E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 3

It’s time to talk about e-readers from the author’s perspective. But readers – this is for you as well; so pay attention and stay with me. It’ll be worth it.

Ready? The publishing market is deregulating.

Okay, technically it’s not regulated now, so it can’t be “de”โ€ฆ But think about it this way: In 1975 I moved from Milwaukee to Phoenix. Back then – when airlines pricing and routes were regulated – it cost $350 to fly round trip between these two cities. And there were far fewer airlines to choose from.

Today, it still costs about $300 for that flight. But my starting teacher’s salary then was $8,000. Now, teachers start at $32,000 or more. So logically, the airline ticket should now cost $1400. So why doesn’t it?

  • Deregulation, which allowed competition.
  • That competition spawned dozens of new airlines.
  • The best airlines – ones that were fiscally sound, had good customer service and low ticket pricing – survived.
  • Fine. But what does this have to do with publishing?

Plenty. E-readers demand electronically published books. Electronically published books don’t need to go through the big New York publishing houses. Authors can upload manuscripts from home in their pajamas. For free. So e-readers are, in effect, deregulating publishing by:

  • Creating a demand. That demand can be met by:
  • authors by-passing the traditional houses through technology.
  • The best authors – ones that write well, have good marketing platforms and competitive pricing – will survive. Thrive.

No longer will the consumer have choices made for them by skittish publishers who are afraid to step outside of their “we-know-this-will-sell” boxes. No longer will they stand in front of a store’s shelves, staring at book after book by established authors who haven’t written anything new or exciting in years.

Their “airline” choices are about to take off! (I know. That’s a groaner. Sorry.)

Authors who write unique books are now able to take those books directly to the consumer and for a fraction of the cost. And – this is where it gets really exciting – much higher royalties. My e-book on Smashwords sells for $2.95. I pocket $2.18 of that, not 29ยข minus an agent’s 15% commission.

Pricing is a key component. Readers are much more willing to risk $3 than they are $13 or $30 on an unknown product. There is no reason for e-books to be expensive. They don’t require paper, ink, boxes, trucks, or floor space. Or have returns.

Authors can even afford to give e-books away to generate interest. If the author is good, word spreads. Eventually, they go viral.

And the 18-20 month lag time between a traditional sale to a publisher and the date when the print book is released will shrink. Production takes so much less time for e-books because everything is designed and transmitted electronically, and available immediately. For authors who are quick writers, this means that trends can be spotted and seized upon before the market is glutted with vampires or boy wizards!

The most exciting thing is this: with e-publishing, the author can be in control of their own career.

Now it’s Time for a Big REALITY CHECK: An author starting this path will sell FAR fewer books to begin with, and spend LOTS more time on marketing themselves. Plan to spend those 18-20 months you gained getting word out about you and your books! Just like it took some years for the airlines to shake out, it will take some years for a brand-new author to find his niche, and to build her fan base.

But because e-books don’t take up warehouse space, as long as they continue to sell any number of copies, there is incentive to keep them available. They will never go “out of print”!

Which means, when someone stumbles across your 6th novel, and looks you up at Amazon, they will see ALL of your work, no matter who published it. Now your first novel, which has been out for a few years, will generate new sales. It all builds on itself!

If an new author is patient, dedicated to creating a quality product, and willing to work their arse off marketing themselves, then e-publishing (with it’s sister: print on demand) and this “deregulation” is the best news in – literally – centuries.

Next: E-readers – Good news for second-hand book stores.

8 Responses to “E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 3”

  1. 1 Tess 04/15/2010 at 10:15 AM

    Very interesting!!!!!!

  2. 3 kimberlyloomis 04/15/2010 at 10:32 AM

    Great post! I’ve been pondering these new avenues as I work on my second manuscript (first is unpublished) simply due to the ability to have so much control over my very own path. So many authors who first premiered in the 80’s or earlier have stated one shouldn’t get an agent until there is a solid career to manage (this makes sense to me) – the current model of print publication now makes that an impossibility. This forces the author to submit to agents for approval in the hopes that agent accepts them on as a client and then garners a good book deal for which said agent gets 15%. While I readily acknowledge the perceived benefits of having an agent (I do not have one), I greatly dislike the arm breaking environment the current model encourages/enforces/maintains. All of this seems to work to obfuscate the authors’ worth, both to the reader (why are books so expensive?!) and to the author. The creator seems to be put solidly in the camp of the subservient, where as the producer should be anything but in that position. Just my opinion… Thanks for this post! I’ll be sending this along!

    • 4 kristualla 04/15/2010 at 10:45 AM

      In a move that I found surprising – my agent is allowing me to take some of my unsold manuscripts and e-pub them, while she submits others for traditional print! I’m straddling the best of both worlds right now… We’ll see how it plays out. But I can tell you this: I will have 4 books released in the next 12 months! The rejected manuscripts didn’t fit the “boxes” – American historical, trilogy, Norwegian-American hero, not a romance exactly because they are married in the second 2 books. Kudos on the writing & character development, though. Makes me crazy.

      Silly me – I wanted to be ORIGINAL.
      Kris ๐Ÿ™‚

      • 5 kimberlyloomis 04/15/2010 at 12:52 PM

        That’s excellent your agent has no qualms with you doing both. Very smart, imo! Yeah, the box situation seems to be getting out of hand. Seems to propagate a vicious circle to which consumers and authors are somewhat relegated to. Pub houses keep selling what they “know will sell” and so only purchase said works, so the consumer only has those “know will sell” options and so there is no option to try out new avenues on the audience. Meanwhile, authors are told to “have an original voice/idea” but “not that because we don’t know if it will sell (because we have not marketed any such thing before)”. Kudos to you! I like original! ๐Ÿ˜€


  3. 6 Stephanie Beck 04/15/2010 at 10:51 AM

    Great post! This is where I am in my writing career. Starting painstakingly small with an e-publisher that is equally small but willing to teach. The whole process is so tedious. Doing all the busy work to promote myself is exhausting but it’s paying off in little ways and steady growth (oh to go viral ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Seeing the timeline and encouragement was what I needed today. Thanks so much!

    • 7 kristualla 04/15/2010 at 10:56 AM

      Yeah – publishing has never been for the faint of heart. It still isn’t. But having control of my product, and no one to blame but myself if I fail, are rather liberating (and terrifying) concepts!

      Remember “What About Bob”? Baby steps. That’s what I tell myself with each bit of forward movement: baby steps.
      Kris ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 8 amberscottproject 04/16/2010 at 8:49 AM

    I love the no-nonsense way you make these excellent points, Kris! All of these changes get me so excited about my future as an author. There’s just so much possibility on the horizon!

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