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By Ellen Harvey

Originally Posted on Book Business March 11, 2016

The Digital Book World Conference & Expo (DBW) notably shifted its attitude towards major technology platforms this year. The platform giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google were ominously dubbed “The Four Horsemen.” They were referred to as such throughout the conference, and the language used to depict these companies matched the apocalyptic theme. Described as more powerful than most nations in the world and largely free from the confines of the law, these four technology platforms were blamed for the decline of all other forms of media and, it was implied, the decline of society itself.

In the opening keynote of DBW, Jon Taplin director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, explained the damage the Four Horsemen had already done. He said that over the course of the digital revolution, “$50 billion moved from content creators to platform creators. . . The digital revolution isn’t just coming after artists’ incomes, it’s coming after everyone’s jobs.” In a Wednesday keynote on antitrust and technology, Jonathan Kanter, an antitrust partner at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, explained that these platforms have captured this market share by becoming massive intermediaries that control the moneymaking side of content, including advertising, search, and adtech. “As these intermediaries get bigger, more money will be stuck in the middle and less money goes to the individual,” explained Kanter.

So how can publishers combat these massive entities? Antitrust enforcement is key. Taplin said that there are legal precedents in the U.S. that support a more equal distribution of technologists’ power, like the antitrust action taken against Bell Laboratories several decades ago. The government demanded that all of its licenses be provided for free for other companies to use. That technology included the microchip, the transistor, the microwave, and a slew of other inventions that consumers and companies have come to rely on. “Think of the possibility if Google had to do the same today,” said Taplin.

Kanter explained that antitrust efforts should focus on areas where the Four Horsemen sacrifice the well-being of their platform to protect their power. “Antitrust laws don’t penalize big,” he said. “They penalize exclusionary conduct.” He gave the example of Google promoting its own products in search listings over those of its competitors. Currently an antitrust case in Europe is investigating this practice. Kanter encouraged that similar action be taken in the U.S.

Both Kanter and Taplin said during their respective keynotes that disintermediation is an effective way to lessen the monopolistic power of the top technology platforms. Kanter identified disintermediation as the next revolution of the digital era, and the biggest fear of the Four Horsemen. “They’re worried about people being able to go direct to a user or buyer,” said Kanter. Taplin added that today’s low-cost distribution systems makes direct sales more attainable for content creators than ever before. He cited the creation of Sunkist, a cooperative of citrus growers that decided to bypass distributors to sell their products directly to retailers, as an example of disintermediation’s success. Taplin added that the Sunkist model is one that book publishers could emulate.

It’s interesting to note the rapid change in rhetoric at DBW, and perhaps a bit sobering too. I remember at last year’s conference representatives from both Apple and Amazon were present to share their plans for the future of the ebook. Although attendees questioned whether these technologists had publishers’ best interests in mind, the sentiment seemed to be that ultimately these tech giants were a necessary evil. Publishers had to play nice in order to succeed. If this year’s conference is any indication, it seems that book publishing leaders are prepared to get much feistier in order to protect their businesses.

Huffington Post.com

Bernard Marr posted on 04/22/2015

I've written several times in the past about the qualities and elements that successful people share, but I think perhaps the most important is their ability to get past excuses.

So many people in life get hung up on excuses -- feeling they can't go out for the better job, start their own business, or take whatever risk because of... whatever it might be.

Excuses are like noses, we all have one. But when you can train yourself to see these flimsy ideas for what they are, and stop treating them as a brick wall in your path, you can move past them towards your own success.

Here are just a few of the excuses I hear most often -- whether from individuals about their own dreams or executives about their company's direction.


1. I don't have the money.

I've heard this at every level, from the bloke who has an idea to start his own business all the way up to the mega-corporations I've consulted with. The point is, you can make this excuse whether you've got one dollar or one million.

The people who get past it, however, are the ones who succeed. They find a way around it. They barter or trade for the services they need. They start a side hustle and save up. They cut their expenses. They find an investor, take out a loan, apply for a grant.

Successful people don't let the lack of any resource (money being just a resource, after all) keep them stuck for long.


2. I don't have the time.

All the most successful people in the world -- Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Oprah -- have the same 24 hours in a day that you do.

Examine closely how you spend your time, and you'll see where your priorities truly lie. There are very few commitments in this life that are truly non-negotiable. Allowing yourself to fall into the trap of the idea that you don't have time to do what you want just shows that you don't want it badly enough.


3. I've never done this before.

There are loads of things you've succeeded at that you'd never done before you tried. You'd never walked before you did, never driven a car before you first got behind the wheel, never had a job before your first one.

Every journey starts with the first step, but you have to take it.


4. I don't have the skills.


I have one word of advice for you: Google.

You can find instructions, how-tos and even books and courses on how to do practically anything on the Internet -- for free. If you still can't find what you need, buy a book. Still struggling? Hire a coach.

You can get a college-level education just from reading the books found in your local library, so throw away the idea that a fancy degree is standing between you and what you want, because it's almost never true.


5. The conditions aren't right.

Waiting for things to be perfect is maybe the worst possible excuse, because things will never be perfect. No one is going to come along with a stopwatch and say, "If you start... NOW! You'll succeed!"

Loads of things were launched at the "wrong" time or before the world was ready. Some of them failed, and some succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams. Waiting for the "right conditions" is like the fisherman sitting on the banks, waiting for the fish, but never putting his hook in the water -- that is to say, kind of pointless.


6. _________ says I can't/shouldn't/am not good enough to do this.

Here's the thing: nothing amazing, innovative, revolutionary ever came out of a group consensus. In fact, many of the most truly revolutionary ideas were met with a great deal of hostility and skepticism. That TV thing is just a fad. The Internet will never catch on. Who wants to be on Facebook all day long?

The truth is, people are going to disagree with you. They won't get your vision. They won't believe in you.

Doesn't matter. Only one person needs to believe in what you're doing when you start, and that's you.

7. I don't have anything new.

Some of the most successful businesses out there didn't invent something totally new. Which came first, LivingSocial or Groupon? MySpace came before Facebook. The point is, you don't have to do something completely new to be successful. Take something that already exists and improve on it, change it, tweak it, turn it around and give it your own spin.

There are millions of books out there, but each one is different. There are thousands of stand-up comics, each with his or her own show. Loads of accountants, software developers, designers, manufacturers.

It's not about how you will be totally new, but how you will be different. These are just a few of the top excuses I have heard, but they're certainly not the only ones. I'd love to hear from you: What excuses have you heard?

Even though Instagram is fairly new, it’s still hard to remember a time when we didn’t have this social media site. Part of the reason for this is its staggering growth. In 2012 when Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it had 100 million active users, now that number is up to 400 million. More and more, indie authors are heading over to Instagram as part of their book marketing plan — to engage with readers, build their fan base, and sell books. Last week, I talked about some strategies for creative book marketing with Instagram, and this week, I’m focusing on how to create picture perfect images to maximize your Instagram Engagement.

When Instagram first started up, you could only upload square pictures which was annoying. You’d either have to crop the picture or just shoot it in square mode. Last year, however, Instagram changed this, lifting this restriction which opened up a lot of new possibilities. So if you’re uploading your picture to Instagram and want to return to the original size/ratio, just tap the bottom left corner of the photo. This lets you switch between square or landscape mode.

Finding Picture Perfect Images

You can always, ALWAYS, use your own photos. If you’ve taken it, you can use it. But sometimes the photos we take don’t fit into our theme or our goals, so we need to find photos that do work. As we all know by now, we can’t just take any image we find from Google. Instead, we need to make sure that we have rights to use the image or it’s royalty-free. You can purchase stock photos from a number of paid sites – some of the most popular are IstockPhoto.com, BigStockPhoto.com, and stock.Adobe.com. Stocksy.com is a newer site with exclusive images, making it a good option if you’re looking for something unique.

There are also a number of great sites where you can legally download images royalty-free, that is, without having to purchase rights. Most use the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license meaning they are completely free for personal or commercial use (although it’s frowned on to sell them). Here are a few great options:

• LibreStock.com is basically a search engine for free stock images from dozens of sites so users don’t have to search them out individually.

• Unsplash.com is another great site for images that are free to use. You can subscribe to have new photos sent to your email every 10 days, or browse the site. Customizing Images

Now that know how to find the perfect images to share on your Instagram account, let’s talk about getting them ready for posting. At minimum, you’ll want to watermark the images so that if they leave the confines of Instagram, people will know where to find you. So, include your logo and website URL.

Generally speaking, if you want to use a stock photo, you will want to customize the image in some way as well, whether adding a few words, creating a collage of a few images, or adding a quote. While a quote that’s meaningful in some way to you or related to your theme works great, many authors like to include a quote from one of their characters or even something memorable from their own book. Or, you can use an image as a teaser to announce something is coming soon. Again, keep in mind screen size limitations – don’t cram too much information into your image – instead you can add any additional messaging to the photo description.

If you prefer to do everything from the comfort of your phone, there are lots of apps out there that allow you to customize your images:

• Relaythat – This app is commonly used for event designs and events, and has a free and paid ($8/month) option. Both options allow for a one-click resize, so you don’t have to resize each photo by hand for every place you’re going to use it.

• Typorama – With Typorama, you can create images for a wide variety of social networks, and you can shadow text so it’s easy read against varying backgrounds. You can also easily watermark all of your images

• Adobe Spark Post – This is another great free app that, in their own words, allows you to “turn ideas into impactful social graphics.”

• Wordswag – With lots of great type styles, and the ability to easily swap between styles, and even variations within each style, this is a fun app to use. It also has the option to use a few basic backgrounds, instantly search royalty-free stock images from Pixabay, or use your own photos.

• PicsArt – This app allows you to create great collages in a huge variety of layouts. You can easily resize images within the collages and the drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to swap images and text around.

• Ezy Watermark – This app does exactly what it says – giving you an easy way to watermark your images. Limited to iOS at this time.

• Lumyer – Lumyer gives you the tools to create some really cool animated images.

• RIPL – With RIPL you can design animated images. The free version includes access to 5 free designs, as well as one free Ripl Pro design daily, while the paid version is $9.99/month or $59.99/year.

• DIPTIC – This app allows you to create collages and slideshows. The iOS version is more robust than the Android version at this time.

Indie Authors Can Create Amazing Images with these tips! https://wp.me/p6TMt8-6lF via @bookgal

Or, you might want to do the work on a computer, and then save your new perfect images to your phone (using email or file transfer) for later posting to Instagram. Although this adds a layer of complexity, some people prefer it – and Canva is one of our favorite options (plus they have an iPad app).

Hot new feature!

Here’s a bonus idea! In the last few weeks, Instagram came out with Instagram Stories, a feature that lets you share all of the moments of your day without them appearing on your profile grid or feed. Basically, it allows you to share as much as you want to without over posting. It’s a great way to test out some creative ideas and showcase your day without creating a permanent record! Give it a try and see how it works for you and your book marketing plan!

Ultimately, you have tons of great options for finding and customizing your images for Instagram. So many in fact, that the selection of apps and programs may seem daunting! But, each has their own pros and cons, and everyone has their own preferences. I’m confident that you’ll find one that is a great fit for you. Regardless of which app you use, take some time to play with it, and in no time you’ll be creating picture perfect images for your Instagram account, as well as any other social media accounts!


Texas Authors, Inc. is an organization designed to help Texas Authors learn how to better market and sell their books.

We work closely with our partners DEAR Texas, Inc., and Texas Authors Institute of History, Inc., both nonprofits that have created additional programs and events for Authors.

Texas Authors is a subsidiary of Bourgeois Media & Consulting