Click the image for the full series.  Photo illustration by wildfox76 via Flickr Creative Commons.

Click the image for the full series.
Photo illustration by wildfox76 via Flickr Creative Commons.

The advancement in self-publishing tools and technology is a lot to keep up with, so here’s a roundup of the news that I think mattered most to self-publishers in 2013 and will continue to shape the industry this year.

1. Ingram Spark Gives Amazon CreateSpace a Run for Its Money

imagesIngram Content Group finally launched Ingram Spark, the much-anticipated print-on-demand and e-book distribution service aimed at self-publishers. It’s a welcome alternative to their publisher services tool Lightning Source, and competes with Amazon’s CreateSpace. Spark offers one author dashboard to handle both e-book and print distribution, while Amazon forces authors to two different places (CreateSpace for POD, Kindle Direct Publishing for e-books). And, unlike CreateSpace, Spark also allows authors to set the 55% discount and returns programs that bookstores insist upon. Do note that Amazon, being the pushy gorilla it is, sometimes lists print books not produced by them as “Out of Stock.” So this author continues to use CreateSpace in conjunction with other services, just to make sure that doesn’t happen.

2. E-book Subscription Services Entice Readers to Buy in Bulk

A screenshot of Scribd from the App Store.

Scribd launched an e-book subscription service for their readers at $8.95/month for unlimited access to books enrolled in the subscription program. I immediately enrolled my books and was pleased to see significantly higher royalties.

In December, Smashwords announced a global distribution agreement with Scribd to supply more than 200,000 indie e-books to Scribd’s e-book subscription service, and to sell Smashwords books in the Scribd store.

This “Netflix for books” model is believed to encourage readers to try unknown authors, which is a great opportunity for self-publishers, and you should do it now, whether direct with Scribd or via Smashwords.

3. Beautiful Interior Book Design Templates Done Dirt Cheap

Joel

Joel Friedlander

Good news for you. Bad news for professional book designers. “The Book Designer” Joel Friedlander teamed up with author and technology aficionado Tracy R. Atkins to create templates in Microsoft Word that look just as good as books professionally designed in Adobe InDesign. Instead of paying $1,000 to $4,000 for a custom-designed interior book, you can now pay less than $40. Just download the Word template of your choice – there are over a dozen to choose from and more coming all the time – pour your text in, and create a PDF to upload to BookBaby, CreateSpace, Lulu, Lightning Source, or any printing company. Add an e-book template in the same style for another $10 or so, and upload it to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Apple iBooks, Smashwords, and others. (Or send it to PigeonLab to distribute it to iBooks, Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble managed from a single dashboard). All you need to know is how to apply styles in Word (a snap to learn), and how to copy/paste text, and how to type. Their instructions make the rest fairly easy. Want to customize your template? If you know basic Word styles, that’s simple. Or hire them to help you create PDFs, upgrade or modify templates and other tasks. Click here to visit Book Design Templates.

4. Vook Completes the Publishing Circle with POD Distribution

Vook boasts "Image-rich Reflowable Ebooks"

Vook boasts “Image-rich Reflowable Ebooks”

Vook formerly only provided short-run printing, but now adds POD distribution to their array of offerings, which makes them a one-stop-shop for self-publishers who need a bit of hand-holding with their ebooks and print books, and who only want to deal with one company. They can help design and edit your book, too. Also new in 2013 is a Bowker-Vook partnership offered from the Bowker site. When you buy your own ISBNs on Bowker’s MyIdentifiers.com you’ll have the opportunity to purchase Vook publishing services at a discount.

5. Bowker Embraces Web 2.0 Bowker reaches out to self-publishers

Bowker's offers Self-Published Author resources

Bowker’s New Self-Publisher Resources


Bowker’s database of books in print is huge and their interface as cumbersome as the average government or medical website. We understand. As traditional publishing houses grew up with Bowker there were few complaints, as staff simply took the site’s quirks in stride. But once self-publishers, aka the general public, started buying ISBNs, there were complaints. I’ve seen Bowker slowly make their site more and more user-friendly, and by golly, I think they’ve finally succeeded. Still, one must plod through all the steps to register a title, but at least now there are explanatory comments that help educate the self-publisher as to what data is appropriate for each particular field in the form. You can also reliably save progress and come back to it later, something I found not to work well a few years ago. In addition, Bowker launched the Self-Published Author website, a rich and trustworthy source of information with gobs of data. (Disclosure: They often run my blog posts on their site.) As mentioned earlier in this post, Bowker partnered with Vook to provide self-publishing services at a discount.

These developments in 2013 are the five I believe are most significant for self-publishers. I’d be interested in hearing your opinions – what important self-publishing trends do you see emerging in 2014?

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Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published her adventure travel stories since 1994 on the internet and in print. She authored PBS MediaShift’s How to Self-Publish Your Book: A Practical Guide to Creating and Distributing Your Ebook or Print Book, which describes today’s self-publishing landscape. A great companion book is her step-by-step Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, found on SelfPubBootCamp.com.