Printed books are not going away. The emergence of the electronic book, the eBook, and new digital reading tablets will not replace what generations have come to expect with printed books.
However the future of the printed word in a hardcover or paper format will not remain the principal method of delivering written content. Similar to what is happening with newspapers and magazines, the printed book will remain a delivery method for readers, but not in the same way as we’ve grown accustomed.
Anyone who doubts the sustainability of an eBook is sadly mistaken. Printed book sales have been in decline for more than a decade and the production costs associated with printing, shipping, warehousing and handling makes no economic sense.
Now the iPad, Kindle and Nook electronic readers make digital publishing relevant and potentially the most profitable way to reach consumers. Many call this a game-changer because Apple solidified and legitimized with the iPad what Amazon was hoping to achieve with their Kindle–a viable and new market for books.
Beyond the download of eBooks to a digital Reader, the potential for change in publishing has never been more obvious. The biggest publishers are going to have to change the way they conduct their business. Authors finally have an opportunity to become profitable on their own. Writers should applaud this development and begin to look beyond their dependence on a traditional trade publisher for sales.
Cost as the real question
Who can argue the advantages of publishing with a large trade company whose reputation for bestsellers and massive marketing campaigns are legendary. The real question for writers in the 21st century is—at what cost? Not in royalty statements and checks but in rights, ownership and control of content. The future for profits in publishing is in controlling one’s own content. This was never truly possible before the new market for the eBook. Suddenly the business model is changing and authors are finally in a position to emerge from the doldrums of mid-list anonymity to a position where they can chart their own course.
Large traditional publishers are concerned with one thing—profits. As long as writers are prolific and create content that can sell a predictable number of copies over a long period of time, they remain valuable to their publisher. The day the content flow slows or comes to a stop or the predictable number of copies sold begins to erode then the value of the writer drops. Certainly this could happen to any writer. The problem is when the writer does not own the rights to their content.
The mega-bestselling authors of today have no worries. Their future course is set as long as sales do not suddenly stop. They can negotiate whatever they want including a bigger piece of the pie. They represent a mere 10 percent of the total number of titles published each year. The remaining 90 percent of the authors and books are the ones who should step back and examine the pros and cons of remaining a writer-under-contract.
Personal goals of the writer
There are multiple ways of attacking this situation and it starts with the personal goals of the writer and a plan for marketing. For a writer depending on printed books and a publisher for an income, consider a pen name. Remain under contract and continue to produce content as scheduled, but begin creating new content under another name and become your own publisher with eBooks. There are plenty of people who can help you. It just takes a little research, and a desire to remain a writer with a mission.
If you are still submitting query letters to agents but haven’t had luck, it’s time to step back and consider jumping in with both feet. Become your own publisher! Team up with a digital distributor that can get you exposure to the market. It’s been proven this method can work, if you follow certain guidelines and remain doggedly determined to succeed. It starts with being a pretty good writer and working closely with an editor. Packaging content in a manner consistent with other titles in the same genre is a no-brainer but is often overlooked. It is also largely dependent on offering your writing in an aggressive way that allows potential fans an opportunity to read excerpts for free.
Print publishing is not rocket science but it does provide quality control that may soon be out the window in the digital world. A huge segment of the print book business is open to anyone via print on demand publishers. Many print-on-demand titles are often not well written, not professionally edited and frankly are just bad books. The market position of the major publishers keeps these print books out of sales channels and off store shelves, but this is not possible in the eBook arena. The biggest mistake a writer can make is to publish a bad product on their own that was not polished by an editor.
The market for publishing digital content is unforgiving of mistakes, especially when it appears the writer paid little attention to the story or message and lacked the skill of a professional editor. Successful publishing is much more than gathering facts and creating an eBook. Authors who make the decision to go out and publish on their own should understand that help is available, and needed, in order to avoid errors that create a negative perception.
The emergence of the eBook market creates opportunities never before possible for all kinds of writers, not just novelists. Content that is informative, entertaining and conveys a message or story to the consumer can achieve results never possible in the print market. The digital world of publishing truly creates new markets for writers.
The future is the Internet
Independent authors with print books who fight for space in the traditional marketplace through bookstores, mass merchants or anywhere that titles from major publishers are displayed is wasting time, energy and money.
The big publishers dominate the print market and control the distribution channels for printed titles. The price for even the slightest entry point into that market is beyond the reach of most authors and small publishers. In addition, the market does not represent a level competitive playing field.
Authors who self publish and are intent on selling printed books there are two broad choices: specialty markets and non-traditional book retailers. However both require placement and marketing via the Internet and are located on the Internet. There are opportunities in those niche markets that will not require fighting and scratching for inches inside a traditional bookstore.
The biggest publishers have not figured out how to dominate or control the Internet marketplace for eBooks. They are trying and will continue to seek ways to limit the exposure for independent and self published titles to their advantage. Their goal is to monopolize your opportunities, to the extent they are buying into the print-on-demand companies with the goal of generating higher revenue from added fees and services.
Book sales are directly dependent on marketing for success however the same holds true for the Internet as the traditional marketplace—there are never any guarantees, magic bullets or easy roads. The future for substantial sales of independently or self-published books is not the local stand alone brick and mortar bookstore but the specialty or non-traditional online bookstores. With books as many industries, the future is the Internet.
The digital market offers tremendous opportunities for independent writers, publishers and businesses large and small to profit from a digital publishing model that in effect becomes an extension of their own marketing.
However to succeed in the new world is not simply a matter of throwing content together and converting it to an eBook. Quality matters. Content matters. Value and the customers experience matters. There is a right way and a wrong way to proceed.
Until recently few businesses had any opportunity to utilize publishing as a mechanism for marketing. But now, the digital world has provided a new and exciting way to market the product or service of any company, publisher and writer. The shift in the marketplace and technology makes eBooks and digital content by quality people and organizations the most sought out commodity that the industry will make available.
The changing landscape poses big problems for the print-on-demand publishing companies that are proliferating across the landscape today.
Paper is getting to expensive to offer and deliver. The writing is on the wall. The book printing costs are reaching levels that people will not accept. Environmental impacts and waste disposal costs will eventually be deemed unacceptable. The days of unrestricted book printing are numbered.
The new eReaders offer a suite of standardized formats for eBooks and rich multimedia content. The barriers to creation are diminishing with the relative ease with which eBooks and digital content can be created. The marketplace allows for such a quick and easy dissemination of ideas among people that quality creative works can be shared and delivered to the masses virtually overnight.
With the ever increasing sales of electronic reading devices, the flow of electronic content will increase. The possibilities are endless and while the eReading devices continue to improve and drop in price the more widespread the market and potential for success. A critical tipping point is coming soon. The market potential is enormous.