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Business News Future of Writing Publishing Writer Resources Writer Struggles

Will Traditional Publishing Ever Become Author-Focused?

Advice to Publishers. Well, it is that time of the year when the consultants trot out their predictions for the year. What will be the hot trends for 2014? Every consultant in the publishing industry hopes that he or she will be that trend-setter, reaping bushels of cash as a result.  Having just read another such a prediction by consultant George Lossius at Publishing Perspectives (5 Trends for Trade Publishing in 2014), I was disheartened that the biggest game-changer was simply ignored: authors are now able to build a decent writing career without ever entering any agreements with a traditional publisher. This is true for genre writers and will become more so for non-fiction writers too. Authors can now prosper without publishers.

Currently, I have no desire to enter into a contractual relationship with any traditional publisher. Who would? It would be like entering a marriage and your spouse demanding that you be forever faithful to them (non-compete clause) and financially supportive until well after your death (life-of-copyright) while they can fool around with whoever they want as often as they want. All the while, as they are spending all the money your hard work brought in, they are telling you how lucky you are to have been chosen by them.  Actually, I think the better analogy would be entering a harem instead of an “open” marriage, and I have no desire to be anyone’s concubine. I mean, really, have you seen my photo? I wouldn’t be the cutest one the empress’ harem- so how often would I get her attention? No marketing budget for you, buddy. We gave your book a homely cover to match your looks. No thanks. I am happy with the micro publisher I founded, Reader Hill.  At least I can earn a decent percentage on every sale and I can control the quality and content.

Nonetheless, I am disheartened by traditional publishing’s refusal to face this huge shift in their own industry, for it means that so many hopeful authors will never be able to make a living off of their craft. I am saddened for the thousands of writer-brides still being conned into such a one-sided relationship, where the publisher gets almost all the benefits off of the writer’s months or years of labor. I just hope more of those once-naive writers realize their awful state and escape from the empress’ palace.

So what did that consultant focus on, if not the paradigm shift that is giving authors real career choices for the first time in decades?  Mr. Lossius had five of them (see the article link above for the full list), but I will just touch on a couple of those points: big data and developing new apps.

Starving for Data. Retailers do NOT release the details of their customers’ shopping habits. To do so would risk their competitive edge. Publisher, you will not get your hands on any worthwhile data like search terms, purchasing history, or where that customer came from.  Amazon will not release it, but neither will Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Walmart, or even sickly Kmart-Sears. It ain’t happening, so why talk about it? Even Google is starting to mask the search terms people use to find your website. If you want this kind of data, you will need to own the retailer. If you really want it, go buy BN or Kmart, then invest a few million more creating the infrastructure to utilize the data. Don’t worry, thousands of wholesalers survive without ever getting such granular info, but they’ve learned to woo their top customers. Go visit Rogers, Arkansas and see how its done.

Creating Apps. Mr. Lossius starts off good, talking about making e-books available in all formats for all reading environments. He also mentions the ability to speed up traditional publishing’s very looooooooooooooong turn around time from manuscript to finished product, though he talks more in terms of responding to trends. His pet term? Agile publishing. However, then this consultant turns into a comedian, talking about publishers creating their own apps.  He suggests they create apps so that people can discover their company easier. Its just like all those consultants who talked manufacturers into putting a QR code on their chips, shampoo, and cereal box because everyone is rapt to read some boring corporate website in hopes of finding a coupon or becoming a Facebook fan of their brand of toilet paper. Does he want the publisher to create a retail website behind those apps? If so, do publishers really think they can do better than Amazon, Apple, Kobo, or even BN.com? What would entice customers to enter your little secluded garden, no matter how pretty it is? Scholastic can do this stuff, but they have spent 50 years building their own school-oriented customer base. Randy Penguin? Not so much.

On one point, I think Mr. Lossius makes a decent point. He expresses doubt about one of the big trends right now: subscription services. I think the same argument also applies to creating exclusive company apps.  He states, “There has been a lot of talk about a ‘Netflix’ or ‘Spotify’ for publishing. The hunt has been on for a subscription model that will reorder the publishing universe …  But my feeling is that this won’t stop the world from turning in 2014 – if it was going to work, really, why would Amazon, who already offer subscription based surfaces in the form of LoveFilm and Audible, not have created it already? The entrepreneurs will have to go back to the drawing board.”

Will Traditional Publishing Ever Become Author-Focused? Frankly, I doubt it will happen any time soon. They may be forced to offer better terms, but that will come grudgingly. They might be willing to pay out royalties more regularly, but I cannot see them updating their systems unless forced to be legal action. As for admitting (at least to themselves) that they are no longer a requirement for success but are only one of many avenues, that will be a truth much harder to face.  Maybe it is because of fragile egos, but traditional publishing companies seem committed to the fallacy that they should be allowed to do whatever they want and the authors should be thankful for it.  Serious counseling is needed to heal this unhealthy relationship.

The Hugh Howey Solution. Maybe Best-Selling Author Hugh Howey can start his own counseling service or weekend seminar to help publishers deal with their abusive ways and name it Escaping your Publishing Silo: the Howey Method to Healthy Publishing Relationships. Too long? Then he might want to call it Writer-Abusers Anonymous.

He made a good start with two recent posts:

http://www.hughhowey.com/dont-anyone-put-me-in-charge/

http://www.hughhowey.com/my-second-month-on-the-hypothetical-job/

 

Thanks for visiting,
Eric

EL icon3

 

Categories
Business News Writer Struggles

Working behind the scenes

So much to do, and the clock seems to be ticking down fast…  I am now a month behind in  my self-imposed deadline for my novel as well as falling behind in getting the business guidebooks done.  However, lots of behind-the-scenes stuff is getting done:

1. The Reader Hill website is up and ready to go as the publisher of my writings.
2. Genuine HR has been converted from being one of our business websites into a blog.  It will now be the “author” for the non-fictional guidebooks coming out from the business.
3. Still need to do the Ministry HR conversion, since it will become the author of our business guidebooks aimed at church offices and other non-profits.

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Future of Writing Publishing Writer Struggles

Future of Book Sales

Future of Book Sales

What is the future of book sales?  I will give you one hint:  it starts with the letter “e” and I am not talking about my first name.  E-books are rapidly becoming the preferred format for new book sales.  With the unveiling of three (three!!) new Kindles this year, Amazon is aggressively pushing forward with its e-book platform.  That should not be a surprise to anyone, since e-books outsell all other types of books on Amazon.  Let me repeat that last fact, just to make sure you really heard it.  Amazon sells more books in electronic format (e-books) than ALL OTHER VERSIONS COMBINED.  Here are the stats that Amazon put out in a press release in mid 2011:

July 1995- Amazon starts selling books online
November 2007- Amazon debuts Kindle and starts its push towards e-books
July 2010- Kindle book versions outsell hardcover books
December 2010- Kindle book versions outsell paperback books
May 2011- Kindle book versions start outselling all other books combined

(See Amazon’s press release from May 19, 2011)

These Amazon book sales figures should make any writer pause and consider.  Even if e-books STOP GROWING today, they will still be the top format for book sales at America’s top bookseller outlet.  However, with three new Kindle models, e-books will just grow ever faster. 

How does the rise of e-books affect writers?  Soon (if not now) electronic rights will be the MOST IMPORTANT right for any book.  Any writer who gives away such rights just to get a traditional publishing contract is being foolish.  It might be a matter of pride to have a hardcover or paperback to show off to others, but the money is going to be in e-books. 

These book sales statistics also make the idea of indie publishing more attractive.  With all the turmoil in traditional publishing, a writer should consider becoming his own publisher.  I know that I am giving it serious thought.  To some, self-publishing still has the stigma of  “vanity press” associated with it, but that is quickly fading.   The future of book sales is now here and it is e-books.  It opens so many new avenues for a writer to connect with readers.

What do the new Kindle releases mean for readers?  Wow, for the reader this is an open invitation to either “try it out” or move up to a more sophisticated version.  Amazon now has two versions under $100, making them very affordable.  Why not get into e-reading now?  The reader’s “investment” is less than many spend each month on cable, video services, or high-speed internet.  As for the upscale Kindle Fire, it will open whole new media avenues and will probably take a bite out of Apple’s iPad.  Does it have as many bells and whistles as the iPad?  No, but it is also only HALF the price.  You can now buy a His and a Her Kindle Fire.

Categories
Book Climax Book Ending Writer Struggles

Saying Good Bye is Never Easy

I have been struggling for about a week on writing the chapters leading up to a book’s climax.  I have re-written one section four different ways, and each time it just did NOT work.  Each time it fails to ratchet up the suspense.  I realize that the ending is vital, but as this blog’s title suggests, “saying good-bye is never easy”.  How will I ever get this right?  Well, I have decided on the following things to help:
1. Get in closer!  When writing a book with many characters (as I am), I can get distracted by the minor characters.  Especially the interesting ones.  Yet, as I get closer to the ending, I need to hone in on the main characters, especially THE main character.
2. Create more problems!  This is the end, so I must pull out all the stops and let the problems pile onto the main characters.  Any kid will tell you that the fun is in making a big mess.
3.  Speed up the pacing!  This is not the place for deep thought or flashbacks.  Action is everything in the last chapters.  The paragraphs get shorter.  The sentences get tighter.  Make it like a runaway car speeding towards a great crash.
4. Add pressing time limits!  Make your main character sweat as time runs out.  In minutes a bomb will explode, a hostage will die, a battle will be lost, etc.

OK, it is time to tackle those last chapters again.  Saying good-bye is never easy, but I want this book to have a memorable end, so the work is worth it.  I want you to be thinking about this ending for weeks after you set the book down.