Archive | About publishing

Does online advertising work for books?

Cover of IBPA's The Independent showing computer keyboard

For a recent article in IBPA's The Independent, Linda Carlson put the question of which advertising works to independent publishers and got some interesting, and insightful answers.

Linda's questions focussed on:

  • Print Media Coverage
  • Paid Reviews
  • Giveaways and Deep Discounts
  • Public Relations, and
  • Online Ads

The consensus from those responding were were singularly unenthusiastic about online ads. An example being Devorah Fox's comments, president of Mike Byrnes & Associates in Port Aransas, TX, who reported:

“When we hit 100 likes on our Facebook author page we received $50 in free Facebook advertising. We used it to advertise our book The Lost King with an ad that—per Facebook—could be seen by 22 million people and a Sponsored Story that targeted 940 users. There wasn’t a single click-through, and we can’t attribute a single sale to it.”

The full report is available at: IBPA online - Marketing whatever you have to market - promotion opportunities and issues - part 2

Back in November 2013 I wrote about a recent poll  conducted for USAToday and Bookish, a website designed to help people find and buy books, which asked readers what factors created interest in a particular book for them. The poll got the following responses:

  • 57% - their own opinion of the writer's previous work;
  • 43% - opinions of a relative and friend (ie "word of mouth");
  • 17% - professional reviewers and other writers;
  • 16% - the book cover; and
  • 10% - internet opinions by non-professionals (10%).

In short, people are interested in a book based on previous knowledge of the author's work, word of mouth, or professional reviewers. Advertising simply doesn't get a look in. And if you don't believe that then you need to consider the click-through rates we get on our own adverts:

  • Click Through Rate = 0.05%, i.e. for every 2000 views of an advertisement, we expect to get 1 person clicking the advertisement to visit our site; and
  • Click Rate = 2%, i.e. for every 50 people visiting our site we expect to get 1 sale.

Back in May 2014, for a series of blog-ad designed to be viewed 86,000 times we were paying $330. That probably gave us 43 click-throughs, and some where between one and two sales. It simply doesn't make financial sense. For more information you can read my previous post on this (Marketing for authors: what to expect from click-through and conversion rates).

So does online advertising work for eBooks work? In a word - no.

If, however, given this information you still want to undertake some social marketing then you may want to check out the article in the same edition of The Independent:
IBPA online - A practical guide to social media advertising part 1

For more information about the USAToday poll, and another poll conducted by ebookfairies you can read my previous posts concerning them at:


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Statistics, damn statistics, and wishful thinking - the not-death of the ebook

Picture of Kindle headstone

I have to admit to finding it a bit difficult to understand how an increase in eBook sales of 12.3% (from 2013 to 2014) is being peddled as signally the end of the ebook, particularly when sales of the physical book fell by 1.7% over the same period.

Well, actually I can understand it - it's called wishful thinking. What's happening is that the rate of e-book growth has started to slow, and coupled with a slowing in decline of physical book sale the traditionalists are hoping it signals a return to the printed book. Just remember though, according to Nielsen Bookscan, we bought 237 million books back in 2008. In 2013, this had fallen to 184 million, a pretty drastic fall of 22 per cent!

So yes, it appears the book market might be starting to reach some sort of equilibrium, with about one in three books being a digital one, and the rest being physical books. And yes, there is good news for booksellers with Waterstones reporting that  sales of physical books has increased by 5 per cent during December, compared with the same month in 2013. A picture echoed by Sam Husain, the chief executive of Foyles, who said sales at his chain of bookshops had jumped by 8.1 per cent, compared with December the year before.

Bottom line, however, the eBook market continues to expand, and even if its growth slowed further to 9% it will only take five years before eBook sales constitute 50% of the total market.

You can read the full article from the Telegraph here.

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The end to the saga: Hachette blinks

hachette vs amazon imageThe long running 'negotiations' between Hachette and Amazon has finally come to an end. And while it is unclear who ended up winning, Digital Reader believes that  Hachette blinked given that its revenues fell 18% in the third quarter of 2014.

I'm also inclined to this view given that Hachette's parent company reported on 13 November that Hachette’s US revenues were down considerably from last year. While the decline was attributed to difficult comparisons with last year when the company had an “unusually high” number of bestsellers they did admit that the  “difficult situation” with Amazon also impacted sales.

For all of Lagardere Publishing, revenue in the quarter fell 2.9%, but  the sharpest decline by far happened in the US, the unmistakeable conclusion being that at least a major part of this was due to the ongoing contract dispute with Amazon.

The possibility of a circuit breaker in the ongoing dispute was the agreement Amazon negotiated with Simon and Schuster in October - which is probably similiar to what was finally agreed with Hachette. And while it is unclear what was actually agreed here's what both parties said about the new agreement:

  • “We are pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.” [Amazon's David Naggar, press release] (This is the same thing that Amazon said about the deal it reached with Simon & Schuster in October,

  • “Importantly, the percent of revenue on which Hachette authors’ ebook royalties are based will not decrease under this agreement.” [Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch, press release] (

So, finally the saga comes to an end, and while no-one is a clear winner, it appears that both parties achieved a little of what they were seeking.

 Read previous posts

And if you want to catch up on the whole sorry saga in the Publishers Weekly

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Swancon 39 Roundup

Arriving home from Swancon 39 my wife asked me how much Cola and sugar I'd had because of how hyper I was - almost, but not quite, bouncing off the walls hyper. So a week after the con finished I can now look back on it and assess how it worked for me. Particularly as this was the first Swancon that I'd actually been on any panels for.

The Guests

Isobelle-Anne-Sally-Jim, Swancons Guests

L-R: Isobelle Carmody, Anne Bishop, Sally Beasley, and Jim Butcher


Anne Bishop and Jim Butcher were the international guests of honour. Both very nice people, articulate, with very dissimilar writing styles. I hadn't actually read any of their books, although I had picked up the first in Jim's 'Dresden Files' series when we were in Sydney earlier this year without realising he was the GOH - what can I say, I'm terrible with names. Continue Reading →

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Getting to know us: what makes Hague Publishing tick.

Logo600x600I've just renewed our membership with the Independent Book Publishers' Association, and was filling in the questionnaire provided, originally posed by Jan Nathan, when I thought it would be worth re-posting. So here it is ...

Why did you become a book publisher?

Three years ago I was looking at creating a second career for myself when I retire from the public sector in five years. At the time there weren't many small publishers focussing on the ebook SF&F market (and to the present in Australia that remains the case). I was NOT aware of how all consuming the whole process was going to be, and if I had been I might not have done it.

What do you enjoy most about publishing?

Working with the author to create a finished eBook that we can both be proud of. Secondly being a patron of the arts. Unlike our authors who aren't paid an advance, our illustrators are paid upfront for the work they do in designing our covers and the work they produce is simply stunning. I'm actually in the process of getting some of our covers printed onto canvas for framing. Continue Reading →

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IBPA's new Code of Ethics

Logo - Independent Book Publishers AssociationI am presently the member of two Australian trade associations (APA, SPN), and one international (the Independent Book Publishers Association).  Now, professional associations generally have two conflicting mandates, firstly they have a responsibility to act on behalf of their members, a responsibility which will often have them acting like a cartel or a labor union (trade union) for the members of the profession, though this description is commonly rejected by the body concerned. Secondly professional bodies often act to protect the public by maintaining and enforcing standards of training and ethics in their profession. (Source Wikipedia). One of the primary methods by which this second is achieved is by the development, maintenance, and enforcement of a code of ethics for its members.

Without a Code of Ethics it is difficult for an organisation to discipline or expel a member for acting unethically, as without a code it often difficult to determine whether someone is a fit and proper person to be a member. This is because the question of fitness will differ across occupations, and the matter will often end up in court. With a Code of Ethics the question is simpler, as the expectations of the behaviour of its members is set out in that Code. While the matter may still end up in court, the fact that the Association made a determination against a code of ethics specific to its occupation and membership will make its decision to discipline, suspend, or expel a member is much easier to justify. And personally I can definitely confirm that it makes sacking an unethical employee so much easier.

Which should make it of concern that until recently none of these three associations appears to have had a code of ethics, although this has now changed with the release of IBPA's first Code of Ethics. Continue Reading →

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How people chose what ebook to read - Part 2

Click Image to Enlarge Image Source:

Infographic - why people buy booksIn my last blog I discussed a poll conducted by USA TODAY and Bookish, a website designed to help people find and buy books. The poll found that a majority of those surveyed (57%) cited their own opinion of the writer's previous work as the major factor in creating interest in a particular book for them. Opinions of a relative and friend (publishers call that "word of mouth") came in second at 43%. Lower on the list of major factors: professional reviewers and other writers (each 17%), the book cover (16%) and Internet opinions by non-professionals (10%).

This week I wanted to share with you the results of another recent survey by ebookfairies which  confirms many of the USA today survey's results. The ebookfairies survey was conducted from June 1-30, 2013, via Survey Monkey, and as many as 2,951 people replied to most of the 44 questions formulated by more than a dozen authors.

Some of the more relevant information from the survey include: Continue Reading →

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How people chose what ebook to read - Part 1

USAToday - logo

The availability of online bookstores, and particularly the arrival of eBooks is starting to transform how  people discover the books they may want to read. The traditional place to do that was bookstores. You'd go in to buy one book and discover another.

Officials at Amazon and other book websites argue that clicking can replace browsing, but is that just a vague and nebulous hope, or are people actually selecting the books they'll read in different ways? A recent poll  conducted for USAToday and Bookish, a website designed to help people find and buy books, asked readers what factors create interest in a particular book for them. Continue Reading →

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To illustrate or not to illustrate? A question.

Frontier IncursioRecently we nominated Leonie Rogers' Frontier Incursion for the Independent Book Publishers Association's Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards. The Awards were established to honour the best in Digital Book innovation with nominees being judged on 5 criteria:

  1. Content,
  2. Use of Platform and Technology,
  3. Innovation,
  4. Design, and
  5. Overall Reaction.

As a publishing award rather than a literary award we knew it was a bit of a long shot and unfortunately we weren't successful. What was interesting, however, was the feedback we received from the judge about how they believed the book could be improved.

When I launched Hague Publishing it was with the intention of producing well edited eBooks, with a fast load, and a clean appearance. A book where the words did not get in the way of the story, but in fact supported that reading experience. Despite the failure to win the Award, it reassuring to have the judge recognise that the goals I had set myself had been achieved. It was also pleasing that the judge had enjoyed the story, particularly liking 'the plot elements of genetic engineering and people-cat empathy'.

However, the suggestion that the book would benefit from the addition of internal illustration is not one that I would necessarily support. From a purely publishing perspective the use of internal illustrations would significantly add to the costs of production. While from the reader's perspective illustrations would slow load time and chew up valuable storage space if they are like me and tend to leave previously read books on their eReader. It also raised the question of whether it would actually add any benefit to the reading experience.

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eBook covers: part 3 - The developmental process

In the final part of this series on eBook covers I want to get a little bit 'arti' and move away from the technical stuff I've been talking about to date. So in this blog I want to walk you through the process we followed in getting to the final cover.

Firstly the artist. David Lecossu, a French freelance Concept Artist/Illustrator who worked for the videogame company ‘Gameloft’ and who works now for clients like Applibot Inc, Fantasy Flight Games and Catalyst Game Labs. David approached us in February 2013 to see if there was any work. At the time there wasn't but when we were looking for an artist for Shelley's "Lights Over Emerald Creek" we approached him to see if he was still interested.

The original specifications I provided him were slightly more detailed than usual, see the following

Shelley was imagining a highly realistic, but magical pic of a girl sitting in a wheelchair. We see her from the back. Her long blonde hair hangs down her back. It is night. The wheelchair is on the banks of a creek. Tropical palms can be seen, and in the distance, blue-black shadows of mountains are silhouetted against a starry sky. Above the girl's head is a ball of weird, magical light. It's about the size of a football but the glow is much bigger. It is a brilliant blue/white and radiance drenches her. The light is a portal, but at the moment of the picture, all we can see is that some unearthly light is over her head. Further along the creek, two smaller lights, the size of tennis-balls, one blue and one orange, hover just over the water.

We then had to negotiate over price. Our initial offer was for $150 but David's base rate started at $300. Given his credentials we decided to pay his rate. We have since increased our base rate to $250.

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