There is much I want to post about, but between working on my short stories and other projects I’m running short on time this week. Rather than leave a blank spot on the web, I’m going to attempt to fill that aching void with links to articles of interest.
More original Ditchwalk content will be coming soon to a screen near you. And it won’t require flash! Until then…
- Only Branding Can Save the ebook Industry
Jay Garmon at The New Sleekness throws down on an important question: how do publishers make themselves relevant in the digital age? I’m not sure I buy all of his arguments, and I’m somewhat convinced that a publisher’s branding is of little or no interest to consumers. (I’m entirely convinced that branding has itself been distorted beyond all meaning. Next time you visit your doctor — whether to fight the onslaught of aging or to set a broken leg — you will quite likely be told that the cure is good branding.)
Garmon raises good questions, though, and they’re questions any author should be aware of. Publishing and self-publishing are not stable businesses, which means there is a good deal more risk baked into these activities than other things you might do with your time and money. Consider yourself warned.
- Do I need the middle?
Brian O’Leary at Magellan Media Partners picks up on Garmon’s post to make a related point:
If the average e-book sells for $10 with a royalty of 25% of net, the average author earns about $1,900 a year. If that same author strikes an agency deal with Amazon … well, she or he need sell fewer than 300 units to break even.
As I’ve noted before, the big question for mainstream publishers these days is deciding who their customers are. Back in the day (say, five years ago), publishing’s customers were retailers — both online and brick-and-mortar. Now that the internet has broken publishing’s lock on distribution and production, product is bypassing the old checkpoints and being sold to readers directly. Should publishers make readers their new customers? Authors? All of the above? Where’s the life-sustaining return on investment?
O’Leary reverses the argument and asks why authors should care about publishers. And by the way: you should be reading Brian O’Leary regularly.
- In E-Book Era, You Can’t Even Judge a Cover
Even though I’m initially publishing my short stories as an e-book, I’m still required to have cover art. I understand that requirement, but it still seems odd. Motoko Rich of the NYT comes at the issue a bit differently, noting that the lack of outward-facing book covers prevents traditional book-centric conversations from taking place:
You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.
Beyond crippling impromptu conversations (and one’s ability to be pretentious), the loss of recognizable cover art impacts word-of-mouth marketing directly. You can ask a person staring at a Kindle what they’re reading, but you can’t say, “What’s that you’re reading?” — where that is a reference to an outward-facing, attention-grabbing cover design. (This actually happened to me only a few weeks ago at the gym. Someone was curious enough about the book I was reading to ask me what it was, and what I thought of it.)
- An Archive of Book Cover Designs and Designers
Speaking of book covers, this site is worth a look if you’re wrestling with your own design issues. One of the services that mainstream publishers provide to authors — for a fee — is the development of cover art. Self-published authors have to take on that responsibility themselves or direct others to create the image, and in either case more information is better. As noted in a recent post, you should always look for existing templates so you don’t have to waste time reinventing the wheel. Taking an hour or two to scan through several hundred book covers will tell you not only what’s possible, but give you layout and design ideas for your own book.
- Publishing + BDSM: Finding a safeword
I’m generally leery of post titles that tell me more about the author than I want to know. I’m passing this link along because it did a good job of reminding me that nothing really matters if you can’t figure out how to sell your product.
I have seen no examples of social media channels moving the needle in terms of point of sale (POS) numbers for any recent titles that have been written by non-celebrity authors. Period. (I have asked, repeatedly, for any evidence of this and have been met with silence.)
The question of marketing in the digital age is something I don’t think about enough, and something the publishing industry has yet to come to terms with. (You would think they have, but they haven’t.) I’m not sure what the answers are, but this post makes a compelling case that a lot of good ideas are being ignored by entrenched luddites.
As an aside, I’m slowly coming to believe there is less to social media than meets the eye. Paradoxically, the wild, unending success Justin Bieber has had in dominating Twitter is spurring me down this road. Teen idols have been coming and going since before the development of any electronic devices, including the telegraph. That a teen idol is now making use of new technology says nothing about the utility of that technology for others, and everything about the predictable social interests of teens and pre-teens. Unless you’re writing Justin-Bieber-centric fiction, I’m not sure Twitter is going to work for you.
- What do you call an e-book?
Most of the objects and processes we confront in our daily lives have already been refined and defined. It’s only when we interact with something that is still evolving that words tend to fail us. As I learned a long time ago in the interactive industry, you can have all the conversations you want, but if the words in those conversations don’t mean the same thing to all parties the conversation is moot at best.
Right now publishing (and people who talk about publishing, including journalists) are struggling to refine and define the terminology that applies to emerging digital content. This post suggests that we’re already stretching the limits (and utility) of the word ‘e-book’, and that we may need to start making finer distinctions within the professional ranks of the industry, if not to customers directly.
- Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text
In case you missed it.
As for me, I’ve already read all these links, so I’m going to go outside this weekend and let the sun warm me from the outside in for the first time in six months.
— Mark Barrett