For Small Authors, eBooks Are Much Better Than Being Printed On Pulp

from the new-models dept

Hephaestus writes "This is a different perspective on the e-books as the killer of the book publishing industry. It's a take from the small author perspective."

As the eBook experience improves, especially with the increased adoption of the Kindle and iPad, authors now have the same opportunity that exists now for musicians to exploit new opportunities. Like the music world, most writers also don't expect to make a great living from writing, so for them, exposure to readers is more valuable than revenue:
If you give a writer a choice between $10,000 and 10,000 readers, the writer will always choose the latter.
After all, having 10,000 readers is a fantastic connection with which to work -- at that point, all an author would have to do to make money would be to give the readers a reason to buy. For writers, there's already a fantastic finite good that they can sell, the printed book. While this may seem counter-intuitive, we've seen this model work before: after a publisher gave away digital copies of a book for free, they saw their physical book sales increase 20x. So, like the musicians who embrace the opportunities that the new economy offers, writers have a similar entrepreneurial opportunity.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 9:20pm

    Their sales would increase so much more if they'd just print the paperback at the same time as well... I refuse to buy a 28dollar book that feels inconvenient to read to boot. Being that there are so many books out there its a miracle that i even remember the title i wanted when it Finally does come out in paperback. That said even if the ebook was free, id buy the deadtree version cause i like taking something with me for a distraction and doesnt require batteries when i want to read.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 10:02pm

    It sounds good on paper, bad in practice. There isn't any way to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. Some self published authors aren't published because they are legitimately bad authors, I'd even go so far to say that its he majority out there. Others aren't published because while the books are very good, they exist in some weird area that isn't bankable for a large scale publishing house. There is no filtering method to tell one from the other without buying the book. It doesn't really exist yet.

    When dealing with self published musicians, it isn't a very large investment in money or time. 3-4 minutes to listen to their song, and the cost is usually free or very close to it. Books, not so much. You normally get a single sample chapter, and while that sample will immediately allow you to toss out the authors that have no grounding with the english language, it doesn't help you rule out the authors who write very pretty but can't craft a coherent story. To find that out you have to buy the book at full price, which is a significant investment in time & money.

    Publishers, as much as I hate them, serve as a gate keeper on minimum standards. Sure, there are going to be some stinkers, but the signal to noise ratio is much higher.

    While we are at it, can we do something about the price of ebooks? Average ebook is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6 bucks. Average amount I spend on a paperback? Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6 bucks, once you add in membership discounts and coupons I'm constantly being emailed. Its actually, on average, about 30 cents cheaper per book for me to buy paperbacks. I know this because I spend so much on books per month, that it has its own nice little section in my accounting software.

     

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  3.  
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    haiku, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 11:08pm

    Dragon Keeper: Robin Hobb tries the Free Book Route Again

    Quotations courtesy the Kindle Review ...

    Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb is free and releases April 27th. It also comes with some bonus material.

    Robin Hobb had found a lot of success by releasing the first book in her Assassin series, Assassin’s Apprentice, for free last year. The remaining two books in the series sold very well – as did other books by her that were somewhat linked, the Fool Series and the Magic Ship series. Since Dragon Keeper is Volume 1 of The Rain Wilds Chronicles it seems she’s trying the strategy again.

     

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  4.  
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    AG Wright (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 3:31am

    Or take a look at the Baen books site

    It's mostly science fiction and fantasy but they have a huge and ever changing library of freely down loadable books.

     

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  5.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 4:08am

    Re:

    So you're saying that even if these unpublished authors release digital versions, it wouldn't help them pick up steam, because the majority are bad authors?
    What, are you high or something?

    Yes indeed, it takes just 3 or 4 minutes to know if a music track is good or bad, but it takes an hour or 2 to see if a movie is bad, and yet, even unlabeled moviemakers are gaining traction.

    You need to see the advertisement side of free ebooks/music/films.

    Publishers, as much as I hate them, serve as a gate keeper on minimum standards
    I'm sure there are lots of examples, where publishers turned a later bestseller down, because they didn't recognize the marketability/quality of the book.

    After all what you think is an awful book, might be something that I enjoy.

    I agree, however on the pricing scheme of ebooks. An ebook has less value (because I can't resell it) for me as consumer, so it makes no sense to me to buy an ebook at the same price as the paperback.

     

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  6.  
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    www.eZee.se (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:21am

    Worked for me...

    Although I can give you _many_ personal examples, heres a quick one, I pirated an ebook: Learn Essential C# 3.0....
    the book IS fantastic, and I then later purchased it.

    Keep in mind "learning books" are usually more expensive than fiction books, but no regrets it is well worth it, and would I have bought it before I read it... thats a biggg maybe.

    If the publishers start thinking like the music industry, its really coming to bite them in the ass.

    (Not that it effects people like me in any possible way, there are plenty of neighbors with open wifi or weak WEP and I have a VPN is well)
    /iPirate

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    Re: Re:

    "I'm sure there are lots of examples, where publishers turned a later bestseller down, because they didn't recognize the marketability/quality of the book."

    I can tell you a wonderful story about that that I've read elsewhere. A young writer with a background in law decided to write a piece of fiction and tried to sell it to a publisher. He was denied something like 14 times before a publisher finally agreed to a relatively small advance and book deal.

    That author's name was John Grisham, and the book was The Firm....

     

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  8.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re:

    "So you're saying that even if these unpublished authors release digital versions, it wouldn't help them pick up steam, because the majority are bad authors?"

    There is a bell curve that describes the music being composed, recorded, and distributed. It has a very small number of good artists on one side of the bell curve getting progressively worse as you go to the other side of the bell curve, think Christina Aguleras voice -vs- Yoko Ono.

    Statistically with books you have the same thing. With out a publishing house to find the gems for you are seeing all the books people have written. Every thing is being distributed, good, average, and gouge your own eyes out horrible. With the internet the number of written works under the bell curve has grown and continues to grow. Percentage wise the ratio of good books to bad books will remain roughly the same.

    You stated "I'm sure there are lots of examples, where publishers turned a later bestseller down, because they didn't recognize the marketability/quality of the book." This is due to the publishing houses being motivated by profit more than not knowing a great piece of writing. If you are limited to printing 10 million books a year. Publishing 10 books from best selling authors that sell 1 million copies is a more viable option financially than publishing 1000 books from unkown authors that sell 10,000 copies each.

    Welcome to the new world of publishing where the number of books written and distributed will continue to grow at an uncontrolled rate. Where great authors will have to compete for attention with the seething masses of people who think they can write.

     

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  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Where great authors will have to compete for attention with the seething masses of people who think they can write."

    Some of us are still trying to figure out which we are ;)

     

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  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You are somewhere between Douglas Adams and Neil Stephenson.

     

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  11.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    DH - what do you think of this as a rework of the last line?

    Where great authors will have to compete for attention with the seething masses of crayon equiped children who are delusional and believe they can compose anything but cliched prose.

     

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  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I like to limit my word countwhen possible :)

    Where great authors will have to compete for attention with the seething masses of delusional crayon-equiped children that think they can compose something besides cliched prose.

    See? Three less words! Woohoo!

     

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  13.  
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    Russ (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Common business Model

    Music, movies and publishing: all the content industries have a common business model based on the blockbuster. Find that home run property that moves the units which pays for all else. If the home runs stop coming, the business model fails. Eventually they have become so reliant on the blockbuster that any other model is unthinkable. To return to their roots is not a business plan that can sold Sure there are lots of companies that succeed with lower margins and volumes, but they aren't the ones that can afford the lobbyists. They aren't the ones that can provide the high rewards to investors or executives.

     

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  14.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Where great authors will have to compete for attention with the seething masses of delusional crayon-WIELDING children that think they can compose something besides cliched prose.

    realized "wielding" works better than "equiped" ... It sounds like they are crazily waving an excessively large crayon. Creating jagged letters and misshapen words meant to impress while they physically beat the words into the page.

    God that is horrible writting, but I like it as a mental image ... ;)

     

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  15.  
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    CRAIG ALLAN TEICH, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Build an Audience, Then You Build a Career

    I think you are 1000% correct. So much so that I made the same connection of musicians and iTunes to what authors can now do with iBooks in the opening paragraph of my soon to be released (in ebook format) book "iBook Millions."

    And your accompanying observation that authors should look towards building an audience above all other things is spot on. If you build a loyal readership of only a thousand fans, you can build that into a huge and financially prosperous career.

    The playing field is wide open; the walls of old-world publishing houses have been leveled.

    Write on!

    -- @CraigTeich

     

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  16.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Build an Audience, Then You Build a Career

    Is that sarcasm or spam??

     

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  17.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: Build an Audience, Then You Build a Career

    "Is that sarcasm or spam??"

    SPAMCASM! Dig it!

     

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  18.  
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    CRAIG ALLAN TEICH, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re: Build an Audience, Then You Build a Career

    Ok, you made me laugh. In re-reading my comment, I guess you could have thought it was spam, sarcasm, or a combination, as the guy below said.

    But actually, it's neither. I do very much agree with the ideas in this post, and as an author who hates gatekeepers, like those you find in the publishing world, I'm excited about how the iPad and the iBookstore will give greater access and power to the people who deserve it: the creators of the content.

    Cheers.

     

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  19.  
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    Profit Consultant (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:32pm

    True but it has been like that for at least 8 years

    While I agree with you and have to agree with Craig of course. :) This is not new.

    There have been a rather large underground group of Authors that have sold eBook only books and laughed at the money that even best selling authors make. I have met at least three dozen that make over $250,000 per year, and several that make over $1 million online.

    Now that market will become available to the less tech savy, less marketing inclined authors out there. This is a good thing.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Anderson

     

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  20.  
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    Profit Consultant (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

    True but it has been like that for at least 8 years

    While I agree with you and have to agree with Craig of course. :) This is not new.

    There have been a rather large underground group of Authors that have sold eBook only books and laughed at the money that even best selling authors make. I have met at least three dozen that make over $250,000 per year, and several that make over $1 million online.

    Now that market will become available to the less tech savy, less marketing inclined authors out there. This is a good thing.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Anderson

     

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  21.  
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    Jason Matthews, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    make and sell ebooks for free

    I agree, and the great part about the ebook business is that every aspect of it can be done by the author for free. There's a guide, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks - All for FREE. ebooksuccess4free(dot)webs(dot)com

     

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  22.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 12:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I agree with you, that there are a lot of crayon-wielding crazy kids who think they can write. But it's not necessarily a bad thing that there are many people out there who think they can write.
    What you think as rubbish, might be delightful pulp fiction for me. :)

    My point is merely that I prefer to have choice, rather than a monolith deciding for me what I can and cannot read.

     

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  23.  
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    Jason Thibeault, May 19th, 2010 @ 4:05pm

    the correlation between mass distribution and content

    The problem with your value proposition ($10000 vs 10,000) is that writers inherently feel a need to profit from their work because it took them so long to do it. An average novel, for example, may take (from concept to binding) 18 months. That's a long time. Couple that with agents and publishing calendars and an author, if they are lucky, can see something in print years after they've finished with it.

    The self-publishing industry solved some of that by enabling authors to bind their own works. So now you could be done with a novel in a fraction of the time. But it's more than that. What writers soon discovered is distribution is a pain when you have a physical book.

    Devices like the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony PRS, and others have truly created a channel for the author to monetarily benefit from their works. Just do the operational math: no cost to distribute, no cost to produce. It's only time and materials (which, for the author, is a labor of love).

    What the ebook now enables is the writer to quickly achieve monetization (i.e., I could write something much smaller and sell for something much less). They are still required to market their books as that is the only way to generate readership (and sales). Of course, free can provide a mechanism to monetization but it's still about generating some sort of dollar.

    So that's why I founded Dime Novel Publishing (www.dimenovelpublishing.com). Our goal is to bring back the dime novel (popular from 1880 - 1940) for the e-book. They are publishing in 23-issues per volume with the first issue free. The content is focused on young-adult readers. And although we currently produce our own content the goal, long-term, is to develop a model that enables other authors to partake in the format. Writing novels is tough work. The writer has to keep so many details in line. With our format, writers can work on the visceral aspect of writing (developing storyline on a whim) as its the environment and characters that drive arcs within the series.

    We hope that this is an example of an e-book-focused model that authors can take advantage of to both get the $10,000 and the 10,000 readers.

     

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