As another New Year kicks off, it’s worth taking a look around at what’s being said about this crazy industry we call publishing. For many of us, it’s the data that matters: the most popular sites for readers, the titles they’re buying, which genres are ‘hot’ (and is there a snowball’s chance in hell we could bang out 50k words before that genre goes cold?). However much we may dislike marketing our books, we need to decide where they should be, what the ideal price point is, and many more variables which could see a few more copies downloaded.
So what might this year hold? If you can make it through the hyperbole, a good place to start is Ten Bold Predictions for 2014. Yes, last year was the best ever, except that now the price of eBooks is “plummeting”. Good news for readers, but if the mainstreams are finally bringing eBook prices down to what Independent Authors have been selling them at for a while, where does that leave the latter? Another telltale factoid is that “ebook revenue has tapered off”, which also supports the suggestion that mainstreams now understand they’ve milked the eBook market as much as they can. The problem for Independent Authors is that it removes a fundamental selling point: that our ebooks were cheaper.
An interesting perspective, and much useful information, is to be had in this article by Paul Jarvis. He describes his own experiences with using Indie sites to sell his books, and talks about publishing a book on Amazon as though it were a bit of a chore: “It took 12 hours [for his book to be on sale] which isn’t bad… Basically, there’s a lot of waiting for Amazon…” I found Jarvis’s use of Indie sites to sell his books to be a refreshing change, given that in my experience, Amazon is the number one place where a book has to be available.
However, as someone very famous whose name I can’t recall right now said: “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” All of those percentages and numbers are only going to tell so much of the story. On the other side of the publishing coin, it can appear that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this article on The Guardian, which could’ve been published at any time over the last 150 years, London’s literati are given free rein to extol those books of 2013 which they’d wished had done better. The comments below this article tell their own story.
Worryingly, it seems that several years into this publishing revolution, many readers still need a mainstream’s “seal of approval” before they’ll give a new author a try. Perhaps they’ve been burned by a poor-quality Indie book, or perhaps they believe everything they read in the papers – that Indie books are only written by hacks. Many readers still don’t stop to question the true value of that “seal of approval”; they don’t believe that an Indie book can pack a punch more powerful than a traditionally published book. Worse, too many readers still don’t see the injustice: that when they buy mainstream, only 7% of what they pay gets back to the author – the actual creator of the work, while a large portion of the remainder goes to keeping the literati in their plush offices and agreeable second homes in the south of France.
So perhaps the most important perspective hasn’t really changed: the reader’s. Independent Authors still need to keep in mind the driving necessity to convert as many readers as possible to our cause. Once a reader has been pleasantly surprised by an Indie book, then their perspective will change; then they’ll reach the conclusions we reached years ago. There are a lot of readers out there, so it may take a while. But we’ll get there, one reader at a time.
20 thoughts on “Indie News Beat: Which Perspective Would You Like with 2014?”
We need to reach critical mass before we are accepted as equal to the trad guys. But we will get there – as you say – one reader at a time. The tide is already beginning to turn.
Thanks, Yvonne, although on my bad days I do think that critical mass is still some way off yet
I clicked through to the Jarvis article, and the first thing I saw (after the ginormous typewriter — if he’s writing on that thing, no wonder it was a chore for him to publish on Amazon 😀 ) was an ad for Trafford Publishing. Ye gods.
Like this guy, Guy Kawasaki also uses Gumroad, but I seem to recall that they charge to make your book available (don’t quote me, though). A 12-hour wait seems fair in exchange for free distribution. But maybe I’m just cheap. 😉
Thanks for your report, Chris. 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Lynne. I was quite surprised there at the range of sites that guy uses, and his slightly dismissive attitude towards Amazon. Then again, there are SO many sites for Indies today…
Am wondering, sincerely, how the experimental impact of subscription services for books will affect readers and writers.
With Scribd and Oyster’s models, how important will be price point, or a seal of approval?
Certainly with Netflix, my wife and I do like a good review or star rating, and esp a word of mouth referral, but more willing to take a chance on a movie that “might” be good.
Will the subscription services bring some changes along those lines? I don’t know, but looks like we’ll get an idea this year.
Meanwhile 🙂 all the best, for all of us.
That’s a great point Felippe. Surely new eLibrary sites will pop up and compete also, like netflix and amazon prime, and hoolo. I wonder how the author will be reimbursed for every read. We still have a lot of change in the air…
Great post Chris.
yeah, an amazing world of change coming right now, gonna be interesting –
i do also think, just in the viewing my wife and i are discovering on TV, that the need for content, esp good stuff (whatever that is) is mushrooming, so that’s (potentially) really good for us
thanks elisabeth 🙂
Great points, thanks Felipe and Elisabeth. I do agree with you that really must be good these days to get ahead. But lending of e-books represents what I think people call “challenges” 🙂
Good stuff, Chris. Especially the dig at The Guardian which I believe I’ve told you before I think does a good job reporting US politics, but not so good on the publishing business. 🙂
Thanks, Al. The Guardian Books pages is a real bastion of the London literati, so I like to keep on eye on them just to make sure that they think nothing is changing. And also, that article drove me a bit nuts because of the free advertising element. Maybe if we all had plush offices and used such hyperbole, The Grun would feature all of our books, too 🙂
You’re so right about the readers, Chris. There’s a huge divide between indie readers and trad readers. I’ve seen it first hand in my extended family. There are a couple of heavy readers amongst my relatives, and neither will touch an indie novel. The fact that neither one uses an ereader probably contributes to that, but I know from talking to them that there is also an ingrained attitude that indie books can’t possibly be any good.
On the decreasing price gap between trad and indie ebooks, I think that might work to our favour in the end. At the moment, the indie price point is like a neon sign shrieking ‘Indie!’, so trad readers who view Indies with suspicion automatically ignore any book at that price point.
Change will happen, but as you say, only one reader at a time.
AC, I think the use of an ereader or not is a big difference. Odds of finding and trying indie books has to be much lower for the ereader-less. For those with ereaders, a bad experience with an indie book, especially if one of the first one they try, would tend to put someone off of indies, too. Then you’ve got those who are elitists. I get those because I tend to be the same way myself with music. Interestingly, in the music world the indie is more likely to be the choice of the elitist, just the opposite of the book world. I kind of expect that to change at some point.
One interesting thing to consider is how many of those anti-indie ereader owners have actually read and enjoyed an indie book. I suspect it is higher than we think and they’d probably be surprised. The signs (publisher/imprint name, price point, etc) are sometimes misleading and if everything else about the book was quality, they’d never realize. As the difference in price points becomes less of a sign (I know many indies are pricing in the 3.99-5.99 range now while the BPH come down in price) they’ll make even more “mistakes.” 🙂
AL, that’s a great analogy with the music world. Oh my, would that be a fantastic day when all the literary snobs decide they’re going to read Indie books to be hip and cool! 🙂
I totally agree Al – non-ereaders are still more into paper than pixels, so that cuts down the numbers quite a bit. And I have hopes for the pricing difference. As you say, many more may make a mistake and eventually become converts. 🙂
Thanks, AC – I think you have a very good point there, and as Al says below, there may indeed be elitists who’d never “touch” and Indie book, but with some small press titles may have already read some and simply not realise it. As Indie quality improves, it’ll become a game of “spot the difference”
-grin- Those of us in the game already ‘know’ – indie books are the ones that make you sit up and go ‘Wow!’. Or sometimes…’Yuck’. 🙂
Read an article by Hugh Howey today in which he made the point that about 1/2 of the best selling authors in sci-fi are indies, and the other half have been on the best seller lists for 20 years of more. To me that means all the innovation is coming from us. 🙂
Excellent post, Chris, and I agree with all of the above comments; and isn’t part of the IU mission statement to, ‘take over the world, one reader at a time?’
Thanks, TD. Yes it is, and you have no idea how much the EM charged me to use his IP 🙂
Seriously, great post Chris. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and put out a quality product. The rest will take care of itself.
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