Introduction to Kboards

kindle boards logoThe site currently known as Kboards started life as KindleBoards, a website primarily dedicated to talking about that new-fangled reading device, Amazon’s Kindle. Kboards is a booming site for both readers and writers, with over 80,000 registered users and 2.5 million posts. For writers, there’s more to it than just an opportunity to rub elbows with readers. A sub-board of Kboards is The Writer’s Café, which has become one of the go-to places for up-to-the-second information about publishing, with a strong emphasis on independent publishing. Continue reading “Introduction to Kboards”

Indie News Beat: Publishing News and Stuff

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time once again for the Indie News Beat. We take the flour and water of facts, knead the dough of truth, and bake up a tasty loaf of information just for you.

Ace reporter Chris James could not be with us. He has been taken hostage by a group of Amazons. Actually, they freed him months ago, but he refuses to leave. We soldier on here at Indies Unlimited.

The L.A.Times has discovered that a lot of people lie about having read the great classics of literature. It turns out, a lot of them just watched the movie instead. I cannot say I am surprised. The article includes the top 10 books people fake having read. In the number one slot is 1984, by George Orwell. Ironically, that is the only one on the list I actually read. I actually liked it. Go figure. There is no word yet on how many people falsely claim to read the L.A. Times.

But perhaps society has just moved beyond these dusty old tomes. Nowadays, we’re a texting, tweeting, live on the razor’s edge, breakneck, no time for nuance kind of society. Thankfully,someone has had the forethought to distill the great classics down to 140 character tweetable summaries.

One of the hallmarks of the digital revolution is the freedom it brings to writers in determining the best length for the stories they tell. Book length is more or less hard-wired into dead tree publishing. Production of a digital book does not have  the kinds of fixed overhead that print has. That opens a lot of doors for creativity. The Guardian sees the Kindle Singles program as the signal event in this part of the revolution.

It’s just not possible to talk about what’s new in the world of publishing without talking a lot about Amazon. Part of the reason for that is Amazon innovates while everybody else equivocates. In yet another example, Amazon’s Matchbook allows customers to buy discounted digital versions of print books they’d previously bought from the retailer. Personally, I’d rather see it the other way around. Still, this Bezos chap does seem to have a lot on the ball. has an interesting article on the rise of what they refer to as hybrid authors. These are authors who have been published traditionally, but also self-publish. This phenomenon makes a lot of work for big ink, who now has to worry over both attracting new talent as well as retaining control over its pool of existing authors.

That’s it for this time around. Join us next time, when we answer the age-old question, If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does that mean you can cut it up and haul the wood out for free?

Indie News Beat: Gatekeepers by Default?

One of the more interesting side-effects of the self-publishing revolution is that independently published books are acting as a “testing ground” for mainstream publishers. More and more often we hear in the news of a self-published author who worked hard to shift a few thousand copies, and then along came a mainstream to snap them up and market them as a new discovery.

While this may be good news for the authors concerned, the other side of the coin is the intimation that, if an Independent Author can’t shift thousands of copies on their own efforts, then de-facto they can be deemed somehow to have failed. This article on Authonomy is typical of a mainstream encouraging authors who can’t get off the slushpile to go the self-publishing route. Authonomy is HarperCollins’ pseudo-indie platform, a place where unknown authors can go to showcase their work, so it’s no surprise it takes a mainstream-centred point of view.

The article begins by name-checking the usual suspects who started out self-publishing and then went on to enjoy mainstream success, before, wagging its finger like a parent admonishing a wayward child, pointing out that these authors “knew their market and had taken the time to cultivate it.” Many literary agents now regard self-publishing as an “incubator” for new talent.

Then comes the catch: it may take up to 100,000 sales “before publishers are vying for your signature”, although a few thousand will probably be enough to get the attention of literary agents. In this way, literary agents and mainstream publishers retain their function as gatekeepers by default. Instead of wading through vast slushpiles, agents and publishers can sit back, see what authors and titles are building a market, then step in with an offer.

The only problem is, it’s self-defeating. As Howey and others have shown, if an author can build an audience of thousands without a mainstream behind them, why do they need one afterwards? The only answer is validation: that mainstream publication still has the lure of making an author feel legitimate. Now, however, we move into irony: the Independent Author works hard writing, blogging and promoting for years to build their audience, only for a mainstream to come along and say: “Congratulations, you’ve made it! Now we’ll take your book and instead of the 70% royalties you’ve been earning by your own effort, we’ll let you keep 12%, but that’s a small price to pay for being a ‘real’ author!”

I think it’s clear most writers accept that the days of the JD Salinger, who could find a publisher and retreat to live life completely out of the public eye, are over. Whether independent or mainstream, each author knows that they have to interact with their readers to promote their books and their name. The question, though, is: are you self-publishing for independence or to snag a mainstream? If the answer is to snag a mainstream, then aren’t they and the literary agents maintaining their former role as gatekeepers by default?