So, here we are, staring at another potential publishing calamity. All over the internet blogs and news websites are abuzz with commentary on big bad Amazon.com and how the company has set itself up as the new publishing guru.
(Come! Publish your book with us! We’ll give you all the royalties you could ever dream of! That big pay day you’ve always wanted? Done! With [almost] no strings attached!)
Some applaud the company, citing the royalties paid to the author; 70% straight to the bank account, no agent or publisher required!. And the immediacy with which books are seen on digital shelves (hell, you can get anything with Amazon, why not books too?). Others stare at the company squinty-eyed in fear, trembling with worry and doubt.
What’s going to happen?
How long before Amazon takes over completely?
Will brick and mortar bookstores survive?
What about physical books?
On one end, Amazon.com. Big bad wanna-be publishing company with a nasty past and a penchant for cutting out the middle man. The other, Barnes&Noble booksellers. Once the bane of mom and pop book stores now deemed as their only salvation in the fast changing publishing world.
Who will win in this David and Goliath battle?
The stage is set. The fighters are in their corners. Who will win the day?
Stay tuned next week! Same Bat time, same Bat channel!
Commence nail biting…….now.
People all in a tizzy and whatnot. The publishing world is changing. We are sitting on a paradigm shift that, no doubt, will have far reaching effects for authors, publishers (of any kind), libraries, agents, bookstores and critics. All right, maybe I’m being a little bit condescending about this. I mean, who am I? I’m a “wanna be writer” sharing her thoughts on her “not so private diary” for the world to see. I don’t know nothing from nobody and I sure as hell don’t know anything about the publishing industry.
The thing is, though, I want to be an author. I’d love to see Blood on the Quarter and maybe even Carousel on shelves of every kind. I’ve had dreams of owning my own bookstore for probably just as long as I dreamed about becoming a Disney artist. Some part of me still holds onto that dream. Shut up. This Amazon v.B&N thing affects me just as much as anyone else who has the same aspirations (the writing one, not the Disney one) as I do.
With that said;
Number one: B&N did it to themselves.
Bad business decisions led them to putting themselves on the market to try and stave off bankruptcy. They overreached, trying to do too much too soon in a shaky market. Some books sell, others don’t. Everyone is trying to recoup some loss in profit. It’s the nature of the business.
Number Two: B&N was too slow in getting on the ebook bandwagon.
Let’s face it, ebooks are the hottest thing since sliced pizza. They’re cheap, they’re much easier to publish, and well…lighter to carry around in a suitcase. If it fits into an overhead compartment or carry on, and is under 25lbs when joined with whatever else is packed inside, it’s a better deal. TSA is a pain in the ass already, anything I can do to make airport security less of a headache makes me a happy traveller. NOT jumping on the ebook bandwagon cost B&N not only power in the publishing world, but serious cash. Cash that could have gone toward beating Amazon ahead of its own game and leveling the playing field.
Number Three: Ebooks are the new norm
I’ve heard it all over and over and over again; “I hate ebooks, I need to feel a real book in my hand…” “I’ll never buy a kindle/nook/iPad it’s just not the same as the real thing..” yeah, yeah, I know and agree. Despite my ownership of an iPad and nook and kindle apps, I still enjoy (and do have a stack of) real books. But, for the rest of the world, ebooks are easier, cheaper, and more convenient. I highly doubt real books-or bookstores for that matter-are going to go by way of antiquity but in this technology driven age I do think a sight of someone reading a “real book” that isn’t in a library or college is going to become more and more rare.
Number Four: The Big Six has no one to blame but themselves.
They could have spearheaded the ebook movement and capitalised on it, not only with authors and their readers, but libraries as well. Their scrambling to catch up is their own damned fault. No sympathy.
With that in mind, Amazon looks like a sweet deal. 70% of the royalties (if the book sells), no agent or publisher fees, none of that silliness. Amazon will flex its mighty muscle to get you reviews, reccomendation listings, the whole kit and kaboodle. Exposure! A following! Monies! BUT, and oh by the way, you can’t sell your book on any other platform.
Once you sign with Amazon you’ve given up any hope of transferring that same book onto the Nook, iBooks, or PDF format to push it onto readers who might not like, or wanted to buy, the Kindle. There is a bright side, though. Amazon is getting into the hard publishing, the real stuff that you can see and feel on real bookshelves in a real store. Oh, but, tsssst…sorries. Barnes&Noble, Books A Million and a few other high profile booksellers have refused to carry any of Amazon’s books. That’s called a boycott (brought about because Amazon was trying to gouge prices with IPG and get an even deeper discount when the publisher’s contract was up for renewal) my friend, and you’ve just sequestered yourself to only a handful of stores that willingly carry Amazon’s merchandise. That following you wanted? Mmm maybe not so mu
ch. I mean, what happens if that bookseller isn’t in someone’s neighbourhood and they don’t have a kindle but they really, REALLY want to read your book? Well, Amazon refuses to unlock and crossformat it’s ebooks.
That’s called being screwed, daddy-o.
Correction: Here’s the deal. Amazon is not kind to different ebook formats. Usually you can export your book from say, Scrivener, and make it “e-reader compatible”. This means, in theory, that your book can be shifted from the Nook to the Sony reader, to the fancy readers they have in the Sky Mall catalogues with no problem. Not so much with Amazon (or Apple). To upload with them takes different steps and reformatting. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a time consuming one. This “cross-formatting” is something Amazon is unwilling to do on its own. You HAVE to have a Kindle reade
r or application in order to read your books. To get your nooks elsewhere, you’re on your own. Business is business and Amazon is in it to win it and do what’s good for Amazon. Now, the exclusivity I was talking about applies to the KDP SELECT program. Sign with it and you give Amazon exclusive rights to your book for a period of ninety days to lend out to other KDP SELECT members. Each time your book is loaned out you get paid from a “pool” of money som
ewhere upwards of $500K. You get $1 for each person who “borrows” your book. The more who borrow, the more money you get. The book flops within the program you get nothing and rely on the money made from regular sales. After the 90 day period has passed, the book is once again your property to do with what you wish.
Join the program, don’t join the program. Up to you. Personally, I don’t like it, too many unknowns. More information on the KDP SELECT program can be found here and direct from Amazon here
With an agent, and the right publisher, you just might see that cross platforming. After all, that’s what they’re there for. That’s why they negotiate the contracts and make nice with the big bad booksellers. I bought Chuck Wendig’s DOUBL
E DEAD on iBooks. I have 500 (MORE) WAYS TO BE A BETTER WRITER on my Kindle app, and his other two writing handbooks on the Nook. I just found out that Mark Hodder’s steampunk novel MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON (the third in the Burton and Swineburn series) is available as a NookBook. It’s not out in the UK yet. I’m sure as hell not gonna order it, damn shipping takes too long and Iwantitrightnow! *stamps foot*
The book is also available on the Kindle. For some reason iBooks hasn’t picked him up yet, but whatever, I digress.
Point is, these books are available because they’ve been negotiated with the sellers by someone other than the author.
Conversely, having an agent means giving up some of that precious, precious royalty money to pay him. Oh, and to pay the publisher, AND you’re pretty much not going to get any money until the book sells well above the advance you got from the publisher man who was generous enough to pick up your book for you.
On the other hand, you could do it yourself. You could skip the nest of lies and empty promises that has become Amazon.com and publish with someone smaller, like smashwords.com and control your destiny that way. Again, all the royalties go to you, no agent required.
But that means waiting.
Waiting for your book to sell.
Waiting for that following on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog. Click clickety clicking to see if that “Join — other followers” goes up a notch or two, or watching your stats go up and down like some sick, twisted joke only the universe could provide.
Waiting for reviews that might never, ever come.
It means whoring yourself out to your friends, hocking your book on them, begging and pleading for them to get t
he word of your awesomeness out.
And, oh god, what if it never comes?
Well, keep on writing me ol’ mucker. Right? Isn’t that the point? And really, don’t you have to do that anyway, even with one of the Big Six behind you?
With all the dreck (and I seriously mean dreck. Have you seen some of the published books recently?) out there, the more you do to stand out, the bigger the platform you have, the more likely you are to get noticed-to get your book read.
It takes work.
It takes patience.
And just like writing a book; it takes time.
I don’t think anyone who gets into writing does it because it’s gonna be easy. And if you do, I will hunt you down and throw stones at you until you bleed through your eye holes. Writing isn’t easy. No writing is easy . College papers are a nightmare of MLA and APA formatting and research and citations so horrendous, so frustrating, so goddamned time consuming and exacting I’m pretty sure poking my eyes out with a fork would be less painful.
Creative writing (of any kind) is blood, sweat, tears, arguments with your writing partner, temper tantrums, loving your book one day and contemplating throwing it into the fire the next. It’s years of your life poured onto a page solely for the gratification of seeing your name (or pseudonym as the situation goes) on the cover in someone’s hands (or e-reader) and knowing that you, you created that thing, that piece of alternate reality someone else is getting lost in.
Personally? Those of you who want it, can have Amazon publishing. Monopolies are not good business and have a tendency to collapse under their own weight. I’ve still got time beforeBlood on the Quarter is done enough to even consider traditional v. self-publishing. By then, who knows? Maybe the Big Six will pull their collective heads out of their asses and start offering better deals not only on traditional publishing but on e-publishing as well. If ever anyone made the mistake of NOT jumping on the ebook bandwagon, it’s those guys up in New York.
I’m interested to see which way the publishing company goes. Besides, it’s not a singles boxing match. Barnes&Noble is allowed to bring back up.