Grinning Skull Press Debuts First Anthology

from-beyond-the-graveGrinnng Skull Press debuted its first anthology, From Beyond the Grave, this month. It contains 19 ghostly tales by authors Michael J. Evans, Carol Weekes, David North-Martino, Jeffrey Kosh, Robert W. Walker, Nelson W. Pyles, Marianne Halbert, Gordon Anthony Bean, Edward J. McFadden III, Jeffrey C. Pettengill, Cynthia Ward,  Michael Thomas-Knight, Tim J. Finn, Rose Blackthorn, Adam Millard, Brent Abell, Scott M. Goriscak,  Jay Wilburn, and Lisamarie Lamb.

From Beyond the Grave is available in print from Amazon and digitally for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

Grinning Skull Press isn’t stopping with its freshmen effort. Their second anthology, ATTACK! of the B-Movie Monsters: Night of the Gigantis, will be released this summer.

They are working on even more anthologies. They are currently accepting submissions for a Christmas-themed horror anthology that will benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Submissions can be sent to grinningskullpress@yahoo.com or submissions@grinningskullpress.com.

Evans, the publisher, will soon announce an unthemed horror anthology, Blood on the Moon and another ATTACK! of the B-Movie Monsters except this one will focus on Alien Encounters. The press has other anthologies planned: Gore Whores (ladies only) and Splatter Punks (for the guys), Only the Undead Know Brooklyn (open to NY writers only), and Hockomock: Tales of the Bridgewater Triangle (MA writers only).
For more information on Grinning Skull Press, check out its website here.

Amazon Kindle’s Censorship Policies

Amazon Kindle’s Censorship Policies

by David L. Tamarin

With the advent of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the ability of individuals to ‘self-publish’, many people have been talking about a ‘revolution’ in publishing. Supposedly, independent authors with difficulties getting published by traditional publishers can now use Amazon Kindle to self-publish their stories or books and sell them directly to the people, without the middleman of a publisher.

Unfortunately, this is not a real revolution because of Amazon Kindle’s policies regarding what they will publish. While they publish a lot of fetish pornography, including incest porn, and even have e-books containing scanned pornographic images. they recently told me that they would not publish my horror short story, “What Did You Do To The Children?” due to content violations- namely that the story is pornographic and/or contains inappropriate content.

I’m a successful non-fiction author, a regular contributor to Girls and Corpses and the website www.severed-cinema.com/uglyworld. I have also been published in Rue Morgue magazine, Scars, Verbicide, NewEnglandFilm.com, The Independent, Serial Killer magazine, Six Word Memoirs of Love and Heartbreak anthology, Butcher Knives and Body Counts (essays on slasher films), horrornews.net, Red Scream, and dozens of other magazines, websites and anthologies.

My fiction is potentially offensive, and has caused me problems throughout my career. I’ve been at the center of multiple controversies surrounding the content of his writing. Because of frustration with traditional publishers, I decided to release my stories on Amazon Kindle, but immediately encountered a problem when three consecutive companies that format books for Kindle for a fee decided they would not format my first Kindle book because of the extreme and offensive content. Since then, that particular story was accepted into an anthology, and published, and I learned to format stories for myself. Now I face my newest adversary to being published: Amazon. They have stated it will not publish the my story, nor will it provide the specifics of why it made its opinion. I have appealed to Amazon, asking them to reconsider their decision, and on December 30, 2012, they affirmed their decision that they would not publish the story.

I’m exploring other publishing opportunities.

Author’s First Novel to Debut at Killercon

Author and New England Horror Writer member L.L. Soares first novel, Life Rage, will debut at Killercon in Las Vegas, happening from September 20 through 23. The novel is being published by Nightscape Press.

From the publisher’s website, “Sam Wayne is a psychologist who specializes in anger management. He’s very good at his job. Almost too good. In fact, he considers himself something of a miracle worker. A mad man is on the loose, ripping people apart with his bare hands. The police have no clues. Those who see him and survive never seem to make out his face. All except for one … Colleen has led a wasted life, bringing home a new man to her bed every night. Until that night. Witnessing her friend torn to pieces right before her eyes, she sees the murderer’s face clearly. She manages to escape, traumatized by what she’s seen, and keeps running until she falls into the arms of Jeremy Rust. An ex Hollywood playboy, Jeremy now hides out in a secluded beach house with his mysterious roommate, Viv. Viv has an insatiable hunger. Like Colleen, Viv never stays long with one partner. Because those who sleep with Viv never manage to live very long, once she finds the key to their soul. The number of murders keeps growing, until an eruption of rage begins to spread like an epidemic. Everywhere, crowds of people mindlessly rip each other apart. An event that will tie all these characters together in a final showdown of supernatural forces. But not everyone will survive the explosive fury of Life Rage!”

Life Rage will be available in trade paperback, and as an e-book for Nook and Kindle.

Passion Re-Kindle’d

Passion Re-Kindle’d

by Stacey Longo

I love to read. I don’t think there’s anyone who has ever met me that isn’t aware of this. If I had a choice between bathing in chocolate, getting a hot stone massage from Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or reading a really good book, I’d pick the massage with Vin and Rock, but it would be a really difficult decision. Maybe. How did I get off topic here?

As an avid reader, I have been quite vocal about my love for the book itself. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of a new book or an old musty classic, and the ability to take a book anywhere with me. I have the Kindle app on my iPad, but I never use it. I blame this on the irresistible temptation that my ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ app dangles in front of me on the iPad, plus my unwillingness to take a $500 tablet to the beach or the bathroom.

My only teeny, tiny problem with books is that our house is rapidly running out of room to store them all. If I really like a book, I own a copy, and if I love it in an “if you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” kind of way that makes you answer “okay,” like how I feel about Cider House Rules by John Irving, I buy it in hardcover. We have bookcases lining the walls of our office, and books in between the cases; towers of books precariously balanced in the spare room; novels crammed on the shelves and in the drawers of the hutch in our dining room. I can’t help it. It’s impossible for me to leave a library book sale without giving myself a hernia from my purchases.

While gushing about the joy that is reading with some co-workers this week, one of them (who shall, from this point forward, be known as my BFFandever Damian,) offered me his extra Kindle. Could I really go against everything I’ve ever ranted about, the changing publishing industry and the dying breed known as the book store…all of which I blamed on the Kindle? You bet I could. I accepted Damian’s offer before he even finished his sentence, because at my very core, I am a sell-out.

To say I love my Kindle is an understatement. I downloaded a ton of books for free and some for a couple of bucks each, and I haven’t let it out of my hands since. (Jason knows there’s a Kindle in the house, but I haven’t even let him breathe on it yet.) I take it everywhere I go, and use it when I’m brushing my teeth, cooking dinner, or even painting my toenails. The red polish and my lack of attention made my toes look like an autopsy, but I didn’t care, because my Kindle was there with me. Now I know what’s been missing all of my life—more books, without the storage problem. I don’t bother conversing with people anymore, because I don’t have to. My nose is buried in my Kindle. In fact, I’d love to tell you more about it, but writing this blog has already taken up too much precious reading time.

The only place the Kindle can’t go with me is the shower. But really, how important is good hygiene, anyway?This entry originally appeared on Stacey Longo’s blog. Click on here to read other entries by the Co-chair of the NEHW.

Just Learn How To Do It Yourself

Just Learn How To Do It Yourself

by Rob Watts

Remember the old sayings “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” and “don’t pay someone to do something that you can do on your own?” Well those sayings are especially true when it comes to authors in today’s rapidly changing publishing climate. In this ever-expanding technology age that we’re living in, it almost seems senseless to me to even bother seeking out a publishing company to release our work. With all the resources readily available to us, there is no reason to take 100 percent control of the work you slaved over. After all, you gave up your free evenings and weekends, missed out on get-togethers with friends, perhaps broke up with girlfriends/boyfriends, wives/husbands in order to express your inner-workings on pages upon pages of your masterpiece. Why turn it over to anyone (except perhaps Random House or Harper Collins) when you can do a far better job at it? Of course, you might be working with a traditional publisher at the moment and could be perfectly happy with them. That’s awesome. If you’re not happy, read on.

I understand the appeal of seeing your name in print within a book which was released by a “publishing company” but I must point out that what most of these small presses are doing is profiting on your work while you get the short end of the stick. What the small genre presses do, between performing a half-assed editing job, hiring their buddy to do the cover art, printing copies and posting it to Amazon is the same thing you can do, only you can do a better job and guess what? You profit from the book sales, not them. By the way, just placing a book on Amazon and having it “listed” on B&N doesn’t count as full book distribution. Many small presses seem to think that’s the case but trust me, it’s not. Again, that’s something you can do yourself. Also, be cautious of publishers of anthologies. Or more to the point anthology mills. These are publishers who have very little credibility but they are seeking credibility by bulking up their publishing credits by churning out crappy collections one after another. They accept short stories from unsuspecting authors and give them very little in return, if anything at all. I’ve seen them all before, the editing is poor, the selection process is questionable, there is hardly any kind of distribution efforts and almost all the time, the publisher of that said anthology conveniently has their story included within the collection. Of course not all anthology publishers are sinister. But it’s like anything in life, for every pile of coal you stumble upon, you have to search hard for the diamonds.

If I can pull the curtain away from the wizard for just one moment, I’d like to point out that 99 out of 100 authors have the dreaded day job to contend with (even ones that you think have it made.) None of us by any means are rich and famous due simply to our writing craft (I can’t stand it when writers act as if they make their living off their books.) But even if we don’t find immediate fame and success with our writing, we shouldn’t be taken advantage of along the way from point A to point B. Having your work published under the imprint of anyone (other than the last of the big six publishing companies) is only costing you money in the long run. Unless of course you don’t mind only being paid in the form of one author/contributor copy and maybe if you’re lucky, a few pennies for every copy sold. As I mentioned above, you put the time into it and agonized over your story. Isn’t it worth a little more time to learn the new-school methods of independent publishing? Even though there are some reputable and highly regarded small presses out there, unfortunately for every one of those there are a thousand hucksters who will rip you off, devalue your work and never lose an ounce of sleep while doing it.

As I write this, there is an unsettling amount of bad word-of-mouth over an unfortunate non-fictional character named Anthony Giangregorio. He is the owner of Open Casket Press and Undead Press and has allegedly taken advantage of newcomers to the publishing world by way of mistreatment, misrepresentation, broken promises, less-than-crafty editing tactics and poor royalty delivery. I won’t dwell on that but it does illustrate my point immensely that you have to be careful and protect yourself from these sort of people.

Which brings me to my original point. Take a bigger chance on yourself and give your work the attention it deserves. It’s not that hard to create your own imprint to publish under. I’ve been doing it for years and quite frankly, I’m not interested in turning my work over to anyone for peanuts just to pad my bibliography resume’. My work is too valuable to me and every word I write means something. That’s not egotistical, it’s simply how I feel about something that I spend my free time doing. It should be just as important to you to not throw your work on just anyone’s lap. I had the misfortune of working with a couple of small traditional publishers in the 90s who in all seriousness left me with nothing but my underwear. I was intent on avoiding that experience again and decided to cut out the middleman by creating my own company to publish under. Self-publishing (or independent publishing) is no longer a dirty word. Just ask a very talented Canadian author named Cheryl Kaye-Tardif who recently self-published Children of the Fog last fall and has thus far made $47,000 in book sales from Kindle alone. Her print edition sales have been rather spectacular as well. Independent authors, with a little research and patience, can achieve greater heights more than ever in today’s consumer age. Without giving a seminar on the subject, I’ll just share with you a handful of things to keep in mind when setting out to go it alone. They seem like no-brainers but believe me, I’ve seen people crash and burn because they were lazy about self-publishing.

1- A catchy company name. Not one that screams self publisher. If your name is Joe Schmoe, don’t call your company Joe Schmoe Publishing. Perhaps come up with a name that revolves around your subject matter or genre. Be sure to register a dot-com site (avoid dot net if possible) for the company as well. Don’t rely on the freebie sites. look professional. be professional. Make sure that your website looks occupied. Keep it updated so a visitor doesn’t think you’ve abandoned ship. Especially if you are selling books from your site. Make it inviting looking so a potential customer isn’t afraid to click that Pay Now button. One more thing, don’t clutter your pages up with unnecessary nonsense. Keep it clean and simple. Less is more. More is a bore.

2- Kindle and Nook are great supplements, but you’ll want print copies of your work if you are releasing a full-length novel, etc. After all, no one ever said “when I grow up, I want to be a writer and see my name in print on a digital e-reader.” Research a quality printer. Find one that will print small runs of 50 to 100 copies per order. Yes, it’s a little costly to pay upfront for your books, but if you truly believe in your work, you will invest the time and energy it takes to sell books and recoup your initial investment. When you need reprints, they will be far less expensive because the layout, design and initial process has been done already. Usually you can find a printer who will print your books anywhere between 3.20-4.75 per unit. If you price your book (depending on size) between $10.00-$20.00, well you’ve made a nice profit for yourself. That’s much better than getting .73 cents per copy from a blood sucking publisher.

3- How much of a profit you make on the sale of each book depends on where you are selling it. There are several avenues one can take. Amazon, of course, is the first logical choice, especially with the advent of CreateSpace. I know I listed a success story above regarding Amazon and Kindle but I must point out that you simply cannot rely on the click and publish websites as your only source of bookselling. The chances of someone buying Stephen King’s new book and then seeing Joe Schmoe in the “People Who Bought Stephen King also bought Joe Schmoe” section are slim to none (and slim just left town.) Amazon and Barnes & Noble take a hefty cut from the sale of your (print) book so it’s worth it to get creative on how and where you sell your books. How well you promote yourself and your work is a large factor too. Ask yourself, has your publisher promoted you or your work to the best of their ability or to your liking? Probably not. Can you do a much better job? Probably yes. By the way, if you’re fortunate enough to have someone land on YOUR website, why would you want them to click a link that directs them to another site (such as Amazon?) You’ve got them so keep them. let them buy directly from you and while they are there, perhaps they will sign up for your newsletters, follow you on your social networking sites, etc. Don’t turn your book buying audience over to the corporate monsters if you don’t have to.

4- If you are going to maintain and control your inventory of books, as I do (I buy my inventory up front and control where, when and how it’s sold) then right off the bat you’ll want to make sure your website is e-commerce ready. If not, set up a PayPal account. It’s a simple process and you can cut and paste your checkout buttons right onto your site. Everyone uses PayPal today so when they see their logo in the Buy Now section, they will feel a level of confidence in purchasing your book(s). The only caveat to this is that you can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to being your own distributor online. If someone spends money on your book, you had better package that book up nicely and get it to the post office in a timely fashion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought directly from someones website and got ripped off. As I mentioned above, keep your site updated so your customer feels confident in their purchase.

5- Get creative with how you publish your work. Make it stand out from all the assembly line products that are on the market today. I’m not just just talking about great cover art (although that is important … hire a good designer) I’m talking about standing out and creating a buzz around your work by offering your audience something they haven’t seen or read before. For instance, my last book Huldufolk was limited to only 250 print copies signed and numbered. It included a music soundtrack to the book which was performed by me. It has sold 212 copies since November at $15.99 a copy ($10.00 at events) so I’ve made my initial investment back and am able to put the profits made into the production of the next book. The New York Times Bestseller list isn’t going to be knocking at my door over this, but as an independent seller it’s significant. Whether or not it’s the greatest story ever told is not for me to judge or assume. This is by no means an advertisement for my work. It’s to illustrate the appeal that my book had to a certain book buying audience. I’ll give you another example unrelated to my work. A few years back, a friend of mine sold their book inside of a “writers survival basket” which included the book (on self-publishing), a coffee mug w/gourmet coffee packs, candy, note pads, etc, etc. It sold like hotcakes. So the point is, do something unique with your work. Come up with something special that says “I’m serious about what I do.” These little rinky dink publishers will never put that much thought into promoting your work. You can and you’ll be all the better for it.

I could rattle on-and-on about the various things I’ve picked up on over the years but honestly I’m not writing this to give a lecture on the do’s and don’ts on self-publishing. I’m merely suggesting that anyone who’s been left with a bad taste in their mouth from working with a less-than-reputable publisher should seriously consider doing it on their own. You will be in control of your work, you will become more business savvy as time goes on, you will discipline yourself as a writer because you’ll be aware of what it will take to generate book sales and most of all you will profit more from it in the end. I hate to hear horror stories (no pun intended) about writers being taken advantage of. Hopefully someday these stories will lessen over time, but I’m not prepared to hold my breath that long.

Watts wrote this article for the NEHW and also published it on his LiveJournal site.

The Self-epublishing Bubble

This article originally appeared on the Guardian website.

The self-epublishing bubble

In August 2011,  Ewan Morrison published an article entitled Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?. Here, he tracks the self-epublishing euphoria of the last five months and argues that we are at the start of an epublishing bubble

by Ewan Morrison

The internet is full of ironies. I, for one, could never have guessed that writing about the end of books would generate more income for me than actually publishing the damn things. I’ve been on an End of Books reading tour since August and it turns out that what the internet gurus say about consumers being more willing to pay for events, speeches and gigs, rather than buying cultural objects, is now becoming true.

At the other end of the political spectrum from me, among the epublishing enthusiasts and digital fundamentalists, similar ironies are playing out: there is now a boom industry in “How to get rich writing e-books” manuals, as well as a multitude of blogs offering tips and services, and a new breed of specialists who’ll charge you anything from $37 to $149 to get your e-book into shape.

This all seems like a repeat of the boom in get-rich-quick manuals and “specialists” that appeared around blogs and e-trading. Did anyone actually get rich from writing blogs, you may ask? Well, according to Jaron Lanier (author of You are not a Gadget) there are only a handful of people in the world who can prove that they make a living from blogging: it’s entirely possible that more money was made by those who wrote and sold the how-to manuals than by the bloggers themselves. But who cares, right? It’s all part of the euphoria of digital change, and technological innovation is as unstoppable a force as fate. Reports show that paper book sales are “tanking” – down a massive 54.3% while e-book sales are up triumphantly by 138%. The revolution will be e-published, and we’re all going to be part of it.

All of this e-book talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars, conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers’ union which, until recently, was largely against e-publication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing (I’ve personally been asked to speak about it on 12 occasions since August). Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own e-book, and according to the New York Times “81% of people feel they have a book in them … And should write it”

But all of this gives me an alarming sense of deja vu. There’s another name for what happens when people start to make money out of speculation and hype: it’s called a bubble. Like the dotcom bubble, the commercial real estate bubble, the subprime mortgage bubble, the credit bubble and the derivative trading bubble before it, the DIY epublishing bubble is inflating around us. Each of those other bubbles also  saw, in their earliest stages, a great deal of fuss made over a “new” phenomenon, which was then over-hyped and over-leveraged. But speculation, as we’ve learned at our peril, is a very dangerous foundation for any business. And when the e-pub bubble bursts, as all previous bubbles have done, the fall-out for publishing and writing may be even harder to repair than it is proving to be in the fields of mortgages, derivatives and personal debt. Because this bubble is based on cultural, not purely economic, grounds.

How do we know if we’re in a bubble?

To answer that we have to turn to respected economist Hyman Minsky. Minsky (1919-1996) studied recurring instability in markets and developed the idea that there are seven stages in any economic bubble (the following terminology is adapted from his Financial Instability Hypothesis [PDF]):

Stage One – Disturbance

Every financial bubble begins with a disturbance. It could be the invention of a new technology; it may be a shift in laws or economic policy, or a reduction in interest rates or prices, or the expansion of a market into an area that has not been open before. Usually several factors come together to make the change – and as a result, one sector of the economy goes through a dramatic transformation.

This has certainly occurred with epublishing. Over the last decade, Amazon has undercut the big global publishing houses through a radical new structural approach to storage and distribution and grown so quickly that it forced them to renegotiate their pricing policies. Then in opening up the long tail market and making hundreds of thousands of lost titles available again for resale, it reinvented bookselling. The creation of Kindle led to a new generation of e-readers which, with Apple, launched an economic boom in a previously non-existent market. It has already become a cliché in all media that digital self-publishing is a revolution comparable to the invention of the printing press. That is a lot of disturbance in a short space of time.

Stage Two – Expansion/Prices Start to Increase

Following the disturbance, prices in that sector start to rise. Initially, the increase is barely noticed. Usually, these higher prices reflect some underlying improvement in fundamentals. As the price increases gain momentum, more people start to notice. Speculation thrives.

On first inspection, e-publishing doesn’t appear to fit the model here, as it’s clear that the prices of ebooks are falling drastically (in the week of Jan 1, 28% of the top 100 e-books on Amazon were 99p or under, and 48% were under £2.99). But that’s because we’re looking at this the wrong way round – from the perspective of the consumer. The e-book explosion is coupled with the rise of the e-reader, and the profits there are in the hands of the manufacturers. There has also been a fast turn around in these new technologies from Kindle to Kindle Fire, from iPad to iPad 2; and a brand new market of consumers for these products has appeared from nowhere. The change to cheap ebooks and self-published ebooks is a “change in underlying fundamentals”.

Stage Three – Euphoria/Easy Credit

1. Increasing prices/sales do not, by themselves, create a bubble. Every financial bubble needs fuel; cheap and easy credit is that fuel. Without it, there can be no speculation and the sector returns to a normal state. Speculation takes over and there is a rush to “get in” as newcomers become involved “cheaply” 2. When a bubble starts, the sector involved pushes stories into the media,  and is suddenly inundated by outsiders; people who normally would not be there.

1. “Easy credit” in this case relates to the plummeting costs of digital content. In fact, there is an inverse correlation between the cheapness of digital content and the high cost of e-readers and smart technology. The more ‘free’ or nearly-free content is available online, the more appealing expensive e-reader and iPad technologies have become. Furthermore, “cheaply” here refers to the ease with which someone can now self publish. A decade ago, self publishing could costs thousands of pounds for a mere 100-book print run. Now it is free or almost free.

2. The whole point of self-epublishing is that the market “brings in people who would not normally be there”. Like the promise that we can all have an affordable home with a cheap mortgage, we are being told constantly by digital businesses and the media that we can all be writers and even be successful as writers. Even the tabloids are generating hype, telling the masses that they each can make millions through self-epublishing.  The more traffic there is in self-epublishing the more the hype has ‘evidence’ to support it. According to USA today, it’s a gold rush…get out there”.

Stage Four – Over-trading/Prices Reach a Peak

1. As the effects of cheap and easy credit dig deeper, the market begins to accelerate. Overtrading lifts up volumes and spot shortages emerge. Prices start to zoom, and easy profits are made. This brings in more outsiders, and prices run out of control. 2. This is the point that amateurs – the foolish, the greedy, and the desperate – enter the market. Just as a fire is fed by more fuel, a financial bubble needs a mass of people involved in mass behaviour to fuel it.

1. Since epublishing started, the race to undercut competitors has accelerated at unforeseen speed. Blogs now give advice to start-up writers, telling them to give their work away for free to gain audience share and get reviews, and only then attempt  to raise their prices. The zooming prices here refers to the zooming down of prices. For example self-epublishers are now giving books away for free – see the Kindle Top 100 Free books. Furthermore, in this ecstatic push to self-epublish, there are hundreds of thousands of new ebooks for which there are almost no readers at all because they have zero visibility.

2. Over the last six months there has been a huge growth in the number of people with no former experience who have entered self-epublishing. Taking myself as a representative slice of the public, I can attest, from recent personal experience, to the following: People I know who have been rejected by mainstream publishers have brought out their first ebooks on Kindle; people I didn’t even know had novels under their beds have done the same; friends of friends on Facebook have announced that they too have novels and short stories available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad and Sony Reader. Locally, I have seen two new digital publishing houses born from nothing and paying no advances, operating on “spec” writing. And all of these people are self-promoting their work on what platforms they have: Twitter, Facebook and their blogs. All of this is evidence of a “desperation to enter the market”. I know this because I also felt the pressure to try it (and did: I self re-epublished what was my first book).

People who are self-epublishing for the first time are also buying their first iPads and Kindles, so as to better understand the e-pub technologies and to further promote their ebooks. They may be giving their ebooks away for free but they’re spending between £100-400 on single items of new technology – more than they ever actually spent on books in a year.

Stage Five – Market Reversal/Insider Profit Taking

Warnings sound that the boom will turn to bust; that the models on which success is based are unrealistic and overblown. These arguments are ignored by those who justify the now insane prices with the euphoric claim that the world has fundamentally changed and cannot change back. The fact is that insiders have been pulling the strings all along, capitalising on the hype created by the ill-informed newcomers to the market. 

The model of e-book success that’s held up for everyone to copy is based on half-truths. Even those who are seen as e-book stars are actually transitional figures straddling the digital self-publishing and the mainstream camps.

Take for example digital guru, free culture activist (former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and author Cory Doctorow – an SF celebrity and aggressive exponent of self-epublishing who gives his books away for free under a creative commons license (with optional payment). It turns out that Doctorow isn’t just any old novelist: the subjects he and his characters talk about are file sharing, the digital revolution, digital rights management and the oppressive old gatekeepers of the mainstream. His kudos comes from the fact that we are in a transitional period in which “free digital culture” is still an issue. Ironically, if and when self-epublishing becomes the norm, his subject matter will no longer seem so radical and no doubt his reader base will diminish.

Or take Amanda Hocking, the paradigmatic example of epublishing success, who has made $2.5m from selling her own ebook. Hocking writes about the supernatural and teenagers, and her success is due in no small part to what the industry calls “piggybacking” on a mainstream success. Without Twilight, and the popularisation of the teen-romantic-horror genre,  it is doubtful that Hocking would have a foothold in the industry, or that many people beyond her internet friends would have bought My Blood Approves (retailing at £0.72 on Amazon).

The models of Doctorow or Hocking are misleading to say the least. For the hundreds of thousands of newcomers to self-epublishing to believe that they can become as successful as these role models is a dangerous delusion, and one capitalised on by companies who have an interest in maximizing internet traffic and selling e-readers and internet advertising.

The crisis that’s looming is that while the price of e-books is pushed to almost zero by the rush of frantic amateur self-publishing activity, the established publishing businesses will be forced into life-saving cost-cutting.  Again, this is something from which those who have an interest in maximizing internet traffic and selling e-readers and internet advertising will benefit. For a while, all those new Kindle owners will find it liberating to see the prices of all e-books fall, allowing them to vastly expand their libraries, while at the same time, paradoxically, they will wait anxiously for someone to buy their own literary e-offerings online.

Stage Six – Financial Crisis

Just as the euphoria consumes the outsiders, the insiders see the warning signs, lose their faith and begin to sneak out the exit. Whether the outsiders see the insiders leave or not, insider profit-taking signals the beginning of the end.

Already the stars of self-epublishing are leaving the system that launched them. Hocking signed a deal with Macmillan that gave her a $500,000 advance on four separate books in a series – a total reversal from the way self publishing is done (with zero advances being paid and all work being done on “spec”). The self-epublished author has left the glass-ceiling world of .79 cents e-book sales (to embrace the old mainstream model, believing that it is the only system that can elevate her to a higher profile and bring her into an arena where her books can by “synergised” with tie-in products such as films, TV serials, even toys) and the door of opportunity closes behind her as she exits, leaving hundreds of thousands of self-epublishing authors without a model to aspire to.

Meanwhile the mainstream publishing houses have suffered huge losses and now can only publish authors who seem to offer a guaranteed return.  The entire field of publishing has shrunk, beneath what seemed on the surface like an infinite expansion. Publishers have been forced to launch their own e-publishing sites in the attempt to join in the bubble and gain kudos, but they are too late and are wasting resources, and further undermine their old status as market leaders. They in fact turn to the new model of the self-epublishing “star” to get them out of the doldrums. This is the point at which self-epublishing becomes a hall of mirrors and speculation runs in circles.

And what has happened to all those new authors who were told they could make money from e-publishing? Well, they are working entirely for free (on spec) on the promise of those big 70% royalties on future sales. They write their books, they blog, they net-network and self-promote; they could put in as much as a year’s work, all without payment. So much writing-for-free is going on that it upsets the previous paradigm: people start to ask, why should any writers get paid at all? Why should “professional” writers get a wage or advance, when I’ve had to do all this work on my self-published e-book for free?

And then comes the collapse – if you work for free and have to slash your costs to be competitive – to, say, undercut the vast 99p market by going down to 45p or 15p – then your chances of ever seeing a return on all the free labour you’ve put in diminish accordingly. Add to this the fact that hundreds of thousands of others are competing with you in this pricing race to the bottom and the possibility of any newcomers making any money from self-epublishing vanishes. The bubble bursts.

Stage seven – Revulsion/Lender of Last Resort

Panic starts and euphoria is replaced with revulsion. Outsiders start to sell, but there are no buyers. Panic sets in, prices start to tumble downwards, credit dries up, and losses start to accumulate. The market is forced back to pre-bubble levels, with major destruction to its infrastructure. The “Lender of the Last Resort” may step in to save what is left.

1. After a long year of trying to sell self-epublished books, attempting to self-promote on all available networking sites, and realising that they have been in competition with hundreds of thousands of newcomers just like them, the vast majority of the newly self-epublished authors discover that they have sold less than 100 books each. They then discover that this was in fact the business model of Amazon and other e-pub platforms in the first place: a model called “the long tail”. With five million new self-publishing authors selling 100 books each, Amazon has shifted 500m units. While each author – since they had to cut costs to 99p – has made only £99 after a year’s work. Disillusionment sets in as they realise that they were sold an idea of success which could, by definition, not possibly be extended to all who were willing to take part.

The now ex-self-epublished authors decide not to publish again (it was a strain anyway, and it was made harder by the fact that they weren’t paid for their work and had to work after hours while doing another job – and they realised that self-promoting online would have to be a full-time job.) They come to see self-epublishing as a kind of Ponzi scheme – one created by digital companies to prey on the desires of an expanding mass of consumers who also wanted to be believe they could be “creative”. They also become disillusioned with their e-readers, which are now out of date anyway. And so they return to the mainstream publishers to look for culture. Unfortunately, as a result of the e-book market implosion it is impossible for publishers to push their prices back up to pre-bubble levels (from 99p to £12.99), and so their infrastructure continues to decline. And since they have decided to look for new talent in self-epublishing, they are trapped in the very same bubble that everyone else is trying to get out of.

2. The “Lender in the Last Resort” cannot really step in to save the “investors”, as these are the hundreds of thousands of hopeful and now-disappointed first-time e-publishers. Instead, the government (if we’re lucky) steps in to bail out the publishing industry, and to regulate the digital companies that created the bubble in the first place. Or the government could continue to subsidise these companies, as it does just now, and in so doing create the next bubble.

Of course, none of this might come to pass. Perhaps self-epublishing wont take off, and perhaps people will continue to pay more than 99p for ebooks and paper books. And perhaps hundreds of thousands of new writers will actually taste success. But this, again, is mere speculation.