Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Notes from the E-Revolution


The E-Revolution continues to bring dramatic changes. Ideas are coming fast and furious about ways that e-books will reach and change the children's book market. Nook has introduced the free Nook Study for e-textbooks and touts e-textbooks as a way to save money. Reading on cell-phones may be the cure for the digital divide, and people can now highlight passages on their Kindles to share with other readers.

But the real changes are within the industry itself. Buckle up, here we go ...

The New Deal
With John Locke negotiating a print-only deal with a traditional publisher (because his e-rights were too valuable to bargain away), another seismic shift is rippling through the industry and knocking over some chairs. Many people (like the great Nate B.) are taking a good, hard look at what traditional publishers bring to the table (small and large, as the choice is quickly becoming publisher vs. self-publish with the dramatic surge in e-books sales happening last Christmas). As Nathan rightly points out, there's a slew of services that publishers provide: editing, copyediting, design, printing and distribution, publicity and marketing, advances and cachet. But self-publishers point out many of those services can be purchased for a one-time fee, and with a digital distribution available to all and authors expected to do most of their own publicity and marketing regardless of how they publish, that leaves advances, cachet, and print distribution. The John Locke deal shows that, for established writers, traditional publishers are still at an advantage in print distribution (he's certainly not doing it for the advance or cachet).

What does this mean?

Maybe that e-book royalties will soon change? Maybe the traditional publishing contract will become more a la carte? Advances are already dwindling and the cachet of self-publishing is on the rise, with more quality authors choosing that route (and then there's the whole Pottermore phenomenon).

Are publishers on a one way ticket ride to extinction? I don't think so. But there could well be a major shift in the way publishers operate. Times of change mean some things will fall away and others will take their place. While I feel for anyone caught in the squeeze, overall I think change is good, as we are forced to innovate and be creative.

Taking Out the Middleman
Every industry that digitalization has touched has reduced the middleman, bringing producer and consumers closer together. I think further conversion to e-book platforms will accelerate the direct connection between writers and readers. Publishers have for a while advocated that writers connect directly with readers (hence the emphasis on social media and building your tribe). With the rise of self-publishing, even more of the layers between the writer producing literature and the reader consuming it are falling away.

Amazon has launched a new feature called @author, which directly connects writers and readers: 
Readers can ask questions directly from their Kindles, or post them to Amazon Author Pages. Anyone who has purchased items from Amazon.com can reply to an existing question or ask a new one, and all visitors to Amazon.com can read any current question or response.
I think this is a fascinating leap forward and can't wait to check it out when Amazon releases it from beta-testing (you can try it now with select authors). (Also: more here via Nathan Bransford.)

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the crazy changes going on, and to be fearful of the future - either what it will bring, or that you will make a wrong "choice" in trying to navigate it. The best advice I've heard recently about this came from Jane Friedman: "Just have fun with it. Be creative. Because you can't be afraid of making a mistake, since no one knows what the right answer is anymore."

Now that's a philosophy I can get behind!


p.s. no post Monday, as I will be sipping a tall glass of iced tea and enjoying the last of summer.

33 comments:

  1. Wow! This is an incredibly interesting post... I don't keep up on this topic nearly as much as I should.

    Very cool :)

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  2. With John Locke's success of being among the "self-pubbed firsts", one of his firsts being that he sold over a million e-books, well, I'm guessing he and his agent felt it could work in his best interest to keep his e-rights where they were. But it was probably more possible since he already had his stakes so deep in the e-book grounds. It would be interesting to see if a less known author could pull the same kind of deal.

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  3. I'm still considering the self-pubbed route; but self promotion is so not my strong point.

    I'd be willing to hire out that person :)

    ........dhole

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  4. I think it will be interesting to see what happens. I think it's wonderful that writers have options. :)

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  5. @monkey I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by! :)

    @anglea I think you’re right – successful authors with a track record can always negotiate better deals than debut authors. But in the past, even successful authors routinely gave up their e-rights to secure print right distribution (because that was the order of things). Now, Locke is showing that someone successful doesn’t have to do that (or would want to). It’s precedent setting and I think agents everywhere (not to mention self-pubbed authors) are sitting up and taking notice. Everything is still shaking out, so it will take some time to see how things change. Thanks for the great comment!

    @Donna You are far from alone in not wanting to do self-promotion; unfortunately, I think it's quickly becoming part of what every author is expected to do. Even if you hire it out! :)

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  6. Your posts are always so insightful!

    The industry is changing so fast it's hard to keep up. It will be interesting to see what changes the rise in e-books bring to publishing contracts and to those who self-publish.

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  7. It's such an exciting time to be in publishing. It will be interesting to see how things shake out!

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  8. I hadn't heard about @author. Need to check that out.
    Big publishers still have the money and connections, but as you state, writer's can purchase all else. And since big publishers held the key to the coveted bookstore, and those are disappearing fast, it does level the playing field.

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  9. I think it'll be fascinating to see all the ancillary businesses that develop around this emerging market. As an editor myself, that's exciting. As an author, it's exciting.

    Interesting times! :o)

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  10. Soon the readers will be writing the book for the author through direct mind-meld. There will be lots of lolzcatz in every book.

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  11. Great post, Susan! I love that last quote because it's so true. Be creative and have fun, for sure. I'd have to add to always be professional, though. For me, that is key. I know my publisher is certainly keeping on top of things. They are constantly shifting and changing to different things that work for them and the fickle market. I think because of this they'll definitely keep growing instead of sinking to the bottom.

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  12. I so loved this post, especially the Friedman quote.

    I am totally excited about what's happening in this industry, and I think it's turned the tables so that writers and readers have much more control over what they publish and what they read.

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  13. Being knee-deep in self-publishing my first book, I can tell you it is a whole-heckuva-lot-of-work! I've spent the better part of every waking moment for the last two weeks, doing nothing but online promotion--mostly focused on getting readers/reviewers. I've given away a boat-load of free copies (want one, let me know). I even stopped in to a local indie bookstore (the owner's reading the book to see if she wants to carry it... it is cool IMO that she vets the books she carries).

    But from what I've gathered, this really wouldn't change much if I had a traditional publishing contract. There's not much they do for you from a marketing standpoint anymore.

    I'm excited for the e-revolution. It remains to be seen if I can actually sell any books though.

    On a side note, Susan, I really think you ought to consider doing it. (Ok, quit considering it, and do it.) You've already shown you are better at marketing than I am... look at how many comments you have on your blog. I'd be more than happy to help you get started.

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  14. This is one of the most thorough posts I've read about these issues, Susan. Being a writer or publisher in this current flux is definitely a fearful, yet exciting, endeavor. I am bookmarking this post!

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  15. Great post... I like Jane Friedman's focus on content.

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  16. I like that philosophy, too. I love these posts. They are always so informative, Susan. Glad to be in the same MG/YA Campaign group with you.

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  17. @Cherie Thank you! I figure if I'm wondering what's going on, other people probably are too. :)

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  18. @SusanO Thanks! I'm glad they're helpful to you! And so cool to see you in the campaign! :)

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  19. Good post! E-publishing is something every writer has to think seriously about these days.

    I'm a fellow campaigner.

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  20. Great post Susan. There really is a lot to think about and I do find it pretty overwhelming. Once I get to that point in the journey I'm going to have to do a lot of reading!

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  21. @Meredith Hello fellow campaigner! Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  22. Came here from twitter. Your bio had me, and then I read what you said and love it. Had to follow you. With all my scientific BS, I write SF/fantasy for teens. One agent rejected me without reading because my book was too long for middle grade - and the book was shorter than the first Harry Potter. I hope the e-book revolution changes that. After reading this, I'm sad to say the best my blog offers is chocolate, but its free. http://sherahart.blogspot.com
    Well, I'm new to it. I figured everyone likes chocolate.

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  23. Lovely to meet you! Fellow campaigner here :) Looking forward to getting to know you over the next weeks. Enjoy your Monday!

    Marie

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  24. Ah, enjoying the last of summer - I'm right this minute sitting out on my deck in gorgeous weather. Boy am I ever going to be sad when it ends!

    What a fantastic article! I was totally absorbed in it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting! I'm so happy to meet you! It's so great that we're fellow campaigners.

    And thank you so much for your kind words about my daughter's artwork on my blog - it meant so much to me and to her! She laughed when she read your comment about voting twice - and you complimented her in such a wonderful way that I know she deeply appreciated it - she really needed that!

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  25. great post, as usual. It gives you a lot to think about. I've really just started submitting some of my stories...I'm hoping to be able to snag an editor and go the traditional route. But who knows?

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  26. Great post. I'm so conflicted about this. I just can't decide which route to take. With 4 novels complete I'm thinking of trying my hand at both.

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  27. @Bridget I think a LOT of authors are experimenting with both. (see this post)

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  28. It's fascinating to watch the way the industry is reshaping with the e-factor. I'm standing back and seeing how the landscape changes, which is showing great restraint for me. Yes, I still own a laser disk player.

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  29. @Leslie I waited so long, I missed the laser disc entirely. :) But in this case, I'm motivated to (at least try to) stay on top of things!

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  30. That feature that Amazon is testing sounds very cool! I love that there are even more ways to connect authors with readers. it think that's huge - especially for kids.

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  31. It all sounds quite mind boggling and I would have to get my hubby to look over any paperwork/small print for me as he's better at contracts and stuff than I am. :O)

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  32. @Madeleine I can read contracts just fine and I STILL have my husband look over stuff, just because it's always good to have someone you trust have your back! :) Thanks for stopping by!!

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  33. I just love reading about all these changes--to me, it's sort of the best and worst of times in publishing. Still don't know what all it will mean for me on the brink of publishing, but it's exciting any way you look at it. Thanks for an informative post--oh, my it will take me the rest of the day to hit all the links! :)

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers