (10-18 year old) – my primary market for my epic fantasy series – read their books on e-Readers?

recently wrote: “The children’s and young adult e-book market faces special challenges not shared by the adult market, new research shows. And teens are slow to adopt e-books, in part because they do not see e-books as a social technology and they think there are too many restrictions on sharing digital titles.”

She reached her conclusion based on two online surveys commissioned by  PubTrack Consumer towards the end of last year who surveyed 1,000 teenagers and 1,000 parents of pre-teens. The details of the survey can be found here –  “Children’s Publishing Goes Digital.”

There are some interesting theories and statistics here. Firstly, youngsters are extremely social and want to share their books with friends and e-book technology is perceived as too restrictive. I thought that perhaps the teens did not have access to comfortable e-book readers. The majority has cell phones, but I am not including this. 60% of those surveyed receive technology from their parents as the latter upgrade.

makes another excellent point It is not just young adults propelling YA books like the Hunger Games trilogy onto e-book bestseller lists:

– 30-44-year-olds constitute 28 % of YA print book sales and 32 % of YA e-book sales. -18-29-year-olds buy the most YA books, purchasing 31% of YA print sales and 35% of YA e-book sales.

Making a decision to invest in the YA fantasy e-book market doesn’t look as attractive as for genres aimed at adults, but this is going to change as more young people receive the necessary devices. Also, the realization that the YA market goes not from 12-18, but 12-44 year olds make for a more encouraging prospect.

A final interesting point is that this age group is more likely to buy a book because of a recommendation on a social network.

Now, please excuse me, this 47-year-old is going to read The Hunger Games, recommended to me by my 13-year-old son.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Welcome to the World of E-books

Did you wake up this morning the proud, or maybe confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly last night while your loved ones looked on with bated breath as you apprehensively ripped open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age?

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of brandy and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will claim to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features despite hardly using the gadget’s predecessor.

Have another sip of brandy. Oh, I forgot it is the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or without choice. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the tablet e-book reader. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about the little things like a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just read on their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned annoying individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. I am also a confirmed Star Trek fan. However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in the house I share with my family.

So, some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath and slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. Remember how hard it was to drive a car when we were learning?

Finally: Have another brandy. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere: the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!).

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Last Minute Gift?

It’s quick. You don’t need to battle frantic store crowds.  It’s environmental. It’s not expensive…

Did you know you can buy an e-book and send it directly to a friend as a gift?

Any Kindle book available for purchase in the Kindle Store can be given as a gift to anyone with an e-mail address. You do not need a Kindle device to send or receive Kindle book gifts, and the recipient can read their gift on a registered Kindle device or any free Kindle reading application.

All you need to know is that person’s email.  You can add a personal message as well. For more details, click here. Apart from giving a meaningful gift, you are also helping a struggling author. Here are 10 other ways to help a friend who is an author.

Happy Holidays.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Help A Struggling Author

Left Coast Voices takes great pride in championing the poor, the downtrodden and the exploited. We try and keep it positive by emphasizing organizations and individual who are trying to make a difference and help create a better world.

This post is not one of them. But since it is the season of good will and many of us are considering what gifts we want to buy friends and how to put some good out in to the world, I am going to allow myself a mild dose of narcissism. Actually, I would like you to consider helping a struggling author. It doesn’t have to be me, but if you insist…

Here are 10 ways to help a struggling author:

1.     Post a review of their book on Amazon.com. This is very important and influential. Add some helpful tags or add them to your listamania.

2.     Buy their book, if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend’s birthday, or instead of a bottle of wine next time you’re invited for dinner. Maybe as a Xmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa present. Did you know that you can buy an e-book as a gift and send it to your friend’s e-Reader?

3.     Mention the author’s website or blog on whatever social networking sites you are active. Spotlight them on your blog.

4.     Go to the public library. If their book isn’t there, request it. If it is there, take it out. Even better – reserve it. Why? Libraries track book movement. If a book is in demand in Northern California, the libraries in Southern California etc. might order some copies.  

5.     Mention their book on Goodreads.

6.     Know someone who is in a book club? Suggest that they nominate your friend’s book for the group to read.

7.     Donate a copy of their book in a fundraising raffle or silent auction as a prize. It is great exposure.

8.     Attend their book readings. Ask questions that make them look good and/or authoritative. Answering questions from someone you know helps the author relax and build confidence.

9.     Link your website and their website. Subscribe to their blog.

10.  Hug an author. It won’t propel them into the New York Times Bestseller list, but it means a lot.

This list took me less than 10 minutes. I’m sure there are many other ways that I haven’t thought of. If you can think of any, please add them in the comments below. This is all about win:win. In the middle of a recession, and a ruthless industry that is in involuntary transformation, win:win is something we could all do with in the season of good will.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Accidental Activist on Smashwords

The Accidental Activist is now available from Smashwords. I am excited about this as Smashwords is a very interesting organization. Its founder and CEO, Mark Coker, was an early visionary of the ebook revolution and recognized that with the constant technological explosion, there was room for a form of ebook that would fit any electronic format. Smashwords elegantly called their technology the Meatgrinder. I love the irony of this. One of the biggest wastes of the tree book industry is the returns policy that many large publishers offer which results in millions of books being printed, distributed, returned and pulped. Greenhouse effect, anyone?

I believe Smashwords uses more cutting edge technology.

On Sunday, Smashwords reached an interesting landmark. They have now produced an astonishing three billion words with over 70,000 books. To put it another way: “…in the last four months we averaged 8.3 million words a day. This works out to about 350,000 words per hour, 5,700 words per minute or almost 100 words per second. Can you hear the keyboards clicking?”

Yes, I can. And all this in less than four years. Smashwords have other attributes. They allow the author/publisher to set the price, and offer vouchers with discounts. They helped sponsor a program where authors offered ebooks for free to US servicemen and women serving in combat zone. I participated in Operation Ebook Drop and gave away more than 100 books during this period.

Mark Coker is a tireless crusader for the Ebook industry and you can see from his articles, countless speeches and panel appearances that he is passionate about his work and his vision.

Mark Coker often speaks in the Bay Area

I love my kindle, but i must admit that I found a flaw. As Smashwords reached it’s 3 billion word landmark, my kindle screen came up blank. I concede – this has never happened with any tree book that I’ve read. Now where is that warranty?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

London Riots

Really, there is nothing amusing about the riots on England and the looting of shoes, clothes, computers, and plasma televisions, . The damage, the carnage, the terrible impact on people’s lives and business. From another perspective, if this is the expression of an alienated generation who feel only hopelessness then it is even more problematic.

Was it greed or alienation?

However, The Economist took note that while these looters grab.ed clothes and electronics, they actually left the bookstore alone. Often two shops would be smashed while the bookstore in between them stood untouched. The only exception, and a sad one at that, was a gay bookstore Gay’s the Word. This shop was pelted with eggs and and had a front window smashed, though no books were stolen, leading to the obvious conclusion that it was a hate crime.
In one High Street, the only shop to escape damage was a Waterstones ( a bookstore chain), which led to one employee wistfully wondering that “If they steal some books, they might actually learn something.”

The Huffington Post picked up on this dilemma and asked the question: “Did the bookstores survive because the rioters respect reading–or because they simply don’t care about books?”

Where's the book department?

This leads to one of three alternatives:

1) Looters do not read anything longer than Twitter (apparently the forum where the riot coordination took place).

2) Their respect for the printed word and the hallowed role of authors in our society

3) They all have Kindles, Nooks, or iPads (which I hope they purchased) and only read ebooks.

It’s a tough subject. Tomorrow we will look at who these rioters, looters, and non-tree book readers are.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

The New MidListers

Yesterday I highlighted John Locke as a successful ebook author who has sold more than 1 million ebooks. Along with Amanda Hocking and J.R.Konrath, they are the Grishams and Pattersons of the new book reality. Thinking gof this made me wonder whether there is an emerging ‘midlist’ in the ebook jungle. Gotta love Google – I came across “The New Midlist: Self-published E-book Authors Who Earn a Living” by Robin Sullivan.

Amanda Hocking - leading the charge.

Ms. Sullivan suggests that this is in fact the case and that these authors are able to generate income because of the high royalties. The traditional book model (the terms offered by the big six publishers) offers 25% royalty on net sales of ebooks. But Amazon.com offers 35% for books up to $2.99 and a whooping 70% for books that sell between $2.99 and $9.99.

The trick is to leverage the Internet to generate high volume sales that are attracted because of the price is allowing more self-published and small press e-book authors to receive five and six figure yearly incomes. Many of these authors are able to leave their day jobs and make a living by doing what they love most–writing.

Michale Sullivan - leading the mid-listers

Ms. Sullivan runs a small press, Ridan Publishing. Her husband, Michael J. Sullivan, has six books published. From January to September 2010, his income averaged just over $1,500 a month or around $10,700 in total (Amazon US Kindle sales only). Once he hit the tipping point  he earned more than $102,000 in just five months. For details on his monthly income see the following chart:

Michael J Sullivan Amazon Sales

A quick glance at Writer’s Café (a section of the Kindle Boards forums), shows that Michael’s sales increase is not an isolated phenomena.  The following graph shines light on the number of authors who sold at least 800 books a month (Data provided on Kindle Board).

Amazon author sales over 800

Ms. Sullivan estimated the income of several of these authors according to the sales and book price data that the authors were posting on the Kindle Boards for one month.

  • Michael J. Sullivan — $16,648
  • Ellen Fisher — $3,915
  • Siebel Hodge — $15,425
  • N. Gemini Sasson – $4,222
  • David McAfee — $6,085
  • David Dalglish — $12,132
  • Victorine Lieskie — $7,281
  • M. H. Sergent — $4,211
  • Nathan Lowell — $9,296

What I found interesting is that only Victorine Lieskie, from among those listed above, ever had a book that made the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List. The other authors are selling at least 800 books a month.

It is possible to live the author’s life.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Author Sells One Million Ebooks

On Monday, June 20th, 2011, Amazon.com have recently announced that crime novelist John Locke has become the first independent author to sell more than one million ebooks through Kindle’s Direct Publishing program,

1 million ebooks sold - so much for needing an agent and publisher?

Locke points  to his $0.99 pricing model as a major influence and has self-published nine novels through the Kindle Store, including New York Times bestselling ebook Saving Rachel, as well as his first non-fiction title, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. He has six novels in the Amazon Top 100 and has coveted the No. 1 spot.

A line of books seems essential to make serious money in this climate

Locke has never been signed by a traditional agent or publisher. He joins seven other authors, including Stieg Larsson and Nora Roberts, in the “Kindle Million Club.” Locke sells his books for $1 and makes 35 cents per book. That is hard for me to fathom – selling the books I have sweated and toiled on for at least a year, but I can’t question that it works.

Along with Amanda Hocking and J. A Konrath, Locke is creating a new reality in the ever-evolving book world. They all create a system, work hard to achieve their goals, and are now reaping the benefits. The rest of us would be foolish to ignore them.

Good luck to them.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

Insights from the London Book Fair

The London Book Fair has traditionally been a trade conference that  reflects the industry’s direction on a global level. This year, the publisher of a friend of mine sent out a report to his authors describing his experience. It is a personal impression rather than a factual description and we should remember that this was one man’s perspective. But I found it so interesting that I felt I had to share some of his thoughts.


As with many authors who are not A-list or mid-listers, I have seen a general rise in the percentage of book sales in e-book form compared to tree books. There are months where I sell more e-books and these are becoming increasingly common. This might be because The Accidental Activist appeals to a socially and environmentally aware crowd who are comfortable with their Kindles and iPads. It also might be a cheaper way to check out an author with whom you are not familiar. The Accidental Activist in trade paperback sells for $11.50 and the e-book for $3.99.

However, it is interesting that the prevailing feeling at the London Book Fair focused on the emergence of the e-book. Publishers, CEO’s, distributors and editors packed the seminars that related to digital publishing. This publisher actually suggested that these industry professionals were ‘obsessed’ with the topic.


Brian Murray, the President and CEO of HarperCollins, said in his address that for some of his company’s front list titles more than 50% of sales are for digital formats. Mr. Murray stated that this was “a watershed” moment for the book trade.

He continued by adding that US e-readers grew from 15 million to 40 million in the past year. This growth “was having a disproportionately large effect on the market because they had reached ‘core’ readers, defined as those buying more than 12 books a year. ‘Some of the heaviest book buyers no longer visit bookstores.’

It is a universal business rule that it is easier to sell more products to a loyal customer than the first sale to a new customer. Mr. Murray went on to say that if these people are not visiting bookstores but buying online, then this fundamental shift is only the tip of the iceberg for the publishing industry.


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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Congratulations Amanda Hocking

I recently shared the story of Amanda Hocking, now a full-time author through primarily selling e-books and working really hard to create a dynamic social platform.

Though Amanda has been a pioneer of the alternative way to sell your books and make a living as a fiction writer, she has been rewarded with a traditional four-book contract that according to the New York Times, is worth more than $2 million. The deal is  with Macmillan imprint St. Martin’s Press, and follows what the Times described as a “heated auction” in which they beat out Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins.

Ms. Hocking wrote a blog entry on Tuesday in which she shared her decision to enter the conventional publishing world.

“I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation,” she said. “My goal has always been to put the highest quality product I can out in a way that is the most accessible to readers.”

I appreciate your honesty and your hard work in bringing yourself to this point, Ms. Hocking. You are an example and an inspiration to the rest of us. You are the first to succeed with this route, hopefully the first of many.

Ms. Hocking won’t be speaking tomorrow at Copperfield’s Books in Napa, but I will – between 1-3pm. Copperfields is at 3990 Bel Aire Plaza (between Highway 29 and Transcas Street. Happy to chat with you about these exciting developments, accidental activists, and anything else you can think of.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

 

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