Monthly Archives: January 2015

Amazon Allows Educators to Self Publish Textbooks

In September 2014, Amazon introduced a new branch of Kindle Digital Publishing with KDP Kids. Now, Amazon is taking self publishing a step further and allowing educators to self publish their own textbooks and lessons using the Kindle Digital Publishing platform.

Last week, Amazon introduced KDP EDU, which is designed to produce, publish, and promote textbooks and educational content to students around the world. According to Amazon, KDP EDU gives educators a new way to prepare and publish different types of educational content, from textbooks to complex visual information. Utilizing the Textbook Creator, educators will be able to publish textbooks, course notes, study guides, charts, graphs, and equations. The Textbook Creator also has special features built in for students such as a dictionary look-up, notebook, highlighting capabilities, and flashcards.

I think that this new platform is quite groundbreaking. The digital classroom has never been more prominent, whether at the primary or university level, and Amazon is allowing educators to provide students with educational content in a much more efficient way than before. Not only will students have more educational tools at their fingertips, but they will have this at a lower cost as well. Digital textbooks are much less expensive than their hardcover counterparts and the capabilities that KDP EDU has can enable a student to get the most out of their digital textbook. In terms of efficiency, students will not need to purchase or create hundreds of flashcards for classes and instead, they can use the built in features of these digital textbooks.

KDP EDU could also be used as a tutoring tool as well as an instructional tool. Educators may publish educational content over standardized tests, such as AP tests, or the ACT or SAT, and students all over the world would have access to it. Because digital books are cheaper, this would save students the money that a physical study guide would cost. If a student is struggling in math, they could search through the KDP EDU produced lessons in order to find a piece of educational content that may teach them what their teacher in the classroom cannot.

There are a few downsides to the KDP EDU platform and it’s not necessarily with the platform itself. The problem that I see is the probability of educators actually utilizing it, especially older professors at the university level. If a professor has been teaching the same material in the same way for years, it may be difficult for that professor to imagine converting all of their teaching tools to this new format. As a new generation of educators comes into the workforce, they may be more interested in utilizing these tools, but I’m not sure if established educators will. Another downside is that the program is exclusively in English. This means any type of foreign language courses or educational content would not be able to utilize this new platform. Although this may change with time, it is currently a downside.

Although I personally always preferred a physical textbook while I was in school, I think that KDP EDU is an incredible idea. Students from all over the globe will be able to access these materials and the Textbook Creator is making this educational content so much more interactive than coursework that is published on a Word document. I think that it’s a real possibility that other independent publishing platforms, such as NOOK Press, could formulate a similar program in the future.

Until next week,

Debbie

Crowdsourcing: A New Way in for Unknown Authors

Traditional publishing has always been incredibly exclusive. In order to even hope for a publishing contract, writers have to secure a literary agent. From there, a literary agent may or may not find a publishing house that will publish the book. However, an independent publishing house is looking to change the game of publishing by utilizing crowdsourcing to find its newest author.

Kensington Publishing Corp. is teaming up with the popular writing platform Wattpad to host The Write Affair, a romance writing competition. Aspiring authors have about a month, beginning January 23 and ending February 27, to submit the manuscript of their romance novel. The Wattpad community, which boasts 35 million members and counting, will then vote on their favorite manuscript. The community will select a Top Ten and the winner will have their novel published by Kensington Publishing Corp.

I think that this is such an innovative idea. Traditionally, the power of publication has been limited to the executives at publishing houses. Now, Kensington Publishing Corp is giving the power to authors and readers and allowing them to pick which manuscript they would like to see published. Instead of trying to guess what the audience wants, Kensington Publishing Corp is going straight to the source and having their audience pick a new author for them.

Another incredible part of this writing competition is that it is open to authors around the world and there is no entry fee.  Many writing competitions, such as the Writer’s Digest writing competitions, require authors to pay an entry fee. Depending on how many competitions an author enters, they could definitely spend a lot of money with little return. The only requirement for The Write Affair competition is that the competitor should be at least 16 years old and have an email account and Internet connection. I think that this definitely opens the field up to more authors in comparison to other competitions that charge a fee or limit submissions based on country.

The contest isn’t a perfect solution to the exclusivity of the publishing world. The contest specifies that the Wattpad users vote based on the first 4,000 to 5,000 words of an author’s manuscript and their 1,000 word synopsis. An author might have an incredibly polished first 4,000 words, but what if the rest of the manuscript is below par? Although the finalists are voted on by a panel of judges, it doesn’t seem quite right that a very polished first chapter is all an author could need in order to get voted into the Top Ten.

I’m not sure if any of the major publishing houses would ever adopt this method in order to secure a new author, but I think it’s a trend that could crop up within other independent publishing houses. Not only would the publishing house have the opportunity to read a manuscript from an otherwise unknown author, but that unknown author would be handpicked by a selection of their peers. I think the format is a really fascinating one and it gives authors a tremendous opportunity to get into the publishing industry without the risk of self publishing. I am interested to see the outcome of this competition and I hope we see more writing competitions like this one in the future.

For more information on how to enter your manuscript into The Write Affair contest, click here. If you decide to enter, I wish you the best of luck! If you have any thoughts on The Write Affair contest, please share them in the comments.

Until next week,

Debbie

Book Review: Station Eleven

stationelevenTitle: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Rating: 4/5

Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel that focuses on several characters and their connection to each other as St. John Mandel explores the world before and after the collapse of modern civilization. Arthur is an actor who has been married three times, divorced three times, and has begun to reflect on the things that he has missed. His latest role is in the stage production of King Lear and he has a heart attack while performing on stage. Kirsten is a young child actor who is on stage when Arthur suffers his heart attack. Jeevan, a photographer turned paramedic, attempts to revive Arthur on stage, but does not succeed. It is when Jeevan leaves the theater that his friend informs him of a vicious strain of the flu, the Georgia Flu, that  will turn into a pandemic. His friend is not wrong and soon, 99% of the population is wiped out. Station Eleven flashes backward and forward through time to tell the stories of these characters, amongst others, as they reflect back on their lives before the collapse and experience longing and despair afterwards.

Station Eleven is told from the points of view of several characters and frequently goes back and forth between the present and past. The points of view of the above mentioned characters, Arthur, Kirsten, and Jeevan, are explored as well as Arthur’s ex-wife, Miranda, and Arthur’s close friend, Clark. All of these characters are connected and as the novel progresses, their connection becomes more clear. I think that it was incredibly easy to distinguish between the present and past and the only point of view I didn’t particularly care for was the interview that Kirsten did. There was absolutely no action in these scenes and I just felt like it was a bit of an information dump.

I really enjoyed Kirsten’s point of view and journey with the Traveling Symphony. Amongst the many post-apocalyptic novels, this is the only one that I have encountered to focus on actors and musicians. I think the concept of a band of actors who travel around the barren country in order to perform Shakespearean plays for the people who are still alive is really intriguing. It’s almost their way of reclaiming the past and I really liked the idea. Kirsten’s colliding storyline with the prophet is interesting and I liked how St. John Mandel thought to add cults to her post-apocalyptic world. I also enjoyed the descriptions all throughout the book. It was incredibly easy to picture everything that St. John Mandel described because she did it so well.

The only big criticism I have of the novel is that it is incredibly jumpy and at times, it seemed scattered. For the first half of the novel, it was hard to decide who was an important character and who wasn’t. Half of the members of the Traveling Symphony are never named and the flashbacks and flash forwards at times seemed disjointed. In the end, everything seemed to tie together but I wish the storyline was a bit more linear. There also isn’t a lot of fast moving action in the book and most of the characters spend their time in a state of reflection. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it may not meet the expectations of someone who expects an action-packed and violent post-apocalyptic novel.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who has an interest in dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. That being said, this novel doesn’t focus as much on the physical survival or of an economic or political restructure, but instead considers the more philosophical questions that come with such a tragedy. The characters ponder their regrets and the things that they miss from their lives before the pandemic. I enjoyed this novel and thought it was an interesting take on the genre.

If you have read Station Eleven, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Station Eleven on Amazon, please click here.

What We Can Learn From the YouTuber Book Deal Phenomenon

At the end of November 2014, a 24-year-old debut author shattered records by selling over 78,000 copies of her novel in the first week of its release. She put up bigger numbers than J.K Rowling and Dan Brown did with their debut novels and instantly became a best seller. This author is Zoe Sugg and she is a famous YouTuber.

Shortly after her book, Girl Online, was released, news broke that Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, didn’t actually write the book that was published by Penguin. Her book was ghostwritten and soon, many people began to question the literary standards in the publishing industry. Zoe Sugg isn’t the first YouTube sensation to come out with a book and she won’t be the last. Several more YouTubers are slated to publish books in the future, including Sugg, who signed a two-book deal with Penguin.

Many people are crying out how it’s unfair that people who have found their fame on YouTube are getting book deals. Other people have openly criticized these YouTubers, lamenting that they have no business in the publishing world. Personally, I don’t think we should focus on the negatives. Instead of criticizing, I think that writers can learn valuable lessons from these YouTube personalities that could increase their own readership.

The Importance of a Platform

Hannah Hart. Michelle Phan. Grace Helbig. Zoe Sugg. These are the names of just four of the YouTube sensations that have had books published in the last year. Between the four of them, they have roughly 20 million subscribers and counting on YouTube. Zoe Sugg has over 9 million subscribers to her two YouTube channels alone. These women routinely get millions of views on the videos that they publish regularly. From a business standpoint, that is incredible.

Many authors may not have a platform that can compare to what these women have, but many of these success stories did not happen overnight. Many of the popular YouTube personalities admit to starting back in 2010 or 2011, and some began with a blog before they made the transition to YouTube. That’s four or five years of platform building. Although it may be a slow process, the successes of these YouTubers is proof that building a platform is worth it.

A strong platform and a preexisting audience is incredibly attractive to literary agents and publishing houses, as well as to readers. If you have a blog with 500,000 readers, there is a much higher chance of securing a contract with a publishing house than if you didn’t have a platform at all. In a marketplace inundated with books, you have to build a platform in order to stand out from the crowd. Once you’ve made yourself known, it becomes much easier to sell books.

Social Interaction

Social media has now become an integral part of our society. Almost every company has a Facebook page and many corporations keep their consumers updated via Twitter. Hashtags have become a part of prime time television and a lot of the photos taken on phones end up on Instagram. In order to stay current, it’s almost necessary to be present on social media.

Many of the YouTube stars who have scored book deals have an incredibly large online presence. Besides their YouTube channels, they also provide new content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on their own blogs. Not only do these YouTube users post content, but they also interact with those who consume their content. This builds the trust of their viewers and in turn, these people will be more likely to support these YouTubers in their business endeavors.

As an author, you can use social media to this extent as well. These social media avenues allow authors to reach out to their readers and to connect with other authors and publishers. By staying relevant online, people who may have never heard of your books may connect with you and become interested in your work.

Youtube: A New Way to Connect?

In this day and age, videos and multimedia are becoming vastly more popular than ever before. Interacting through Youtube, Instagram, and Vine, which are strictly visual mediums, is becoming more and more popular.

John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and many other popular YA novels, is one example of an author who is using YouTube to connect with his readers. His YouTube channel has over 2.4 million subscribers and he regularly posts videos to keep his readers engaged. Although he does have an author website, some of the people who read his website may not be interested in YouTube. In turn, those who watch his YouTube videos may have no interest in reading anything posted on his website. So essentially, Green has tapped into a new market by utilizing the power of YouTube.

Although posting videos of yourself may be incredibly intimidating, it’s an option that allows you to outreach to a new audience while appealing to your current one. These videos will give your readers the sense that you’re talking to them, more so than if they just read your words off of a screen. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone, but it has definitely helped build the platforms of many YouTube sensations in the past few years.

In closing, I don’t think writers should dwell on the types of books that publishing houses are choosing to sell. Ultimately, it’s a business decision. However, we can analyze how these YouTube phenomenons have expanded their business beyond YouTube and apply some of their tactics to our own publishing strategy.

If you have any thoughts on the recent books released by users on YouTube, please leave your comments below.

Until next week,

Debbie

NaNoWriMo: Time to Revise

ItWinner-2014-Square-Button‘s been over a month since the end of NaNoWriMo and chances are, your manuscript is sitting untouched on your computer. With a new year comes new goals and setting a goal to revise your NaNoWriMo manuscript is a great one. Not only will revising your manuscript get you to write more every day, it will also make all of the work that you put in during November worth it. It may be intimidating but if you put your mind to it, you can make your manuscript into the novel that you always hoped it would become.

The first thing that you should do before you edit is to read any outlines that you created, and then read your manuscript. Reading all of the material you have on your novel will help you get back into the world that you created during November. Be on the look out for any inconsistencies, but don’t edit your manuscript until you’ve read the entire thing. In order to successfully edit, you will want a full picture of your story before you begin to revise it.

Once you have read your manuscript and any notes that you have with it, it’s time to make a new outline. In the rush of November, you may have left out scenes that would have made more of an impact on your novel. You may also notice that you have written scenes in a different order than you want them. Before you begin to edit, make sure that you have a new outline so that you know what direction to go in.

Now it’s time to revise. You don’t have the time limit that you had during November, so take your time. If you noticed inconsistencies in your setting, it is okay to completely restructure it. If you want to add more scenes, take your time writing them. During this revision period, you will have plenty of time to add the details, subplots, or the ending that you didn’t have time for during November. When trying to catch grammatical mistakes, remember to read your manuscript out loud. You will most likely notice if a sentence is worded awkwardly if you speak it rather than read over it. Even if you only edit for twenty minutes a day, you will notice a big difference in your manuscript over the next few months.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to delete. Yes, you worked incredibly hard during November and that work should not be discredited. However, as you restructure your novel, some scenes may no longer fit. Don’t feel bad about deleting large portions of your manuscript in order to improve it. If you want to successfully finish your novel, you have to be prepared to do lots of rewriting. As painful as it will be to watch your word count initially plummet, you’ll feel better when you have a much stronger second draft.

If you have any tips that you used while rewriting your NaNoWriMo manuscript, please feel free to share them in the comments. If you decide to make 2015 your year of revision, I wish you the best of luck!

Until next time,

Debbie