Publishing & Self-Publishing: Where Is the Tipping Point?

by Joel Friedlander on July 16, 2010 · 49 comments

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Another interesting day in the world of publishing. I picked up on this story by Yoree Koh from the Wall Street Journal’s Japan Time from an alert early this morning:

One of Japan’s best-known novelists and film makers, Ryu Murakami, has announced he’s cutting his pretigious publisher (Kodansha) completely out of his next book, instead publishing directly to the Apple iPad on the straight agency arrangement Apple has instituted. Here’s what Koh had to say:

Ever since the arrival of . . . electronic book devices, the magnates of the traditional publishing industry have feared the worst: that precious big-name authors might sign directly with e-book retailers, relegating the old-school publishers as the dispensable middleman.

Let the nightmare begin. Novelist Ryu Murakami plans to release his latest novel exclusively for digital bookworms through Apple Inc.’s iPad ahead of the print version. Mr. Murakami, the acclaimed author of over 15 novels replaced the publishers with a software company to help develop the e-book.

(Kodansha) wasn’t immediately available for comment.

I was just contemplating this piece of news and what it might mean for other self-publishers and authors eyeing Murakami’s piece of the sales in the iBookstore: 70% to be split basically between him and the developer of the iBook.

The Other Shoe?

Then another story came across my screen, this one appearing even more incendiary, about novelist Janet Evanovich. Evanovich is the author of a spectacularly successful series of novels that just seem to live at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list.

Now there’s a rumor that Evanovich will leave her long-time publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and is seriously considering self-publishing her next books. Here’s Mike Fleming’s take from Deadline New York:

In a shocking development, bestselling author Janet Evanovich is leaving St. Martin’s Press after 15 years. The publisher refused to pay her request for $50 million for her next four books . . . I’m told Evanovich is St. Martin’s biggest fiction author . . . Evanovich’s longtime . . . editor, Jennifer Enderlin, said, “I’m not commenting on anything.”

Apparently Ms. Evanovich has denied the accuracy of this story. But whether it turns out to be true or not seems somewhat beside the point. The fact that it can be taken seriously at all, in the current publishing climate, is the real news to me.

This follows on:

  • The April release by Steven King of the e-book edition of his newest work, Blockade Billy one month before the hardcover version published by Scribner,
  • Amazon’s capture of the exclusive e-book rights to two of Steven Covey‘s best-selling books for a year,
  • The recent signing by AmazonEncore, the retailer’s new publishing arm, of thriller writer and e-book advocate JA Konrath‘s next book to be published exclusively on Kindle.

The Future: Still Unknowable, Isn’t It?

I’ve speculated before about what it will take to arrive at a “tipping point” of some kind where a bunch of forces start to work together to completely transform the landscape of publishing and even the notion of what a “book” is. Forces like:

  • the gradual decline of bookstores
  • the cost of printed books compared to ebooks
  • the environmental impact of printed books
  • the convenience of ebooks and improving ebook readers
  • the “mile-wide mile-deep” inventory of ebooks that’s developing online
  • the gradual assimilation of the “digital life” in the minds of more people
  • the unmooring of books specifically from cultural literacy, because of new digital formats for text, and
  • the availability of completely new forms of text, and uses for text. Text enriched with a multitude of other media and capabilities, a truly convergent technology that renders “books” hopelessly old-fashioned to people who have been reading on screens since infancy.

Here on the front edge of the wave of history, it’s often hard to make out what lies ahead. The digital transition is picking up speed, more business is moving online, authors are looking to change their relationship to the way their work is used in the marketplace. It’s combustible, and likely to get hotter.

It seems inevitable that changing technology, changing habits and a changing economic reality will eventually tip over, leading to basic, systemic change. Maybe it’s already happening.

Here’s my question: What do you think will happen next? Is self-publishing about to become the new paradigm?

Resources

Mike Fleming in Deadline New York
St Martin’s Losing Biggest Fiction Author

Yoree Koh in The Wall Street Journal’s Japan Time
Murakami Skirts Publishers With iPad Novel

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by Mike Baird, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/

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    { 42 comments… read them below or add one }

    Thomas Wilson September 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

    In time the traditional publishing industry might have to climb down from their lofty spots on Mt. Olympus and start reading some E-books to find the nuggets in the virtual stream and actually go after clients.
    The biggest problem I have heard about Indie Publishers is that their books need professional editing and professional artwork for the covers. I am a self published E-book writer with two novels out in cyber space and available on createspace. I did what I could with a free editor and my own cover art, because I am working a full time job, living paycheck to paycheck trying to raise a family while the government is trying to destroy the economy along with country.
    I would only be interested in traditional publishing for the Free Professional Editing help and Professional Art work for covers.
    I keep saying when some website producer can effectively create a site to bring together editors, artists, amatuer movie makers together in a fashion they can work together dirt cheap or free, until they all can start making money and getting exposure, the site pulling it all together will be Huge! As far as a tipping point, they won’t recognize it until they are past it and it is too late.
    There are some great authors out there and time and word of mouth will sort out the rest. I would say traditional publishers market for the future is the scraps of the E-book world.
    When I can create professional cover art and edit my own books at a professional level – I wouldn’t be interested in them either.
    Those Indies who are serious about writing will get better, are getting better, and sites like Goodreads are making them Great!

    Reply

    Alana September 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Unless the publishing industry finds a way to pay writers more or move all of their efforts to publishing ebooks instead of paper books, I think self-publishing is going to overtake them in the future. I’m really excited that more and more bestselling authors are switching over to self-publishing.

    Reply

    bowerbird July 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    douglas said:
    > As far as vinyl records go, you might be aware of
    > their huge increase in sales, along with hi-fi and
    > USB turntables to go with them.
    > Nothing sounds better than vinyl it turns out

    but that wasn’t the question. _this_ was the question:
    > how many record-stores do we have now, selling vinyl albums?

    my best friend has 10,000 vinyl records in his living room.
    but he doesn’t even go to “record stores” much any more,
    since they’ve all been picked over. he concentrates more
    on thrift stores these days, hoping for that rare “find”…

    ***

    michael said:
    > Except for a digital recording that has no scratches,
    > cracks, dust, miscellaneous surface noises, limited SNR,
    > warpage, or speed variance.

    ok, but except for _that_, nothing sounds better than vinyl…

    ***

    joel said:
    > I’m still not sure that an ebook is actually a “book”

    it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

    -bowerbird

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    You know, bower, there are days when I do feel a bit like a buggy whip designer watching old Henry Ford drive one of his Model Ts down main street.
    ***
    And I think it depends on what the meaning of “book” is. Doing a post on that one now.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    >>customers are called on a rotary phone<<

    Douglas, my company sells rotary phones every day (but I refuse to make calls with them).

    http://www.FrillFreePhones.com

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Hey, I think I need one of those red “hotline” phones for my wife!

    Reply

    Douglas Bonneville July 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    “…Except for a digital recording that has no scratches, cracks, dust, miscellaneous surface noises, limited SNR, warpage, or speed variance.”

    True, but at 44.1khz, a CD throws out most of the waveform, which is why on decent equipment, a record sounds so much better than CD or mp3. I’m preaching to the choir undoubtedly.

    I miss the warps, pops, cracks, variable speed, cover art, sleeves, etc. of records. I would miss my iPod a *lot* more though, when push comes to shove :) You can keep your cassette tapes though. I don’t predict a renaissance of those.

    Well done letterpress jobs are just magical. Letterpress work is also experiencing a renaissance. Take a look here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pniaea9CsBY

    This is the best 8 minutes you’ll spend all week, I guarantee :)

    The have machines over 100 years old in perfect working condition. The same draws have held the same dies for 70 years. Every thing is done by hand, and customers are called on a rotary phone :)

    So yes, there will always be a market for visceral, real media.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    This is taken from the comments on the video Douglas has linked to above:
    A Graphics Art student asked the instructor,
    “What is the difference between offset and letterpress printing?”
    The instructor told him,
    “When a girl kisses her handkerchief then presses it against your lips, that’s kinda like offset printing. But when she presses her lips against yours, now that’s LETTERPRESS!”

    But seriously, I think this goes along with my thinking that as ebooks take over more of the market, hardcovers will become a separate type of publication, more artifact or art product than commercial, mass-produced books. The price will be higher since the press runs are likely to be lower, but I don’t think price will remain a determining factor. The market that I imagine would be very open to the high-quality, connoisseur-type of book, and a top quality letterpress edition would be at the top of the heap.

    Hmmm, maybe it’s time to get the Chandler & Price out of storage?

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 9:32 am

    >>Nothing sounds better than vinyl it turns out,<<

    Except for a digital recording that has no scratches, cracks, dust, miscellaneous surface noises, limited SNR, warpage, or speed variance.

    Michael N. Marcus
    (former audio-video editor of Rolling Stone magazine and consultant to the Institute of High Fidelity)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I think we hit your sweet spot there, Michael. Thanks.

    Reply

    Douglas Bonneville July 19, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    A thought on book printing in the future future: nanotechnology will one day be able to “print” a book, cover and all with “paper” and “ink” from carbon nanotubes. Literally, in 3D. We’ll be able to take the great manuscripts from ages ago, MRI them in high res, and literally recreate them. Note that I said the future future, not just the future.

    As far as vinyl records go, you might be aware of their huge increase in sales, along with hi-fi and USB turntables to go with them. Nothing sounds better than vinyl it turns out, and people have rediscovered it. So now you buy a vinyl record, put it on your turntable with 24-bit ADDA conversion via USB and bam, right to your iPod.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Hey Douglas, that future-future sounds pretty incredible. And I like the whole retro-techno thing with vinyl records, it reminds me of a letterpress job I did once, where I created graphics in Illustrator then had them made into lino cuts which were hand printed on a 100-year old handpress. Thanks for your contributions, pretty far out!

    Reply

    bowerbird July 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    douglas said:
    > there will always be a market for print books.

    i agree.

    of course, that doesn’t mean p-books will be _cheap_.

    there’s “a market” for antique furniture. and horses.

    but if you want a dresser to keep your underwear in,
    you probably won’t shop at an antique furniture store.

    and if you want transportation to work, you’re probably
    not gonna buy a horse. especially not a pure-bred one,
    descended from sea-biscuit, in an auction in kentucky…

    > I can’t picture that ever, every going away.

    i’m trying to think of some way to poke some gentle fun
    at the extra “y” you put in that second “ever” up there…

    > It’s like imagining real paper going away.

    there’s a fungus going around eastern washington,
    where i grew up, that’s killing all the old trees there.

    it’s not hard for me to imagine “real paper” going away.

    > For instance, are you really going to browse
    > a coffee table type book on a giant iPad Xtreme edition?

    maybe not.

    but after having viewed photographs on a 96″ t.v. screen,
    a “coffee table book” will look kinda puny in comparison.

    and since the t.v. screen can show me _video_ clips as well,
    plain old “photographs” (which cannot move, and have zero
    audio component associated with them) will seem primitive.

    or maybe not. but i wouldn’t wanna place a bet against it…

    > nothing beats being in front of the actual art object.

    and if tomorrow’s artists conceive of their work as being “more”
    than just static words on static pages bound between cardboard?

    > Some book experiences just can’t be replaced by digital versions.

    maybe. but truth flows the other direction too, even stronger.

    > Seeing those technicolor, glossy, full-color spreads
    > in my hands, combined with that dusty musty smell of
    > old ink, was a real experience. No, no eReader is
    > ever going to replicate that little experience.

    odds are that very few people will ever be allowed to
    “dust off” those pages and smell their ink ever again.

    some books are too rare to let the public handle them.

    so we’d better be grateful we can still experience them
    in the form of electronic replicas, if that’s all we can get.

    > But real print books, like real live music and real art,
    > will never go out of style.

    electronic books are just as “real” as paper books. really.

    > Printing is just too cool and too fun.

    i agree. and i truly hope p.o.d. continues to be affordable
    long into the future. but if you cannot see the possibility
    that paper might become _very_ expensive down the line,
    you’re not trying very hard. and ink? ink is already costly,
    and its manufacture is _not_ environmentally friendly, so
    there is a good chance that it could become very expensive.

    so, tell me this: how many books will you print if it costs
    $1/page to print a book? how much money do you have?

    > And I think this will keep local bookstores and cafes in
    > business for a long time. The business will change and shift,
    > but I hope all the local bookshops not only thrive but grow.

    i hope you’re right. because i love independent bookstores.

    and i’m confident as long as we have antique furniture stores,
    we’ll have bookstores. but i don’t find that all that consoling…

    how many record-stores do we have now, selling vinyl albums?

    life changes. worlds change. sometimes faster than you want.

    -bowerbird

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I’m still not sure that an ebook is actually a “book” to be honest, although the text is certainly the equivalent of the text in a printed book. And I think we can be pretty sure that it will continue to get easier and cheaper for ordinary people to become “publishers” of their own material as the technologies continue to evolve.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    >>I’m still not sure that an ebook is actually a “book” to be honest<<

    Book formats have certainly changed over the years. Scrolls go back a loooong way, and I suppose clay tablets could be considered books, too.

    "The Book of Genesis" existed before perfect-bound, casewrap, saddle-stitch, spiral bound, etc.

    eBooks may very well not be the final stage in text storage and viewing. Maybe page images will get beamed right into our brains and we won't even need eyes to "read."

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Actually, I don’t think scrolls are books, and neither are clay tablets. I’m not sure about the origin of the “Book” in “Book of Genesis” but the translation we usually read dates from the early 17th century. Text has found a home in many places and, as you say, continue to morph as the technology for delivering it continues to evolve.

    Reply

    Douglas Bonneville July 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Ah, let me qualify everything I just said. My firm belief is that while digital books are great, there will always be a market for print books. I can’t picture that ever, every going away. It’s like imagining real paper going away. Let’s do books and paper right, let’s do it sustainable and green, but let’s do it for sure!

    For instance, are you really going to browse a coffee table type book on a giant iPad Xtreme edition? Not hardly. I think real books are like paintings. Prints are great. Giclee prints are even better. But nothing beats being in front of the actual art object. Some book experiences just can’t be replaced by digital versions.

    I was in the basement of a local Catholic Church at a seminar about the Vatican II documents. There on the podium, in a corner, someone had dusted off an immense, full-color book full of images from the council while it was in session. The book was published before the council had closed. The book must have been 2.5 feet tall and 2 inches thick. I flipped through it. Seeing those technicolor, glossy, full-color spreads in my hands, combined with that dusty musty smell of old ink, was a real experience. No, no eReader is ever going to replicate that little experience.

    We are on the cusp of a techno-love affair with eReaders across the globe. But real print books, like real live music and real art, will never go out of style. That is why I’m focused on both. I’ll do ePubs, but I’ll never offer just an ePub. Printing is just too cool and too fun. And I think this will keep local bookstores and cafes in business for a long time. The business will change and shift, but I hope all the local bookshops not only thrive but grow.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 20, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Like a lot of other people, I think the hardcover books will last quite a while, they just won’t be “mass market” items any longer. And if eBooks replace mostly paperbacks, the whole landscape (and economics) of the industry will change.

    Reply

    bowerbird July 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    one more quick note on this post…

    joel, i like your list of factors a lot…

    i’m not sure how this ties in with the
    notion of a “tipping point”, since that
    combines a gradual continuous change
    with a sudden dichotomous shift, but
    “the gradual decline of bookstores” is
    _not,_ i think, gonna be a crucial factor.

    instead, what _will_ be crucial are _two_
    changes which will be quite dichotomous.

    the first will be when borders goes under.
    i’d say that will happen within two years…

    for 1 or 2 years after _that,_ barnes&noble
    will be ok, with their status of “last standing”.

    but then within another 2 years after _that_,
    they will give up on the bricks-and-mortar too.

    so, within a period of 3-6 years, the corporate
    bookstore, as we have known it, will disappear.
    that will cause another dichotomous shift, in that
    large press-runs will no longer prove to be viable,
    and corporate publishers will lose all advantages…
    they’ll still continue to exist, but merely as holders
    and licensors of large vaults of intellectual property.

    -bowerbird

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    And hopefully, somewhere in that scenario, the small independent bookstores that actually bring value to their communities will continue to thrive. It would be nice, even a few years from now, to have a bookstore in which to spend a quite hour browsing. Thanks for your prediction.

    Reply

    bowerbird July 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    douglas said:
    > It may well be that Quark and InDesign will spit out
    > webpage, web app, and print ready files
    > from the same design source.
    i’m fine-tuning an app now that will do that already…

    and the prep work isn’t nearly as difficult as that
    which is required by quark or indesign…

    oh yeah, and my app will be free-as-in-beer…

    -bowerbird

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    The promise of being able to directly output (or export or “save as”) files directly to eBook formats seems about to come true. We will await developments.

    Reply

    Douglas Bonneville July 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Joel: The first 2 books scheduled for release in the fall are essentially the print version of the Font Combinations App (thanks for the link and the plug!). The big version is about 300 pages, 8.5 x 11 with a useful subset of the many thousands you can create with the app. The small version will be the same subset, but in a pocket edition, with nearly the same layout as the app but in trade format, 8.5 x 5.5 or close.

    From there, both books will serve as the graphical base for producing Font Combos 2 targeting the iOS4 iPhone platform with it’s increased resolution, and Font Combos XL which is the layout of the book but will be released only for iPad and other large format pad-like devices I’m sure we’ll see in the next few years.

    For those interested:

    http://bonfx.com/the-big-book-of-font-combinations/

    So yes, the focus will be on typography, easily throughout all of next year just getting the products we have in production out the door.

    Another interesting area to keep an eye on is the convergence of HTML5 or HTML6 with print and publishing. It may well be that Quark and InDesign will spit out webpage, web app, and print ready files from the same design source. I think that’s going to happen sooner than later now that Adobe is running for cover after the Flash / Apple debacle which they handily lost.

    All the apps we are developing start life in InDesign as publications, and then run through graphic processing and will end up as HTML5 native apps for iPhone, Android, and whatever else HTML5 platforms make it to market.

    I would assure anyone that great changes are very close, and that exciting times are literally around the corner, in not here right now since iPad, in regards to publishing on technical, business, and cultural levels. It’s a bit like Gutenberg all over again…

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Fascinating stuff, Douglas, thanks for all the detail. I take it from your comments that our long nightmare of so-called “digital typography” may be drawing to a close, and I will lift a glass to that! I hope to stay up to date on these developments.

    Reply

    Douglas Bonneville July 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Products like Typekit and others, as well as the Google webfont API, were just a dream barely 9 months ago. The last year has seen the start of an epic shift in web typography for sure. So yes, one age draws to a close (not soon enough) and another begins!

    Reply

    Douglas Bonneville July 19, 2010 at 11:42 am

    In 1994 I bought a small publishing company and did short-run academic titles plus a few oddballs. It was hard work, but we did everything by hand and managed all the print runs. Some of our books are still in Barnes & Noble to this day. But the web really caught on the 1995 or so and I moved over to focus on building websites, assuming that somehow the web would take over and short run printing like I did was going to go out. We sold the company in 1998 for more than we paid and never looked back.

    We developed our web and design business over the next umpteen years but always wanted to be back publishing again. Watching digital printing and services like Lulu come of age have been exciting. Then we got a design blog going last year and suddenly I found myself with a small wealth of design related topics I could publish material on.

    Now, ironically, I’m the one who is self-publishing a variety of things in 2010 and 2011, with no middleman but Apple, and B&N and Amazon. The print versions will be Hulu (or another on demand digital printer), plus the ePub, PDF, mobi, etc. versions for the various ebook stores.

    I was about 15 years premature in jumping from print to digital, but it was the right move in retrospect. I thought the sea-change of the publishing model was going to be web-centric in some manner by 2000 or soon thereafter. But with the eReader price war, iPad, other tablets on the way, etc., I’m sure the long-awaited sea-change is finally here.

    All the print design skills I cut my teeth on, and all the Pagemaker and InDesign work I’ve done over the years is all coming into play nicely.

    Niche books are going to sell like crazy, no doubt. That’s the space I’m looking forward to occupying.

    I just got my Nook in the mail last week and haven’t looked back! Now I can carry it all with me, as I’m reading 2-5 books at a time at any given point. iPad is on the way later this year, but I already was reading a lot on my iPod Touch.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Douglas, your personal history really does seem like the ideal preparation for rolling right into the ebook / app business. Not that many people have expertise on both sides of the digital divide, and I’m sure all your past experience in printing and graphic design is going to bode well for you.

    Like you, I’m quite optimistic about getting on the wave with ebooks as the tide starts to come in. Will you be producing typography-oriented books? I have your useful Font Combos iPhone app (for readers who don’t know, this is an app that allows you to see headline/body copy fonts in combination quite easily. Recommended.)

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    The Font Combos app is a briliant idea that I wish I’d never heard of.

    Tomorrow I’m supposesd to “go to press” (or whatever the POD equivalent of going to press is) and I’m afraid that if I get involved with the app I’ll find a new combo which I prefer, and will decide to re-do the book. Knowledge can be dangerous.

    Two years ago I designed my first self-pubbed book flush-left/rag right. The book was very informal, and that justification seemed appropriate (and was very easy to do).

    My next book was much more serious and I gave it full justification. I liked it so much that I justified the first book, and then re-did it again with a new typeface.

    Being a self-publisher gives me lots of freedom–and lots of work.

    ——

    Joel–on a related topic–it could be useful and fun to make a “translation table” with ancient and current book publishing terminology. I recently had lunch with David Lamb, the new owner of Vantage Press. He mentioned that he asked the people who format pages what they call their work, and they said, “typesetting” — even though there is no actual type.

    Years ago, proofreading involved comparing a manuscript with a printed proof and marking the problems with “proofreaders’ marks.” Today, when the author’s manuscript is often submitted as a Word doc or a PDF, there is little chance of words disappearing or letters being transposed.

    Today we have ARCs instead of galleys, and (sometimes) formatting instead of typesetting. Maybe we need new terms for proofreading and other tasks and items form the old days.

    Modern proofreading is just one more reading before printing. A proofreader could be called a nitpicker, hawkeye, faultfinder, troublemaker, dream-wrecker, delay-maker, schedule-destroyer, bomb-sniffer or kochleffel.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Great idea for a post Michael, thanks for that. I’m not sure I agree that proofreading is “just one more reading” and I suspect if you asked a proofreader what they are actually checking when they “read” the book you might be surprised!

    And yes, avoid the font combo app until after your book is “printed” it’s way too useful.

    Reply

    MutteringMutt July 19, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I must admit to a general grin anytime a big organization has to take a step back, look around, and, you know, actually DO something to keep money rolling in. One thing i find interesting is not only the possibilities of self-publishing, but the work that current technology and climate makes possible for small publishers. Organizations who are expert in negotiating the various hurdles of production and distribution that, frankly, many authors might still LOVE to not have to worry about. Yet, they still operate on a scale that makes them feel more like a partner and less like some great, hulking gatekeeper making demands.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Mutt, I don’t think there’s every been a better time to self-publish and one of the reasons for that is the availability of professionals and companies to help authors over the technical and other specialized obstacles that could have stopped many of them. Thanks for your comment.

    Reply

    bowerbird July 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    > 70% to be split basically between
    > him and the developer of the iBook.

    an author shouldn’t be paying much money
    to the developer of an ibook, and it should
    be flat-fee in most cases, not royalty-share.

    and let’s not accept that 30% surcharge as
    “the cost of doing business” either, no sir…
    you should train your fans from the outset
    to come directly to you to get stuff from you.

    apple and google and amazon are middlemen,
    and they will need to be disintermediated too…
    as long as they bring you new fans, and handle
    the sticky payment issues, they’re worth 30%.

    but don’t let yourself get dependent upon them.

    -bowerbird

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Well said. The influence seems to be swinging toward the authors, and people have to get used to a new paradigm. Thanks for the input.

    Reply

    bowerbird July 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    70% to be split basically between him and the developer of the iBook.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Of course, one of the other interesting tidbits in these stories is the “no comment” comments from both publishers involved. Don’t they have anything to say?

    Reply

    betty ming liu July 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

    this is a very informative update on the scene! btw,i thought of your self-publishing blog yesterday while reading a new york times review of david nicholls’ “one day.” the novel is described as this summer’s big hit.

    what’s so interesting is that the review — literary by nature — actually devoted space to the business of bookselling. the piece noted that publisher random house bypassed going hardcover and brought “one day” out as a $14.95 vintage contemporaries paperback, pricing it more competitively in the e-book range. in one month, the book sold 275,000 copies in the U.S. alone and is in its 10th printing.

    if publishers start doing this, what impact will this have on self-publishers and the paper printing of books? oh, and here’s the link to the times story: http://nyti.ms/bVqoRq

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Thanks, Betty, sound interesting. Breaking the mold on the supposedly iron-clad rule of “hardcover first” is a step, but in the current climate it seems like a very very small one. What’s interesting is that the book has done so well. And yes, it’s quite odd to have publishing strategies showing up in book reviews! Curious times.

    Reply

    Christy Pinheiro July 16, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I’ve been watching this news story pretty carefully. There have been defections before Murakami, most notably Stephen Covey, but none as big as this with a novel’s first release. Large publishers must be shuddering, but the authors are cheering.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 16, 2010 at 10:10 am

    There’s something oh so satisfying when I see an author “turn the tables” on publishers and give them a little of their own medicine. I say good for Murakami, and anyone else with something at risk who decides to not be intimidated into staying “within the fold” and bending to the supposed requirements set up by BigBiz. And any success at all will likely lead to more defections. Get ready!

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 16, 2010 at 3:27 am

    >>Text enriched with a multitude of other media and capabilities, a truly convergent technology that renders “books” hopelessly old-fashioned to people who have been reading on screens since infancy. <<

    Joel, it's not just the under-age-30s.

    Even for old farts like me, it becomes very easy to get used to the new way of reading, and to accept it as normal.

    After using my touch-screen iPad for a few days, with no need to aim a mouse, I found that when I used a "real" computer I tapped spots on the screen and got really pissed off when nothing happened.

    While part of this is the result of an aging mind (I sometimes aim my car's remote-unlocking key at the front door of my house, press the button and get really pissed off when the door doesn't unlock)–it also shows how human beings can quickly accept–and expect–the "new normal."

    I'm buying more and more eBooks and fewer and fewer pBooks. I have somewhere north of a thousand pBooks in this house. They make me feel good. I like having them around. But I recognize that most of them will never be opened up again (and some were never opened up at all). But they do have to be sorted and dusted.

    I assumed that at some time between next week and after I die, the books would go to some relatives, libraries and Goodwill.

    Yesterday my wife once again complained about all of the space taken up by my books and did a quick estimate of how much money we could get if I sold the books.

    The notion would have seemed heretical in the pre-iPad days, but now it makes a lot of sense.

    I could presumably clear over 200 linear feet of shelving and use some of the money I receive from selling pBooks to buy eBooks versions of books I really intend to read or just want to have available–and put them on my iPad.

    The world is changing, and at 64, I'm not too old to change with it.

    However, I may start by divesting my ancient LPs before I part with my books. I wonder how much I could get for my original Stones' "Sticky Fingers" album — the one with the real working zipper on it.

    And next maybe I'll deal with the James Bond VHS tapes that I paid $90 each for. And my LaserDisc collection.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 16, 2010 at 10:08 am

    That’s an interesting point. We moved a few years ago and, for some reason, never unpacked the boxes of printed books, just the ones we “needed.” Although I kind of miss having them around, I have to ask myself if I really need to hang on to all those boxes. Tag sale, anyone?

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 16, 2010 at 11:17 am

    >>We moved a few years ago and, for some reason, never unpacked the boxes of printed books, just the ones we “needed.”<<

    "FEW YEARS?" That's easy to beat.

    We have a box containing a never-used silver serving thing that we received as a wedding gift in 1971. It was taped up and labeled for our move from daBronx to Flushing in 1974. It stayed unopened for our move to Scarsdale in 1977, and to Milford in 2001. We still have the box, still taped-up and labeled, and still feel no need to unpack it or use it.

    I'll let my heirs fight over it–and polish it.

    Reply

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