C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Sell your books. For a long time.

Light and shadow on an Irex iLiad ebook reader...

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Movies focus on the opening weekend. Books have a month to hit big or get returned. At least, that’s the way it was for all books. That’s changing in a big way.

Recently I read an agent talking about how digital books extend the life of sales of paper books. Essentially, the message was very much “the status quo is still the status quo” and “E-books are an add-on. Publishing hasn’t substantially changed.”

I don’t agree. First, the extent to which traditional publishing isn’t changing is part of its problem, not its solution. True, many people prefer paper books to e-books, but that’s changing, especially since there are far fewer places to shelve paper books. Bookstores are closing up. It’s not happening overnight. It won’t happen to all bookstores. But e-books are where to place your bets for the future and the future’s coming faster than any of the experts predicted. (Of course, it’s all so new, I’m not sure if anyone really is an “expert.” Maybe that’s a title for someone to claim years later, not in the middle of a history change.)

The agent asserted that most people by far don’t even own e-readers. Yes, and a lot of people still don’t own telephones. That doesn’t mean utility stocks, like Ma Bell, are a bad bet. A lot of people will never own e-readers, but that won’t matter to the book industry because most of those people aren’t big readers anyway. Power users (power readers) are responsible for buying a lot of books—power users, like me. For instance, I bought The 4 Hour Body electronically. Then I decided I wanted to own it in paper as well because it’s a reference book. Then I kept downloading.

The agent’s point about e-books extending sales really stuck with me. The game has changed with e-books. Distribution is cheap and easy. It’s so easy, authors can sell their books themselves through distributors and their own websites. Authors know that their books are not stale to new readers. Every book is new to anyone who hasn’t yet read it.

This is the “long tail” of sales. And now it’s for everybody. The game has changed. What’s weird is that not everybody sees it yet.

Filed under: publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Catana says:

    What occurred to me while reading your post is that the long tail for print books has been libraries and second-hand sales, neither of which benefited writers. Now, the long tail is moving into the hands of the writers, and that will make a very big difference.

  2. Sue Kenney says:

    I totally agree with you. I’ve never been one to follow the rules. My publisher told me my book had “long legs”. If it stayed on the bookshelves for 6 months, I would be a star! It might last in the market for 2 or 3 years he told me because of the subject. (It’s called My Camino-a true story about a journey walking 780kms across the north of Spain alone in the winter.) That was in 2004. I became a National Bestseller in the 3rd year. Next month I’m releasing a second edition and I’m selling more books now than ever in ebook, paperback and I just audio recorded the book for release in April with a new website. Lucky for me it’s also in development as a feature, so book sales should skyrocket when the film comes out.
    I’m walking my own path.

    • Chazz says:

      The success of your book should last at least as long as your incredible pilgrimage must have sometimes felt. You walked and walked–sometimes injured–for yourself and for your book and ultimately for your readers. Readers who find you will be pleased your book didn’t disappear as predicted.

      It does seem that while many publishers and agents talk about quality, quality and quality and “developing an audience”, they’re really focused on the mythic overnight success.

  3. I think the print publishers are scared to admit in public that e-books are the future because that means they would have to actively work towards incorporating e-books in their current business model. Or rather, drastically alter their current business model in order to accommodate e-books. They don’t want to see the change, so they’re not seeing it.

    I used to be very anti-e-publishing, simply because I wanted the gratification of “professionals” saying that my book had “it”, whatever “it” was. Unfortunately, print publishers seem to be leaning more and more towards their A-list authors, which means that newbie authors have to do just as much work to get recognised whether they go traditional or indie. And some of the publishing choices made by the traditional publishing houses make no sense to me. As someone else pointed out recently, the gatekeepers don’t care about the gates as long as they smell $$s.

    • Chazz says:

      I know what you mean. I’ve struggled with getting the official sanction , too, but the cost-benefit analysis seems to make the price of admission make less and less sense.

      Thing is, if trad publishing is to survive, they have to adapt. It has always been thus with all other industries. The status quo definitely doesn’t hold anymore.

  4. shirleymclain930 says:

    I think e books are a safe bet also. The world of books has changed, and will continue to change. The fact that e books will sell longer, I think is also very true. One more point, it might be the old books get pushed so far under the new ones, it will only be by chance if someone sees a book published two years ago. How many people to you think will dig that deep, when only new publications are promoted?

  5. Chazz says:

    The turnover cycle with returnable books has been too fast. Like the television industry, you don’t get time to find an audience. Cheers and Seinfeld (which later became mega-hits, of course) did poorly initially and didn’t find an audience right away. However, back then more risk was allowed if the network head believed in the show. Now it’s too stockholder-oriented to allow for any delayed gratification. A lot of great TV shows disappear quickly leaving fans wonder why. Similar with books.

  6. Sue Kenney says:

    I think as authors we have to continue to talk about our books to the people who care. Do book events. Let people know it’s out there. Never give up (the words of Justin Beiber). Fiction is never old. Most non-fiction doesn’t get old either. We’ve just been told that. I’m still referring to Deepak Chopra’s Seven Laws of Spiritual Success and I bought it in 1994.

  7. […] Sell your books. For a long time. (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

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