Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bring it, Big 6 - we're ready and waiting

I’m pretty gullible, I’ll admit. You can pull a fast one on me pretty easily. Yes, often it's obvious that’s exactly what you’re doing, but I want to believe you wouldn’t do that to me. Stupid, I know, but there you have it.

So I had a very, very difficult time believing the crapola that I was fed by a recent article in the BookBub Bulletin ( In case you haven’t heard about this, you should probably listen up. Why, you ask?

Because under the guise of “helping readers,” it appeared to me that big publishing had decided to take one of the few things we as indie authors have as a marketing tool and try to decimate us. So here it is.

They’ve started giving books away.

No shit. I never thought I’d see the day. Take, for instance, the one mentioned in the article, a huge giveaway of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code by mega-publisher Doubleday. They ran it right before the release of The Inferno. The free ebook even had the prologue and first chapter of The Inferno (sound familiar?). According to The New York Times, the giveaway is “part celebration and part marketing experiment.”

Sorry – I call bullshit. They prattle on about how ebooks are a full thirty percent more than hardbacks (exactly what planet is this taking place on?) because of formatting, etc. I’m not that stupid. I know exactly what it is.

They’ve been watching bestselling indie authors and they see what’s being done. And what’s being done is offering the first book in a series free to get the readers into the story line. I do it. You probably do it. We’ve been doing it for awhile. And up until now, big publishing would never, never even try that. To hear them tell it, giving away books would be the absolute wrong thing to do. So why the big change of, er, heart?

Because they’re feeling the squeeze. They’ve invested enormous amounts of money on hardback books and their business is failing. Their stables of bestselling authors are getting the rights to their catalogs back and republishing their older books themselves so they actually pocket some of the profit. They’ve almost fallen behind in marketing for ebooks. They’ve tried to charge so much for their ebooks that no one will buy them; readers will look for indie authors instead. So their idea to offset their losses in paper book sales is to give away some books, draw attention to new ones, and recoup their expenditures. Hey, it’s worked for us so why not take advantage?

So here are some predictions. I can’t wait to see what I’m right about.

First of all, brick and mortar stores are soon going to be no more. The ones that do survive will do so by offering service (a novel approach, pun intended), discounts on a wide assortment of in-stock and readily-available ereaders, and maybe even terminals/kiosks where readers can go to sample ebooks, then buy them immediately and have them downloaded to their ereaders. With the prices of their ebooks so high, they can’t hope to recoup the loss of the investment in the paper book trade. Besides, since they claim ebook production costs them thirty percent more than that of paperbacks (leaving me to assume they’re paying too much for their formatting and cover art), they’ll never recoup that loss anyway.

Second, we’re fast. We write our books over a course of months. (Unless we don’t give a shit, and then it takes about two weeks and we just slap it on a page. But that’s another post.) Once that book is written, it’s a very short time to publication. For them, it’s an agonizing process where the book passes numerous editors, many of whom have no idea what they’re doing and apparently barely speak English, a dozen or more cover concepts before one is chosen, and through probably two dozen departments, not to mention legal, before it finally, finally, hits the shelf. We can get more out there faster because we don’t have all the hoopla to put up with and hoops to jump through. And because of this slowness, well-known authors are choosing to become “hybrids,” taking a portion of their books straight into the self-publishing arena. There goes half of their talent. My message to them: Streamline or perish.

Third, our costs are comparatively minimal. The squeeze is being applied to them by indie self-publishing authors. We can now buy formatting just like the type they use, sometimes better. We can also hire cover artists to make personalized, specific covers, often for a series so it’s thematic. Our product is getting better (well, some of it anyway). And for the reduced prices at which we offer our ebooks, we’re getting a huge chunk of reading public and leaving them in the dust.

Fourth, putting us out of business would be a delight to them. They’re sick of us taking their sales and making them have to lower prices and work harder to sell product. They’re used to being the only game in town. Well, move over, big publishing. We can do what you do and do it even better, faster, and cheaper, so we can offer our work to a larger audience. Yeah, that’s what they think we’re doing when, in reality, we’re just trying to stay afloat like everyone else. It’s not personal against them for us. Okay, well, maybe it is for a few authors who’ve been screwed over by publishers, but for the majority, it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with trying to get the story out there.

I can't fault them, really. When his street team was accused of "spying" and "stealing ideas," one author on Facebook was very clear about it. In his mind, there was no thievery going on; they were simply doing what any prudent business does, watching what's working in the market and duplicating it. That's been going on forever. Otherwise, there'd only be one commercial on television and one ad in the newspaper. There'd only be one telemarketer (oh, I can dream, can't I?). It's not stealing. It's called learning and applying what you've learned. And big publishing is doing just that.

And so, indie authors, I’ve got one word for you: Work. Work like you’ve never worked before. Look at your prices and see where you can cut corners on publication. Get busy and write the rest of that series you’ve started so your readers don’t have to wait so long. Most of all, get to know your readers. Stop publishing a book and then just sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in. It won’t. You have to work at it. And if you’re not willing to, for the love of god, don’t publish your damn book. Keep it out of the market so the ones of us who are really trying to do a good job don’t get lost in your deluge of stagnating work. We’d really, really appreciate that.

Sorry, big publishing. We’re not going away. So here’s my warning to you, and you’d do well to heed it. It’s two simple words. Believe them when I say them.

Game on.

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