Friday, February 17, 2012

Publishing Today

In the various orbits of the writing world, everyone is all abuzz about the future of publishing. Why are the big six clinging so hard to what has become the old tradition of publishing physical books? Personally, I think there will always be a market for books one can line up on a shelf to look at and treasure, and perhaps read again over and over. However, owning an eReader is all the rage these days, and I have no idea how many apps there are out there for all the different little thingamajigs everyone has these days. If it's not a phone that does absolutely everything, it's a pocket-sized computer that can act as a phone, and I'm sure there's just about everything but the kitchen sink in between, and there's probably all manner of apps for all those owners to choose from, but lets keep this subject on books. Why don't they embrace the technology of ePublishing? They think it's all a fad. To be honest, I did too at first, but it doesn't appear to be so any more. One thing they do do that I really like is audio books. Last spring I bought a disk player so I could listen to the books I have while I work. Those people who drive long distances to work could do the same if they wanted. Maybe some do.

People are far more mobile and busy these days than they were 50 years ago. It's common to see people commuting many miles just to go to work. They hop a train or drive, some even fly from one end of the country to the other many times a week. Many of these people still read and many of them are avid readers. Are they supposed to pack a bag full of books? Buy one at every stop? If things don't get any worse then they already are, I'll be going to town tomorrow for about a week. I'll be taking a book. I don't own an eReader of any sort. I'm not all that interested in getting one. It's an expensive little gadget that will serve very little purpose in my life. But since I'm a writer, and since I'm aware that many people do have these little gadgets, there's no reason why I shouldn't provide what the people want.

Real books, however, to me, are still a must. I can't very well hand my neighbor a program to read, especially if they don't own an eReader either. And further more, my boss displays my book on a shelf at the lodge where I work. She told me she will also display my next book as soon as it's published. It would be impossible for me to have such exposure if the only thing I published was eBooks. EBooks are great in their way. They are easy and quick to download; you don't have to wait for the mail to reach your house, wondering if maybe it got lost somewhere along the way.

There's another thing to consider about eReaders. Not only do people commute to work long distances, but they frequently move entirely from one end of the country to the other, or at least from city to city, if not state to state. Packing a library of books would be so much simpler if they were all in this little thingy that fits in your purse. But then, I shudder with horror at the thought, what if it broke? I don't mean the battery ran down, I mean irreparably broken. There's all those nice digital books just gone. That's almost as bad as a house fire.

Lets change the subject and get back on track.

There's another thing about ePublishing that has me confused. Why are authors selling their books for only a dollar or less? Sure, something so cheep, who can resist? Sales go through the roof. Visibility is high. Search engines are flooded with it all. But what are you making, fifty cents? maybe? No, I don't write to make money, but my work does have a value to me. If I want to give my book away, fine, I'll happily give it away, but in truth, there is a profitable reason behind it - so sue me, I'm selfish. I never denied it. What digs me is my book on Amazon is listed for next to nothing and at those prices, I'm not making a dime. Ah well, it's been listed for four years; I don't think sales are going to be improving any time soon. When I get book 3 of that collection finished, all three of them are getting a whole new life, or at least that one will, the other two will be getting a first life. That is, unless someone comes along and shows me a different way to do it between now and then.

The big six dragging their heels has caused an explosion of small publishing companies to spring up; those people passionate about writing and writing well, and about getting other deserving writers published. It seems I've hit the publishing scene at the perfect time. Two small publishers eager to publish my work and another very young publisher looking to take on another of my works, maybe. We're talking. Wow, that means I'm half way through all my manuscripts. Looking good at the moment. Will I be a successful author? Will my name become a household name? Only time will tell. What do you think?


S.M. Carrière said...

I completely agree with the current pricing of eBooks. It's a dangerous price to set. Not only do authors make no money whatsoever, but it sets a dangerous expectation from readers.

Certainly eBooks should be less than their print counterparts, but it still take time and hard work to ensure that they are well formatted, readable works.

Authors should be paid fairly for that work.

Anna L. Walls said...

Yep, as soon as the billions of readers learn to expect good reads for pennies, they aren't going to glance at anything priced higher. Having the occasional sale is fine. Having them permanently on sale is bad for business.

Kriti said...

I love audio books too - they are amazing! Much like you my first love is books by themselves though. I remember doing a post a while back on the same... Books are priceless no matter what money you have paid for it.

Anna L. Walls said...

I think so too, Kriti. Even though I don't have any bookshelves, or even any room for one, I have boxes filled with books stashed away. My husband used to tease me that he'd use one for fire starter but he know I wouldn't part with one to that end. It would have to be a serious, life-saving decision before I parted with a book to start a fire. I hord them like you would not believe, even the really bad ones, and I have some of those too.

Unknown said...

Good point, S.M., about setting expectations for readers.

Anna, 99 cents is too low for a novel, but a pretty fair price for a short story. I don't think I'll ever sell a novel for less than 2.99, and would rather make 3.99 work. That just makes sense. It's not like I have much of a chance of selling a million copies at 99 cents anyway.

Anna L. Walls said...

Sure, $0.99 isn't bad for a short story. I have several and may do that with them. I may also publish them as a collection of short stories in a single book, much as I dislike reading such a thing. haha Right now, my book is available as a pdf for $4 and that sounds fair to me. But heck, a ISBN number isn't really cheep, nor is a good cover. Though I suppose such expenses would be recouped with sales.