The E-Book Experiment: Adapability

* If something doesn’t work, YOU CHANGE. You must be flexible to new market conditions to survive.

You don’t ignore it. You don’t argue about it or to it. You don’t insist on a different reality.

You find out why it isn’t working. You research it. You find out the facts. You brainstorm. You develop alternatives.

And then you move forward in a new direction because you KNOW THE OLD WAY ISN’T WORKING ANYMORE.

Ticking off the readers and writers by telling them “this is the way we do it, so just deal with it” is not a good business decision.

Readers are leaving one star reviews on Amazon now that the publishers have jacked up the price on e-books (and withholding the format) in a misguided attempt to stop this new wave of technology and convenience. Publishers are choosing to withhold formats, either as bargaining ploys or because they can’t be bothered.

The authors are hurting from a loss of sales, loss of royalty percentages and a poor review average.

We don’t know what is going on at Apple yet, as they have only revealed how many e-books have been downloaded, but not sold. Considering the iBookstore came preloaded with 30,000 free titles, we don’t know if readers are willing to take the higher prices coming from traditional publishers through the new Agency Model that Apple forged, are instead buying the lower priced indi titles, or are loading up their iPads with freebies. It is a big unknown. (Oh, and new news on the Agency Model. State Attorney Generals are looking into it as a type of price fixing.)

Recent Big Publisher claims: E-books take more steps to format. Books are more flexible. All the while claiming they aren’t Luddites.

The publishing industry does have a somewhat similar historical situation to look back on. While there are differing details, the basics of business still apply.

You know what I’m going to compare it to, don’t you?

From about 10 years ago?

That’s right: the music industry. An industry that is still trying to find equilibrium from the insurrection of listeners wanting their music THEIR way, and not the way closed-minded board executives wanted it.

And the music companies are still paying for it, even now.

The publishing industry had a chance to look at that situation, make note of the things that did work and why, and what didn’t work and why.

Did they do that?

No!

They are making the same bone-headed mistakes!

DRM, limited availability, high prices, limited packaging choices… so much of it.

Because of it most of the traditional publishers (and by that I mean the big NY publishing companies. Some smaller companies do ‘get it’) are going to pay dearly for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them have another major downsizing or are sold off as ‘unprofitable’ in the next several years from parent companies and shareholders who want a better investment return.

Business is changing. Big Publishers aren’t changing with it. This is an epic fail that will hurt a lot more people than only those who work for the publishing companies. It will hurt the authors, the agents, the bookstores, the distributors.

Now, I know there are a lot of arguments for all the previously discussed points. It’ll be pointed out that the publishing business is different.

No, not all that different. It’s still a business, and basic business rules apply. If you ignore them, you will go out of business.

“If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it.”

J.A. Konrath: “The publishing industry is broken. No doubt about it. Any business that allows returns, where a 50% sell-through is considered successful, where no one can figure out why things succeed or fail, is fundamentally flawed.”

This is still a BUSINESS. Never forget that. I take to heart the advice for writers to treat their career as a business. That only the writer can truly take care of themselves. Everyone else is interested in THEIR business, and sometimes the two do not coincide.

Lets recap a little:

Publishers are ticking off readers with high ebook sales.

Publishers have been ticking off authors for years at how the authors are treated and paid.

Author royalty rates continue to go down.

Advances continue to go down.

Authors are expected to take their minuscule below-minimum-wage advances and do the job of the publishers marketing department.

Ouch.

Having watched the traditional publishing world for so many years, I am loathe to jump into the pool of sharks. I don’t like the business end of the industry and I detest the lack of respect for the content producers. I do not like the agent-editor relationship, where the agent is more likely to put their relationship with the editor before the author who pays them. I do not like the lack of accountability of the agent system. I do not like not having an independent way to confirm sales of a product other than to take the publishers word for it. I do not like the author being the last to be paid while both the publisher and agent use ‘the float’ to pad their bottom line. I do not like the author taking the blame for business decisions over which they have no control or say.

Oh, there are too many things I do not like.

Over the years, with the things I’ve seen and read, and how authors are taken advantage of, do I want to join in? Especially now when the authors might possibly have the upper hand over publishers for the first time in history?

As a content provider/writer/author/storyteller, I have a bit of a problem of getting on the ship while so many other rats are fleeing. I think it’s time to rethink the traditional publishing path.

I would LIKE to think I’m as smart as the rats.

Okay, fine. Let’s approach this like a business. MY business…
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“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.

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The E-Book Experiment: Adapability

8 thoughts on “The E-Book Experiment: Adapability”

  1. I’ve been following this for quite a while now, and I believe that this is the way to go for motivated authors who find the time, beside writing and real life, to put a big effort into this.

    But I’m wondering if a handful of authors could/should combine their efforts to be more effective. Some sort of cooperative community with a small number of authors involved.

    • I’ve seen several groups do what you suggest. Like interests, each with a particular skill, all coming together to help each other. Bob Mayer is doing it right now with his publishing company “Who Dares Wins”, actively recruiting authors of different skill sets, such as graphic designer, file conversions, promotion skills and the like. I’ve thought of doing it with other science fiction writers, but I would need to find them first. πŸ˜‰

  2. I am really enjoying this series even though I have my own reservations about e-books. πŸ˜‰

    I had a thought today. How is the push to go digital going to affect public libraries? (an expanded version of this question is in my LJ, should you wish to read it.)

    • I’ll hop over to your LJ. πŸ™‚

      Public libraries are starting to carry e-books through a service called Overdrive (there are other services, but that is the biggest so far). It works just like a regular book:

      * Library buys the e-book.
      * Library patron ‘checks out’ the e-book and read it on whatever equipment they have the Overdrive software installed.
      * Library patron reads it for 2-3 weeks (whatever the lending time is in that library branch).
      * During this time no one else can check out the book. The Library can loan out only as many copies as they bought.
      * When the time elapses the e-book disappears and is available to be checked out by someone else.

      I’m on an e-book mailing list that have a few librarians. Depending on the location their e-book activity is as high as 25% of their lending. As the file formats, software and e-readers supported improves it will grow higher. The library can offer a great many more books than their shelf-space might allow. πŸ™‚

      Libraries are at an adjustment stage, but they seem to be embracing the new technology faster than some big publishers. πŸ˜‰

  3. I completely do not grasp someone jumping on the trad train right now. While it’s true some authors get VERY lucky… the cover art gods smile down upon them, they get great marketing, they hit bestseller lists… they are a golden god… it just doesn’t happen that way for most. And if it doesn’t happen, you’re stuck on somebody’s midlist while you’re e-rights are mismanaged and you’re blamed by readers for every boneheaded thing your publisher chose to do. Um, no thanks. I’ll take my chances with me in charge.

    • Hello Zoe! Welcome to the blog. πŸ™‚

      I don’t mind getting blamed for stuff that is my fault. I do at work, and when I mess up I own up to it and take whatever comes. However, I am not willing to take the blame for someone else’s mistakes. What a stupid idea that authors should have to.

      Or maybe shame on authors for letting it happen? Nah, I won’t go quite that far. Up until now it was their way or the highway, and going off the beaten track was very difficult and not usually successful.

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