Aaron Shepard Wrote a Blog: The Party is Over.
“Amazon has been touted as fostering a thriving culture of self publishing with its level playing field for online sales and its promotion of new reading and publishing technologies, particularly the Kindle. Well, much of that is valid. Amazon has made self publishing more and more accessible to writers and for many years supported a good number of them with sales. But with the Kindle, Amazon has also commercialized books to the point that fewer and fewer self publishers can make a living from them.”
“Print-on-Demand (POD) books provided a handsome profit margin even at reasonable prices. But Kindle books, with their lower prices, have decimated POD sales. Meanwhile, Kindle customers expect more and more for the low prices they pay. Many feel cheated if they spend 99 cents or even less on a book that isn’t “full-length.” And the flood of easily-published books makes it harder and harder for individual ones to stand out—a problem that can only worsen with time.” Read more on his website.
A Numbers Game
Nothing fundamental about the process or the business has changed. It’s purely a numbers game. More and more people are attempting to make a living from self-publishing, and that increases the amount of poor products that will never sell well. Fewer people making a living at it, in comparison to the total number of people attempting it. A relatively fixed amount of consumer dollars is being spread over a continually increasing number of books.
Make a Back List of Books First, then Profit!
Too many books and articles with sensational articles have touted the fast, easy money-making opportunity with books / e-books. Sure, it is easy to put your self published work out there – although the process to reach that point and to promote it is hard work – but there is only a finite amount of readers. The best way into a writing career is to build up a back list of books first before seeing enough profits to make a living. Every book (and also every article / blog / guest blog a writer releases, will increase their return and boosts their portfolio exposure.
Compare Publishing with a Marriage
You can see it also philosophically: Writing is like a marriage. If you want to get into it solely for the potential monetary payoff, you will probably fail. But if you get into it with your eyes open, and with reasonable expectations, you will probably get a payoff in personal satisfaction. And in regards of publishing, you might even make some decent money along the way.
What’s a Writer to Do?
It feels like every other boom we have seen in tech: The Get-Rich-Quicker’s show up, make a lot of noise, get discouraged and declare the party over. One needs to see the reality: There is no successful business that doesn’t constantly create new products – books. And there is no success if no one knows of your products – books. Can you imagine Apple still selling their PowerBooks, and has not invented iPods, iPads or iPhones? And has not created fantastic public launches, nor established their Apple Stores? The company would be already bankrupt, and their party would be over…
The proportion of people who write well – and who are professionally self-publishing and marketing their books well in order to succeed – probably hasn’t changed. Many authors think, writing a book is enough “if you write it, people will buy it”. But that’s not how it works… Compare it with a retail business: Setting up a shop with only one single product and don’t market this product will not even bring a handfull of customers. Everyone would agree that this is silly. But some authors do the same in their publishing “business”. It is a long road for author-publishers from having no readers at all, being on ground zero, to start a small base and grow it to a large readership. It takes lots of time and effort to connect with a sufficient reader bases in order to make a living. And it cannot be based on Social Media only, an author’s writing should show up at blogs, guest posts, at newspapers, magazines, through book signings, readings, radio and TV interviews and maybe even speeches. Not to mention lots of reviews from reputable places.
No Reason for Arrogance
I have heard it too often: “I like writing, but hate to go out in the public and market my book”. “I can post on Social Media, but I am a shy writer, or I am not going to do any book signings”. Compare it with a party guest who doesn’t talk with others, who doesn’t try the delicious buffet or doesn’t listen to music or dance … these is the equivalent to authors who go to the big “publishing party”, without really participating, not being interested to talk with other guests, expecting the whole audience accommodates them (and is buying their books).
The party is NOT over at all, it just has gotten more guests. To compete with millions of other writers means for writers to create lots of new books and to market them professionally. If not trained in book marketing – and I am not talking about just having a presence on Facebook or Twitter – then get professional help long BEFORE the book launch (even better before you write it) in order to have a smooth and successful publishing experience and to establish a great author platform. And for the writing part: there are hundreds of websites with writing tips, critique groups and even more writing teachers and classes out there. And even from editors one can learn a lot.
Yes, new authors will likely find it necessary to work harder than ever before. This isn’t the industry for people who expect a quick profit, or who think their single novel is going to make them rich or they can make a living from the first book on.
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