Is there opportunity here or not for you?
I am fascinated by all the changes happening in the book industry and publishing world right now. We are truly smack dab in the middle of a major historical shift. I have called several book industry people and no-one seems to know what will die or how it will be reborn, but they all agree this is a very interesting time in history. They are taking the famous “wait and see approach”.
As for me, well that’s just not my style is it? (more about that below)
One of the things I am following is the adventures at Amazon. Personally I think Jeff Bezo’s is either one of the smartest guys out there (and I do admire him) or just one lucky son-of-a -gun. Amazon has pretty much taken over the book distribution field (direct to consumer) and when they opened, many bookstores run by families or small business owners had to close up shop, almost overnight. Life following fiction as in the Tom Hanks movie “You’ve Got Mail” from years ago – except this time Jeff Bezo didn’t marry and rescue all the women who owned the small book stores well loved by their communities and neighbors. To be fair to Mr. Bezo, polygamy is illegal or at least frowned upon in most states, so what could he do, really?
More on the drama, earlier this year- large chain bookstores were seen closing their doors, many Canadian and American Booksellers declared bankruptcy including Independent Storied Books who won the bookseller award for 2009 (doesn’t that blow your mind), Arcade Publishing (who published James Beard, Ingmar Bergman) and even Canadians largest book distributer HB. Also gone from the book publishing landscape are Fenn and Company and Europe’s largest Newspaper Publisher, Axel Spiegel. Even Borders Books filed for Chapter 11 and one of the largest and oldest Publishing Houses declared bankruptcy. What’s amazing is that in many cases, no-one suspected any of these companies were in trouble.
Is this really new though? I did some digging (ok online research) and found out that even the famous writer Mark Twain went bankrupt. He didn’t like his current publisher (they weren’t doing much for him and yet making most of the money – gee, sound familiar?) and he wanted to make more money for himself. So he got together with a friend of his Charles Webster (his niece’s husband) and put together his own publishing house. Twain also put his money into a friend James Paige, who invented a typesetting technology to help Twain produce books faster. The machine never worked properly so Twain lost all his money and even had to get a bankruptcy lawyer in the 1880’s.
But fret not; there is always opportunity in failure and loss. If Mark Twain had succeeded as a book publisher, it is highly speculated that he may not have gone on to write his many famous novels, which caused his fortune to return plus hundreds of years of young readers adoring his much loved adventures. So don’t despair with what’s happening now, nor what may personally be happening to you. There is another bend in the road to get you past any roadblock, and sometimes if I dare say, it may even be fate setting you straight onto a better path.
Now, Amazon seems to have the publishing world in its sites. It has started a new division to publish authors. And now the fight is on. Many bookstores who feel that Amazon has tried to put them out of business, are now trying to figure out if they should deny or display books published by Amazon on their store shelves. Many are saying, “No Way”, while Barnes and Noble are possibly trying for a compromise by only agreeing to allow them if Amazon agrees to give rights to the book on their e-reader Nook and not just on Amazon’e proprietary Kindle reader. Nothing has been decided as of writing of this blog.
Amazon seems to be approaching authors by buying some titles for print and some just for e-book format. It does seem unclear how much marketing help they are actually giving authors though as Seth Godin’s new book, The Hangman’s Daughter, published by Amazon, has had some good sales, while other published books by Amazon seem mediocre. In fact most books that have been sold, have been sold on Amazon for $3.99 or less on their deal of the day program. Amazon is also giving away free books through its Vine Program in exchange for reviews. When approached, Seth Godin said most of the marketing was done by him already. Having said that, that seems to be the future and current trend for authors anyways – to market themselves.
It used to be a romantic thought to be a writer, when I was kid thinking about it. To spend hours over a typewriter (I’m dating myself here) or computer, ok iPad now, starve (romantically) while you wait for that coveted letter in your mailbox (now email), to find out if your life is about to change and a publisher has bought your book. Then comes money, media interviews, book tours, celebrity status and a new house and car for you and your mother who always believed in you.
Now you hear stories of publishing firms buying your book for less and less money and ‘maybe’ assigning a small media budget for you.
I speak with authors every day, weighing the pros and cons and trying to help them decide whether it’s best for them to go traditional or independent (self-publishing). I am also teaching them how to create their own media kits, how to create blog or social media buzz (great marketing on the shoe string budget of a writer) and how to create 6-figures themselves from their books post print. Basically how to get them and you, to think like Mark Twain, but through today’s technology while making more money for yourself. So feel proud. You are in good company.
More than ever (yet apparently also in the 1880’s), writers need to have the street smarts of how this industry works, how not to get eaten alive and how to come out of your book with a smile on your face and hopefully a big fat bank account. Thankfully I have been helping authors do this for over 10 years. But how I teach it has changed as more and more opportunities present themselves.
The trend that spanned the last 5 – 10 years was to be the ambassador of your own health. Educate yourself first, don’t just fly blind.
Now I’m finding myself giving that advice to my writers, especially nonfiction. But the rainbow here is that now more than ever, you have the chance to be innovative, cool, and make more money than ever for your book (from product lines, sponsored events, app’s, games, group consulting, etc.). It’s just going to take a little powerful knowledge (which you can do) and old fashioned elbow grease. In fact, I am working hard with some very special people to put together something for you monthly to get you in the know, so you can feel empowered and take charge of your life and business.
Isn’t that what we all want in the end? A better life. An easier way. An understanding of what to do instead of falling prey to paralysis by worry and concern. And last but not least…Money rolling in.
Personally I’d like to see local bookstores find a way to stay alive. I treasure them as much as I treasure libraries that are also under attack (but they are fighting with the help of loving community friends). I love walking into them. I love the electric quiet. I get a warm feeling like I’m home, then a building excited feeling of discovering new adventure and new favorites I don’t even know about yet. In fact bookstores say that over 50% of sales in the stores are unplanned purchases. And they also say that many e-book purchases are made only after the titles are discovered in person at a store first. So why can’t they both exist?
I use e-books for work or business books and my nighttime ritual of fiction has to be (for me) paperback where I can curl under the sheets with a good book and my trusted book light.
I’m on 2 missions over the next 15 months – one, to get more kids to read, and second to help more adult writers to not only get their books out there but make their own money from their books via back-end book business. I see MASSIVE opportunity for you now. Everyone is looking and watching the change (even my industry insiders), I say – hey why not BE the change.
Please post your feedback on what you think about this post and my viewpoint on this. Do you share my optimistic Mark Twain view on a greater opportunity emerging here for you or not?
And hey 2 minutes ago when I started writing this I wasn’t even planning on doing this part, but if you want answers, please take 1 minute (or less) and post on my blog what you’d like more help with. I promise to incorporate it somehow into the info I create, even if only 1 per cent of you ask for that help, heck if even only you wants to know.
Also, putting this info and program together is going to require massive effort on my part here, not that I’m complaining, well ok a little, but I’m really only remarking about it because in order to do this I need to put other projects aside. So please give me your serious input on this. All feedback and viewpoints are welcome and appreciated. I promise not to heckle if you don’t.
Popularity: 4% [?]