Wednesday, September 29, 2010

...I have two new poems, "Migrants" and "Taken Away" up at Verse Wisconsin and also here under "Words In Print."

...What a strange feeling not being under the burden of the novel, very odd. I should be esctatic, feel liberated. Instead I feel befuddled and directionless.

...Bob Mayer spoke at the PNWA Writer's Conference in Seattle. I got on his mailing list. Here is a very interesting article--Barnes and Noble disappearing? Really? And what am I to do, when only brand name writers are going to make it and I'm not even a mid-lister? Yikes...
...Here's Bob:
We’re back. September has been crazy and the pace isn’t going to slow down in October, but the Warrior Writer on-line loop will be back for October, but with a somewhat difference focus, which I’ll describe further on.
I presented at the Wrangling for Writing Conference in Tucson this past weekend. It was an excellent conference and I learned a lot.
Frankly no one knows what is really going on with publishing. I’m going to give you my best guesses based on my experiences and reading and listening to many people with different experiences. One workshop this past weekend was full of great information from Jerry Simmons who worked many years in the NY Publishing business. He started out by saying he had no idea what the future of publishing was. But he gave it his best shot and I’ll incorporate what he said into my knowledge.

Here are some facts:
The Big 6 Publishers control 95% of print publishing.
Starting in 1995, the print business began contracting.
The decline of the book chains is biggest problem for traditional publishers. Borders will soon be gone. I believe Barnes and Noble won’t be far behind. This means the selling of print books will fall more and more to places like Target and Walmart (besides the growing digital market). To me this means midlist authors are in an even worse bind than ever as far as print, because those places are only going to rack Brand Name authors. We’re going to miss Barnes and Noble’s huge shelf spaces. On the bright side, the eBook market is wide open.
There are only 300 indie boosktores left and they’re dying off too. 10 years ago there were 4,000.
7 out of 10 books printed by the Big 6 lose money.
10% of their titles generate 90% of their revenue.
Those two facts indicate a reality: the focus for the Big 6 is going to be more and more on the Brand authors and less on midlist. The problem is: where are the next generation of Brand Name Authors going to come from?

Here’s the conundrum that NY doesn’t want to face: The book business is the same but the retail business has changed. While NY basically operates the same, the way books are sold has changed dramatically. How many music retailers are left in your town?

The focus is too much on celebrity books in NY and many are money-losers. Much more so than all those midlist authors. The bestseller lists are very deceptive. For example, Kate Gosselin’s recent book sold only 11,000 copies yet hit #6 on the NY Times list. Someone is playing with the numbers to make it look good, but many of those big deals are money-bleeders for trad publishers.

The overhead for the Big 6 operating out of the Big Apple is way too high. Heck, even Who Dares Wins Publishing, which we started up this year and operates out of my office in WA and Jennifer Talty’s office in NY, has overhead. We could never operate brick and mortar out of a NY office. So that’s something that’s going to have to be addressed. I see further major contractions occurring in NY and more out-sourcing of jobs to people digitally. The acquiring editors will still be in NY with the agents, but a lot of the other parts are going to be out-sourced.

Social Media is essential for authors, regardless of how they are published. We came out with We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb recently and it’s our bestseller in a number of formats. Kristen also runs a very active blog on writing and publishing here. I have also revamped my blog and renamed it Write It Forward. The focus of the blog is very much like this newsletter: what’s the latest in publishing along with tips on the craft of writing.

There are two major trends in publishing going on right now:
1. Mid list authors going it on their own. Actually, this is creeping upward. David Morrell just announced he is bringing nine books from his backlist into print AND his newest title on his own, skipping traditional publishing altogether. This is biggest name fiction writer to do this. I’m going to do the math on self-publishing on a separate Warrior Writer post on the loop later this month. The perception right now is that overall, the quality of self-published books is poor. The reality is, most new authors who have self-published are indeed putting up poor quality. However, there are a number of traditionally published authors who are bringing backlist into print and these are books (like mine, hint hint) that have hit bestseller lists. Readers will separate the quality out. Thank you.

2. Digital publishing is exploding. I’ve seen it just this year. In January, there were many yawns at the Digital Book World conference. Those yawns have changed to expressions of shock. I’ve been predicting in these newsletters and on the internal loop that the change from print to digital would be many times faster than most were predicting and I’ve been proved right (slight pat on the back). Change is happening exponentially, not linearly. I predict by the end of 2011 we will be close to 50-60% of all books being digital. Jenny Crusie emailed me that her latest release, Maybe This Time, which hit the NY Times list, had 40% sales in eBook with 60% in hardcover. Romance is a genre where readers are very tech-savvy so that might lead the way. Although, I suspect Scifi might also be a genre that is tech heavy.
The problem is this: the makers of digital platforms like Kindle and iPad want content. The Big 6 are loath to give digital content to them because they believe it cuts into their hardcover and other print sales and would hurt their own business. So there is a huge divide between the platform makers, primarily Amazon and Apple, and the content providers.
This is the VOID that will destroy some of the Big 6 if they don’t exploit it. And also the VOID which savvy writers can fill. I’ll do a WW Loop post on the VOID in October.

With digital books you’re looking at volume of sales, not pricing. This is where the Big 6 are also making a mistake. But because of their high overhead, they’re forced into a pricing system that isn’t working. Charging $14.99 for a new eBook just isn’t going to survive. Plus Kindle is forcing the pricing because anything over $9.99 doesn’t get the 70% royalty rate.
Again, I’m going to devote a WW Loop post to the math of eBooks in October.

eBooks are changing the playing field as far as book length. Both ways. For print, you needed at least 60,000 words to be viable. Ebooks can be as small as 10,000. In fact, books with less content as selling better. On the other hand, my current WIP, which runs 170,000 words will also not be a problem in eBook as far as printing and paper costs. Also, an enhanced version with maps and photos is being developed.

Something that is starting to be addressed is how do I create additional value for ebook content? David Baldacci recently added content to his recent release. Because the platform can accept additional content, it is inevitable that it will become an inherent part of the business. While Kindle doesn’t want to get into multimedia, the iPad does support it.

Right now there are 6 formatting styles for eBook—some day there will be one.

A self-published book that sells 5 or 6 thousand books will get interest from the Big 6 and literary agents.

All in all, I think it’s an exciting time to be an author with lots of opportunities. But only if you educate yourself and stay on top of the latest developments and trends.

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