Amazon vs. Hachette – are they really holding publishers hostage?

The Amazon-Hachette debate is raging on and much like Bruce Springsteen’s thoughts on Luis Suarez or David Bowie’s thoughts on independence, I’m not overly concerned about what huge, best-selling authors have to say about the importance of supporting small publishers. I say this because regardless, they’ll do well in sales. It doesn’t affect them. The same way Luis Suarez’s gnashers don’t affect Bruce Springsteen and New York City dwelling David Bowie will not feel the effects of a Yes vote. Authors who have backed Hachette include J.K Rowling, John Green, James Patterson (who is now granting £250,000 to independent bookshops) and Malcolm Gladwell. All of these are and have been best selling authors. They have sold millions upon millions of books, have become household names and are at no risk of ever struggling to make a living through writing. So why are we following their words? As far as I know (the tax-dodging debacle aside for now…) Amazon sell great books at very affordable prices, they have Kindle offers which tend to have a lot of popular, contemporary books and it gives self-publishers a huge platform. So, where’s the problem? John Green has said:

“… Most good books are NOT created solely by one person: Editors and publishers play a tremendously important role not just in the distribution of books, but in the creation of them. Without my editor, there would be no great perhaps in Looking for Alaska, no Augustus Waters in The Fault in Our Stars, and no Agloe, New York in Paper Towns. Without copyeditors and proofreaders, my books would be riddled with factual and grammatical errors that would pull you out of the story and give you a less immersive reading experience. This is true not only for traditional/legacy publishing but also for self-published books. Authors are not islands.”

This is for the most part, true. Authors in the past have struggled to get by without a team of publishers but given that the Kindle market is now so enormous, they may be becoming obsolete. This is a scary thought for those who cherish the publishing industry in the same respect that small bookshops closing down is a daunting thought for those who cherish the integrity and overall feel of independent bookshops. In  the publishing industry right now, there’s not enough consistency. Number 2 in the Kindle chart right now is Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott. Where is it in the official book charts? Well, you tell me. It’s certainly not in the top 40.

I caught up with Ben Hatch who is one of Amazon’s best success stories in terms of Kindle sales to briefly discuss this situation and to get his thoughts on why the publishing world is in such disarray. benhatch(1) As a lesser-known author, how do you feel about indie bookshops in comparison to Amazon?

[Mid-list writers] all love indie bookshops and want them to flourish but Amazon gives authors another chance. If you’re not a celeb, a crime writer or a big seller, where are you going to make a living?

How profitable are Kindle sales for authors?

I know authors who make a living solely on Amazon. I’ve sold more than 100,000 ebooks.

Then why don’t bookshops promote you?

Publishers pay to be in promotions and they only pay when it’s cast-iron they’ll sell buckets. They don’t take chances whereas Amazon decide what’s in their promotions and have picked my book and don’t ask for money.

What would you say is one of the underlying reasons for the decline in bookshops supporting smaller authors?

The trouble is bookshops went bananas for celeb memoirs and cookery books and forgot about mid-list writers who’ve found a home on Amazon.

 

Amazon and Hachette both have said they see no ending to this debate for a while and with everything taken into account, it’s easy to see why. There is an argument on both sides and even corporate giants like Amazon still promote and help independent authors so who exactly is in the wrong? Is publishing dead? Did Amazon kill it?

What do you think?

10 quotes to motivate new business owners

Quotes are used in all kinds of articles and situations and while I’ll never have an office like Barney Stinston‘s, I do find that quotes can help inspire and comfort people. Inspiration and comforting are two things new business owners probably need a lot of. It’s hard to step out and do things on your own and even harder when the thing you’re doing just happens to be your livelihood! Here are 10 of the best quotes to motivate, inspire and reassure new business owners:

 

“You can, you should and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

-Stephen King

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”

-Tony Robbins

“Never, never, never give up”

-Winston Churchill

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the
20th”

Julie Andrews

“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.”

-Brian Tracy

“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it”

-Bill Cosby

“It’s always too early to quit.”

-Normal Vincent Peale

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”

-Steve Jobs

Fortune sides with him who dares.”

-Virgil

“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate that can circumvent, or hinder, or control the firm resolve of a determined soul”

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

5 social networking fails – explained!

Who Unfollowed You? Who Cares?

Unfollowers Since the dawn of social networking, people have wanted to know who unfollows/unfriends them. It’s entirely understandable and we all do it. Anybody who doesn’t has far too much willpower and self-confidence for one person! When you sign up to accounts such as unfollowers.me, justunfollow.com etc, find the option to NOT automatically tweet your weekly stats. We all do it, yes, but we like to pretend we don’t and look down on those that make their shameful stats public.

I Know the Days of the Week, Thank You

“Happy Friday! Smile because it’s Friday! TGIF! These terms have nothing to do with our brand or what we do!!!” Especially in the case of Aldi whose staff work weekends. Not only are these posts lazy and cringe-worthy, they tell your followers nothing about your brand, which is the entire point of having a Facebook page in the first place.  For social media staff, this is an easy post to put into the content schedule and a LOT of companies do it so it can be perceived as acceptable but really, what use are these posts? They’re at very best kind of cute and at worst, a little patronising. While it’s not good practice to constantly push your brand, you should at least always stay slightly relevant and think of what kinds of people will be following your page and cater content to them.

Don’t Pretend to Be My Friend

DM spam Oh, DM spam, how myself and everybody else loathe you. I have never spoken to anybody who has said this is an effective form of marketing. It’s impersonal (first mistake), usually self-promoting (I followed you, I’m already a fan of what you do) and generally annoying. Automatic messages, tweets and Facebook posts are fairly transparent as it is but with DM spam, you are fooling absolutely nobody.

#RarelyRelevantHashtags

FF Speaking of spam on Twitter, hashtags are  great for promoting your brand/product, especially if you can think of something witty on the spot that has the potential to go viral but do not hop on to the first trending hashtag that you see just because you think that the opportunity is there to be seized. Also recognise which traditional hashtags are now pointless like Follow Friday (#FF). Follow Friday used to be a great way of promoting somebody you follow because they were genuinely great but now it’s spammy and full of far too many emoticons. The Oatmeal says it best: “#FF… is like trying to get relationship advice by listening to a bunch of bloated sea lions barking at a passing ship.”

Social Me-Too’s

The worst offenders are usually far more sinister than this and generally have pictures of ill children, neglected puppies, dead celebrities but the same approach is taken: like if you agree. Like for this brave baby, like if you are sad about Peaches Geldof, like if you need a vacation. Make no mistake, there are people that genuinely think businesses are doing this from the goodness of their hearts but that doesn’t take away the sinister undertone which is that tragedies are being used as like-bait and marketing opportunities. Not only is this extremely insensitive, it’s not beneficial to your brand. It doesn’t tell the average social networking user anything about your brand or even just your tone.

You can’t afford to ignore social networking

The Dignity Project (a name which seems somewhat ironic today…) tweeted this upon hearing the news that J.K Rowling had donated £1 million to the Better Together campaign. The news itself came as quite a shock to yes and no voters but The Dignity Project did not keep a dignified (geddit?) silence on the news. No, instead they called her a gendered slur.

The Dignity Project have since released a statement saying that their account was hacked. Protip: if you ever find yourself in such a terrible PR nightmare, do NOT say your account was hacked. Nobody believes you. We’re all laughing at you. If it happens, ‘fess up and accept responsibility. It is far more respectable to own up to your mistakes in any situation but especially on the endless pit of memory that is the internet.

In this case, it seems that this tweet may have automatically been shared from the chairman of The Dignity Project’s Facebook account. This is all at once pretty dumb, embarrassing and speaks volumes about how important it is to have more than one person in control of your business’s social networking accounts. Even those who seem like they ought to know the dos and don’ts of social media can get it wrong and there needs to be other people with access to the account for damage control. The tweet pictured is STILL up and has been featured on Huffington Post, The Guardian, Telegraph and now The Dignity Project is being investigated. Yikes. All because of an ill-thought-out tweet and only one person controlling social networking accounts.

The problem that a lot of small businesses seem to have is that they do not take social networking seriously. Facebook, Twitter etc are painted by the media as being shallow, superficial and narcissistic when in fact they are some of the most vital tools available to both businesses and individuals. How you appear online is how you’ll remain to be perceived outside of the internet. If you don’t keep up your social networking, if you ignore customers when they try to contact you, if you personalise your brand to the point that you offend others, this won’t be forgotten in ‘real life’ and will have a negative impact on your business.

 

Science and technology Kickstarter picks #1

Kickstarter is one of my favourite places to browse on the web. It’s inspiring, interesting and on occasion even quite funny. I especially love the technology section. As a huge science and new technology lover, I get so excited about potential projects and how innovative people are. It’s also nice to occasionally donate to the campaigns I’m passionate about, even if I feel the rewards are somewhat lacklustre.

Shots Stats Challenger

 

Shots Stats Challenger is the ideal component to any tennis player’s game. It allows you to instantly view stats after every swing including the speed of your racket, your time on court, amount of spin you’ve applied and whether it’s top spin or slice, your number of forehands, backhands, serves and smashes, the impact of the ball on your strings over time and your stringing log which tells you the number of shots before each restringing and luckily, it’s a standalone app meaning it doesn’t have to be connected to smartphones, tablets or pc’s in order for stats to be read.

The rewards aren’t exactly plentiful- at least $125 has to be pledged before backers can receive a Shots Stats Challenger and before that, there’s mostly t-shirts (because what more could you want?!)  but even with that aside, this seems like a fantastic innovation that could revolutionise (did I really just say that) for the true tennis enthusiasts out there.

HappiJar

HappiJar is probably the cutest app I’ll ever discuss. It’s almost sickeningly sweet. Rated number 3 in Apple’s Best New Social Networks, HappiJar encourages users to share their happy moments with their friends and family by connecting HappiJars to one another. These jars get filled with various buttons that are linked to happy memories. It can be anything so small as finding Nutella in the cupboard to meeting the newest member of your family.

This is already an app on iOS but this particular Kickstarter is looking to bring the HappiJar magic to Android. They’ve almost hit half of their £3,000 target and rewards include £12 of buttons, your own personalised button and HappiJar t-shirts.

Graffmap

Graffmap is a space for street art enthusiasts to map, share and admire graffiti online or in person. Users can search nearby for graffiti or discover whats new around the world. It’s currently actually available online but the creators of this unique project are looking to create an app for both iOS and Android. This is a really exciting and is a fantastic showcase of alternative art. I even think it could possibly enhance travel/holiday experience for those who enjoy this kind of art and are willing to go on adventures searching for it!

Graffmap have raised 3.5 thousand dollars out of their requested 9 thousand and only have five days to go. Perks include access to Graffmap beta, t-shirts and canvases by street artists!

MBlok

MBlok is a more comfortable and accessible offline alternative to The Cloud. It boasts of 256GB of storage as well as 300 hours of battery life. It connects to devices (phones, tablets) offline through Bluetooth and is perfect for those who find themselves always running out of storage space for music, movies and photographs. Due to the fact that it fits in a palm and can be carried around everywhere, unlike Cloud storage, users can rest safe in the knowledge that their files are safe.

MBlok has reached over $166 thousand of the requested $120 thousand and has 11 days to go. Perks go from your very own sapphire blue or emerald green MBlok to engraved MBloks.

And Finally…

Every once in a while I look into old science and technology Kickstarters and find some real gems. This one in particular is pretty exciting and surprisingly simple

GoPlug bags offer USB and standard power ports within a bag. No more leaving the pub because your phone has low battery (what? Is it only me?!), no more worrying about extra batteries for devices… We now have a plug on the go and the bag is surprisingly nifty and not as bulky as expected!