Do I think print books are dead? Absolutely not. I love them and so do a great many others.
But I also see things changing, and the print form of books may take a different (and smaller) market segment than they do now. Along with them will go the ‘traditional’ path of the big publisher.
As a writer/author/storyteller, it would be foolish of me to ignore the new trends.
So, target small press or e-book publishers, right?
It’s a possibility, and one that a lot of authors are going for. Some have made exclusive e-book deals, like Stephen R. Covey and Ron Paul with Amazon. Small e-book presses like Samhain and Elora’s Cave are doing quite well. Sony announced they believe e-books will dominate within 5 years. Some writers are banding together to create their own publishing entity and sharing the business side to the betterment of all involved.
However, with the changing dynamic of technology is there yet another way to share the storytelling AND make a living at writing?
The internet is a great leveling playing field. The market is in the process of changing. The readers know they can in some cases go straight to the author for their reading entertainment and completely bypass the middle-men.
Remember that e-rights are worth a lot of money now, especially with “The Long Tail”, if one takes the product, time, and dedication to do it right.
Amazon allows authors to put up their work themselves for a 35-70% royalty rate. Smashwords and other companies allow an author to get distribution into iPad, Barnes and Nobles, the Sony ebook store and others. Barnes and Nobles and the Apple iBookstore just announced programs to list with them directly. Google will soon make an entrance into the fray.
The booksellers and content distributors want a piece of a market that is exploding. In March alone e-book sales rose 184%. How ironic that the Big Publishers are doing so many things to not take advantage of the new developing market.
An author doesn’t have to accept the pittance royalty rate offered by many traditional publishers (15-25%). The author doesn’t have to accept the lack of control that may tank a book and a career before they even have a chance.
But only if the author is willing to take control and push forward with the business side as well as the creative side. The emphasis here is “BUSINESS”.
And why not, if the traditional publishers already insist the authors take over the business side of promotion? If we’re expected to do that, then what is the publisher for in the new digital era? Distribution? Sorry, authors can do that themselves now. Money? Excuse me while I laugh. Expertise in marketing? Not unless you are already a bestseller.
Well, they are good for headaches, editorial arguments, rights grabs, losing control of the creative material but still getting blamed for the failure of the projects…
Sorry, started going into rant mode.
Anyway, the possibility is out there. I want to see if I can do it, as others are. I like the idea of it.
I rather like the sound of that.
The decision is made. I’m going to try the e-book route and hope to take advantage of its explosive growth. The experiment may fail, it may succeed, but the only way to truly know is to try. May I go traditional at some point? I might, if it makes good business sense and pays a decent amount. But, for now, it’s time to see what is possible outside the ‘traditional’ route.
This means it is now business, of course. Which mean all the previously mentioned business points! (I bet you’re getting tired of those points, aren’t you!)
* If you don’t know what the customer wants, then you aren’t going to find a customer base for your product.
My customer is the ones in the same demographic as I. What is that?
Product type: Good science fiction with a strong plot, strong characters, exotic locales, a sense of wonder, adventure, and a feeling of hope. Just plain good fun.
Elements in the genre that are sadly lacking in the general publishing world.
Basically the type of books I wish I could find easier. There will not be a sales department deciding what genres and subgenres they are willing to accept or not (You think the editor decides? Hah, think again. Think committee, where the sales force has the biggest say). Under my penname and company name will be several subgenres of science fiction that all have the above product type in common.
Even better, there are indications that Science Fiction is one of the genres that is doing well in e-books, as science fiction readers are also usually familiar and comfortable with technology. There’s my audience!
* If the quality is not there, then the customer will find a product that does have the quality. There is too much quality out there for them to put up with it.
This is perhaps a bit of ego, but I do believe that my quality is to this level. I’ve had complete strangers read my work and loved it, demanding why it isn’t published yet. This includes small press editors (who, unfortunately, were not buying the genre).
Quality is a very subjective item when it comes to writing. I do not want to assume, I want to KNOW. To help keep a balance judgment to the produced product I have available beta-readers, story editors, and polishing editors. More eyes to make sure the quality is there!
Oh, and skills for the non-creative side of the product? Graphic artist, webmaster, and computer nerd. Covers and file conversions? No sweat. I’ve been doing similar stuff for years.
* If it’s not a price the customer is willing to pay, they will compromise and go with another product that they are willing to pay.
I’m not about to make a mistake on this. I am an unknown at this point. I need to entice readers to try out my stories.
A low price makes the stories affordable, accessible, and an impulse buy. Lure readers to try the books without worrying about the investment of money. Sell more at a low price point to profit with a higher sell-through. I have a chance at finding fans, but only if they read!
I’m also prolific, which means the “Long Tail” will kick in faster as readers go looking for my other writing.
* If a customer has to hunt down your product, many times they will instead switch to what they CAN easily find. For many people time is money.
Right now the eye-balls are at Amazon, but others are coming up fast. That means multiple distribution channels to be prepared for the next sales channel that takes off.
I already have a list I constantly keep updated. The goal is to make the content available to as many people as possible in as many formats as possible.
* Keep a good relationship with your wholesale/product resources. If you don’t have a product to sell, you don’t have a business.
Well, that’s me. I better treat me nice!
* If something doesn’t work, YOU CHANGE. You must be flexible to new market conditions to survive.
Keep reading industry news, study sales figures and channels, keep writing good books. Yeppers, I think I can do this.
Can just anyone do this? No, I don’t think so. Not everyone has the wide variety of skills. Some have not brought the quality of their work to a professional level. Some need the deadlines of an external source or for someone to be the buffer between them and the public.
And who knows, I might not qualify on all points, either.
But I have to try. See what happens. Nothing to lose, a lot to gain, great learning experience, hopefully a lot of fun. And if it fails, then it’s my fault. I won’t wonder “If the publisher had done this, or hadn’t changed that, would it have succeeded?”
I plan to start small, and that means only myself and possibly one other author. If the venture is a success, and I feel comfortable with the skills I’ve developed in publishing, I might open it up to other authors who might not have the skills I do but who produce works that fit the ‘product type’ (see above).
As this is a business, “The E-Book Experiment” will include a business plan, schedules and expense planning. This is a business, and that means that ultimately the outflow must be less than the inflow in order to be a long-term success.
Also included will be an exploration of the creative side of this venture. You will see how business decisions affect the product and the development of a project from the very first inspiration to the final sale-able product. This includes series planning, individual book planning, revision, and all the other steps involved in preparing a work for market.
Notice the word ‘series’ in there? Yes, a new series. The idea for a single book sparked so much more. Yes, there will be a post about this development, too.
“The E-Book Experiment” series will also include the digital publishing aspect and the results, both good and bad. The results will include sales figures, when that time comes. I’ve appreciated other authors who have shared numbers and hard data instead of hording them as ‘top secret’, and now it’s my time to pay back.
My head is buzzing with the possibilities!
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!
I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.
If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.