Deal heard round the world…

A few weeks ago I discussed the e-revolution, especially the advent of e-reader devices such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad.  The original post, if you missed it, is here.

What I didn’t discuss in that previous post is the relative success many authors were having in publishing directly for the e-reader market.  I am not talking about the success of the e-book version of the latest Stephen King novel.  I am referring to previously unknown and unpublished writers who are publishing original fiction for the first time in e-book format and are selling via Amazon.com and BN.com.

What does this mean?  Why should you care?

Well in my recent poll on e-readers, 57% of respondents indicated they either had an e-reader or planned to get one soon.  I imagine across the English-speaking world, when prices continue to drop, more people will buy them.  Those that do will find that they read more and buy more e-books than they normally would buy print books.  This increases the market for new material.

Buy more e-books?

Yes, when you can log into the Amazon store right from you Kindle and can immediately search and download a new book at midnight, from the beach, or in an airport you’ll probably agree.

And you’ll agree that the price of e-books, which currently ranges from free to an average of around $12 for the latest bestseller release, is attractive and you may find you don’t miss those $25 hardcover price tags.

It also means that times are changing.  Technology is bringing writers and readers closer together and the time it takes for a writer to publish a book and put it in the hands of readers can be drastically reduced with direct e-publishing.

A writer can finish an edited, packaged, formatted, e-book on Monday and have it posted for sale that same day.  That may not seem like a big deal, but consider that the average time a print publisher takes to publish a new work is close to a year and often much longer.  That means the brand new bestseller you bought last week for $25 was written by the author a year ago.  Yes, a one year delay.

But who is doing this?  Who is publishing e-books only and is having any success?  See this announcement in the NY Times: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/self-publisher-signs-four-book-deal-with-macmillan/

Who is this Amanda Hocking?

A bout a year ago, Amanda Hocking was a frustrated writer of young adult paranormal romance/fantasy, like “Twilight” and others.  She couldn’t attract the interest of a print publisher, so she published several of her novels as e-books through the Kindle store and within ten months or so she had sold over 1 million copies.  She made over $2 million dollars and now has a big deal worth another $2 million plus for four new books with St. Martin’s Press, one of the big six publishing houses.

She came from nowhere, couldn’t get published, published herself via e-books, and now she has effectively taken the publishing world by storm.   Read what she has to say about this big deal here:  http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog.html

This news and Amanda Hocking’s success is what you call a game changer.  The landscape for writers has been redesigned and is far more open than when the only path forward was through the gatekeepers in New York.

Let’s be honest.  Many, many people will publish their e-books and 90% of them will be unedited, unpolished, unformatted, or just plain terrible.  When it is that easy to create something to sell, people will indeed try.

But, the marketplace is the great equalizer and only the cream will rise to the top.  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other e-books vendors display sales rankings and customer reviews so a discerning reader can sift through all the dirt to get to the gold.  There will plenty to choose from, but unlike the slow browse through the stacks at a library or bookstore to find something good to read, you can simply do a keyword, author, title, or genre search and then sort and shop the results to find what you want.

It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s not the future.

It’s the now.

It’s a brave new world for publishing and I, for one, think it is a great time to be a reader AND a writer.

What do you think?

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10 responses to “Deal heard round the world…

  • Deb Maher

    I’m following with interest the journeys of several friends into the world of e-publishing – some print multi-pubs and a few unpublished until now. Interesting times with great possibilities ahead.

    Thank you for your clearly expressed thoughts and links. I’ve linked your blog to Stringing Beads.

  • MJT

    Thanks for the link and comment! For those of who do not already have a print deal, e-books are an interesting option. I’m sure this next year will really sort out the players and options and writers can only benefit.

  • Stephen A. Watkins

    It is extremely interesting. When I first began ruminating on these changes on my blog about a year ago (in February of 2010 or so), there were very few examples of successful self-e-publishers. JA Konrath, maybe a few other names. Honestly, there are still very few examples. The success-stories are, as Amanda Hocking herself agrees, outliers. They’re not the norm, as you point out. And, in some ways, I suspect that putting your stuff out there in this format when you’re not ready to be an outlier could be damaging to your writing career in the long term.

    Cream will rise to the top, but when you’re not the cream, and you’ve spent your chance on this, will there be a second chance? In the regular world of old-fashioned publishing, the answer is yes. Heck, the editor/publisher won’t even remember your name, likely, from when you sent in that uber-crappy novel pitch by the time you’re coming back with your whizz-bang-wow awesome novel. But when you’ve already released everything terrible that you’ve ever written… I fear we, as writers, will find that the internet is forever.

    That’s why, now that I put more thought into this, I think folks like Konrath are doing more harm than good to the future careers of as-yet-undiscovered authors who are buying into his “e-revolution is for everyone” line. He’s selling a bill of goods that says that anyone can make a boat-load of money by self-e-publishing. But that’s just statistically not true. Only folks who can write really good, riveting, clean fiction can do it (and even then, in actuality, only a subset of that group will be truly successful)… but frankly not everyone who can put something up online falls into that category. Not everyone will. Some of us need to keep refining and honing our skill. We’re not ready for the bigs, yet.

    Still, for those who can, and do… it is indeed a brave new world in which the traditional gatekeepers are only one possible path to success, and no longer the sole arbiters of wow.

    • Stephen A. Watkins

      Edit to add: I mean Konrath and his cheerleaders who are saying anyone can do this are doing more harm than good, not necessarily folks like Amanda Hocking, who are very careful and circumspect about their success so far. I definitely don’t begrudge a writer his or her success, you know, no matter how they achieved it, and I’m glad there are multiple paths, now. In my own delusional fantasy world, every deserving writing would be successful (and I know several who are quite good but not yet successful)… but that’s not quite the real world we live in… yet.

      What remains to be seen is whether the e-book revolution will lead to an actual increase in overall levels of readership, which is what it would take to really democratize success for writers, or whether it just makes it easier for the same group of readers that has always existed to obtain books more easily, which will have only a comparably small impact on overall readership levels…

      • MJT

        Well said. Aspiring writers must determine for themselves when they are “ready” and which “path” to follow. More paths create more options, but not all will reach the “destination” of a lucrative writing career. There needs to be a combination of great writing, great packaging (cover, title, format, book description) and as Konrath points out, luck.

        The luck factor has struck and struck hard for Hocking and other newbies who blossom under e-book publishing. For the rest of us, we must hone our craft and enter the market when we are writing at a professional level. Good stories will be found and read. Bad stories will sink and disappear.

        However, I disagree slightly that e-publishing bad writing will sabotage a writer’s burgeoning career. The internet may be forever, but you can pull any bad or poor selling book from the various e-book vendors and replace it with a better version, or keep it off forever.

        There is a theory about writing that Robert Heinlein espouses that I’m slowly converting too and author Dean Wesley Smith crystallizes here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=2494

        It may not be a one and done situation for new writers, we may in effect have unlimited chances at success. And THAT is encouraging.

      • Stephen A. Watkins

        That certainly is a more optimistic outlook – and I like optimism. I’ll have to give that article a read… hopefully very soon. Still, I plan to be a little slower about my approach to exposing my work publicly as I continue to hone and refine my own skill in the background… though, even if I ever do cross that threshold, I know it’s still a continual process of improvement.

  • MJT

    I’m like you in that I’m a perfectionist with my writing am cautious about the wrong exposure, but I have to convince myself to balance that with the sheer thrill of the opportunity to get readers, paid readers at that. The options are great and we all have the chance to take more control of the path we take. Power to the Writers!

    • Stephen A. Watkins

      Indeed. The explosion of legitimate options today (as opposed to some of the “options” of the past that primarily relied on new-author naivete to make a quick buck) is definitely a boon for writers. It’s good to have control over the direction of your career.

  • Mom

    That makes my head spin. I’m still trying to figure out Ebay. But, who am I to stand in the way of progress. I suppose I can hold a Kindle just as well as a book in my lap while I read in bed……someday, but not now…..maybe after Christmas 2011; hint hint…..

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MY SPOT OF INK: my ramblings on the ups and downs of writing a fantasy novel (or anything else that grabs my interest - books, food, movies, life)

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