Everybody wonders what the next big thing will be in our expanding industry. In other words, “Where’s the money?”
As it relates to writing as an industry, money looks sparse at first glance. I mean, banking, drugs and guns is where the big money is. However, for our industry? The big money in writing is in the beams and braces. Infrastructure. The money will go to people who service our needs as indies. So ask yourself, what do we need?
1. Book apps. We don’t really understand book apps. Programmers do. Book apps with a subscription service could work, especially for certain authors who are in traditional publishing now but will soon make the leap to self-publishing.
2. Author cooperatives. Box sets may already be on the way out, but I think more authors will share resources and trade skills, either in small, structured groups or as part of a time bank organization, or both.
3. Organization provision: Many of us cringe at the idea of a union because it reeks of gatekeepers. I’d say that’s only because the writers unions that have been proposed for indies so far stink of more gatekeeping. Innovators out to advocate instead of control could do better than that, for us and for themselves.
4. An alternative to ACX that’s more generous to creators. ACX was awesome. Technically, it’s still awesome though the creator share is down. Have you noticed that, since ACX lowered the pay rate, we aren’t talking about ACX near so much anymore? We’re still using it because audiobooks are our future. For some, they’re our today! We’d like more choices and we’d like to get back to the bigger cut, though. (The obstacle is effective distribution, so that will have to be bankrolled.)
5. Selling direct from websites will become more popular. You can use Gumroad to sell digital products now. The problem is, no one wants to sideload their kindle with a pdf. Find a way around that problem and we’ll all be doing it to some degree. Fewer buttons, one click. That’s key.
6. Discoverability tools are more important than information. Make more discoverability tools (like you’ll find at Author Marketing Club, for instance.) Information is free everywhere, including here. Ways to help readers find us are harder to come by.
7. Services that promote indie authors will make money. Bookbub is at the top of the heap now, but BookGorilla is cheaper. The Fussy Librarian is very low cost. if I recall correctly, the latter was built partially in response to Bookbub’s fees. Bookbub has big lists of subscribers, sure, but they have competition and it’s growing because Bookbub is so hard to get into and can be so expensive.
8. The company that finds a way to make it easier for books to be printed and distributed (cheaper, faster and easier than it can be done at present) and get it to libraries and bookstores will make a lot of money. Be the new Lightning Source, for instance, but make it as easy to deal with as CreateSpace. (LS has improved in this regard, but I’ve checked it out and it still feels like a hassle.)
9. Translation houses. Everybody knows foreign language publishing is going to be huge. What we don’t know is whom to trust to translate our work and whom to ask to make sure the translations are any good. We’ll also need people (formerly known as agents) whose sole occupation is dealing in foreign rights sales. The markets are waiting, but most of us aren’t ready.
10. The next destination website for our readers. We need a destination website that operates as a cool magazine that curates our work to readers. We need to provide a way for readers to find us and vice versa. We don’t need another Writer’s Digest. We need a Reader’s Digest, if you will, for our work but catering to readers. If there aren’t click to buy and click to explore buttons at the end of each story or sample, it will still miss the mark.
You could, of course, simply write the next big thing.
We are writers, after all. We don’t want to think about all this tech stuff. That’s why someone with the skills to fulfill these needs will eventually appear and get paid.
If you’re still bent on writing to make money, the trouble is that no one knows what the next big thing really will be. No one saw Fifty Shades of Gray coming. It’s not like it was the first book of erotica to go on sale, but it went huge. Its imitators didn’t make near as much dough. Breaking out is not something you can chase, exactly. It happens to you and there are too many variables outside your control.
Just write the best book you can. When your book is ready, I really hope those trusty translation houses will be up and running and ready for business.
What are your ideas for the support structure our industry needs?
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