Will the Current E-Book Craze Topple Publishers As We Know Them?

Some 85 overflow attendees at the ASJA-sponsored free gathering on Sunday, May 15, in the Berkeley Public Library heard both sides (and a skeptic’s doubt) about what may be two sea change revolutions roiling in the publishing world.The topic was “E-Books, Apps, and Clouds: How Writers Are Creating the Future of Publishing.” Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, predicted the end of mainstream publishers as we know them. Berrett-Koehler’s David Marshall countered by telling of the changes that traditional publishers will make to survive and thrive in the future. And publishing consultant Peter Beren, after the Coker-Marshall exchange, offered a third view, that ultimately the “big houses” may just absorb and dominate the e-book format.It’s time to let the public decide what they want to readMark Coker began by saying “It’s time that writers and publishers stood up for free speech!” And that it was paradoxical that only a few blocks away his mother (and he in utero) took part in the Free Speech movement at its peak in the 1960s. And now, finally, with e-books ranked as the #1 format among all trade categories, there is a renaissance in book publishing as firms like Smashwords, offering a free publishing and distribution platform, help give ordinary people the power about what should be said and printed.”The ‘Big 6′ have judged the worth of writers by the commercial merit of the books they sent for publication. They controlled the printing presses and the venues of mass distribution, but their myth as the arbiters of value is giving way to a new reality as brick and mortar bookstores close, they pass the post-publication PR burden to the writers, their book advances tumble while they still reject almost every submission, they take 18 months to put those few books accepted in print-and if the new book doesn’t sell in the first weeks that it’s in the bookstores, it is withdrawn to be remaindered or pulped.””Writers have been exploited. It’s the public who should decide what they want to read. We offer an online, open platform so writers can release their potential. That creates many more choices.”Coker said that answers to two questions will lead to the downfall of the big publishers (though they will never totally disappear, nor should they):The first question is, “What can publishers do that I can’t do myself?”The second, “Will using a traditional (or mainstream) publisher harm my book’s success?”In response to the first question, Mark said that any author can use the Smashwords format to create an e-book in nine software languages. Those books are then openly marketed by distributors worldwide, democratically serving all. There is no cost to the author/publisher. And a royalty of 60-85% is paid for every book sold (compared to 5-17% in royalties for the major houses). The books are released as e-books almost the moment they are processed.The second question, how would a traditional publisher harm a book’s success? By making it unaffordable (in part to pay for their overhead), said Coker, often selling it at prices double or triple the e-book rates. And by limiting its distribution, geographically or for restricted periods of time. (“E-books know no boundaries since they become immediately accessible internationally once they are seen in an online catalog. Readers can also sample a part of the book before buying. And since there is unlimited space in the e-book bookstore, the books will remain available everywhere forever.”)”By self-publishing and having the means affordably at hand, the authors/publishers can take control of their own publishing destiny,” Mark added. “If they write a good book that resonates with writers, buyers will honor the writer with word-of-mouth promotion.”But another key question remains unanswered: will the “open press” or “ancillary publishing” process bring authors enough income for their efforts? “Right now we have less than 50 authors earning $50,000 a year,” Mark replied, smiling. But in just three years his firm has helped 20,000 writers publish 50,000 e-books, and in the process Smashwords has become one of the largest e-book distributors.Smashwords is one of eight “open press” firms now printing and distributing both bound and electronic books. Others include CreateSpace, Kindle, PubIt!, Lulu, Blurb, Scribd, Google, and LightningSource.Is a second publishing revolution afoot?The established publishers held their ground. It was posed that not only will they remain (though probably changed), they would create a new kind of book and production that is simply too complex and layered for the new firms like Smashwords to match.D. Patrick Miller, the President of the NorCal chapter of ASJA (American Society for Journalists and Authors) presented David Marshall, VP of Editorial and Digital at Berrett-Koehler Publishers in San Francisco, a nonfiction independent house in the educational field.David felt that the future of traditional publishers depended upon software, layering, video, animation, interactivity with the reader, and responding to the “age of reading TV and watching books” by smarter and tighter cutting-edge firms. In this new world, authors were asked not to think of themselves as book writers but symbols of creative change.Marshall also focused on a revolution in publishing, emphasizing more the digital explosion in tablets and e-readers, ranking the top four as Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google, and citing the four top formats as PDF (creating the exact replica of the print book), e-pub (with flowing text where type font and size can be changed but graphs and tables must be omitted), Mobi (in the Kindle), and the scanned process used by Google Book Search.Most of the transformation from print to digital, he said, has been in fiction; nonfiction has increased from 7 to 12% of the total. Marshall then painted the vision of how nonfiction will look in the near future, as “enhanced” books including audio, video, self-assessments, and community portals where readers can talk with the writer and other readers. There might be games in the book or animation in the preface with the author’s voice-over.Most of the book won’t live in the tablet either. It will “live in the clouds,” in a grand file beamed down from a database available any time from anywhere. The user can buy any section or chapter they want, paying through a meter. And the data can be dynamically changed, updated, or added to (as can articles) as facts emerge or change.This will transform the authors’ role. They will publish digitally first, then think print later. The barriers and excuses will be gone. “If it makes sense, print it,” Marshall said.The “power of free” then becomes possible with the digital book. The writer can capture market share by giving away the first book (or the first chapters), then charge as the fan base develops. An e-list becomes the authors’ selling center.Since e-books in the future will be multimedia, the writer will be responsible for the text and the embedded media components. Writers will find partners from film, audio, and art to create the best format.David encouraged the participants to read his “Tools of Change Conference Call Report” from February, 2011, available at scribd.com.From that report, the changes on the publishing horizon are almost overwhelming. Particularly interesting in the report are Wired Magazine’s Kevin Kelley’s six trends that book publishers need to address in order to stay competitive and eight ways to make it easy to pay but hard to copy. Brian O’Leary (Magellan Media) compares the old paradigm to the new and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale) gives a chilling author’s perspective. In fact, all 12 pages paint a brave New Publishing World in which today’s major houses, and Coker’s self-publishers, hardly fit.Perhaps David Marshall’s summary of that report best expresses the sense he shared with clarity, conviction, and excitement at the ASJA gathering:”All ‘heck’ is breaking out in the digital publishing space. E-books are just the first wave of many waves of digital innovation. Early pronouncements from some pundits that enhanced e‐books are more interesting to publishers than consumers misses the point. As the market for pure text products, even in digital form, moves to free, publishers must innovate to provide new layers of consumer value, or perish. Products such as The Elements (185,000 sold) show the portent of the industry. Unfortunately, most publishers will not be able to profitably transform themselves into companies such as Touch Press, Open Road Media, or Callaway, and some of the stiffest competition to traditional publishers will likely come from VC-funded ‘born digital’ start-ups. I sat at a conference lunch table (recently) under the banner, ‘What’s the difference between book and software publishing?’ That is an apt reflection of how these two industries are quickly merging. (Berrett-Koehler’s) collaborative partnership business model is more important now than ever before. We (too) must re-invent ourselves to stay relevant.”The big houses are more likely just to absorb the e-booksIn a conversation after the ASJA gathering, Peter Beren commented “I remember more than 30 years ago when we used the same rhetoric and vigor that Mark Coker used today, but then we proclaimed that you didn’t have to publish in New York, that West Coast publishing was the new frontier of creativity!”Coker had just called for writers to re-embrace freedom of speech, and prophesized the end of mainstream publishers as we know them.Peter is a literary agent; a columnist for the San Francisco Publishing Examiner; a publishing consultant to authors, self-publishers, and independent publishers, and a literary agent with 30 years experience in book publishing. Among his six published books are The Writers Legal Companion (with Brad Bunnin) and California the Beautiful.”I just can’t believe that e-books are the self-publishing keys to the kingdom. Mark’s rhetoric is as extreme as ours was. Particularly if it gives the idea that a writer can self-publish and by-pass the traditional publishers and achieve the same result in terms of readers and earnings. If the person does that, and only distributes to electronic platforms/channels, it is very difficult for a reader to know a work exists and how to get it. E-books are a great secondary sales channel and they can add to the authors’ earnings in a considerable way but right now the entire channel accounts for only about 13% of total sales.”Nor do I see bookstores disappearing any time soon. True, Borders folded, but Barnes and Noble is predicted to bring in $300 million more in business in its absence. Independent bookstores, while only 5% of the market, are doing well, and the Expresso Book machine now produce books on the spot worldwide. In fact, it’s far more likely that traditional publishers will absorb the e-book channel just as they have absorbed trade paperbacks, books on tape, and boxed sets. Random House and other major publishers are going back to their authors and releasing their works in e-book form. They are even experimenting with enhanced e-books, which the new, smaller open press firms simply can’t do.”And what about the craft itself? Think of coffee table books-that can’t be duplicated electronically.”Also, how much of the e-book fire is being fed by the dozen or more firms earning $100 million selling self-publishing services?”Peter added that he doesn’t disapprove of self-publishing or e-books, just the hype. He said that e-books are keeping many of the smaller publishers in the black right now, and there are many micro publishers that will flourish in the new environment.In fact, Beren saw the difficulties a year ago in a his San Francisco Examiner Publishing column, on March 4, 2010, when he shared that “(w)hen self-publishing grew by leaps and bounds, it grew because technology made book printing simple. Combined with print-on-demand (POD)-where you get the orders first and then print to fit-self-publishing became an irresistible lure. Suddenly, there was disintermediation, eliminating the middle-man. Anybody could get their book on Amazon where it would democratically rise or fall without the mediation of the prejudices of a store’s book buyer. Since they were dealing with POD, there was no need to hold inventory or carry the capitol risk of inventory. Anybody could be an author, anybody could publish a book.”What self-publishers discovered with the e-commerce channel was that somebody or something needed to capture the attention of the individual reader and motivate them to look the book up on Amazon or some other venue. Marketing and distribution became, and still are, self-publishing’s great challenge.”A revolution at the presses? Or two? Or is it more-of-the-same but with new players and new tools? Keep reading…”

Get Free and Effective Online Book Marketing, Author Publicity and Brand Equity

To sell books, authors use social media networks as marketing tools for building brand equity and getting free book publicity by sharing online conversations, posts, book excerpts, links, videos, photographs and text files with family, friends, fans and professionals.Book and eBook authors are creating internet presence using social media and free internet publicity tools by marketing books and services using internet communities, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Digg. In addition, there are free opportunities to market books on Google and Yahoo through their search engine submission services, communities and blogs.By having your book appear on all or some of these websites, you can begin to build brand equity, the perceived value assigned to your name, the name of your book and your services in the marketplace, which in this case, is the internet. As you build a target audience that has an interest in you, your name, book and services derive real commercial value to accompany your brand equity, causing your stock to rise, so to speak, and allowing you to cash in on your name and reputation.Using a larger group of online fans on Facebook, for instance, you can further define smaller communities to build around you as an author, expert and public speaker, establishing yourself as an authority and giving this target audience a better chance to get to know you. Acquaintance with what you have to say could encourage an online fan or friend to consider hiring you to speak to their civic, social or professional group. which may lead to consulting contracts in your professional area.Many authors write books as extensions of articles and in-depth investigatory projects that may have been part of their academic curriculum, research, literary collections or newspaper and magazine columns. With this professional background, authors can truthfully claim a specialty in particular professions and bill themselves as such. Other authors have written books about their hobbies, such as gardening, cooking, design, sewing, dance, boating, travel, photography. Get the picture? Don’t forget to take pictures and video to use in your online marketing or eBook production.With all those text files, photographs and video, collected for your book or eBook, you can now generate scripts for a video production or a series of video projects for YouTube, adding to the amount of free book publicity available to you. Videos can give potential audiences a chance to see and hear a sample of your presentation. Try to make this presentation into a mini production and not just a talking head. Add graphics, photographs or other video clips over your voice to give the presentation interest and additional value. Videos can be made into book trailers, short author biographies and video business cards. You may need a bit of professional assistance to get your video project started. The more professional your video productions look, the more likely they are to be picked up by other video services, giving you even more exposure, free book publicity and brand equity.Whatever your reason for writing a book, it doesn’t take a large number of internet fans, friends and followers to effect the momentum you need for success as an author, expert, public speaker and professional consultant. One online contact is all it takes to get the free book publicity sequence started. You tell the audience you are available for personal appearances, public speaking events, book signing engagements, consulting and coaching; and then direct them to your internet pages to read about you, your book and your professional specialty. Imagine, one contact responds to your message. There you go! But remember, no one can read your mind or between the lines. Spell out clearly what action you want your audience to take. Then give them step-by-step instructions on how they should take each action.
Buy your book?
Hire you to speak?
Contract with you as a consultant?
Employ you for staff coaching?Social media networks can help you build relationships and establish or enhance your internet presence because, within social media networks, you can create interest groups with whom you may talk about appropriately selected topics. If you are an author, these topics should include your book, a point of interest for online and live audiences, as well. Most times the intrigue my audiences have with me as an author is the fact that I have done what many people in the audience either want to do or think they can do–write a book. Many questions center on the writing process. Don’t discourage their curiosity. Use whatever you have to capture interest. Then, show them a video and talk about your book, how you went about writing your book and how your book supports your consulting specialty.
The facts are these.
Technology allows us to tell our online friends, fans and followers about our books
Internet communities can be supportive of our books and events
Audiences must believe we are being informative rather than exploitive
You are not allowed to sell books and services in some online communitiesBE SURE to read the fine print in the terms of use section before you check the box. As competition for membership in certain internet groups becomes more competitive, those groups are beginning to take the terms of use section more seriously. When you check the box and type in the code, you are signing a legally binding contract to abide by rules and to uphold standards of that particular online community, which may not allow a participant to sell on its website. Those sales compete with paid advertisers on the website. Don’t take for granted that all communities have the same policies about sales. They don’t.Some websites that do not allow you to sell your book or services may still be a great place for branding your name and book. Beyond official policies, community members have their own ways to deal with those who deviate from accepted community conduct. Many members belong to several similar online groups and will be on the lookout for you and your tactics. They have the option of removing your posts from their pages where their friends may have seen your posts; or they can de-friend or un-follow you. Like in the community where you live, your un-neighborly reputation will follow you from community to community, where you will eventually find yourself friendless and alone with no book sales, speaking events or consulting contracts.
Be Subtle
Tell Your Story
Don’t SellEvolving social media marketing for free publicity and brand equity can lead to book and services sales and public speaking events. However, the use of social media can backfire! If members of your online communities believe you are trying to take advantage of them, they will reject your message. Remember, these are real people, not inanimate technology or extensions of search engines. Make sure what you are offering–how-to instructions, free sample products, gifts, coupons, discounts, invitations, advice, jokes or whatever–is something they can see as being useful in their lives or careers.In your social media network or online professional community, treat people with respect. Speak to them as equals and communicate with them in the same way you would communicate with friends in other areas of your life. If you do not treat people with regard, you will alienate your potential target audience and you will not receive an abundance of book sales or invitations for public speaking events or consulting and services contracts.ALL OF THIS may sound foreign and daunting, but effective book marketing through social media can be achieved easily by grouping friends and fans into categories to suit the conversations and discussions you intend to share with each online group. Conversations, discussions and posting can lead your target audience to read an excerpt from your book, an excerpt that you can upload in an online press release or article. Write your own promotional materials. You can do this! After all, you wrote a book!My college journalism professor and advisor at Texas A&M University, the late Skip Leabo, told me, “If you can write, then you can write your own ticket to a good life.” Skip gave me that nugget before we arrived at the door of the World Wide Web. It took me a number of years to understand exactly what he meant. Now, I know. As the writer, I can assume an active role in my destiny.
Write my books using online tools
Use free technology to publicize my events
Shape public opinion about my books
Brand my name and my titlesAs an author you will most likely want to join author groups online to increase your visibility among other authors, publishers and literary agents. Literary agents and publishers are attracted to author groups because these groups provide a large talent pool. Also, author groups give you unlimited possibilities for enhancing the standing of your book, while creating a community with whom you can share your book, press releases, articles and author biography.Further, your membership in social media networks gives members a chance to share their books, articles and press releases, giving you the opportunity to comment on those pages. Comments on other writers’ pages can get you professional recognition, which will lead readers to your website or blog that contains your information and excerpts. On those pages, potential target audiences can get a taste of your creative side and a glimpse of who you are. Your social media community may read your author biography and book excerpt, and be inspired to invite you to speak in front of their group.Once you get yourself comfortably in front of an audience at a public speaking event, you can deliver your message about your book, let people get to know you and, at the same time, persuade them that you are knowledgeable about writing, editing, marketing or other services you offer for a fee. In front of your audience, you can sell yourself, reserve further public speaking events, and attract lucrative consulting contracts. All of this can be accomplished using social media. Be sure not to use hard-selling tactics in public speaking events. The best way to sell anything–anything at all–is to sound not like a salesperson, but to sound like a friend.To take full advantage of your social media network, you could invite your local social media community to an event you have arranged or one in which you have been invited to participate. At these events, you have the opportunity to place your book on the table at the back of the room. If you wrote an eBook, your sales will be handled exclusively through the internet, perfect for involving your social media network because the internet is the location of the community and also the location where they purchase the eBook.LET’S HOPE you have written a book that excites people, a book they will share with their network and so on and so on. That makes your book excerpts nearly as important as the book itself. So, pay attention to what you post because the excerpt will either cause your community to attend an event or make them want to read more of your book and make the purchase. Your social media network can help you sell book and get public speaking events if you provide them with as many places as possible to read about you. Press release publishing websites will publish and distribute well-written press releases and articles, which will get you free book publicity. Check them out and pick a couple of websites to start.Press releases accomplish a number of goals, including free book publicity and getting your biography and data files into the hands of folks who can hire you to speak to their groups. How Authors Use Social Media Networking to Sell Books will help you learn more about using the internet to promote your books and career.Online press release services are not all the same. Write an article and upload it. Be prepared to wait a few days while some services review your article. If it is accepted and published, check your search engine ranking after a couple of days and see if the website is working for you. If not, move on to another one. In some cases, it is not the website, it your writing that is not working for the search engines. Be aware that writing for internet distribution and search engine optimization is a different type of writing.As you write more for internet distribution you will need to learn about headline writing for search engines, text optimization and keyword strategies. Involve your social media network in getting you book sales and public speaking engagements by providing the network a means of purchasing your book or eBook. This can be done through your website, blog, press releases or articles, all posted online for the convenience of your network. The challenge in selling online is having a method of receiving payments.There are numerous methods available. Do research and find one that suits your needs. When you secure a public speaking engagement, you have the opportunity to hand out printed materials that include a biography, book ordering information and other pertinent files that your audience may access on the internet. Other files may include the site addresses of internet press releases about your and your book, online articles and reviews about your book, and postings and reviews you have contributed on others’ writing blogs and websites.SOCIAL MEDIA tactics such as those I have suggested will not work for you unless have an online presence. If you don’t have an online presence, get one. Your social media network will expect someone who professes to be an author, expert and public speaker to have a viable online presence. Here are suggestions to help you get started.
Post a Blog
Develop a Website
Write Internet Press Releases
Distribute Online ArticlesTo acquire public speaking engagements, online press releases about your book should have appropriate contact information. Some services have contact information categories in which you can include as little or as much as you like, from email only to physical address. Be careful about the amount and nature of the information you post. What you place on the internet is likely to stay on the internet. Use caution in what you put out there, including specific fee quotes. Because of the delicate nature of pricing, talk about fees on a project by project basis in proposal estimates. However, a list of services with corresponding costs is acceptable as long as you include a disclaimer about price changes. You might want to mention whether or not you are willing to travel and what your requirement are.For those in the audience that may wish to contact you later, when they need your services, provide them with an easy way to do that. As mentioned before, in the handout, include your contact information. And please do not forget about the trusted old-fashioned business card and don’t rely on your audience to keep up with your business card. They have picked up several at your event that do not belong to you. Get their business cards, all of them so you can contact them for followup meetings, email addresses and social media relationships. In your online publicity and at public speaking events, be sure to offer helpful suggestions. Good suggestions will encourage your audience to accept your offers for social media relationships.In your presentation, try to refer to your own book or your own work. If you are an author with your own book on the table at the back of the room, promote your book and your work in your speech and also in your handouts, prepared in advance. If your book has been honored, mention it in your online press releases and other publicity. Also in the audience handout include a statement about your writing honors or awards your book may have received to make yourself more attractive as a prospective public speaker and consulting contractor, friend and follower in social media networks.At your speaking events, don’t forget to read a passage or two from your book, regardless of its genre. In the reading, showcase your writing style to acquaint the audience with the book you are asking them to buy. Don’t be too dry in your presentation, but try not to be overly dramatic. That can sound phony Be sincere. Sincerity counts in every word you write, every speech you make, everything comment you post, every book you sell, everything you do.