Thursday, March 03, 2011

Where Are We Going?

So I read in Publisher’s Marketplace an article about the jump in ebook sales for January… again. The numbers were staggering. Makes sense – people got their Kindles and Nooks for Christmas so January definitely might show a spike that ultimately levels out. But the reality is bookstores are closing. I know I’m responsible because I haven’t stepped inside one since I got my Kindle. And while ebooks are on a meteoric rise (which many say is because they have nowhere to go but up) it still seems the market is shrinking.

It’s crazy to say, because in so many ways I feel like a novice having only written for one publisher for all these years, but I’ve been in the publishing business now going on 15 + years. For the first time I really feel on edge.

Not that the whole thing is going to come tumbling down. I’m not a doom and gloomer. I mean when the music industry changed and all the record stores closed there were still artists coming out and making music and selling records and making money.

I kind of look at the two industries the same in that regard. Record labels are still signing artists and radio stations are still only playing selected songs they choose to promote. They are doing a filtering process for us so that not everyone who thinks they can sing (ala American Idol) can start screeching at us through the car radio. Thank goodness.

Then there is YouTube. And here anyone can put their song video up and maybe somehow it/they will catch fire. Greyson Chance comes to mind. He’s a 13 year old kid who did a cool version of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi for a middle school talent show. The next thing he’s on Ellen, signing what I’m sure is a major deal, now touring the country and performing.

People are going to succeed through traditional channels. And now, because of ebooks, people might be able to succeed through self-publishing avenues. Who knows maybe I can put a book on Amazon. If the stars align maybe someone will find it and read it and maybe some crazy fire will catch too and I’ll actually profit from my sales. I’ve never viewed this type of process as a real road to publishing success. My attitude has always been if my book is good enough – a publisher will see it and pay me money for it. If it’s not – they won’t.

But with stores closing, self-publishing growing and the market shrinking… I don’t know anymore.

I really do believe we need agents, editors and publishers. I believe in the filtering system despite how harsh it can be. Because there is a difference between a person who wants to write and a person who can write. As a reader I don’t want to have to wade through the masses to find the quality.

However, I will say that where the path seemed very clear to me before… write a book, get an agent, sell it to a publisher, get an advance, earn out royalties… now I don’t know.

I read on Dear Author – I think it was - about the concept of identifying with editors. Maybe you love every author editor Jane Doe signed. Maybe Jane Doe now contracts directly with authors and together you both sell your books. The author generates the product, the editor lends creditability to the quality of it. Everything is done electronically.

A whole new world maybe. I’ve been reading for so long that the publishing world needs to change its outdated method of returns and storage and distribution… but now it really feels like it’s finally happening and I’m not sure what it’s all going to mean.

What will be the publishing future for writers?


Karen Whiddon said...

Steph, I've been wondering this myself. For the first time, my bestselling books on Amazon have all been the Kindle version.

I put up five books that I'd gotten the rights back to from Dorchester and they have been steadily increasing in sales. But they haven't paid for the cost of the cover art yet. But they will.

I still have five old Kensington books (so old I don't have computer files on them), but I haven't put them up yet because honestly, they would need rewriting and I don't have time.

I think it's exciting. I love my Kindle. But I still buy my favorite authors in hardback. I no longer buy any paperbacks, other than cookbooks or exercise/diet/nutrition books.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I don't know steph. I'm so polly anna that I want to believe that publishers KNOW what they're doing, but it's hard to convince myself of that when they do things like limit the number of times an e-book can be checked out of a library. AND then Random House is now joining agency pricing for e-books.

And part of me beleives that the uproar of agency pricing is a totally valid uproar but made by a very few. Perhaps the majority of e-book readers don't care that the ebook is the same price as a paper copy - in which case, I think publishers are just trying to make as much money as they can before things tip the other way and publishers are forced to change thier pricing. I've heard some people on blogs etc...say they've totally boycotted traditional publishers in favor of small press who don't do these things and 'don't alienate the reader" - and that's great, totally well and good, but as long as the mjority of books I want to read are being published by traditional publishers - I'm locked in.

I don't have an e-reader and might not cave until this summer. And being with Harlequin I do beleive they're on top of this curve (though they are punishing thier AUTHORS who sell well through ebooks 0 at Harlequin we get the same percentage of royalities on ebooks as we do paper books but the ebooks are often heavily discounted and already some authors - Courtney Milan being the most eloquent and vocal - are seeing thier ebook numbers match or top thier print numbers and so they're making less.

Don't know, really. don't know how this is going to pan out...

Eileen said...

It's fascinating, if nerve-wracking, to watch. An author friend of mine is encouraging me to get some things up as e-books. She tells me she wrote an erotic novella, did very little to promote it and made $2000 off it the first month it was up. $2000 that she doesn't have to share with anyone. It's tempting.

Of course, as slow as I am, by the time I do that, the whole thing will be so darn glutted, no one will be making any money whatsoever.

Maureen McGowan said...

It is a nerve-wracking time to be sure. The editor thing is interesting... (need to go read Jane's post) In some ways, isn't that what all the imprints with the big publishers used to be? (In the literary world, anyway?) The best, most successful editors had an imprint named after him/her. Maybe that will move to commercial fiction, too. I think it's still prevalent in both literary and children's publishing, but to be honest, I don't know whether actual readers know the difference... I don't remember ever paying attention to who published a book, never mind who edited it, until I was pursuing publication myself.

But some kind of filtering system will emerge. I cannot believe that it'll be left up to luck or whoever does the most obnoxious promoting or releases a sex tape. **Maureen notes awesome promo idea** **wink**. I really don't.

I do wish I knew more about what that YA author who got 3 self-published books on the USA Today list did... Now that I'm emerging from the writing cave, I might do some investigating to find out. (And probably will buy one of the books, helping to keep her on the list for another week... Some of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy... Once a book is selling well, more people hear about it and buy out of curiosity if nothing else. But it's how to get that initial notice without the backing of a publisher that baffles me.

Eileen said...

OMG! Sex tape! What a great idea! I wonder if people would offer to buy my book to have me NOT release one. LOL.

Maureen McGowan said...

Eileen! I think we both have a great new strategy. Buy the book or we'll burn your eyes....

Eileen said...

Think of the things we could apply this to! I'm having a total Dr. Evil moment!

Maureen McGowan said...

Mwa ha ha!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Wait a minute wait a minute... you mean I can have sex and advertise????

Why did I bother with that Goodreads ad?

Sinead M said...

Great post, Stephanie. A sex tape is a great promotiomal idea, maybe some shop lifting, a little dui and then a lot of drug fueled ranting and we have the promo thing covered.

And then we can write a book about a fictional celebrity..

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