In the rat race of publishing, the only thing that remains true today and tomorrow, is that EVERYTHING is CHANGING. David Bowie said it best, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strain).”
I have been at this game since summer of 2012, about one year roughly. In that year, I have seen things shift and tumble, even under my own feet. I have been forced to change my own little self-publishing game plan to match this rapidly evolving marketplace. I started this business with the idea of self-publishing enough novels and gaining enough readership, that eventually, I could actually make a living at it. I still have that plan. But my tactics and strategies are changing to adapt.
I priced my first novel permanently free across all ebook retailers, since October 2012 through today. In that time, I have published two more novels, at $3.99 each, and my fourth will release May 1st, also at $3.99. But using a permafree novel to usher readers into a series of novels has its drawbacks. FREE ain’t quite what it used to be. Amazon now penalizes its Associates for relying on freebie links as a business model.
Has the freebie industry died? Nope. Lots and lots of ebooks are given away every single day by the thousands. But Amazon’s internal algorithms and marketing lean towards favoring paid offerings, or short term freebies, like with their KDP select program. And freebie downloads must number into ten-twenty thousands to hit any significant sales bump after the freebie days are done.
And what about all those other retailers besides Amazon? For most self-publishers, Amazon is easily 90% or more of our income source and exposure. No one else seems to really care if our books are ever seen or purchased. I have books published in other retailers, but my sales there are a tiny fraction of what I sell on Amazon. And FREE downloads? Shhaaa. I can give away hundreds of books on Amazon in a day--without any paid promotion of the freebie.
Nobody gives books away like Amazon. Nobody.
Amazon was, is, and will be for some time, the self-publisher’s greatest asset and source of bread and butter.
So we (self-publishers) must embrace Amazon, and continually adapt. Change our descriptions, upgrade to flashier, more professional cover art, do promotional giveaways and other social media events. Use paid advertising like Bookbub and a couple others that have proven highly effective. FREE alone doesn’t do it anymore.
How will Legacy Publishing compete with self-published authors? Not by price tag alone.
Big 5 publishers (Big 6 a few months ago) are also changing, maneuvering to adapt. Nothing in publishing is static, nothing tomorrow will be static. In a year from now nothing will be static.
Legacy Publishers are making some moves many of us don’t even see. Magazine, book, and textbook publishers are experimenting with interactive, media-rich digital products involving apps, music playlists, all kinds of links, video, widgets, scalable images and augmented reality functions. They are starting to redefine ebooks into something more like a website or blog. (If you have never heard of this, you better start Googling and get familiar with it)
That’s one way the gatekeepers want to keep their tenuous grip on the gate, by creating an added value product they can sell at a premium price, or a subscription price, and we (self-publishers) are shit out of luck because we simply don’t have the professional-technical know-how or budget to keep up.
Harper Collins created a special website just for enhanced ebooks, attempting to teach/entice readers with this phenomenal new and improved reading experience. For those of us who don’t know what an enhanced ebook is, or that we actually want and need them, those wonderful folks at Harper Collins have put together a nice little video explanation: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/harpercollins-launches-site-promoting-enhanced-ebooks/?et_mid=614213&rid=234558344
And recently, Amazon Kindle devices have begun supporting video embedded into ebooks: http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/kindle-fire-to-now-accommodate-video-enhanced-ebooks/
How do Self-Publishers compete with media-rich ebooks?
By writing and publishing damn good books.
By selling those books cheaper than Big 5 publishers can afford to sell theirs ($.99-$3.99)
By building relationships with a fan-base through social media interaction.
By writing and publishing more damn good books.
But what if I want to produce all that media stuff too? What if I want my ebook to have scalable images and music playlists and video and cool stuff?
Well, you could bite the bullet and pay the big bucks for a company to input all those enhancements into a final product (multiple thousands most likely), and in the end, you might still be stuck using them as your publisher/distributor:
There is a quiet race going on right now--the race to provide an inexpensive, user-friendly platform/software for media-rich ebook creation. Several outfits have made a decent stab at it:
Barnes & Noble recently announced some changes to their Nook platform, supposedly a better set of tools for publishing ebooks, but nothing that really addresses enhanced ebook creation: http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/09/nook-debuts-nook-press-a-new-self-publishing-platform-to-compete-with-kindle-direct-publishing/
And then there is Adobe Digital Publishing software, which is a seemingly viable solution to creating a publishing platform on your PC or Mac, but requires quite of bit of technical knowhow in HTML and CSS to use properly. When you’ve finished learning how to use the software to create your own enhanced ebook, you will have invested enough time and energy to earn a web designer’s degree: http://www.adobe.com/products/digital-publishing-suite-family.html
Amazon has their own platform for Kindle Direct Publishing which is fairly user friendly and has some limited tools, but doesn’t really provide that holy grail, an easy to use, non-techy setup for creating media rich ebooks: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A3IWA2TQYMZ5J6 But it’s not really a setup for creating media rich ebooks.
Well, are these damned enhanced ebooks selling? Do devices even support them? Is there any real demand?
But if Legacy Publishers are looking for a way to compete in a market saturated with cheap ebooks that are simply text-based novels, enhanced ebooks and ebook-based apps provide that je ne sais quoi, a little something extra. Legacy Publishers are starting to realize they need to justify the huge price tag disparity between inexpensive self-pubbed works and their much touted literary publications that are priced as though dipped in gold.
So, platform guys, HTML junkies, CSS gurus, where is the good stuff? Where is a drop and drag, idiot-proof platform for media-rich ebook creation that lets the Average Joe author have a level playing field with the monster corporate publishing machines?
It’s time for another ‘equalizer’ to come along and blow this market wide open.
There’s a vacuum in the marketplace for this software/platform, so who’s rushing in to fill it?
Visit Travis at his site, The Nightlife Series, by TW Luedke: http://www.twluedke.com/