Category: Products

Audio publishing: Common misconceptions

Louise Newton is an Audio Assistant at Little, Brown Book Group, and works across all imprints at Little, Brown on fiction and non-fiction titles. Louise is London Chair for the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and assists the Royal Society of Literature at their events.

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5 ways to perfect your pre-launch publicity campaign

Digital reading platform The Pigeonhole have launched a competition with Pan Macmillan, giving 500 winners early access to a serialized exclusive of Ken Follett’s latest blockbusting novel, A Column of Fire (see below for more info). Ahead of this, The Pigeonhole’s Laurence Kilpatrick shares his top tips for pre-launch publicity.

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Infrastructure of publishing business

Talking Podcasts: The Extraordinary Business Book Club

In the second article in our Talking Podcasts series, Abbie Headon interviews Alison Jones, a regular contributor to the BookMachine blog and an expert commentator on all things digital, about her podcast, The Extraordinary Business Book Club.

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Talking Podcasts: 6 questions for The Riff Raff

Podcasts are becoming more and more popular, and it’s time we all started paying attention to them, as publishers and authors. In this first interview in a series called Talking Podcasts, Abbie Headon interviews Amy Baker and Rosy Edwards about The Riff Raff podcast, which focuses on debut authors.

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Innovative publishing for people who have visual impairments

It’s entirely possible that you won’t have heard of Calibre and yet this organisation is a key part of the publishing supply chain for thousands of adults and children in the UK and EU.

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Interview with Sam Baker, co-founder of The Pool and Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017 judge

Sam Baker has spent 20 years in magazine journalism, editing some of the UK’s biggest magazines, including Just Seventeen, Cosmopolitan and Red. In 2015, she co-founded and launched The Pool, with broadcaster Lauren Laverne, with a mission to celebrate and amplify women’s voices. An award-winning digital platform for women that has been described as redefining women’s media, The Pool was recently awarded Best Mobile Lifestyle Site/App at the Webbys (also known as the highest honour the internet can bestow). Here Norah Myers interviews Sam about The Pool and her role as a judge for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

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Death of digital overstated in recent report

The Publishers Association numbers show consumer ebook sales have collapsed by 17 per cent, but physical book sales are up by 8 per cent[1]. The media took delight in Amazon bashing – “[The Kindle] was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, of Curtis Brown in the Guardian, “ but now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they?”. Is this the death of digital? Absolutely not.

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Startup Snapshot: Squirl

Jef Van der Avoort is co-founder of Squirl, the first location-based book discovery app. Previously he helped brands like LEGO, Philips and Hasbro to create engaging experiences on the border between the analog and digital world.

1) What exactly is Squirl?

Squirl is a location-based book discovery app that lets you bump into the real-world settings from books (e.g. The Plaza Hotel in the Great Gatsby). You can read the excerpt that takes place right where you are standing and check in to the literary location. You may also click through to buy the book. In essence, we are building an augmented story layer on top of the world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Book discovery is the number one issue for authors and publishers. We want to level the playing field by turning the whole world into a bookstore. The places you pass by become portals into different worlds, no matter if it is from a book by a first-time indie author or a bestselling superstar. It is a new, engaging and serendipitous way to discover your next read.

3) Who is your target market?

The casual reader is very important to us. These are people who read 2 or 3 books a year and are mostly overlooked when it comes to publishing tech. Discovering new books is not on top of their list, but they are interested in stories that are relevant to them. Through this geographic relevance we can excite these readers to buy a book they might not have discovered in any other way.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Our first tangible goal is to see a book rise to the New York Times bestseller list because it was discovered through Squirl. On a more macro-level, we would like authors and publishers to see Squirl next to social marketing platforms like Twitter and Goodreads.

5) What will be next for Squirl?

We are very excited with the positive reception we are receiving and we already have some Squirl fans. We are currently raising a seed round to build some great features and advance Squirl to continue to enhance the experience for both readers and authors.

Here’s how to turn book samples into a powerful B2C tool

Book samples are one of the most under-utilized tools in a publisher or author’s marketing arsenal. Most consumers will not buy a book without at least flipping through it, so many download samples before making a purchase decision. But how many times have you downloaded a sample which was nothing more than the frontmatter and a bit of an introduction? I’ve run into that problem countless times and those samples didn’t lead to me clicking the buy button. The problem with today’s book sampling model is that it’s just some random percentage of the first several pages of the book. The fact that this approach involves no curation means it’s efficient but, unfortunately, it’s also highly ineffective. Imagine how lame previews would be if movie producers used this same approach? You’re sitting in the theater and the teasers for a few upcoming movies are nothing more than the first two minutes of each. That’s not how it works with movies, of course, and it offers an important lesson for book publishers: Good samples require curation. We learned that lesson recently at OSV. Rob Eagar, founder of Wildfire Marketing, is an expert in a freemium model where curated samples are the key ingredient. These samples feature more of the valuable content nuggets and enable readers to get a better sense of what they can expect to find in the full book. You’re not giving away all the book’s key ingredients, but you’re definitely providing readers with more value than they’ll find in a typical ebook sample. These samples are delivered via email, so that means we’re able to establish a direct relationship with prospective customers, a critical step for a B2C business model. Having access to those names and email addresses means we’re able to build our B2C list and dramatically increase our up-/cross-sell activities. If you’d like to see what this looks like, click here to visit the OSV freemium landing page. You’ll find the first several titles in our freemium campaign and more will be added in the coming months. We’re delighted with the initial results and we’re looking forward to building this out further as we add to our B2C capabilities. Joe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

Which digital book format has the most growth potential?

The answer might surprise you… Amazon’s Kindle format dominates the ebook market today and it’s easy to assume that will remain the case going forward. Despite that fact, I see a number of trends indicating the digital book space could be ripe for disruption. Notice I use the term “digital book”, not “ebook.” That’s because the digital format with the most upside isn’t MOBI or EPUB. It’s audio.

Audiobooks

Amazon also dominates the audio book space, of course, thanks to their ownership of both Audible and Brilliance Audio. Amazon’s audio book subsidiaries are built around yesterday’s business model though, and I believe technology and consumer habits have evolved to the point where a new business model will emerge. Have you ever priced an audio book? Let’s use George Orwell’s 1984 as an example. Audible currently offers the audio version for $20.97 while Amazon sells the paperback for $11.42 and the Kindle edition for $9.99. There are exceptions, of course, but the audio format is typically the most expensive option. What might happen if audio editions were priced at or below the print or Kindle editions? The recent trends in ebook sales might be a good indicator here. As ebook prices have increased over time (thank you, agency model), print has experienced a resurgence and ebook sales have flattened and even declined for some genres.

Podcasts

Next, consider the growing interest in podcasts, as described here. Two factors drive this trend shown above: convenience and laziness. Low-production YouTube videos have replaced how-to books on a variety of topics. It’s also a lot easier to watch or listen than read. I’m sure that last statement made quite a few of you bristle, but it’s true. Reading isn’t going away, but overall consumption could be dramatically increased if it weren’t for the painfully high price of your typical audiobook.

Pricing

Why are prices so high? The obvious culprit tends to be the professional talent (and additional time) required to create the audio format. But is it really critical to limit recordings to either the author or voice professionals? If you want to continue charging those high prices the answer is probably “yes.” If you’re open to exploring other pricing models though, you’ll be inspired by the approach used by The Week. I recommend you subscribe or at least listen to a few of the podcasts created by The Week. You’ll quickly discover their editors and other staff members are the voice talent. The voices are clean and crisp, not robotic, and the finished product is terrific. Yes, these are free streams, but they give you a sense of what’s possible with a much lower investment. Technology is opening new doors here as well. Remember the monotone, computer-generated audio of the 90’s? Text-to-speech has improved quite a bit over the years and will only get better over time. If you’re still not convinced, scan this related article and be sure to listen to some of the audio samples; it’s virtually impossible to distinguish the human-generated segments from the computer-generated ones.

Opportunities

Despite all this, why would publishers have any interest in seeing lower prices for audio formats? Because it represents an enormous opportunity to break the stranglehold Amazon currently has on all digital formats. Imagine a world where publishers could establish a strong, direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel featuring audio. The D2C audio edition of 1984 could be computer-generated and sell for $9.99, the same price as the Kindle edition; but in this case, the publisher keeps 100% of the selling price, not whatever percentage they’re receiving from Amazon for the Kindle edition. Are you worried that consumers will buy one audio copy and share it with all their friends? If so, please don’t fall back into that digital rights management (DRM) trap that only reinforces Amazon’s dominance. Rather, create a simple mobile app where all the purchased audio files live. Most publishers don’t realize it, but the fact that a reader’s Kindle files are buried in their app is more of a file-sharing deterrent than DRM itself. If you don’t believe me, ask a few of your friends if they even know how to retrieve their ebook files from their Kindle app, for example. The opportunity here is huge, and not just for selling audio books directly. It’s a chance for publishers to forge a more meaningful, ongoing relationship with their customers. I’ve grown to love history books over the years, mostly ones about WWII and the civil war. I subscribe to a few publisher newsletters but I still sometimes overlook interesting new publications. Wouldn’t it be cool if audio samples of those new books could be sent directly to the app on my phone? I just set a few preferences and I’ll never miss another new title. Today most publishers sell transactionally, one book at a time, to nameless/faceless consumers. The model I’m describing isn’t ideal for all publishers, but for ones with genre depth it represents a new approach where they could better serve their customers as well as take more control over their own destiny. Joe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

What a real ‘audiobook’ revolution would look like

Richard Brooks is a Researcher at Coventry University and the Project Manager of the Arts and Humanity Research Council project ‘Hidden Story’. At the recent FutureBook conference in London the ‘Audiobook Revolution’ was hailed as offering opportunities for publishers to reach a new demographic keen to listen to drama on the move. Yet audiobooks in their current form – as a single-narrator, spoken alternative to the print book – seems at odds with the drive towards convergence and experimentation in digital media. Audio fiction has long been a passion of mine. As a child, I remember earnestly taping Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy off the radio and chuckling to myself as I walked to school much to the bemusement of my friends. One of the joys of audio fiction it is the only media that can be (safely!) enjoyed whilst doing something else. It is this reason that has lead to the rediscovering of the medium by a younger generation; as bundles of CDs are exchanged for smartphones and streaming services there is now no need to put down a good book whilst rushing from home to office. Yet in the digital age, the distinction between audiobooks, as associated with published books and full-cast dramas aired on public broadcast radio – looks odd, especially when both now sit on your smartphone. Audible is perhaps the most notable example of where convergence across the divide is occurring. Exploiting its strong position in audiobook production and retailing it has moved into commissioning ambitious full-cast dramas creating a rush of excitement amongst independent producers. The expansion of channels to listeners has also enabled experimentation. Full-cast dramas are expensive and complex to produce, but independent producers like Big Finish have demonstrated that a compelling soundscape and readings from a number of narrators can be an attractive middle ground. A more explicit challenge to audiobook growth comes from the surge in high-quality free-to-air audio fiction available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Spotify. Often produced in serial form, dramas like We’re Alive (2009) and Welcome to Night Vale (2010) have attracted downloads in the tens of millions and benefit from alternative funding models such as crowd-funding and advertising. Podcast downloads compete for the same ears as audiobooks and may be faster to market, as seen with the release of Terms (2016), from the Wondery Network, a story about a maverick US president who wins a controversial US election. Yet podcasting is a crowded market and there remains untapped potential for the licensing of content to podcasters from the publishers of more recognisable authors. It should be no surprise that in a bid to compete in this market, BBC Radio has produced a series of high-profile Neil Gaiman titles including the much lauded ‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Stardust’ that aired this Christmas. Alongside licensing, there must surely be opportunities for publishers to use loyal podcast audiences for advertising. Audible has seized on this opportunity to promote its subscription services to the free-to-air market and podcasters would surely welcome the opportunity to promote books that match their content. The prevalence of smartphones and tablets also makes convergence with other media possible. BBC Radio and Owlfield have led the way with linking audio fiction with interactive media. Yet a perhaps more exciting avenue has been highlighted by the Six Conversations project which highlights how smartphones enable printed books to become platforms for other media such as audio. In this context its a short-step to then consider the market opportunity for ‘expanded edition’ books that come with soundscapes, music or character asides – perhaps as a way of refreshing Classics. One recent example that highlighted the potential to me, is the ‘The Dark Tome’ podcast. A story about a magical book that transports the young heroine to fantastical worlds, it is a serial drama that weaves together published short-stories into a mix of full-cast and narrated audio fiction. Now, just imagine for a moment if this had been published as an actual print book and where the magic of its stories were brought to life through links to audio dramas that could be change and be added to. For me at least, that would be a real audiobook revolution.

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