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A New Chapter for Storytel? — Self-Publishing Advice Center from the Alliance of Independent Authors

In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at a  bright future for Storytel whose new CEO comes from HBO Max, and an uncertain future for literary gatherings.

ALLi’s News Editor Dan Holloway

This week’s #indieauthorchat is tonight, Wednesday 24 August, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be talking with us about an issue preying on many of our minds right now. Can we afford to write?

A New Chapter for Storytel?

For several years, Storytel was the biggest news in audiobooks. There was the same relentless year on year growth that the audiobook market as a whole experienced. But it felt like smart growth. Planned and sustainable growth. Storytel’s model was to expand into a series of markets, one at a time, focusing on what would work in each, to create an international reach for the company. But then, suddenly, it seemed to come to an end. Storytel’s CEO Jonas Tellander stepped down, and the company started cutting costs and jobs the way so many tech companies have done in recent times. Mark Williams, who followed Storytel’s rise in detail, has a fascinating account of its fall. Do read it for some context as to why this Nordic subscription audiobook company is such an important bellwether for the audio landscape.

This week’s announcement of Tellander’s replacement means things have changed again. The new CEO will be Johannes Larcher. Larcher was behind HBO Max’s launch across numerous markets in Europe and Latin America. All the indications are that he will pick up Tellander’s growth to new markets. But instead of a market by market approach, Storytel’s next chapter might be one of expansion at greater scale.

The Future of Fairs and Festivals

Indecision and uncertainty. If there is a single theme that has run through the book industry since before the WHO declared Covid to be a pandemic, it’s uncertainty and indecision. Especially when it comes to industry gatherings. The first stories I ran featured the prevarications of London Book Fair. Two and a half years later, another huge conference has been called off at a few days’ notice. And the Guardian has a headline that encapsulates what many of us have wondered for some time: are literary festivals doomed? 

Of course, this does sound a little like that perennial clickbait: is the novel dead? But the constant on-off, will it go ahead/won’t it? that still seems to be surrounding literary gatherings, does raise some serious questions. Especially given the kind of costs involved in both staging and participating in such events. And each time an event doesn’t take place, or takes place online only, and the sky doesn’t fall in, it becomes harder to see a full calendar as something beyond an extravagance. 

This week, Beijing International Book Fair was the latest casualty of Covid. The fair organisers announced its postponement just two days before it was due to go ahead. That’s a notice period that makes the week of ‘2020’s’ London Book Fair seem like aeons. It shows the problems that in-person events continue to face. And shows why both exhibits and attendees might still be reluctant to commit their diaries in the face of such uncertainty. That means the business is finding other ways of carrying out its operations. It has to.

Public-facing events, meanwhile, don’t just face the ongoing issue of Covid. As the Guardian’s article points out, the cost-of-living crisis means they have to deliver something really special to draw a crowd. If people are able to go to fewer events, they will choose those events more carefully. They will be less willing to “try it and see.” They will also be less likely to shell out for something they’ve seen before. Which creates a real dilemma for organisers. They have to find a line-up that’s spectacular and original but not scary-original. And they have to do so at similar or lower cost to usual while their own costs rise. The festival might not be facing the extinction that clickbait headlines suggest. But it’s certainly facing problems.

Twitter Adds Podcasts to its Spaces Feature

One area whose future seems fairly assured is podcasting. Many authors are taking advantage of the fact so many people now listen to podcasts to turn their storytelling skills towards a new audience. 

And the latest development in the podcasting world comes from Twitter. The social media giant will be adding podcasts to its Twitter Spaces. Twitter will use people’s likes and dislikes to recommend “stations” of podcasts. These stations are thematically grouped collections of podcasts. In theory, this will give Twitter users personally curated podcast playlists.

The appeal for us as writers comes from the fact that so many of us use twitter. It’s almost the same age as Kindle, and many of us who started out around the same time that Kindle started have grown up with it, and feel comfortable using it. This move means that more people like us will see recommendations for content they might enjoy. And for those of us who write for people like ourselves, that means more access to potentially receptive audiences. Yet another reason to at least consider moving into podcasting to share what we write. Or at the very least refining material that we can showcase on other people’s podcasts.

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