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 23, 2011

Notes from the E-Revolution

Why You Pick Books...
Thanks to everyone who shared their book picking habits! The results (in my very non-scientific assessment) are:

  1. Author Rep/Signing/Series (25%)
  2. Personal Rec/Gift/Book Clubs (20%)
  3. Cover/Blurb (11%)
  4. Blogs (11%)
  5. Friend's Book (11%)
  6. Read to Review/Research/Writing (7%)
  7. Goodreads (5%)
  8. Price/Borders Sale (4%)
  9. Publisher (4%)
  10. Book Reviews (1%)

We clearly are a bunch who like to buy our friends' books, read blogs, and review books, things the general public probably doesn't do on a regular basis. And some of us may even have a favorite publisher (I'm looking at you Bryan Russell). But even so, the majority of our picks come from author rep and personal recommendation, just like Kathryn Rusch found for the general public.

I guess authors are normal people after all. :)

Christmas is Right Around the Corner...
The big question this fall is not so much how books will be picked (I think that Word of Mouth and Author Rep will still be King for a long time), but what format readers will choose? Will this Christmas be a replay of last year, where there was a fundamental shift toward more e-readers in more hands (kids as well as adults)? Or will the e-book surge flatten out and hold steady? The traditional pub and self-pub industries alike are watching with anticipation.

 No one is predicting the demise of e-books as a force to be reckoned with.

Scholastic is betting on more e-readers for kids with plans to unveil a new app for kids. Meanwhile iPad is already ahead of the game with multi-lingual apps for kids books, where you can read "The Three Pandas" (i.e. Goldilocks) in English and Chinese, bringing a multi-cultural (as well as multi-lingual) experience to kids. How do you say, very cool in French? Tres chic, iPad.

I picture a future world (10 years hence) where kids are sitting in a class during silent reading time, sharing a dozen iPads and reading in a dozen different languages - not necessarily their native language, either. Exposing kids to different cultures and languages is a fantastic way to broaden their minds and help them become ready learners in a global society.

And Self-Published Authors are Getting Ready ...
The amazing potential growth of e-readers, added to the increasing ease of digital and print publishing, continues to make self-publishing the biggest news of the day. More and more authors are saying the stigma is waning and being a self-pub author is the new trendy cool thing. Judging by the number of definitely cool authors I know hopping on the self-pub trend (or at least seriously considering it), I think there may be something to that. And self-publishing is definitely still "new," meaning that the E-Revolution is far from over. Already I see friends dusting off their editing credentials and graphic design experience and hanging out a shingle to serve authors making a foray into self-publishing - this is an industry that's just starting to reveal itself.

There are some (agents) that say self-publishing is the new query, but I think this is slightly wide of the mark. I get the analogy: self-publishing your novel and demonstrating that it has a market means that agents and editors may come knocking on your door (rather than the other way around). And traditional publishers still have the print market cornered, so if being on the B&N (real life) shelves is your goal, getting your book traditionally published is the way to go. But trying to make the new paradigm of self-publishing fit into the old paradigm of traditional publishing misses the key point that things have changed. I believe that authors who self-pub are taking an ownership over their careers and their creative work in a way that was not previously a viable career option.

And now it is.

So here is where you get to predict the future! Do you think e-book sales will surge in the Christmas season ahead, or do you think we've reached an equilibrium or saturation point in the e-book market?

My crystal ball is broken, so I'll rely on the collective wisdom of my erudite commenters.

Happy Weekend!


  1. I'm considering buying kindles or nooks for my children's Christmas. I imagine there may be a rise in sales this year. Should be an interesting season.

  2. No I don't think we've reached a saturation point for ebooks or ereaders. Konrath posted about the "glut" of books and he thinks it's nonsense. (He usually thinks things are nonsense). His post is titled the Pie. There will always be a need for great books.

    I think the future depends on what publishers do. Will they lower the price of their ebooks, making it harder for self publishers to compete? I don't know.

  3. I am surprised that book reviews play such a little role in our book choice!

  4. @Joanna I thought that was interesting too! As much as reviews are touted as important, they don't seem to really hold sway in most people's purchasing choices. Maybe it's a "critical mass" kind of thing, where you need to have a creditable number of reviews to seem "valid" and unless their overwhelmingly negative, most people don't bother with them?

  5. If things flatten out this year, I will be shocked. I'm fairly certain this is just the beginning.

  6. I'm excited to see what this Christmas brings, and not just because I have a Christmas book on the market.

    The changes to the publishing landscape are exciting. The greater adoption of new technologies, changes in the ways consumers find books, changes in the ways new authors can publish and promote their's all moving forward at a nice pace. I agree with Adam, this is just the beginning.

    I think ultimately there are great opportunities in both the traditional and self-publishing domains. If self-publishing continues to gain acceptance from consumers, then the traditional publishers will need to be more competitive in the services and rates they offer to the authors they sign. The end of traditional publishers' dominance in the marketplace via new competition would be a good thing.

  7. I'm thinking there will be a rise in sales as more and more people start drifting towards e-readers (the demise of Borders, I think, could possibly hasten this).

    I'm guessing as much because as a print-lover (I even collect print books), I am for the first time starting to see an e-reader as a definite possibility in my future. And if I'm finally adjusting to the idea, I can't imagine I'm the only one.

    In the end, of course, time will only tell. Regardless, it should be an interesting holiday season indeed!

  8. @Ava I know what you mean! When my father-in-law refused to let me buy him an e-reader last Christmas, yet went out an bought one for himself this summer (because a friend had one, among other things), I knew something was seriously afoot.

  9. My 14-year-old has been begging for an e-reader for Christmas. He swears it's ALL he wants and he'll be happy even if it's the ONLY present he gets. :-)

  10. Thanks for the sweet note - Ill keep up with you too as new follower ;)

  11. It's an exciting time. I have some friends who are really counting on holiday e-reader sales, so I hope it works out as they expect!

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  13. I plan to buy more physical books, as I haven't got through very many of the ebooks I currently have.

    I think the ebook buying will flatten out soon, adjusting slightly for the new owners of e-readers. I prefer to give tangible gifts.

    What is next to my desk? Three physical books on the floor, and two in the minishelf next to my laptop.

    One thing is certain -- I'll support the writers, I always do.

  14. E-publishing appears to still be on the upswing. I wonder if it would be possible to do a review of the internet's impact on music to see if the e-revolution is following along the same path of change.

  15. @DG I love the support of the writer community! #awesome

  16. I'm still in the dark ages. I don't have a Kindle, iPad, or cell phone. I'm interested to see how the holidays play out, too. Interesting post. :)

  17. Oh yes, I see another holiday surge. Amazon is coming out with a color version, and schools are starting to encourage the reading devices for kids. Unless the economy tanks.

  18. @Kelly Color Kindle? Cool. I wonder what they'll call it. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Hi Susan .. as a present I'd rather give a book - something for someone to open, read a few paras or words, look at the back and see the blurb - show some interest .. if I give them an e-book .. that's it = end of story. Rather like a gift voucher - except perhaps those are better - if you know someone wants something specific.

    I like the idea of the POD Expresso Printer per Helen's post here ..

    I really don't know - but I can't see print books being out of fashion for ages .. but I do see the rise of ebooks in all formats.

    Cheers Hilary

  20. @Hilary I keep waiting for the Espresso to show up at my local B&N! Or somewhere else with tea while I wait for my POD book. Maybe in a couple years...

  21. Without a doubt there will be an explosion of kids with new ebooks this Christmas. Have you been to a Barnes and Noble lately? They've got sections with little tables and chairs so the wee ones can test the Nooks. I went a B&N in Dallas and the little table? It was crowded. And there were two moms at the big kid section trying to decide which ereader to buy for their children. The question for indie authors is How to break through the noise of all the other ebooks for sale???

  22. I think at some point ereader sales will flatten. As soon as some other exciting gadget comes along.

    I don't think buying an ereader would make me more likely to buy self-published books. With the lower price point, others may feel differently.

  23. I think ebooks sales will continue to rise, but honestly, I think something bigger is around the corner. I have no idea what it is, but I'm waiting for it. Holographic images of authors reading their own work in your living room? I'm just kidding, but how cool would that be?

  24. @Kelly I know, right? It almost seems like anything is possible. :)


Erudite comments from thoughtful readers