Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thank You, Apple!

It is a happy week in indie publishing land. I feel like the folks over at Apple are finally starting to take us seriously! First, Apple corrected their wonky iAuthor EULA. And now, in an Email sent to their vendors, Apple has announced some great new tools for small indie publishers:
We would like to make you aware of the following:

Promo Codes

Get up to 50 free promo codes for each of your books, which you can distribute for publicity purposes as review copies. Codes can only be requested by users with the Legal role, for titles with a status of “On the Store” or “Ready for Store.”

For more information about how to request promo codes, see the FAQ.


You can now provide screenshots to describe your books better on the iBookstore. Screenshots are particularly useful for Fixed Layout, Read Aloud, and Multi-Touch books.

The requirements for screenshots are 1024 x 768 or 768 x 1024, in the RGB color space, and the file must be .jpeg, .jpg, or .png. You may remove the menu bar from your screenshots, in which case the resolution requirements are 1004 x 768 or 748 x 1024. To deliver your screenshots, use iTunes Producer 2.5 or later.


To create series, your book deliveries must include series data such as Series Name and Number in Series. This ties together different volumes of a series on the iBookstore.

For more information, see the documentation in the Deliver Your Content module.


Pre-orders are an easy way to generate sales before publication. Now, you can make your book available for pre-order without submitting a cover or book asset up until two weeks prior to publication date. Your pre-order will appear live in the iBookstore as soon as you deliver complete metadata. You must submit the cover, book asset, and custom preview two weeks prior to publication.

For more information, see the iTunes Producer User Guide.


The iBookstore team
The pre-order feature alone is huge. I know a lot of you Amazon customers have been prodding me to offer pre-orders on my new releases—but I can't. Amazon only grants pre-order privileges to their own imprints and their larger publishing partners. That Apple has decided to offer this feature is wonderful, and a wise exploitation of one of Amazon KDP's weaknesses.

Pre-orders add a measure of convenience to both the author and reader. They grant books added publicized prior to release, and they allow readers to receive their favorite books the second they come out. That indie authors could not offer this feature was a huge deficit.

Pretty cool change, right?

But that's not all...

Apple also announced across the board 70% Royalties!!!!

That royalty rate matches Amazon's rate and is 5% higher than B&N. Only Smashwords' on-site rate is better. And Apple isn't setting an arbitray $2.99 bar for their 70% royalty rate like Amazon. Even $1 titles get the 70% rate.

So, may I be the first to sing...

In a way, we have Amazon to thank for the changes.

In early December, Amazon announced an exclusivity deal for independent authors. If you joined their new program called KDP-Select, you got enrolled in a special borrowing program for Amazon Prime customers and also got to set your book free in the Kindle store for five days out of every ninety. Free sales can be a huge boon for publicity, and being able to schedule them proved to be a potent sales stimulus for some authors. (Check out this excellent post by Phoenix Sullivan if you want an explainer.) But exclusive means exclusive. In return, you had to pull your novels from every other e-bookstore out there.

KDP-Select was a tempting offer, but I resisted it after discussing the terms with my readers. Many prefer to read EPUBs rather thank Kindle MOBIs, and accepting Amazon exclusivity would have cut them out of future releases. But the decision to abstain didn't come free. The past two months were tough. KDP-Select authors have received preferential treatment by the Amazon algorithms (borrows count as sales), and they were able to use their free sales to generate free publicity. The categories my books rely on for promotion were sent into turmoil. The early part of February was the absolute worst. A flurry of free sales wacked-out the rankings, and both my books vanished entirely from the public eye. If you weren't searching for them you couldn't find them. Sales utterly collapsed.

Things have gradually gotten better. (Thank goodness for Goodreads and all you gracious book bloggers!) But the craziness of early February reminded us all on how desperately we rely on Amazon's algorithms. KDP-Select was looking to be a necessity.

But now Apple has responded back with similar features—minus the exclusivity clause. (I can join Apple's program and keep my books available everyone else.) And it only took Apple two months to respond! That's light-speed for such a large company, and it tells me that they are taking the indie book market seriously.

All industries benefit from clashing titans. The e-book industry is no different. As both an author and a consumer, I truly love Amazon. They deliver quality products with unmatched service and speed. I'm voting for Amazon with my wallet. I've signed up for Prime for the prompt shipping. I read most books nowadays on my Kindle DX. But it's great to finally see someone else starting to innovate. For far too long, competing publishers and retailers have resorted to high-pitched whine-fests. But whine-fests don't add value. Investing in R&D and customer service does.

B&N's recent moves have been disappointing. Refusing to stock Amazon Publishing titles only inconveniences their customers. Trimming their in-store book inventory only decreases my chances of visiting them. Not allowing me to access all the Android features on the Nook Color ended with me rooting it. And don't even get me started on the changes they made to their loyalty program.

Let this move by Apple serve as B&N's final wake-up call. Guys, it's time to stop fighting Fire with silly boycotts. Start servicing your consumers. Wow us with new products and features. Stop clinging to a drowning legacy industry. Be like Apple. Innovate your way out of this mess!



Zach said...

Leave it to Apple to be so innovative. I was initially afraid when Steve Jobs passed away that they would would really slack off, but he seems to have taught them well. (If you can't tell, I thoroughly admired the man)

As you said, the pre-order ability alone is fantastic. I wasn't aware of Amazon's exclusivity deal. It is a shame that it affected your book's sales the way it did as they are quite excellent. Regardless of whether your third book gets shuffled around on Amazon or not, I will be getting mine from there, so expect 1 sale at least. Haha! Hopefully Amazon will follow Apple's example. The joys of living in a competitive economy.

B. Justin Shier said...

The book shuffle over on Amazon is both good and bad. I've been able to weather it because my books have established presences on other websites (word-of-mouth is not totally dependent on Amazon). But some poor sots really got creamed by all the changes.

I too have been watching post-Jobs Apple tensely. I think we need to wait 6-12 months to see what new initiatives they begin, but perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the iBookstore changes is that Jobs was actually quite wishy-washy on e-books. That the new management is starting to take the medium seriously is an encouraging shift.



Taylor Bell said...

Tonight we got to the chapter with a hrududu and it was AWESOME. Also the bit where the rabbits float across the stream on a piece of wood and most of them don't understand what happened. We agreed that we're glad we're not rabbits.

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