The publishing world is going through a massive paradigm shift. Just in time to confuse the hell out of me.
This might have SOMETHING to do with it.
Me and eBooks go way back. Not quite as far back as the first time I used the wrong first-person pronoun on purpose, but at least back to about 1992, when I worked in one of the coolest bookstores ever: AfterWords, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a store that mostly sold remainders, quality reprints, and small press stuff that was hard to find. One day while pricing a huge stack of of the hardcover version of I’m Only One Man, Regis Philbin’s biography, I casually mentioned something about how I’d just read in Wired magazine about the still-only-imagined eBook, and what a cool idea I thought it was. It took me a moment to notice the sudden silence around me. I looked up to find myself being stabbed through with a dagger-like look in the five eyes of my co-workers (one had just injured their eye and was wearing an eye-patch). The look in their eyes made it clear that they were collectively pondering the idea of paper-cutting me to death. “What, what, WHAT?”, I said. But I knew that it was just the book lover in them all that was causing this reaction. It was like suddenly I was the fireman from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and I was there to burn all their books. As much as I agreed with them about the feel and smell of a comforting bound book, they really just didn’t seem to care about the number of trees left in the world, the idea that you could carry every book you’ve ever owned in a notebook-size device, or the idea that it would never wear out, and could be highlighted repeatedly without devaluing it. Well, we’ve come a long way since then. So far that not only is AfterWords long-since defunct, but even the corporate monsters that destroyed them are dying. This has not impacted my reading habits a lot, in spite of the fact that I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad. Although I have to say the Kindle Fire is very tempting, and who doesn’t want an iPad? Well, me, for the moment. But in any case, if I really want to read a particular book, I buy it or get it from the library. And far and away I do more short-form reading on the web. But this whole traditional book vs. eBook issue just became of critical importance to me. Why? Because I have a more or less finished book that I’m getting ready to peddle, and I just co-authored another book with a development partner. We’re developing a series of personal transformation products (we also maintain a sort of sandbox site called TheWellnessAddict.com) which will include a variety of books. So we submitted this first co-authored book to a publisher where my partner has been published before, and as we did so, we seriously researched all the new self-publishing options available. It’s a mind-numbing world of options out there, but we did our research. Which was a good thing; we pretty quickly got a very positive rejection notice. The book really just didn’t suit the publisher’s catalog, which we sort of knew already. So we’ve narrowed it down to a few choices. The obvious go-to distributors are CreateSpace and Lulu, but you find pretty quickly that once you realize you not only don’t have to spend months waiting around for rejection letters, but don’t have to live on the paltry royalties of the world’s publishing giants either, you get GREEDY. Both CreateSpace and Lulu take a hefty percentage, and it’s a balancing act between their distribution reach vs what you give up in profits. Plus, a lot of retail stores simply don’t stock self-published books. So we pretty quickly realized that since we’re authors without a publisher, hell, why not become publishers, too? Which opens up options like Lightning Source. We haven’t made our final decision, but the question I asked at the top – Why Am I Writing eBooks? – has a pretty obvious answer once you start looking at ideas for marketing schemes. Although I was a big fan of the Free concept a couple of years ago, I think that model has seen its day. But CHEAP will always be popular, and attention spans are getting shorter daily. I mean, I’m amazed you’re still reading this. This all means – since we’re not creating massive runs of books by two unheard of authors – that we can repackage these books in as many ways as we like. And sell them as cheaply as 99 cents if we like. And if that sounds like a vanity-paved road to poverty, just check out these numbers shamelessly shared by author Joe Konrath of Chicago. The basic idea? He’s not the only author that has realized that the common breakdown is that if you sell less than 1,000 books at ten bucks, you’ll probably sell over 5,000 at two or three bucks. Plus, you’re getting more titles in more places and on more devices. Like that Kindle I don’t own. And this is becoming a huge market. Although Amazon won’t confirm that they’ve sold over 3 million Kindles, it was leaked that pre-orders for the Kindle Fire were coming in at a rate of exceeding 2,000 per hour. And Apple is quite happy to let us know that they’ve sold over 7 million iPads. That’s over 10 million customers needing content for their fun new device, and we think we have the perfect stuff. I mean, I can barely carry an idea for more than three sentences, let alone a 200 PAGE BOOK. I’ll be following up with another piece soon, as we take the dive. If nothing else, maybe we’ll end up creating an insightful eBook about how to market eBooks. Stay tuned.