Chances are, you have received dozens of emails about GDPR over the last couple of weeks. You may have heard some authors freaking out about it, afraid that if they don’t comply, they will be thrown into a European dungeon.
In this post, I am going to explain what GDPR is, why you don’t need to worry about it, and why you may want to follow it anyway.
Disclaimer: I am not an international law lawyer. I’m not even a regular lawyer. Reading this post is not a substitute for seeking specialized legal counsel.
What is GDPR?
GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation. It is an 88 page EU regulation passed by the European Parliament in 2016. It takes effect on May 25 of 2018. According to the EU, the law applies to the whole world (more on that in a bit).
GDPR Requires European Authors to:
Collect explicit informed consent from email subscribers or any reader whose data is being captured. This means opt-in checkboxes cannot be pre-checked and readers need to know exactly the kind of emails they will be receiving ahead of time.
Why American Authors Don’t Need to Worry About GDPR
TL;DR: The EU is not the United Nations. They are not the government of the world. They are the government of Europe. Their laws apply to European citizens and European companies. If you are not a European citizen or company, they can’t force you to follow EU regulations.
Reason #1: The United States Won World War II
Just because a foreign country passes a law, it doesn’t mean you have to follow it.
As an American, you are protected by the American government from foreign laws. Another country cannot do anything to an American citizen in America without the US government’s consent. Remember, American troops occupy Europe. Not the other way around.
American companies with a nexus in the EU absolutely need to comply with the GDPR, because the EU can go after their EU office directly. But if you don’t have employees or an office in the EU, how can the EU force you to comply with their law?
To my knowledge, There is no treaty between the EU and the US that specifically references the GDPR.
The hope of the EU is that one of the existing treaties might work. But these hopes are neither proven nor tested in court. The GDPR has not even been tested in an EU court yet, much less in American court.
Fortunately for the EU, most of the companies that matter (Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) have offices in the EU. So the EU doesn’t need a treaty to force them to abide by the GDPR. This is why you are getting so many emails about GDPR from big companies. These international companies are European as much as they are American.
Reason #2: American Authors Are Too Small to Target
There is a principle when it comes to regulation that “the tallest blade of grass gets cut first.”
The GDPR is a law designed to go after international companies like Facebook and MailChimp. If you are violating GDPR with your Facebook account, the EU is much more likely to go after Facebook than it is to go after you. These big companies have a nexus in the EU and money to pay the fines.
If you are an American author who writes in English, and some Europeans happen to visit your website and sign up for your newsletter, the EU has an exceptionally weak case against you. A case, that they would have to enter into an American court in order to actually do anything with. Entering a case in the US would cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for an indefinite payoff in the small chance they could win. It is just not worth it to spend that much money to go after you when there are large companies in the EU to go after.
I anticipate the EU is going to enforce the GDPR in this order:
Wealthy EU Companies
Wealthy US Companies with offices in the EU
Small EU Companies*
As an American author, you are way down the list in the “everyone else” category.
*If you are a European author, I think you are here. But I’m not an EU lawyer.
Reason #3: You Are Already Violating Lots of EU Regulations
There are perhaps thousands of EU regulations you are not following in your daily life. As an American, they are not worth a second thought.
I am not a lawyer. I could be totally wrong about all of this. But I don’t think so. On May 26, 2018, life for American authors is going to go on as usual. I suspect the same will be true for our author friends across the pond. GDPR is like Y2K, a lot of fuss over something that will be only a minor inconvenience to a few big companies.
The Creative Funding Show is a podcast where Author Media CEO, Thomas Umstattd interview Authors, YouTubers, and Podcasters who are funding their creativity using platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter.
You will also learn about making money with advertising, sponsorships, merch, and other creative ways to make a living as an artist.
Should you blog your book ahead of time? Recently, there have been severalblog posts hinting it’s a bad idea.
This advice can cripple authors. They fear that once they blog something, it can never be in their book. This pushes them into boring, off-topic blog posts that don’t resonate and hurt their marketing.
If that is you, I have good news.
(TL;DR) Blogging Your Book Lets You:
Test Your Ideas
Build Your Audience
Make Your Book Better
You can blog your book ahead of time. You just need to do it the right way.
Quick note: I am writing specifically about blogging non-fiction. Fiction is a different animal. I am not a huge fan of blogging fiction but it can work. Rachelle Gardner has a good post about The Pros and Cons of Blogging your Novel that I encourage you to check out if you write fiction.
Not only did the book kick off as a single blog post, drafts of some chapters still exist as blog posts today.
Your reach with a blog is wide. Your reach with a book is deep.
Far more people read my blog than buy my books. That is ok with me. My ultimate goal is to get the message out as widely as possible. And while the reach of the blog is vast, five minutes with a blog post is not going to have the same impact as two hours with a book.
Blog reading and book reading are fundamentally different experiences. Someone can read your content in one medium and then have an entirely different experience with the same content in another medium.
“Saying nonfiction readers won’t read your book after they read your blog is like saying that fiction readers won’t watch a movie after reading the book the movie is based on.” Click to Tweet
The movie is the same story as the book, and yet the change in medium makes it entirely different.
“Fans of a book are the first in line for the movie and fans of the blog are the first ones in line for the book.” Click to Tweet
And some movies (like Julie & Julia) are based on books that are based on blogs.
Takeaway: People who read your blog will also want to read your book. Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise.
Blogging your book makes your book better.
Blogging is a two-way dialogue between you and your readers. It allows you to hone your ideas as you get reader feedback.
While the “first drafts” of some chapters appear on my blog, the edited final versions in the book take into account the comments and criticism I received on the blog.
A few of the things I wanted to say were being misunderstood and I was able to make corrections before my book came out. I also was able to cut whole sections that were not connecting with readers. Other sections I thought would be boring turned out to be incredibly popular, like the chapter on Courtship’s history.
If a post did not get enough traffic in Google Analytics, it did not make it into the book. My book is a curated collection of only the very best blog posts. It also has content exclusive to the book.
I was writing a controversial book and I wanted to be as clear and convincing as possible. Blogging the most controversial elements ahead of time, helped me do that.
Takeaway: Use your blog to get feedback from your readers. Incorporate that feedback into the book. This makes your blog and book different while making the book better.
A blog is not a book.
Good blog posts use photos and videos, which don’t work in books. My blog content is shorter, rougher, and has hyperlinks instead of footnotes. Each post links to several other posts, so where to go next is not very clear.
You have passed nearly a dozen links in this post already, some of which you might have clicked on, some of which you probably skipped. This is a non-linear reading experience which is very different from a book where chapter 2 always comes after chapter 1.
While it is hard to binge my blog, people binge my book all the time.
Takeaway: “If you copy and paste from blog to book or vice versa you are making a mistake. You need to adapt your message to the medium.” Click to Tweet
Blog posts are advertisements for your book.
The parts of my book that live online as blog posts can go viral and promote the book all over again.
From time to time, blog posts like this one will flare up on Facebook. Suddenly, thousands of new people are reading it and I did nothing to make that happen. This leads to a whole new round of attention on my book.
Why wouldn’t I want that free attention for my book? What would I gain by taking those posts down?
Takeaway: Add an advertisement for your book in the blog posts that wound up in your book as chapters.
But what about the contract?
The critics of blogging books are correct when they say that publishing chapters on your blog ahead of time forces you to use different language in the contract. But this is a small price to pay for all the attention you can get for free from great content spreading around the web.
The challenge is, the editor negotiating the contract is not typically involved in marketing the book. This is not her area of expertise and she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. She often doesn’t appreciate how valuable popular blog posts are in terms of Google rankings and sales.
Takeaway: If you decide to go traditional, make sure you pick an agent who “gets it” and is willing to negotiate for your blog posts to stay up.
Why would someone pay to read your book when they won’t read your blog for free?
One big challenge in publishing is that it is hard to predict when a book will succeed. Some books that are “sure-fire winners” flop while others come out of nowhere to become runaway bestsellers.
If only there were a way to test a book ahead of time to see if it resonates with the market.
Oh wait, there is. It’s called a blog.
“If a topic or writer is failing to find resonance with free readers, the writer will struggle to find paid readers.” Click to Tweet
The solution is not to stop blogging and hope your publisher can find an audience where you can’t. I think the answer is that you need to either invest in your craft as a blogger and get better or pivot your topic to one that has better resonance with your readers.
Takeaway: Use your blog to test your ideas to see if they have resonance with an audience. Typically, if it won’t work as a blog post, it won’t work as a chapter.
Case Study: Stuff Christians Like
In the popular book Stuff Christians Like, you will notice there is a picture of a side hug on the front cover.
There are over 100 different things from the book Jonathan Acuff could have featured on the cover.
He knew the cover would resonate with his audience because the side hugs blog post was already resonating. Not every blog post made it into the book. Many of his posts flopped and did not make the cut to get into the book.
Acuff wisely put his most popular posts in his book along with completely new content exclusive to the book. This gave both his true fans and people new to his writing something to love and talk about.
I think Acuff’s approach is the best approach. It makes sense to save some content exclusively for the book.
For my book, I had about a 60/40 mix. The only way to get 100% of the content was to buy the book.
Takeaway: Make sure your book has some unique content not found on your blog. But don’t go crazy. Put as much of it on your blog as you are comfortable with.
As an author, your primary challenge is obscurity. Blogging can be one of the best solutions to the obscurity problem for both you and your book.
is a great way to test your ideas, find your audience, and find your resonance.
is not for everyone and you don’t need to blog your book first for it to succeed.
MyBookTable, the most popular bookstore plugin on WordPress, just got better. MyBookTable 3.1 comes with several new features, including some that were previously available only in the paid Pro and Dev versions.
Here’s what’s new.
Added Universal Buy Button to the Free Plugin
This was previously a premium feature, but you can now create buy buttons to link anywhere on the internet. This allows you to use the Universal Buy Buttons to create affiliate links to Amazon. You could also pay for the premium version, to insert your affiliate codes automatically into Amazon buttons.
Added Audiobook Resources Section
There is now a section in MyBookTable for the visual companion to your audiobook: Maps, PDFs, Images.
Book pages can now be selected as the front page of your website via Reading settings. When combined with the premium Landing Page Mode, you can now use MyBookTable to quickly create a one-page microsite for a specific book.
Various CSS Styling Improvements & Bug Fixes
As always, we are hard at work to make MyBookTable better and fully compatible with the latest versions of WordPress. If you find a bug, please let us know in the support forum.
If you have translated MyBookTable into your language, we would love to include your .po file in the next version of MyBookTable. Currently, MyBookTable is available in several translations. We know our users have translated it into more translations than that.
How to Get MyBookTable 3.1
If you are already using My Book Table, just click “update plugin” to upgrade to 3.1. This is so easy, you may have already done it!
If you would like to add MyBookTable to your WordPress.org website follow the following steps:
Log in to your WordPress.org Dashboard then go to Plugins -> Add New -> Search
In the early days of Facebook, everyone saw everything and life was good. But if you have hundreds of friends and you follow hundreds of pages, that can result in thousands of pieces of new content every day. That is too much for any one person to read.
Social Proximity (How many mutual friends do you have?)
Likes / Reactions (How many likes does this post have? )
Comments (How many comments does this post have?)
Recency (How old is this post?)
Promotion (Is this post boosted?)
Shares (How many shares does this post have?)
Content Type (Is this a popular kind of content? )
Certain types of content are favored. Facebook Live Video is best, then photos, text, and links (in that order). YouTube videos are in last place. Facebook doesn’t want you to go to Youtube, it wants you to share Facebook videos instead.
What Facebook Changed in 2017
Fast Loading Webpages Get Priority in News Feed
Pages that load faster get priority in the newsfeeds. So if you have a slow website, your web website lost points on Facebook. You can test your page speed with a GT Metrics Page Speed Test.
Engagement Bait” Posts De-Priotitized in the News Feed
Engagement bait is a post designed to game the algorithm. For example, “Click ‘like’ if you want the Cowboys to win. Comment if you want the Falcons to win.”
News Feeds Weighs “Reactions” More Than “Likes”
Reactions (like laugh, heart, and crying face) are now weighted more than likes. So if somebody gives you a heart emoji, that’s more than if they just give you a regular thumbs up.
Video Prioritized Based on Completion Rate
If people stop watching your videos halfway through, you’ll lose points. If readers are finishing the video that you shared, you get more points and more people will see it.
The January 2018 Change
Author Brand Pages Are Now De-Prioritized
This means that when you share content from your regular author page, fewer of your readers are going to see it.
Comments (and long comments) Are More Important
And the other thing that they’re changing is that comments are now weighted even more heavily than likes and reactions. Facebook is also looking at how long the comments are. The longer the better.
It’s more important than ever to earn comments. But don’t bait them! The easiest way to earn legitimate comments is to ask question in your posts. Questions get readers talking.
Pre-recorded Videos are De-Prioritized.
Posting a book trailer is now less of an effective strategy than it was in 2017. Although, I don’t think it was very successful in 2017. For book trailers, it’s very hard to make those work and to drive traffic and drive sales of your book.
Live Video is Still Prioritized
A live launch party may be an effective strategy in 2018. I’d encourage you to experiment with live video. Readers want to see you, they want to see that authenticity. So don’t worry too much about looking good on video.
Facebook Advertising Will Get More Expensive
Here’s why I think ads are going to get more expensive.
Demand will go up. One is that since brand pages are being de-prioritized, those brands, if they want to reach the same number of people, are going to have to spend more money to reach the same number of people. Big brands can afford to do this.
When demand goes up and supply goes down, prices rise.
This is bad news for authors advertising $4.99 e-books. They have a small little margin for ads, especially when bidding against other advertisers who are selling big-ticket items like computers or courses.
That doesn’t mean that Facebook ads won’t work. But, you need to keep a close eye on your ads to make sure you’re not suddenly losing money acquiring readers.
If you are traditionally published, chances are your publishing company is putting pressure on you to “build your platform” and spend time and money to marketing your book. Most authors never question this and just see spending money on marketing as part of the job.
But is it?
Let’s take a closer look and see if it makes sense to spend time and money on marketing.
Reason #1: Traditionally published authors don’t have the sales information they need to succeed.
“The only way to avoid wasting money on marketing that doesn’t work is experimentation and measurement.” Click to Tweet
If you do a big promotion on December 15th, how much did it cost you and how many additional books did it sell? If you are traditionally published, there is no timely way to know how many books you sold on Dec 15th as compared to Dec 14th, and, depending on the nature of your royalty report, no way to find out.
This leads to a lot of superstitions within the traditional publishing world as to what works in terms of marketing. Traditionally-published authors typically have no idea what is and is not working as far as marketing tactics go. The result is that the money they spend is usually wasted on things like blog tours and social media campaigns that result in few to no sales.
As long as the author does not have timely access to sales data, it doesn’t make sense for the author to be spending time and money promoting the book
But that is just the first problem.
Reason #2 The math doesn’t work.
90% of books have not sold through their advance. This means these authors get $0 in additional royalties on sales.
So, when a traditionally published author pays for marketing, they are effectively reducing their pay. If an author gets a $10,000 advance and then pays $4,000 for marketing, their effective advance is only $6,000. This is why publishers put so much pressure on authors to market their books. (Shout out to Randy Ingermanson for introducing me to the math on this.)
Some publishers are able to convince authors to spend their entire advance on “platform building.” The result is that these authors are effectively writing a book for free.
If you have sold through your advance, the math still does not work.
Let’s say traditionally published Barbara has a 25% royalty on her ebook. If her ebook sells for $7.99 then her royalty would be $2.00 a copy.
Let’s say 10% of people who click an ad for her book go on to buy the book. That means she has to get 10 clicks for every sale. 10 clicks at $0.25 a click is $2.50 to acquire a reader–a reader for which she gets paid a royalty of $2.00. This means if she is paying for ads she is losing $0.50 per reader.
She could get a better return playing the slots in Vegas.
Indie Authors Have Better Marketing Options
Now let’s imagine Barbara is self-published.
Through Create Space and KDP, she has real-time access to sales data. On December 16, she can know exactly how many books sold on December 15 as compared to December 14. This allows her to experiment and find out what works best specifically for her book and her target readers.
“Indie authors don’t have to rely on marketing superstitions from other authors and can avoid repeatedly wasting money on tactics that don’t work.” Click to Tweet
Barbara also gets a big enough percentage of the sales price where buying ads can make sense. If she has a 70% commission on a $4.99 ebook, that comes out to $3.49 per book. If it costs $2.50 to acquire a reader, that means she nets $0.99 per reader.
“The difference between indie publishing and traditional publishing can be the difference between making $1 a copy and losing $0.50 a copy.” Click to Tweet
If you are traditionally published it doesn’t make financial sense to spend money on marketing.
The only things I would recommend spending money on are your:
You can make Amazon affiliate commissions through your website and newsletter even if you have not sold through your advance. MyBookTable makes adding Amazon Affiliates to the book pages easy.
A website and newsletter also open up the ability to make money outside of your book on things like speaking, merchandise, and autographs.
“Why traditionally publishing may not make financial sense.” Click to Tweet
“This is why I chose to go indie. I want to be able to afford to make my book a success.” Click to Tweet
“Something to think about before you sign a publishing contract: Why traditionally published authors should NOT pay for marketing.” Click to Tweet