Tuesday, December 18, 2012
2012: The year of “Self-Publishing”
In November 2012, Simon & Schuster, another of the “Big 6” book publishing companies, announced the launch of their new self-publishing brand in partnership with ASI. Even literary agents have recognized the trend. New York agency Curtis Brown launched a self-publishing operation this year, and Publishers Weekly reported on July 6, 2012, "Many agents are helping clients self-publish, taking their standard 15% commission in the process. In the past year, agencies such as Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, the Knight Agency, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Liza Dawson & Associates, to name just a few, have announced that they are offering self-publishing services."
A better business model
For most authors and publishers, the self-publishing business model is better all-around. In traditional publishing, new authors are fortunate to secure a traditional publishing deal at all. Of those authors who do get a traditional book deal, they’re lucky to get a $3000 advance against maybe a 15% royalty unless they’ve got an established platform guaranteeing the publisher some significant number of sales. And, as most authors know, any marketing their book receives is up to them anyway. Meanwhile, the publisher makes the decisions about the book title, cover design, and product positioning.
A new answer to “Publish or Perish”
What are your thoughts?
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Recently, I was invited to do an interview for the author newsletter of CrossBooks, the assisted self-publishing imprint of B&H. Here's an outtake from that interview.
If you have a manuscript or even just a book idea that you've been carrying for a while I strongly urge you to follow this link to request a free publishing guide from CrossBooks. There's no obligation and it could be the one step that finally propels you to get your book published.
In a changing industry, Paul Mikos tells you how to stay aheadAs Director of Digital Publishing for B&H Publishing Group, the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources, Paul Mikos knows what it takes to make it in the Christian publishing world.
In this Q&A with CrossBooks, he explains how the industry has changed, what this means for authors, and the No. 1 piece of advice that writers must know.
Q: Why did LifeWay decide to get into the self-publishing side of publishing?
A: We recognize that self publishing is becoming an increasingly significant part of the publishing industry. As a solution provider, we want to serve all our customers well. Providing self-publishing solutions is another way we can fulfill our mission.
Q: What type of author benefits the most from the self-publishing model?
A: The self-publishing model makes sense for a lot of people, depending on their publishing goals. A pastor who wants to publish for his congregation, and make the book available for others as well, makes perfect sense. A grandmother who wants to record the family story for generations to come makes perfect sense too. An aspiring novelist who cannot get looked at by a traditional publisher or agent, but still believes in his work and wants to prove there’s a market for it, is a great candidate for self publishing.
Q: What types of authors or titles does LifeWay’s traditional publishing arm, B&H Publishing Group, look at to publish?
A: Hard workers. We are looking for books for which the author has proven there is a market by selling thousands of copies on her own. Getting picked up by B&H or any other traditional publisher does not mean the work is over. In many ways, it means the work is growing. We are looking for messages that we can help reach a bigger audience.
Q: How important is an author’s established platform to a traditional publisher?
A: It is very important. While we are very mission minded with a call to take the gospel to the world, we are a ministry that is a business. We look at every book through the lens of business viability. How much will it cost to acquire, develop, sell and distribute, and what kind of return can we expect? The greater platform an author has, the more sales we can anticipate and relieve some risk from the equation. That all sounds very mechanical, and it is, but there’s also a place for instincts.
Q: Do I need an agent to go from self-published author to traditionally published author?
A: No. I think that is one of the great advantages of self publishing. If you want to get picked up by a traditional publisher, sell 5,000 copies of your book and then let every publishing house know about it.
Q: Given all the changes in book retailing (e.g., Borders closing, e-books on the rise), what do you think is the role of the bookstore today?
A: Bookstores are community centers. They’re a place for people to connect over ideas. I believe we will see the superstore concept continue to shrink, and I pray for the rise of local independent booksellers who exist to provide access to specialty books and a place for community. I also expect public libraries to grow as “discovery centers” for books among book lovers, and expect libraries to increase in their role as community centers.
Q: Do you think it is important for authors to have their e-books on every platform or just the big ones – Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble NOOK® and Apple iBooks®?
A: Our experience is that these three e-book players make up more than 95% of the e-book market, outside of our own channels, MyStudyBible.com and WORDsearch.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a first-time author looking to get published?
A: Don’t stop. Do at least one thing every day to move you closer to your goal.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
MyStudyBible offers entire WORDsearch Preaching Library online for first time ever, at the lowest price ever
“We don’t take lightly the idea of someone parting with $199, especially students, but it would cost more than $5000 to download these titles separately and more than $9000 to buy them in print—some of which would be very hard to find,” said Mikos.
Of further note, anyone who purchases the set now through June 5, 2012 will also receive a code to download the latest WORDsearch10 Bible software completely free with access to the Preaching Library off line through a computer or through the WORDsearch iPad app.
Only 2500 copies of the WORDsearch Preaching Library are available at this price through MyStudyBible.com. To take advantage of this deal, visit www.msb.to/redeem, follow the screen prompts to log in or register, and submit the following code: WVCN8RXDZV
Monday, May 14, 2012
2. Smart vehicle. This is a print vehicle that has potential to hang around for awhile. (Bad pun not intended.) I leave my clothes in the bag until I wear them again. I've looked at this ad every day for the last week and it may stay in my closet for months when I retire my winter clothes for the season.
3. Smart target market. I don't know the exact demographic for dry cleaners, but I bet it is a very identifiable, desirable target market. It is also very local making it easy to target specific DMAs, down to specific neighborhoods.
4. Smart message. The headline connects with the medium: Dry Humor, Clean Fun. Points for being clever.
5. Smart spending. Again, I don't know what it costs to print dry cleaning bags, but I bet the cost per thousand is considerably cheaper than a national 30 second spot on TBS during The Bill Engvall Show.
6. Smart distribution. My cleaners is a local independent in Nashville, TN. I don't know how much they pay for bags but I bet if a supplier provided a couple free roles they would happily use them.
Kudos to the marketing exec at TBS who came up with this promotion. If you happen to read this blog post, I'd love to know some of the specifics: number of bags distributed, target demographic, target DMAs, and results. Did you see any ratings increase you can attribute to the promotion? Please let us know.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
It is finally here! The HCSB Study Bible has been in development for several years and I am thrilled to have a hand in publishing this important Bible and I'm genuinely excited about some of the amazing digital tools we are able to provide for those interested in deeper, richer study the Bible.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Four new apps just released this week, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, Twisted Scripture, and Fast Facts, Challenges and Tactics.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Going Hulu: Six Things Bible Publishers Can REALLY Do to Work Together - (My BibleTech Presentation Part 3 of 3)
What does any of this have to do with Hulu? Well I have to admit, I went a different direction from what I originally had in mind, but to a certain degree it still applies. As you know, Hulu is owned by NBC Universal and Fox but is run independently. Their structure gives them freedom to move in the market without being encumbered by the branding or individual priorities of the different owners, yet gives them access to a great pool of content, and marketing reach to a huge consumer base. And Hulu demonstrates each of the six lessons we are learning about digital publishing.
Lesson 1: Content is more valuable together than in silos.
The great pool of content amassed by NBC and Fox draws a significant audience making this attractive for other content providers and advertisers.
Lesson 2: There is no “either—or.” You must think, “both—and.”
It is not broadcast or syndication, cable or satellite, television or Internet. It is both-and.
Lesson 3: Connecting directly with consumers is more important than ever.
Hulu connects two major networks directly with consumers without intermediary broadcast stations, cable or satellite providers. Through that access they gain valuable data to people’s viewing habits and trends that can help inform programming decisions, as well as another advertising revenue channel.
Lesson 4: Online content represents new revenue, not a threat to old models.
Hulu broke two traditions: going direct to consumers through the Internet and the collaboration of two significant competitors instead of building their own individual platforms.
Lesson 5: Capture all the value under the demand curve.
NBC and Fox are capturing one more valuable channel. They get ad revenue, data, and a direct connection with their customers. They are still broadcasting, syndicating, airing reruns, selling DVDs, and more.
Lesson 6: Enhanced content does not have to mean bells and whistles.
One of my favorit features of Hulu is the ability to low light everything around the screen and just watch the show. Simple and effective.
Now, what can Bible publishers do to achieve the Hulu effect? Here are six things we came up with at BibleTech and I’d love to hear more.
- Put your content everywhere. Our content is more valuable together. Amazon, Sony, Apple, Logos, WORDsearch, Olive Tree. The burden is on each of those retailers and each of us publishers to create a community, an environment, and content people like and trust. Consumers will be loyal to their communities so put your stuff everywhere if you want everyone to have it.
- Make a direct connection with your customers. If you don’t want to sell directly, work out a unique deal with someone who will process the orders and share the data. You’ve got to give your consumers a place to gather and talk to you directly.
- Put your money where your mouth is. If you like the agency model, are you willing to offer it? If you have an app or a Web site where you can sell a competitor’s digital products, will you do it? Will you give them 70%? Don’t cling to the licensing model when selling other publishers’ content and ask for the agency model when selling your own content.
- Develop a better ePub Bible. We’ve finally arrived at a place where one file format allows us to get to the entire market, more or less, but it is not entirely conducive to Bible reading, especially linking. Let’s develop a standard for best TOC navigation, footnote and cross-reference linking, study Bible notes and extra-biblical content (think ebook+ Bible with link Scripture references).
- Share. Let’s tell each other what we are doing and what we are learning from it. Of course we need to protect certain trade secrets and attempt to gain some strategic advantage in a competitive market, but some of that can be accomplished by actually helping each other. Sean Harrison from Tyndale has started a new site at DigitalBibleForum.com. Join the conversation.
- Get face to face. BibleTech was a great conference because of the people and the time we had to share our ideas. If you are involved in religious and digital publishing at any level, go ahead and put it on your calendar for next year. And, we need to meet regularly throughout the year, together, and in our own cities. B&H is in
with Nelson, Howard, FaithWords, and UMPH. Tyndale and Crossway and Moody are close enough for a snowball fight. Zondervan and Baker are in each other’s backyard. And I promise that every one of us has somebody who is interested in growing digital publishing. Go to lunch and talk about your boss who doesn’t “get it” and all the ways we could be working together. Then look for an announcement on a time for all of us to convene around the topic of digital for the express purpose of helping each other succeed for the kingdom and glory of God. Nashville
Consumers want convenience. They want what the want when they want it. Period. A customer who is loyal to Amazon or Logos is happy when they want a B&H resource and a Tyndale resource and don’t have to go two places to get it. Our content needs to be everywhere, available any way a customer wants to consume it.
We are learning this lesson from Logos. Bob Pritchett made an excellent presentation at Tools of Change where he said, “The margin is in the mystery.” What he meant was that the Logos database is mysterious to the consumer. They know it is deep and rich, inner-connected and constantly growing and being updated and that is worth something. Bob also said, “We publish ebooks. We used to call it Bible software, but we publish ebooks.” The difference is when you sell a $15 print book and turn around to sell the digital edition the consumer expects to get that digital edition for less than the price of the print edition. When the consumer looks at the Logos database they have no frame of reference to determine the value. They can charge hundreds of dollars for libraries of content and the margin is in the mystery. Pretty smart.
Other examples include YouVersion and BibleGateway. A guy in my men’s group recently held up his iPhone and said, “I’ve never read the Scriptures like this before—comparing one translation to another.” The ability to immediately compare translations without lugging around some massive parallel Bible is a great consumer benefit, and it is the new expectation—any translation I want, free. Our Bibles are more valuable to consumers together than on their own.
Lesson 2: There is no “either—or.” You must think, “both—and.”
Digital is a long way from dominating print. It may never dominate print in some categories. Let’s face it: the printed, bound book is an amazing piece of technology. It is portable, economical, durable, user-friendly and intuitive, instantly on, sharable, you can add notes and bookmarks, etc, etc. And, printed books have been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be produced for hundreds more. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend recently remembering when digital watches came on the scene and people were concerned that digital clocks would take over and people would forget how to tell time on an analog clock. Today we have both. It is not a matter of analog or digital, print or ebook, brick-and-mortar or online, wholesale or direct, professionally published or self-published (See Scott Sigler’s talk from Tools of Change), it is both-and.
Consumers are gravitating to, and influenced by, communities more than ever. A publisher’s identity at the consumer level means more today than ever before. Your brand already means something to a community—it already IS a community. There is an opportunity to increase the value of your brand and increase the size of your community by connecting with the people in that community. We need to know our consumers now more than ever before, and as we connect with them we create an opportunity for greater learning and better product development, greater influence, and higher margin sales.
At the same time, we know people are loyal to their communities. People who love Crossway may never join the LifeWay community, and vice versa, but we still want those people to have access to our material, and we want our community to have access to Crossway’s material. (Another example of both-and.)
By connecting directly with consumers digital provides fascinating analytics to inform new decisions. One of the things we are able to see through our Praying God’s Word app are 14 different spiritual strongholds people wrestle with. We can track trends in the seasons and volume at which people are dealing with things like depression, addiction, etc. It becomes one more window to get to know our customers better so we can provide better resources and solutions for them.
Another interesting piece of learning (that seems obvious now but was not as we were racing to market) is connecting with felt needs. We developed two free apps with the intent of driving in-app sales of $.99 content parcels. Praying God’s Word comes free with prayers on one topic and 13 more topics available for $.99 each. If someone were to purchase all of them they would get all the same content from the book and pay about the price of a paperback. We used the same logic for a daily devotional, giving away 30 days free and selling additional 30-day readings for $.99 each. If one were to buy all 12 installments they would pay about the same price as the print edition. Smart huh?
We didn’t connect with the user’s felt need. We presented the content as days 31-60, 61-90, etc. We repeated the same graphic and didn’t give the consumer any indication that this content would meet a need. The great thing about digital is that we get to do it over and issue updates. We are currently reviewing and categorizing the daily readings by topic so we can present, “Devotions for Intimacy,” “Devotions for Communication,” etc, etc., and we expect a significant increase in in-app sales.
Another fascinating thing to consider is tracking where people are in books. Sync technology allows Amazon to sync the last place you read on your desktop with your Kindle and your phone, so whatever device you’re reading you pick up exactly where you left off. That means Amazon knows exactly what people are reading. As an editor, wouldn’t it be great to know something like 70% of readers never come back to the book after chapter 3? You would know something is wrong with chapter 3 and needs to be fixed. Imagine how we could increase the effectiveness of written communication with that kind of reader feedback.
One of the great examples I heard about at the Digital Book World Conference was PoetrySpeaks.com—a site for poets, poetry readers, and poetry publishers. It is a well-defined niche with a strong sense of personal identity and community and they are selling text, audio, and video poetry online. They tracked one publisher’s physical books through retail using Neilsen Bookscan and sales for that publisher increased 55% in the six weeks following posting their content on the site compared to the six weeks prior. Granted, this is very new data, not a very long reporting period, and it is POETRY. You can go from selling 9 copies to 14 copies and it is a 55% increase, but it is still an impressive and important report. In her presentation at TOC, Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, Inc. and PoetrySpeaks.com, commenting on the need for accurate data also said that, “Transformation is in the margins,” meaning that the change we all feel coming is happening now, in the tiny fractions on the fringes of our business and that information can teach us a lot if we can get accurate data and pay attention to it.
Another example, closer to home for us, is our iPhone app for Praying God’s Word. The app is based on the bestselling book of the same title by Beth Moore. It contains an introduction and Scripture prayers on 14 different topics. Originally, we sold the app for $.99 it came with the general introduction and 30 prayers on the topic of faith. Also available were prayers on the other 13 topics for $.99 each.
Initially there was backlash from customers who thought they were getting ALL the topics for $.99, regardless of how clear we made the description. We decided to experiment with pricing and made the base app and 30 prayers free. Downloads went up 700% and in-app purchases rose as well. We increased brand exposure and the customer base by giving the app away free, and we are converting about 30% of the giveaways to in-app purchases. Is there any other direct marketing strategy with a 30% conversion rate? I hear 1-3% is more typical. But what about print sales? Well, our example is skewed because we released a paperback edition of the book a few months prior to releasing the app but all indications are that print sales are as strong or stronger than ever.
You all are familiar with O’Reilly—publisher of software manuals? They started BookSafariOnline five years ago, at which time about one-third of their business came from digital and two-thirds from print. In five years that split has completely reversed. 70% of their business now comes from digital and 30% print. Granted they have a digitally inclined community, but that is an awesome shift. What are some key factors: they experiment with pricing models, they have included other publishers’ content, they connected directly with their customers and listened to them.
Lesson 5: Capture all the value under the demand curve.
Richard Nash is launching a new digital publishing venture called Cursor and made this point very well on a panel discussing new business models at Digital Book World. His point was that there are people who would pay $25,000 for a private weekend with an author, and thousands who would download a free mobile app, and others who will spend $.99 for a piece of the content. His point was that as a publisher, our job is to capture all the value of the demand curve. Dominique Raccah or Sourcebooks made a similar point at Tools of Change, referring to this idea as the “content continuum.”
In either case, this is a major shift in perspective for traditional publishers. It used to be that publishers were interested in hardcover and paperback rights and would sell off subsidiary rights for video, audio, curriculum, even digital. Publishers are now going to need to exploit all rights in order to capture all the value under the demand curve. Hardcover and paperback does not a book make.
Lesson 6: Enhanced content does not have to mean bells and whistles.
So often when people talk about enhanced ebooks they talk about integrating audio and video and gaming and other bells and whistles, which are all great and we should pursue all of it, but it is not the only way to enhance an ebook. In fact, it may not even be the most valuable way to enhance an ebook. Watching video or listening to audio or playing a game are all very different experiences from reading.
Peter Meyers made an excellent presentation at Tools of Change called “Book Meets Tablet” where he shared several ideas for enhanced ebooks. One of my favorites was one he called the Col. Fitzwilliam problem. In Pride and Prejudice, the first name of the character Mr. Darcy is Fitzwilliam. There is a different character, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam. Mayer’s idea is to tag every character and pronoun with a brief character bio and relationship profile so with a touch you can be reminded who someone is and their relationship to the story. You could tag settings, locations, etc. You could add notes to have curated content, with one author commenting on another author’s work.
Another one of the apps we created is an eBook+ BibleReader. It contains the complete text of the book, The Love Dare, and the complete text of the HCSB. All Scripture references in the book are linked to bring up a popup with the verse, or the user can set a split screen or tap over to read the verse in context of the complete Bible text. We are working on a similar structure for ePub to create eBook+ files for rendering in any ebook reader.
Come back tomorrow for six practical applications for ways publishers can apply these lessons and innovate together.