Archive for category Publishing
Ah, a New Year is before us. What is the future of publishing? What lies ahead for writers? Will Snooki have another baby? After consulting my team of advisors, those being the voices in my head, I’ll toss my predictions in the ring tomorrow. Granted, much of what I predicted last year has come to pass. A lot of it, I think still will happen but I have a history of being so far ahead of the game, people think I’m bonkers (ok, I am).
Note to Self: Perhaps wearing tinfoil hat impairs professional credibility.
Before I give any predictions for 2014, I figured it might be fun to take a quick look at the past nine years before we finish out my decade of Publishing Prognostication and Social Media Soothsaying. More fun than cleaning the house, right?
I’ve been very blessed to be right more times than I was wrong. I’d love to claim superpowers, but most of this is just doing what writers do—paying attention, using empathy, extending logic. Also, we are wise to seek out people smarter than we are. I know I do. I listened to bloggers, other experts, commenters and even self-professed non-readers, and they should have a lion’s share of credit.
This record of predictions is not an OOH, TOLD YOU SO! LOOK HOW AWSOME I AM! *OUCH I got a cramp patting myself on the back!* as much as it’s a poignant illustration how being present and engaged can give all of us tremendous advantages. When we try to automate the future or run our careers by remote, we lose predictive powers and become reactive instead of proactive. Our digital community is very wise if we are humble enough to participate, ask questions and then listen when they answer.
Thus, this 9-year list is to demonstrate that often, when we dare to be different, we will be criticized (often brutally), but our hearts, intuition and community can be pretty accurate guides if we stay the course ;)…
Nine-Year Record of Predictions:
From 2004-2007, I predicted there would be a time when novelists could use social media to build a platform before the first book was even finished, and that this platform would eventually be a viable bargaining tool with publishers.
NUTSO. Burn her! She’s a witch!
I ignored the agents and writers who laughed at me and kept plodding away on Gather, then later MySpace and Facebook. I began using Twitter in 2008 because I felt this was a platform that would eventually change the way the world interacted. I hung out with all 20 other members on Twitter and waited, biding my time.
I also predicted that the same Digital Tsunami that leveled Tower Records would take out Kodak and then The Big Six.
In 2008, I predicted that there would soon be a time that an author without a sound social media platform would be at a major professional disadvantage. Writers of The Digital Age had to have BOTH good books AND a sound platform. Good books alone were NOT ENOUGH.
What is she SMOKING?
If you peruse my archives, you will see many “sweet and thoughtful” comments by agents and authors regarding how I was an imbecile and writers only needed to write a good book. I was regularly informed I possessed the intellect of a brain-damaged monkey with a Valium addiction. Ouch. Agents (and writers) blogged left and right about staying off social media and focusing only on writing good books. Many indie author gurus preached the same.
By 2011, agents stopped leaving hate comments on my blog, likely because they were too busy googling authors to see if they had a viable social platform. Major NYC agencies began refusing queries if a fiction author couldn’t demonstrate he/she had a sound platform. Today? Most have changed their tune and come to accept that Digital Age Authors have to be balanced to succeed—good books, good business, authentic social media.
In 2009, I encouraged The Big Six to embrace e-books, because that year some of the first affordable and user-friendly devices hit the market and I really wanted the Big Six to enjoy a Golden Era again. Sure theses gadgets were still in the Early Adopter part of the bell curve, but I noticed the price of smart phones, tablets, e-readers and data packages was steadily dropping at roughly the same time. To me, this was a clear indication that e-books would eventually edge over into the fat part of the bell curve and become entrenched. Smart phones and tablets would soon be mainstream and people would be searching for content and entertainment.
Actual Agent Quote: E-Books will be statistically meaningless. Like everyone thought audio books would end paper, e-books are a fluke and people will always want paper books.
I suppose this is one of the reasons why we no longer have a Big Six. *shrugs*
By 2010, I predicted that authors couldn’t rely on price alone. Cheap books would only hold power so long before it devolved into a race to the bottom of who could give away the most stuff for nothing. The “shiny” of .99 books and FREE! would dull once everyone was doing it. Also, consumers would get frustrated downloading books rife with errors, formatting issues and bad writing.
I postulated that eventually readers would pay more for something they might actually read. I advised writers to use .99 and FREE! promotions only of those tactics served a long-term advantage. For instance, offer the first book of a series for free or .99 to encourage sales.
Amazon permitted this deluge of cheap books because it was putting the hurt on The Big Six. I theorized that once Amazon no longer considered Big Publishing a threat, it would reign in the freebies and the initial advantages offered to authors willing to hand away books. From 2012 to 2013, I noted the price of e-books highlighted on Amazon rise from .99-$2.99 to roughly $4.99 to $6.99, demonstrating Amazon’s strategy was paying off (this was right about the same time This Big Six became The Less-Big 5 and teetered on becoming The Spiffy Four). This was also when authors started seeing changes in how FREE sales were being ranked/weighted by Amazon.
In 2011, I recommended that major publishers rethink pricing for the e-book. Charging the same price for an e-book as a hardback was bad business that would come back to bite them and only fuel the indie momentum they were trying to stanch. Agency pricing would put them in the crosshairs of the DOJ (which it did). Also, this ridiculous pricing was bound to drive the mid-list authors into abandoning the traditional ship and becoming indies.
Though I’d love to claim Nostradamus-like-powers, this isn’t rocket science. A best-selling author can only get so many ticked off one-star reviews for an overpriced $24 e-book before rethinking if the publisher is really making sound business decisions for that author’s present and future career.
This same year, I also railed against automation (and, frankly, always have). I knew that, as more regular people started using Twitter, they’d soon be able to spot bots and would come to resent and ignore them. I warned writers against these “time-saving” devices. My sentiment? It doesn’t take but a few moments to hop on social media and type a sentence.
We are WRITERS.
I caught a LOT of heat over my attitude regarding automation and multiple accounts.
Then, The Boston Marathon Bombing tragically demonstrated the point I’d been trying to make for almost five years. Even well-crafted pre-programmed tweets are still SPAM. Our world changes on a dime and instantly. Many authors ended up in hot water because, “Buy my book, now FREE!” posted in the midst of a tragedy. And the time spent undoing the damage to the author brand probably exceeded that time “saved” by automating tweets.
In 2011 and 2012, I warned against algorithmic alchemy. Amazon, Google, etc. knows when someone is abusing algorithms for any advantage. This is why they employ teams of computer experts who are tasked with changing algorithms any time certain users start gaining a manipulative advantage. Juking numbers only works short-term. There are better and longer-lasting uses of our time. Amazon now limits tags and penalizes abusers.
In 2013 I predicted a flood of mid-list authors would cut loyalty with NY and choose indie or hybrid paths. This is actually becoming more and more standard practice over the past year. CJ Lyons is one of many traditional authors who’s decided to add indie publishing into her career plan. When I spoke at Thrillerfest in NYC this past July, the CEO of AMAZON Publishing was the keynote. The hard line dividing writers finally began to crumble this past year.
I will post my predictions for 2014 tomorrow, but what I hope you take away from today’s post is:
If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.
The truly successful are never too smart or too talented or too important to listen to others.
Heat can burn us or forge us. If we dare to go against the majority, expect pushback. Often it’s a sign we’re onto something ;).
Never fear being wrong. It’s the only way to figure out what’s right.
We really can’t predict the future, only create it. So let’s create something AMAZING!
WE ARE NOT ALONE!
What are your thoughts? Have you been ridiculed but kept pressing? What are some mistakes you made, but what did you learn? I know I’ve made plenty and they taught me way more than success. What were some trends you spotted and maybe people thought you were nuts?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!
I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!
Thrillerfest is a phenomenal conference packed full of experts and even heroes. It’s also a unique conference in that it takes place in NYC, right in the heart of traditional publishing. One of my major goals for WANA has been to serve writers—ALL writers. Publishing has been a One Size Fits All model for generations, and a lot of great writing has been collateral damage.
In fact, the paper-driven paradigm had driven many forms of writing to the brink of extinction—short stories, novellas, poetry, serials, pulp fiction, epic fiction, etc—simply because these types of works were a bad investment for a business that must turn a profit in order to survive and keep investing in new authors.
WANA LOVES ALL WRITERS
WANA has always made it a point to never make authors feel they needed to choose sides. Traditional is a better fit for some authors and indie isn’t for everyone. Self-publishing is far from a panacea. Each one has strengths and weaknesses and I explore that in Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.
The key to building the perfect platform for your career is to make an honest assessment of which publishing path fits your personality, your work and your needs. WANA is not a Social Media Snuggie.
I’m a huge fan of the new paradigm, namely because we are seeing an explosion of creativity. New genres are being birthed and old forms are being resurrected. I’ve spent many, many blogs imploring NY to realize that self-publishing and indie publishing do not have to be enemies. Yet, last year I was excruciatingly frustrated when I returned from Thrillerfest.
Some people felt I was being mean in that post, but when you love something you sometimes need to be tough. Last year, when few seemed to be acknowledging the pink elephant (Amazon) in the room and some comments about self-publishing were utterly inappropriate, I was annoyed at the lack of foresight.
And, when I kept hearing mantras like, “E-books are a fad” “People love bookstores” and “Readers will always want paper”?
I wanted to scream.
Borders was already dead and gone and Barnes & Noble had been experiencing major losses. If things didn’t change? Authors would be hurt the most because (at the time), I believed leadership wasn’t looking ahead. They were too busy protecting what had always been.
I felt like Jerry MacGuire:
Help me, help you!
“If You’re Not at the Table, It Means You’re on the Menu”
I read the above quote out of John C. Maxwell’s latest book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. It really spoke to me and helped me realize the root of my frustration with traditional publishers over the past few years. They’ve consistently refused to sit at the table of the new paradigm and that meant they were on the menu (placing its authors on the menu as well).
The Publishing Apocalypse
A federal judge recently ruled that Apple illegally conspired with five of the six biggest publishers to inflate prices in the emerging e-book market. Apple will be disciplined and the big publishers are certain to take a hit as well, though actual damages have yet to be ruled.
While the big publishers remain insistent they’ve done nothing wrong, it seems unlikely they will take on the Department of Justice a second time. This means Amazon is poised and ready to absorb even more of the book market.
William Lynch, CEO of Barnes&Noble resigned early this month after devastating earning reports made it clear that Barnes & Noble was losing the battle to Amazon. Their Nook had failed to keep pace with other devices like the Kindle Fire and the iPad, despite B&N’s partnering with Microsoft.
According to the New York Times article by David Streitfeld, E-Book Ruling Gives Amazon and Advantage, “The verdict in the Apple case might have been a foregone conclusion, telegraphed by the judge herself, but it emphatically underlined how the traditional players in the book business have been upended. Only Amazon, led by Mr. Bezos, seems to have a plan. He is executing it with a skill that infuriates his competitors and rewards his stockholders.”
Barnes & Noble, upon Lynch’s departure, appointed Michael P. Huseby former CFO to CEO. Additionally, according to another recent article by Julie Bosman in the New York Times Chief Leaves Barnes & Noble After Losses on E-Readers, “Max J. Roberts, the chief executive of the college division, will report to Mr. Huseby, while Mr. Huseby and Mitchell S. Klipper, the chief executive for the retail stores, will report to Leonard Riggio, the company’s chairman.”
These decisions hint that this is a likely a step toward “separating the digital and retail divisions, as the company has indicated it might do. Barnes & Noble has been in talks over a potential sale of its digital assets, as well as its 675 bookstores.”
What Does This Mean?
All of this points to an ominous sign that the bookstores likely will be broken up, which is why I’ve been adamant that writers (and traditional publishers) stop relying so much on the brick-and-mortar-model, since it was clear from history (Tower Records & Kodak) that these retailers would likely experience record contraction or go away altogether.
(I doubt bookstores will disappear completely just reinvent as I mentioned in this post last year The WANA Plan to Save Bookstores & Revive Publishing).
This has been another reason I have been passionate in my crusade to educate writers how to create an author brand on-line using blogging and social media. If the bookstores go away or shrink to the point of inconsequence, our only lifeline for success is the Internet.
Historically, bookstores have been the main hub where readers discover authors. That has completely changed. If we fail to appreciate this, we plan to fail.
After All of This, Why Was Thrillerfest So Encouraging? Welcome to the “Lifting of the Veil”
Rather than bringing in a big publisher to talk about favorite books and ignore the consumer landscape, ITW (International Thriller Writers) recruited Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content and Kindle Direct Publishing to speak. They also invited Createspace to be an active part of the conference and allowed ME to teach blogging at Craftfest, which shows they are looking to the future (or that they need better security :D).
Grandinetti’s speech left me in tears.
Grandinetti spoke about how it is a brilliant time to be a writer and how traditional and non-traditional don’t have to be adversaries (Sound familiar?). By using the new tools available, authors (even traditional authors) can keep fires burning with fans in between books and help big publishers reinvent and become more profitable.
Authors are now free to write serials, shorts, prequels and maybe even try new genres. Authors can stretch as artists after being in a severely restrictive business model for so many generations. We now are seeing the emergence of the hybrid-author, just as indie giants like NYTBSA Bob Mayer predicted years ago.
(And a major reason WANA never chose sides. I always believed one day they might work together).
I nearly passed out when mega-author-legend David Morrell asked for help understanding how to improve his metadata and when Anne Rice spoke about her love for Facebook. The energy this year was completely different. Rather than attending a wake, it was like attending a baby shower. The excitement for the future was palpable and it was a joy and it was an honor to witness this.
*and the choir sings*
Yes, an apocalypse can mean destruction—destruction of outdated operations, old thinking, ineffective models—but like a forest fire, an apocalypse also opens room for something new and vibrant and even stronger to emerge.
The fact that the biggest authors in the business were now looking at new ways of doing things? *happy dance* Finally, everyone agrees that stories and information, authors and readers are more important than keeping the status quo. YAY!
We are in scary but wonderful times and no matter which path you choose to take, please know two things:
1. ALL authors need an on-line platform.
2. It is the best time in HUMAN HISTORY to be a writer.
I knew NY had it in them. And, though the judgement against Apple and the major publishers does have a dark side (namely that competition keeps markets healthy), we can at least rejoice in this awakening and hope this leads to improved business creativity. Hey, NYC can learn a lot from writers :D.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel encouraged? Overwhelmed?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.
Also, Remember there is a class on Antagonists THIS Friday (recorded if you can’t make it). Use WANA15 for 15% off.