Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Seven Aspects of the Novelist's Dilemma (4)

4. Incremental costs approaching zero.
An empty ebook reader makes a very poor doorstop. Filled with content, it’s invaluable. 
Content, as the saying goes, is king. It’s king because readers are seeking not an object but an experience — the experience of reading (duh).
That’s why, despite well publicized challenges to their business models, publishers with big fiction backlists are still making pretty good money.
In the modern world of intellectual property, the cost of producing one more copy approaches zero. This is why Microsoft (whose intellectual property is software) has gross margins that players in other industries can only envy.
The difference between Microsoft and, say, Random House, however, is that Microsoft created—and therefore owns—its intellectual property. Most big publishers have licensed theirs from authors. Yet these publishers, adding some value (see previous posts) but not as much as they used to, are still taking a majority of the revenue from sales of each incremental copy. Sales that—once fixed costs are recouped—cost them essentially zero. What's a poor novelist to do?
Dilemma: Is the validation that derives from having the name of an established imprint on your book worth the outsized cut that a big publisher takes of the proceeds?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This Guy Knows What He's Doing

I can’t give testament to the writing of Amazon bestseller Aaron Patterson, whose new novel, Michael, launches today. I simply haven’t read it yet.
But I’ll tell you this: For a year now I’ve been watching Aaron Patterson reinvent book publishing from his perch in Boise, Idaho. (Insert all the potato farmer jokes you want here, have your laugh, and now pay attention.) I have watched him make No. 1 Kindle bestsellers of former Big-Six-published mid-list authors and newcomers alike, including himself. This guy is smart. If he writes anything like he thinks about the world, watch out!
Curious? Go check out Aaron’s new novel today, Book Two in his young adult Airel Saga. The book is available at a special promotional price with a chance to win a free Kindle. Free is good, too. The only thing better than a Kindle is a free Kindle.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seven Aspects of the Novelist's Dilemma (3)

3. Where does credibility lie?
As I was writing this post, an email blast arrived from bestselling author, blogger, internet marketing guru (and my old friend) Seth Godin. Under the heading “Self published” he listed thirteen well-known authors who had self-published, stated that “The question isn’t whether or not you should wait to be picked, the question is whether you care enough to pick yourself,” and included a link to a blog post on the “Information as Material” website entitled “Do or DIY.” You can read that blog yourself, but the site is down at the moment, so I haven't linked to it. Nevertheless it seems worth listing all the once-self-published authors, because the sheer number of important ones speaks loudly. In alphabetical order:
Kathy Acker, Jane Austen, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Kate Chopin, Tristan Corbiere, Stephen Crane, Nancy Cunard, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Benjamin Franklin, Nikki Giovanni, Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol, Ian Hamilton-Finlay, Nathaniel Hawthorne, A.E. Housman, Charles Ives, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, Martin Luther, Herman Melville, George Meredith, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Irma Rombauer, Raymond Roussel, Carl Sandburg, Edith Sitwell, Gertrude Stein, Laurence Sterne, Italo Svevo, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Henry David Thoreau, Derek Walcott, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Please Join Me

I’m not a big joiner. Oh, I can be social if need be — can talk my head off at a cocktail party with a glass of wine (or two) in my hand. But even when I’m at the dance I feel like the guy looking in the window. (See Mann, Thomas.) It’s the novelist’s plight, perhaps, to be more inclined to observe than to participate.
So a few years ago, when my old friend Jane Dystel (to whom I’d sold my literary agency in 2000), recommended that I join International Thriller Writers, I fretted and resisted. Last year, however, I took the plunge, and although my participation in the organization has been gentle rather than gung-ho, I have found it rewarding.
At the ITW conference in New York, I sat in on some lectures in craft, picking up a thing or two. I spoke on a panel, reacquainted myself with some old colleagues and started some new relationships. The overarching theme of ITW is that times are tough (and changing) in a difficult profession. If we authors stick together, we can help one another, better satisfy readers, and grow the genre.
One of the things that makes ITW unique is that it doesn’t charge dues to its members. It only charges for its conference and it sells ads on its website. And one of the biggest ways it raises funds is by selling an annual collection of short stories.
I’m here today to plug that collection, Love is Murder, edited by Sandra Brown.
Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.
Booklist called it "wonderfully diverse and exciting."

If you need to watch television to get inspired to buy it (something I don’t really understand, dinosaur that I am), visit the trailer through Facebook.
There are some big names in this collection, but it’s largely about assisting the rest of us, the ones still striving to “make it.” By buying this book, you’re not only helping authors in a popular genre. You’re helping authors get better at what they do.