Friday, September 30, 2011

Why The Book (even the e-book) is Dying

Here's why I believe the era of the book, especially the how-to/self-help book, even in e-book format, is dying faster even than most people think:
  • People want info that's more current even than possible in an e-book. Most authors do not continually update their books. And even if an author does, if today he's updating page 300, page 1 may not be current enough.
  • People want information in shorter bites: distillations like Top 10 lists.
  • They expect it free: either as an article or, alas, a pirated book.
  • An ever larger percentage of books sold are used, which means no royalty for the author. So, except for famous people, who can still expect to get lucrative book deals, writers who need or want to make money from books are less likely to write them.
  • Book distribution is unwieldy. Certainly, traditional distribution is obsolete: print thousands of copies, store them in a warehouse, get a salesperson to flog chain buyers (forget about tiny-ordering independent bookstores) and when they don't sell, the books get shipped back to the warehouse. And, if you expect to make money selling your books, print-on-demand is too expensive. CreateSpace is probably best for creating a book but as long as Apple and Amazon keep fighting, the CreateSpace distribution network isn't wide enough.
That all said, I think CreateSpace-created-books with diligent e-marketing is probably the best way to go if you're eager to write something book-length. I think, however, that for all but the famous, book writing must be viewed only as a vehicle for consolidating one's learning or otherwise providing its own reward.


Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed this for as long as I did, but you should look into the interviews and media with the top-selling ebook author around, John Locke.

He realized something: give away samples, and make the full books inexpensive enough that readers would try reading them.

He's not trying to be James Joyce; he just needs to be in the range of, say, Dean Koontz (an asonishingly low bar, if you read a few Koontz books.)

When he started, he had no publisher. His marketing cost per book is about a grand. He sells all of his titles for a buck. And he's doing really, really well.

So well that he now has a contract with a dead tree publisher - one that lets him retain control over his ebook choices.

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, Guy Kawasaki has urged me to do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

When you say Guy Kawasaki has said to do the same thing, did he mean self-publish, or read up on Locke?

If he meant self-publish, dude, you're already doing it :)

Marty Nemko said...

He said, yes, try to get a big advance from a traditional publisher AND self-publish on CreateSpace and sell your ebook for $1 to $2.

Anonymous said...

Ah. Most of the big publishers demand control over e-distribution if you go the dead tree route. That's one of the reasons Locke's deal is surprising; they're very unusual deals.

If you have bestseller status in your track record, though, you might be able to negotiate it.

But the publishers can be very, very unpleasant about this for mere mortal writers.

I can't find it now, but I recently read a blog post about someone who had sold a novel, and gone into her back catalog and collected stories - award winning stories which none of the publishers would sell as a collection, and not a part of the novel - to self-publish on Amazon.

The novel publisher told her she was 'trading with the enemy' and demanded her advance back.

Here we go, a discussion of this:

If Guy's reading these comments, it'd be great if he took an interest in seeing how this author's case turns out.