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 tag “Amanda Hocking”

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).

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Amanda Hocking Joins Elite Group

Amazon.com have just announced that Amanda Hocking has joined the Kindle Million Club. She joins Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins, Michael Connelly, John Locke, Kathryn Stockett, Janet Evanovich, George R.R. Martin, David Baldacci, and Stephenie Meyer.

Amanda Hocking

Amanda, together with John Locke, sold most of her books herself through self-publishing, then working incessantly to promote them online. Hocking, still in her 20’s, is now the best-selling author of 10 books, including the My Blood Approves series and the Trylle Trilogy. The latter has been optioned for movies.

When asked, Hocking paid tribute to her readers, thanking them for their support. She also praised Amazon for creating the Kindle platform. This is humble and welcoming, but I have been following Ms. Hocking’s blog, and she reached this landmark by tenacious belief and hard work.

Beautiful Covers - We share the same cover designer.

Congratulations, Amanda Hocking.

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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).

Amazon Challenges Publishers Pt.2

This is a continuation of Friday’s post, a further examination of Amazon’s new approach to woo authors.

Barry Eisler, who turned down an attractive offer from St. Martin’s Press, and is publishing his new book himself through amazon is not deterred by the claim that he is restricting his audience by only publishing for Kindle readers. Eisler states that his book will be available without DRM (digital rights management) and therefore it can be read on any e-book reader, including the Nook and the Kobo. Many of us have, in addition to publishing through amazon, also published through the successful Bay Area start up Smashwords which I discussed a while ago on Left Coast Voices.

More telling, Eisler can sell his book at a low and attractive price for a broader audience. With a traditional publisher,  a hardcover would cost $25, and astonishing in my opinion, an ebook for as much as $13. “Availability six months earlier and at half the price seems like a pretty good deal for readers to me,” Eisler added and you can see his point.

This new strategy  between amazon and authors such as Eisler, or popular author Tim Ferriss, is a hard blow for traditional publishers. They had been more than tolerant with writers such as Amanda Hocking who created their fan base outside of the traditional framework only for a publisher to step in and help both the author and publisher profit. This new strategy, however, is pulling popular writers such as Ferriss and Eisler away from traditional publishing world.

In the process, Amazon is making the rest of the traditional industry look out-dated, inefficient, and profit-driven. If they are to woo such authors, they must shorten their publication process which is glacial in comparison to Amazon. They also need to understand that their price structure is antiquated in the face of technology.

I do not think that all is lost, however. Many of these emerging authors are businessmen and women and extremely pragmatic. Read John Locke’s new book as a case in point. 

As Eisler puts it: “My objectives were to make more money from the title, to get the digital out first, and to retain more control over business decisions. If a better way comes along … of course I’m going to take it. Publishing for me is a business, not an ideology.”

The market is such that an author will take a publishing deal if it is lucrative enough. If it is not, however, they might decide to look for other options and Amazon is ready to welcome then in. The ball is in the court of the major publishers. They need to adapt fast or risk joining the dinosaurs.

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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).

Amazon Challenges Publishers Pt.1

Friday today and another story from the publishing world. Amazon.com continue to redefine the publishing world. Earlier this month they released a new line of kindles, the handheld reading devices. At the bottom end, the basic no-frills model comes at the lowest price yet of $79, while at the upper end, the Kindle Fire has color and can be used to stream movies, surf the Internet, play games and host a vast amount of apps. Apple junkies are quick to point out that it lacks many features of the iPad, but with the Fire at half the price, it has to take a bite out of iPad sales (do we have an iPad 3 coming out soon?).

But Amazon are taking other steps to dominate the book world. The features of the new Flame has techie junkies claiming that Amazon are about to launch a “Netflix for books.They already have their own self-publishing platform (Createspace) and even created a streamlined publishing platform that is solely digital based.

Now Amazon are busy signing up authors for their own imprint. I have already featured authors who have learned to use the system to amazing results including J.A. Konrath and young-adult author Amanda Hocking — who made more than two million dollars by publishing her own books via the Kindle marketplace before signing a $2-million deal with a traditional publisher earlier this year.

Now there is an interesting new addition. Thriller writer Barry Eisler, a former CIA operative turned author, made his name as a self-publishing success story. However, when his sales garnered the publishing industry’s attention in a big way, he turned down a $500,000 advance for two books with St. Martin’s Press in March, and announced he would self-publish his new novel instead.

Eisler wants his independence and the most efficient model

In an NPR interview, Eisler — who has several New York Times  bestsellers which were published  traditionally — says he has come to the conclusion “that mainstream publishers simply aren’t as efficient or as useful to authors as they used to be, now that there are other options.”

“To say that publishers really care passionately about books as though they are concerned about what’s better for the world … I’m sure when they look in the mirror they feel that way. But in fact, what they care about is preserving their own position, perks and profit — that’s just what establishment players come to do over time.”

I’m not sure that this is a fair comment. The publishing houses have a right to chase profits and both publishers and agents that I have approached or been approached by, were very honest about this. If an author is going to get offended (and I’m not claiming Eisler is) when a publisher asks more about your marketing model and target audience rather than focus on the quality of your story or the message behind it, then the author also might need to look in the mirror.

Eisler was more direct, I think, in the New York Observer, when he says that one of the reasons he decided to decline the St. Martin’s deal was that the publisher was simply too slow in meeting its obligations. St. Martin’s, for example, took more than four months just to send a draft contract, “and during that time, the landscape of the industry had changed to the point where many of the terms were no longer acceptable — in part because of the explosion of e-books and self-publishing.”

Eisler also criticized legacy publishers who deliberately slow down the process of publishing a book, to earn interest on the money they would otherwise have to pay to authors. “By contrast, he said, Amazon was willing to sign a deal immediately and then guarantee to have the e-book version and the paperback version of his new books on the market long before a traditional publisher could.”

“What I care about is readers, because without readers I can’t make a living [and] I want people to read a lot. To that end, if I can find a way to get readers books that cost less and are delivered better and faster, I want that.”

Eisler’s frustrations, long expounded by authors, were heard by a opportunist giant in the book world, who is willing to listen to its authors and readers and adapt. More tomorrow.

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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).

 

 

What’s In A Name (an author’s name)?

This post caught me by surprised. I am used to hearing of the successes of such authors as J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking, that I thought this was another example. Daryl Sedore is another struggling writer, trying to crack the social media combination to fame and fortune. He, however, found another route: he changed his name. He posted 10 novels on various e-book sites such as Amazon and Smashwords and then went to work on his blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts, all of which registered high in rank, followers and every metric except book sales.

So he tried something extremely brave in my opinion. He took his books down and no one asked where they were. He realized that he was directing all his media messages to other writers.So he changed the covers, (thanks to his very talented wife, Brenda), added new blurbs,  and re-uploaded his books.
He also used a new author name. And the results were amazing.

As Daryl Sedore, he sold just 200 books over 5 months. As Jonas Saul he sold 350 books in the first six weeks.

Now I have to admit to being intrigued? I suspect that part of the increase in his sales are the beautiful book covers. “Never judge a book by it’s cover” should be ignored by anyone hoping to sell books (theirs or someone else’s). The title of the book is also critical, no argument here.

But the question lingers: Do we pick up a book because of the name of the author? What do you think?

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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).

 

A Series of Books, A Line of Products

In the past few months, the writing world has been keenly watching the process of J. A Konrath and Amanda Hocking, two authors who are making a lot of money selling their e-books and harnessing the power of social media.

Amanda Hocking

Joe Konrath often sells his e-books for $1.99, a price that has been met with considerable disdain by writers who sweat years over their masterpiece and can’t imagine selling it for the price of a cup of drip coffee (not even an espresso drink).

Konrath, however, sees this as a business and his books essentially as a line of products. After someone buys one book and enjoys it, they will go back to the Kindle store and buy several in one go. They know they enjoy Konrath’s style and stories, so for $15-$20 why not get the set and know you will always have something accessible to read for the next few months?

Joe Konrath

What is interesting here is the difficulty of authors to view their books as products. Both authors attribute their success, in part, to having several books to sell. After all, it is easier to sell a second and third book to someone who has read and enjoyed one of your books, than to sell them the first one. Moreover, it is the need to look at our writing as a business. Both Konrath and Hocking are very clear: they work very hard at not only writing, but building their online platforms.

There will always be A-list authors, some of whom become richer than the Queen (I still have a problem with that one – it somehow seems unpatriotic, Ms. Rowling), but the new generation of successful ‘everyone-else’ will consist of those who see this as a business.

Last month, I heard an author tell a group that she is a full-time author. She paid tribute to her partner who has a job that can allow her to stay home and she then admitted that most of that time is spent raising two young children and that she doesn’t have a writing routine.

I’m not sure I would include her in the category of full-time writer. Her position is similar to mine, struggling to carve out time between a full-time job, family, and everything else life throws at us. For writers like us, there is always going to be a struggle to be marketing one book (or ourselves), editing a manuscript, and writing the next book (the law of thirds).

And this is what will separate us from the likes of Konrath and Hockings. Good luck to us all, and may The Readers have mercy on our souls!
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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).

 

 

 

Another Ebook Success Story

I’m excited. I’m stoked. You might recall how ecstatic I was to hear of an author (fiction) who is  making a comfortable living from e-books. Well, after I declared this to the world, the majority of comments I received was along the line of: “so what, you’ve found one.”

Now J.A. Konrath, who surprised the publishing world money by announcing that he was making a good living from e-books and that he is making his money selling inexpensive e-books ($2-$3 as I recall).

Now the writing world is excited by Amanda Hocking, who sold over 450,000 copies of her e-books in January alone, mostly priced between 99 cents and $2.99. Ms. Hocking joins the short list of authors who are millionaires. What is even more cool about this 26-year-old, is that she is a self-published author.

But Ms. Hocking made one thing very clear and, I think, feels she has a point to make. Her success is a product of very hard work. Not only is she an incredibly productive writer, she spends several hours, let me stress that, several hours a day marketing herself and her books.

The truly succesful author of the 21st Century, of the digital age, will combine great writing, excellent marketing, and will understand the need to fuse writing and business. Ms. Hocking is, we should acknowledge, a product of the millennial generation, comfortable on multiple screens, and extremely good at it.

Good luck to you, Ms. Hocking.  And in response to a comment you made on your blog (not directed at me, I might add) – I am not jealous of you, I am full of admiration. You have set the bar for those of us who want to succeed as writers need to aspire to.

The only thing missing is the ‘How To’ book. I’ll be the first to buy it!

Oh, and yes I know that I put in way too many graphics (Ms. Hocking’s book covers), but they are works of art. No apologies offered.

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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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