Authors

Go Read This | Author Ray Connolly explains why he is publishing his latest novel chapter by chapter, online | Books | The Guardian

Authors Will Drive Change I wrote in 2006 and today I read this in the Guardian:

with the news that Amazon now sells almost twice as many digital books as hardbacks in the US, it’s clear that publishing is changing. And if publishers can sell their books online, why can’t writers?

Actually, they can. It isn’t difficult. Anyone who is computer savvy can become a publisher these days. I know, because I’ve just become one.

I’m now Ray Connolly, writer, editor-in-chief and head of marketing of Plumray Books, and any one of the 2 billion computer-owning people in the world who wants to read my new novel, The Sandman, can do so at the click of a mouse. It’s being serialised chapter by chapter on my website where, over the next 10 weeks, it will build like a part-work. In the words of a friend, I’m “doing a Dickens”.

via Author Ray Connolly explains why he is publishing his latest novel chapter by chapter, online | Books | The Guardian.

Authors Really Are Driving Change

In 2006 when I was only starting to think clearly about digital change (and had only been writing a blog for some 4 months) I wrote a post called Authors Will Drive Change, it was part of a short series of articles on what was changing the publishing industry.

The point is that publishing is no longer just about books and even more it is no longer about waiting for a publisher to decide your work is good enough for print. Options abound and as more and more writers realise that they will take advantage of it.

E-books will push this change even more. There is no reason why authors’ royalties should be the same on e-books as they are for paper books and in many ways there is no reason why the authors cannot sell e-books themselves rather than through a publisher. Why should you sell a paper publisher your digital rights when there is no need?

What I didn’t address back then and what has become clearer now, is how established authors will also drive change and in doing so, make a much bigger impact.

The most recent example of this is JA Konrath who writes The Newbies Guide To Publishing blog. He has been posting for some time now about his rather impressive success in selling books via Amazon’s Kindle device:

In short, this market is perfect for a one-person operation.

I’d certainly entertain an offer from a large publisher, if they wanted to buy rights for one of my books. But I’m not going to go out looking for the opportunity. Especially since I’ll make more money in the long run if I keep my rights.

I could even make more money in the short run.

According to my recent royalty statement, my horror novel AFRAID sold about 54,000 copies in all formats, earning me around $27k.

If I released a Jack Kilborn ebook on my own, and it sold like my current ebooks are selling, I’d make $20k in a year.

It’s doubtful I’ll make $17K next year on AFRAID, since it’s no longer getting coop on bookstore shelves. But I’m sure I’d make $20k, or more, on a self-pubbed ebook.

So in two years I can make more money on my own on a self-pubbed ebook than a book released by a major publisher in hardcover, trade paper, paperback, and ebook formats, supported by a tour and advertising.

Unless it’s a big offer, I can’t imagine selling rights to my work ever again…

And There Is More
The IDPF released the figures for February ebook sales. They are pretty stunning. I’ve written elsewhere about my skepticism regarding ebooks and the industry’s obsession with price and a single format, but when one sees figures like this, it is almost understandable that they get excited and distracted by them.

Mike Shatzkin writes about what this seemingly rapid shift towards digital means for the print side of the business and it is an interesting perspective:

If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases if we count the print book sales made through online retailers (mostly Amazon.)

Online print sales can be served through inventory generated on demand. So, if these estimates are right, we are less than three years away from a publisher (or author) being able to reach half the market for a book without inventory risk!

Having half the market reachable without print-run risk or inventory storage; having half the customers connecting with their reading through online paths that make them at least theoretically identifiable; and having a quarter of those customers reading through a medium that enables interactivity will make all the changes we’ve seen so far in trade publishing appear trivial. And if the very perspicacious Carolyn Reidy, her unnamed counterpart, and I are right, that disruption is going to take place before many books now under contract reach their publication date.

Personally I caution about moving from current trends towards future results. I’m unsure if the sales will continue at their current level never mind continue to explode in such an impressive fashion. However, even if we allow that Mike and the trends are half right and we see say 33% or 40% of the market reachable via no-risk required methods by 2012, then the savvy authors like JA Konrath will see little reason to work with a publisher at all. Why, if they don’t require the finance that is one of a publishers strongest assets, would they?

This is not to say that publishers don’t offer more than finance, they do and in abundance, but for some authors, the skillset that publishers offer is affordable and at a more reasonable cut than they currently allow publishers to keep.

In my view, as the market becomes more digitally biased, the greater the risk that lead and mid-list authors see first the advantage of retaining their own digital rights, then later the advantage of retaining all rights and exploiting them for themselves.

The future, for all that it offers great promise to authors and thus they WILL drive change, may not offer such great promise for publishers and certainly not as they currently exist.

Much to get done today!
Eoin

Transworld Running A Literature Festival

The Bookseller reports today (19/02/2009) that Transworld will run a book festival featuring star authors:

LitFest 10 will be held in libraries across Hertfordshire from 25th March to 27th April. The event is being run by Transworld and Random House Children’s Books and will be promoted in independents such as Maher Books and Books@Hoddesdon, as well as local Waterstone’s branches.
As well as Child and Harris, other authors will include Channel 4 “TV Book Club” pick Belinda Bauer, John O’Farrell, teen authors Bali Rai and Anthony McGowan and S J Bolton.

This is a very interesting move and really highlights what a well positioned publisher can do to enable connections with readers outside of any social or online media. Why wait around for Hay or any other festival to invite your authors when you can rally a fine crop of excellent crowd pleasing writers yourself? The link up with independents is also a clever strategy.

I’m impressed and I hope it comes off for them. I’d expect to see more of this as publishers seek more effective ways to create audience engagement and to build lists and contacts.
Eoin

Go Tell Declan To SELF-PUB His Book

Declan Burke has asked for reader feedback on whether he should self-publish his book:

The basic idea is that I set up a project with a total amount that needs to be raised (€2,570). I let people know where and how they can pledge their €7, and hopefully 367 people buy into the idea. If the amount is raised within a specific time period (three months, say), then your pledge is accepted and transferred to my bank account, and shortly afterwards you receive your copy of A GONZO NOIR; if the total amount isn’t reached in a specified period, all pledges are cancelled and it costs nobody anything, except possibly yours truly’s pride. For more information on the Kickstarter project, clickety-click here.
So there you have it. Any takers?

I’ve read Declan for some time now and love his style and think he has been unfortunate not to a much bigger star. Please go tell him to try this out and when he does, please pledge him some cash!

Eoin

My 2009 Publishing Heroes

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Everyone is off writing prediction posts for 2010 (follow them on George’s wonderful tracker), I thought I might take a brief minute or two to consider the heroes of 2009. At least my heroes. I tried to keep it to a small list (5) and I chose them for personal reasons, they may grate with some (and yes I kinda broke my own limit with one of them).

Dominique Raccah – The Innovator
When I saw Dominique speak at TOC Frankfurt I was blown away. She was the breath of fresh air that I had been waiting for in the industry, she is passionate, articulate and insanely clever. She grasped the challenge of publishing in the present age brilliantly and has responded in kind. Her discussion of the publishing continuum has revolutionised my thinking on digital offerings and content and her passion for her company and its future is manifest and heartening. She is at the core of the discussion about how to respond to the challenge of digital content from the publishers perspective and I think she has the answers. She is a hero for 2010, and I suspect for many years to come too.

Mike Cane – The Writer’s Advocate and Alarm Bell
Cane provides solid analysis (caked as it can sometimes be in vitriolic hyperbole). His vision is not even remotely tainted by the fact that it comes solidly from a writers perspective, in fact in many ways that is his strength. Too much for some, he is never shy with his opinion but willing to respond when challenged and corrected.

The Quartet – The Try-ers
They briefly excited the online e-vangelist echo chamber with their hopes and ambitions for a digital only press. They failed. Trying something big and scary and failing publicly can be disheartening, dispiriting and depressing. But the Quartet have dusted themselves off and moved on with a speed and alacrity that is impressive.

James Bridle – The Inventor
James continues to amaze with the work he produces and the ideas he brings to fruition. I heartily recommend following him if only for the sense of wonder you have when you read about his latest project or the awe you feel when looking at the pictures he produces of them.

Jose Afonso Furtado – The Source
A seeming unstinting dedication to reading and linking out to the best stories online in the media, publishing and book sphere, is Jose’ great strength. If you follow his twitter deed you will be connected and in the loop on just about all the trends you might need to monitor.

It’s not a long list, but I think it’s a good one!
Eoin

Robin Sloan’s book has arrived

a strange packet

Click to see the full set

I got a strange package in the post today (which is always fun).

It turned out to be the package containing Robin Sloan’s new book, Annabel Scheme, which I along with several hundred others contributed towards bringing about.

I’m very excited about this, looking forward to the read!
Eoin

Nintendo DSi & FLIPS: A Review

Just before Christmas this year (2009), I was sent a Nintendo DSi and three FLIPS digital books free of charge and no strings attached (well with a view to reviewing them string attached) by O’Leary PR.

First, a word on reviews and sending me products. I’m not normally into that kind of thing. After all, I’m not here for freebies and they really won’t sway my opinion one way or the other. O’Leary responded to a post I wrote about the impact of digital change on Children’s books and the product they sent was very appropriate to my work so I felt it was a good deal on both sides. In other words, it was a rare event and one I’d suggest is unlikely to occur too often.

To business
The DSi is a very pretty piece of engineering and computing. It reminds me almost immediately of my old GameBoy and that can’t be a bad thing, after all that was glued to my hand for about two straight years. But when you start playing with it you realise that a GameBoy doesn’t even come close. It’s not just that the DSi has a camera, wi-fi connectivity, two screens and notably colour (which I never even imagined was a possibility) but it’s also the touch screen interface (admittedly with a stylus which seems very early noughties now) the screen shifting capability and the download-able content that make this a special piece of kit. it won’t ever replace my wonderful iPod touch but I did find myself thinking that for certain purposes, especially complex games like Settlers and Civilization, the DSi would have lots of advantages over the touch.

The meat
Electronic Arts announced its first FLIPS products in October 2008. They went on sale in December. So what are they? Essentially digital book packages.

I spent most of my time using the Artemis Fowl FLIPS, if only because that was the one that appealed most to me and not because the author, Eoin Colfer, is Irish. You get quite a lot for the money you pay. At a retail price of just £24.99 you get 7 books and a bundle of extras. The best thing about the FLIPS is that they are not just books made to work on a device, the books have embedded features like links to information that might be useful or helpful to a new reader, collectible pieces of code that build into a readable text as well as illustrations displayed on a double screen in what seemed to me a most book-like manner.

I’ve enjoyed reading on the DSi, the page turning is much easier to deal with than some e-reading devices, the refresh is quicker and the enhancements bring a new dimension to the experience. I also like the reward structure, that might just encourage some reluctant readers to engage, but then again, given the choice of a game over a book package, I suspect most people will skip the book and buy the game.

One thing I really like about the FLIP though is the fact that it is a bundle of books. I can see this being an attractive way to package books for children and adults. But there again that leads me to my problems with the product which are twofold.

The Problems
Firstly that in some ways, FLIPS just highlights the core challenge of books and reading in a digital connected world, as the possible uses of free time explode the danger for books is that time that might be spent reading can as easily be spent, surfing the web, playing games, watching video, listening to streamed music or doing any of the variety of digitally enabled forms of entertainment what ever handheld device you happen to be carrying allows.

Secondly that the FLIPS feels all the time like a tame version of the web. Why bother with these little cartridges is what I wonder, enable the text on a website with the links embedded, make the enhancements available online too and charge for access to the bundle, update it when new books are released and cross sell products if you want but crucially make it available to anyone willing to pay on any device anywhere that’s connected to the web.

Who wins when book publishers package books like this? Device makers I reckon.

Enjoying the last day of 2009!
Eoin