Posts Tagged Big Six Publishing

Consolidation, Nooble & Agents Who CARE—What’s Ahead for 2014 in Publishing

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

I promised yesterday, I’d offer up some predictions for publishing in 2014. I don’t know if these are “predictions” or “suggestions” but I am, at heart, an eternal optimist. As I’ve said many, many times, this is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer. It’s a Golden Age of Publishing if we’re willing to embrace the new. Yes, there are challenges. I might be an optimist, but I’m not a moron (okay, that time I accidentally drove to Missouri doesn’t count).

There are new perils ahead, ones we won’t know about until we step both feet in them. In ways, writers are The Lewis and Clark Expedition Literary Edition unfolding in 0s and 1s. This part of why I implored yesterday for writers to be involved in their social media communities. This new paradigm is awesome, but predators abound.

Sadly, there will be more wanna-be publishers, more bad books, more phony reviews, more bullying, more competition, and discoverability will only get tougher…exponentially. But, the flip-side is that writers are making more money, novelists can finally make a living, moth-balled novels are seeing new life and creating new fans, and unique and creative genres are being born. Additionally, forms of writing nearly rendered extinct (poetry, novellas, etc.) have been given new life and authors have a lot more choices and control. We trade one set of problems for new advantages (and…yes…new troubles).

Like the dot-com burst of the 90s, this paradigm will eventually find its way. New gatekeepers will emerge and the market will stabilize…until the next revolution. But until that time…

First, Consolidation is King

Back in The Olden Olden Days, humans went to the butcher for meat, the baker for bread, the smithy for nails, and the tailor for clothes. Then Super Walmart was invented (okay grocery stores then supermarkets might have “paved the way” *rolls eyes*). As humans became more pressed for time, consolidation became vital for competitive edge. Now, we don’t have to trek to the liquor store for the New Year’s Eve champagne when we can simply pick it up at the supermarket with the very last fattening food we’re eating EVER….

….okay, until February.

Consolidation is everywhere. Gaming systems no longer just play games. Try ordering a movie on your 1986 Atari. Want to post on Facebook or peruse You Tube? A Nintendo 64 probably won’t do the trick. In 1990, if we said, “Wow, I need to take Christmas pictures. Let me get my phone!” Men in white coats would show up uninvited and take us away for a “vacation.”

Want to take pictures with your PHONE? Might we suggest one of these...

Want to take pictures with your PHONE? Might we suggest one of these…

Gaming consoles (XBox) now stream video, allow us to access movies, Amazon, social media, and even shop. Phones are no longer just phones. They play music, manage bank accounts, surf the web, take pictures and video, and entertain toddlers (um, Angry Birds?). We can even run a business remotely using various applications. Try that on THIS.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Robert Huffstutter.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Robert Huffstutter.

Aside from calling people and generating a seething hatred for those unfortunate souls with too many 0s in their phone numbers? THIS bad boy (above) was good for calling people and letting them call US…and maybe braining a burglar or dazing a Florida cockroach long enough to shoot it with a GUN.

These days, more and more people rely on smart phones and tablets for everything. 

Why do I mention this? Because the future of physical bookstores relies on partnering with other types of retailers. Um, consolidation?

The closest Barnes & Noble to me is in the heart of the BUSIEST FREAKING MALL in DFW, Texas. I am simply not that motivated. What if indie bookstores or Barnes & Noble took the path of Starbucks? Tuck that sucker (a mini-version) in a Target, supermarket or a Costco. I NEED food. Books? Eh, shop on-line. Stick them TOGETHER and lure me with the SHINY. I am SO THERE!

Much like I can buy wine at my local Krogers, why can’t I have a choice of more than a handful of books on one aisle? Make life easier. Gas is expensive and I don’t OWN CLONING TECHNOLOGY, BUT MY LAUNDRY DOES.

*left eye twitches*

This dovetails into my first prediction.

Prediction #1—Kiosks and Microstores Will Gain Traction

Blockbuster is dead. Alas, Red Box remains.

The trade paperback is fairly standard, so digital kiosks are a great alternative. Make the Espresso technology a lot like Red Box. A touch-screen panel to peruse recommended books then pay for either a) a download or b) a rental (limited e-book that expires—integrating the library into this business plan) or c) a printed book (with a coupon for 15% off a latte or grocery purchase over $50, of course).

A “rental”? Yup. Wouldn’t that be great for those books we were forced assigned to read in high school and college? And, if we “rent” the book, this can count towards the purchase of the book if we do want to actually keep and reread Moby Dick. Win-win.

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

Microstore? YES.

Think of the small stores in airports. I’d much rather have a small store with an educated and well-read staff to help guide what to read than to throw chance to the wind on-line. Microstores can still stock the most popular paperbacks/hardbacks/collections, but then they can guide consumers what to load on their new devices (and maybe even help) or print on the Espresso machine.

The largest consumer group is the Baby Boomers. An educated bookseller could not only guide what to read, but also demonstrate how to upload books to the new device. Maybe even load some freebies for great customer service? *wink, wink*

These booksellers can act as gatekeepers to help modern consumers avoid the digital slush pile. Indies, self-pub and traditional would be on a level playing field. Good books would be recommended by staff members who READ and who are PASSIONATE about BOOKS. Pay the book salespeople a flat commission. Who cares if they recommend James Patterson or Joe Schmoe Patterson? They sold a book and if they want customers to return and offer more commission? They’ll probably want to recommend good books.

Prediction #2—Booksellers Cultivate a Culture of Reviewers

Microstores can also encourage reviews in a way authors can’t. I’d love to offer sweet prizes for reviewing my book, but it’s just too…what’s the term? Creepy. Sure, I want reviews as much as the next author, but it’s a fine line that can get writers in ethical trouble. A microstore wouldn’t have this issue. They could actually cultivate a culture of reviewers.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Micro Indie Booksellers could offer incentives to the best reviewers who write ACTUAL reviews (no matter what book it happens to be, thus removing problem of favoritism). If people act like trolls or play sock puppet? Doesn’t count. The more the customers review, the better (educated) reviews they post? The more bonuses they receive. Booksellers can reward consumers for being active and ethical citizens of the reading culture.

This helps the microstore, the bigger retail outlet (who rents space and partners with discounts), the consumer struggling to save time and who needs guidance, and it helps authors get REAL reviews. Not this, pay us to read your stuff and say something nice nonsense. It’s a positive way to combat bullying and encourage thoughtful, genuine reviews.

Prediction #3—The Boutique Boom

We already touched on this when we discussed micro-trends, but part of why Big Publishing is hemorrhaging is because small is the new big (thanks, Seth Godin). Big Publishing makes most of its profits off the mega-trend, but mega-trends are dying. Amazon has grown exponentially because it harnesses the momentum of millions of micro-trends. Authors don’t have to reach millions of people to make a good profit/living (if one takes away the needless waste of the old paradigm). Publishers don’t either ;).

Prediction #4—Strong Indie Houses Will Replace Big Publishing

Granted, we live in a time when everyone can be an author and everyone can be a publisher, but this business is tough. It requires capital, business savvy, organization, innovation and raw tenacity. This means a lot of indie publishers won’t last, and the ones that do will add increasing value. Because these new publishers are innovative, lean, offer higher royalties, and aren’t married to massive Manhattan overhead and paper, they’ll eventually replace NY publishing (and we hope they’ll learn from The Big Six’s mistakes).

When one considers the current business trajectory? Bookstores, libraries and foreign markets are becoming increasingly friendly to indies. They have to in order to survive. Loyalty to NY only goes so far when one is facing extinction. What will NY do when indies can do everything they can and offer lower prices to consumers and higher pay for authors?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Robert Ellsworth Tyler

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Robert Ellsworth Tyler

Prediction #5—AP Reviewers Will Be Forced to Take ALL Authors Seriously or Perish

As is stands, it’s almost impossible for a self-published author to score an AP (Associated Press) review. Yet, when we’re now in a time when non-traditional authors are matching or outselling traditional authors? How long can the AP remain silent about the books people are reading? If they don’t dive in? Book bloggers will happily replace them, and maybe they should. The press was never meant to solely be a mouthpiece for conglomerates.

Prediction #6—Social Norms Will Trump Market Norms

Freebies, give-aways, contests, algorithms, coupons, are fine, but alone? Invisible. Writers must be engaged personally and create community or it’s Career Roulette. We (consumers) don’t want any more deluge of free stuff. We are drowning in FREE. We don’t want more newsletters crapping up our In-Box. We don’t want link spam.

We want connection.

The 18th-20th century world was actually a historical anomaly. The factory model, the TV-Industrial Complex, the World of Big Business and Bigger Gatekeepers is GONE. We’ve returned to our human roots. We want to laugh, talk, klatsche, and we gravitate to who we know and like. We humans are returning to our tribal roots.

Algorithms will be harder to manipulate, reviews tougher to fake, and promotions will grow increasingly invisible, especially as new emerging markets add even more competition to the din.

Prediction #7—Age of the Artist

Multimedia is the future. Books eventually have to be more than books (much like phones became more than phones). Consumers will gravitate to e-books with sound, music, images, quick reference, video, similar reading suggestions, etc. Artists working together will thrive. E-books can create communities where fans can become friends, talk, argue, and hang out.

Musicians? Make friends with writers and offer short music selections. Photographers and graphic artists? Writers need cover art and internal images. Videographers? Writers need book trailers that don’t suck. Also, short video clips can enhance the reading experience. Heck, team up and put together music videos for a book. Get creative!

We are ARTISTS. This means we cannot be automated or replaced by robots. ENJOY!

No, I am not saying paper will go away. It won’t. But when I bought an IPad for business, it was soon abducted by a two-and-a-half-year-old and I haven’t seen it since. The Spawn reads. A LOT. But he reads off the IPad, because he loves interacting.

Prediction #8—A New Breed of Reader

I mention the IPad, then quickly hear the cry of the, “But you’ll damage their BRAINS” crowd. Uh huh. Just like those record players paired with books damaged me when I was four. The interactive experience has always been there. In cave times, it was around a fire listening to a storyteller/bard. Later, book clubs, records, tapes, blah, blah, blah. Interactivity has always been there, only today, it’s been heightened to new levels.

And when I was that nerdy teen reading a paper book ALONE, what I would have given for a crowd of likeminded teens all over the world who shared my love for Dragonlance books and my passion for The Pawn of Prophesy. I love how detractors decry that technology makes people less able to socialize, because I was SO SOCIAL with my stack of paper books hiding in a corner of the lunchroom praying no one would notice me.

The new paradigm has finally accomplished what Big Publishing couldn’t. It’s made reading COOL and this trend will continue to grow.

Prediction #9—Barnes & Noble Needs a Sugar Daddy Bail-Out

Barnes & Noble has been on the downward spiral for a while. What I find funny is people feel sorry for them. Remember the 90s when they all-but-demolished the indie bookstore in Darwinian fashion? Seems like karma is coming back to bite, Blockbuster-Style. B&N is facing serious comeuppance now that the bully has met with someone capable of bloodying their nose. If they do survive, they’ll have to marry well. My bet is on two major suitors.

Suitor #1? Microsoft. And I am not alone in this assessment. Microsoft operating systems still dominate tablets, personal computers, and smart phones, so the Nook can be easily integrated into the operating systems of all Microsoft devices. Microsoft would take over the e-books and B&N would survive. Yes, Microsoft has dated dabbled, but never offered a ring.

Or perhaps, one day we will tell our grandchildren of grand two-story buildings with coffee shops inside and “business hours.”

In my day we had to get in a car and drive and find PARKING and look on actual SHELVES for a book *waves cane*.

Suitor #2? GOOGLE.

Apple’s relentless innovation has slowed since the death of Steve Jobs, and Android is taking them on. The Google-Android partnership has Apple on its toes in regards to automobile iOS systems. It’s the Siri-Google Smackdown! While Apple is fighting on that front, Microsoft could take a chunk out of iBooks with a B&N bailout (and give Amazon some competition at the same time).

Or, if we want to go for the most interesting Bailout-Marriage, why not Google Books? A SEARCH ENGINE marrying a BOOKSTORE? If Google can partner with Android, B&N isn’t exactly as wild of a partnership as it might sound. If Google-Android does win the Computerized Car Business, cars are now big into downloading entertainment. AUTOTAINMENT. Want to listen to an audio book on the commute? Want to synch your reading device while stuck in traffic or on a long road trip (not while driving, please)? Want to download a new book for the kids fighting in the back seat?

Nooble…

Um, Goo-Barnes…

Um…Boogle….

NOBLE GOOGLE is HERE!

Hmm, Noble Google. Kinda catchy :D. Though Nooble is cute.

Prediction #10—Agents Will Have to Innovate, Too

Agents. Yeah. I recall the days when conferences would pay big bucks for agents to attend…and then the agents refused to talk to authors. I can personally attest to enduring the brunt of daring to talk to those who’d come down from Mt. Olympus NYC to talk to me, a lowly mortal…writer. *shivers* They sneered that we made a typo in a query, yet couldn’t be bothered to even spell our names correctly in a rejection letter (been there). Agents tweeted lines out of queries as jokes. They laughed and mocked writers on-line worse than a den of high school Mean Girls, but now?

Wait.

Writers still have a job.

REVELATION! Agents need writers. Whouda’ thunk? Now, make no mistake, I think agents are awesome. We are wise to have a good agent. Many agents are tireless champions who should be paid better, but the old paradigm birthed a lot of prima donnas who forgot who paid their wages.

Some of the BEST people I know are agents. Laurie McLean (of Forward Literary) is not only a FABULOUS agent, but a marvelous human being and my friend. BUT, Laurie is there for WRITERS. She’s a warrior for good writers and great books, and there are many agents like her. In the new paradigm? Agents like these will thrive and they SHOULD.

Authors need allies and agents can help even the self-pubbed or indie author. Laurie is extremely forward-thinking and always has been. When I first taught social media in 2008? She was the only agent out of TEN who attended. She’s AMAZING at planning author careers. She can tell you when to self-pub (if it’s right for you/your work), then guide you to the best indie or traditional house (and deal) and then take your work as far as it can and should go.

She’s always on the lookout for the perfect path for each writer and every work (Red Sofa Literary, established by Dawn Frederick, is another fab choice). These folks do what agents should do! Agents like Laurie, Dawn and their teams will thrive and the others? Well, let’s hope they can learn and innovate ;).

What are your thoughts? Do my predictions make you happy or break out in hives? What do YOU see in the future? HOW do you do it? Because I had to drink three packs of Red Bull to see the future. What would you LIKE to see coming down the pipeline?

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 novelor 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!!!!

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An Industry on the Brink—Five Mistakes that are Killing Traditional Publishing

Author Kristen Lamb, social media authors, author platform, social media writers

Old School Meets New School

As many of you know, last week I was blessed enough to get to present at Thrillerfest, which is a conference held by the International Thriller Writers in the heart of New York City. What a blast and a WONDERFUL conference! If you ever get an opportunity to go, take it. Yet, now that I’m home, I feel compelled to share my observations and make the most of my $5000 investment. Why can’t you guys benefit, too, right?

Now that I have been to NY, talked to people and observed things first-hand, I feel I am in a better position to make an accurate analysis, so here are the five mistakes that I feel are killing traditional publishing.

Mistake #1—Fear

When I first arrived, there was almost a palpable feeling of dread, doom and gloom. I felt like agents, editors and even writers were refusing to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room. Why? Because they were afraid of it.

The paradigm is changing and the world is going digital. No matter how many times we click the ruby slippers and chant There’s nothing like paper. People will always want paper it isn’t going to change a darn thing. The only thing this self-soothing will do is waste time while the windows of opportunity close.

When I attended the Craft Fest luncheon, the keynote was Jaime Raab, Senior Vice President & Publisher, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette). She began her speech with something akin to, “I know all of you are wanting to hear me talk about the changes in publishing but…” and then she went off to talk about all her favorite books over the course of her publishing career and why she thought they were game-changers.

And I was like WTH?

It was a lovely speech, but the troops are battered and broken and searching for a reason to fight for the cause. If you know they need to hear something about the changes in publishing, then by gum give it to them. I felt like the troops needed the Churchill speech. The Germans are coming. Give us something!

But, no.

Instead, we had a nice nostalgic speech that offered little to ease the fear. And I am not meaning any disrespect, but I feel this fear factor is a big part of the problem. The leadership is afraid and that is filtering into decisions. Fear is a lousy place to make strategy. When we find ourselves defending, the battle is already lost.

But you know what? Good thing I am too dumb to be afraid.

The first thing I announced on my panel was that it is an AMAZING time to be a writer. It is a BRILLIANT time to be a publisher, even a TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER! But here is the thing. We have to change. We have to grow and growing sucks and sometimes is painful as hell but it is necessary because if we aren’t growing we are DYING. 

We cannot build a 21st century future with 18th century tools. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself! Fight! Win!

We MUST face where we are weak, because if we don’t, we are vulnerable. Ignoring a thing doesn’t change a thing. The truth will set us free and if the truth is that we are being short-sighted and wasteful, then we need to FACE that so we can FIX it. Fear wastes time and energy.

After the social media panel there was a noticeable shift. People were smiling, they were hopeful. WANA (We Are Not Alone) is a wonderful plan that is fun, easy and has sold hundreds of thousands of books. Maybe WANA it isn’t THE plan, but it is at least A plan. WANA works for all kinds of writers and all types of publishers and it frees up time to do ALL the meaningful work. Best of all, WANAs don’t know fear. We only know hope, and that automatically places us in a position of strength.

Mistake #2—Paper is Married to Petroleum DOOM

Raab continued to assert that “readers would always want paper” yet I will show exactly why this assertion is dead wrong. Let’s indulge in a little Economics 101.

The reason that readers will not always want paper books is that paper books are what is known as an elastic good. Elastic goods cannot fluctuate too far in price before people just decide to do without or change products.

For instance, coffee is elastic. We are all sad when Jamaica is hit by hurricane and loses much of its Blue Mountain Coffee bean crops, but we are simply unwilling to pay $15 for a cup of coffee. We all have a ceiling before we just do without Blue Mountain Coffee.

Elasticity is even more of a problem when there is a ready supply of easy substitutes. For instance, if Blue Mountain Coffee was the only source of caffeine on the planet, maybe we would keep demanding even as the price increased (inelastic), but it isn’t. It is too easy to buy a pound of Folgers instead.

Or we can even buy black tea or Monster drinks. We can take ginseng, guarana, and all kinds of other Chinese herbs to wire us for the day. While caffeine is inelastic (meaning if there was only one source we would continue to pay), Blue Mountain Coffee is NOT.

Artificial hips and superconductors? Inelastic. Paper books? Very ELASTIC.

We will only pay so much for paper books before we just go download the e-book, and this is a HUGE problem for traditional publishing. Why? Because paper books are married to petroleum. As the price in oil increases, so do costs.

Books need to be manufactured, then shipped. I worked in the paper industry and believe me, paper books are seriously heavy, which means they burn a lot of fuel to ship. They also burn a lot of fuel to return then pulp due to waste. Anyone who has ever had to move gets what I am taking about here.

This grossly inefficient consignment model worked so long as readers had no other options. Yet, now with e-readers, e-books, indies and POD publishing? The game has changed.

Books were always elastic, but they are even more elastic now that there are other options. What the publishers are failing to understand is that as petroleum continues to rise in price, their profit margin gets thinner and thinner.

If NY doesn’t change? They will go bankrupt simply because the margin will fully disappear, then their costs will surpass what readers are willing to pay for a paper book. If big rig trucks ran off sunshine or happy thoughts, this might not be as critical of a problem as it is.

NY MUST make the change to digital, as many titles as possible before petroleum bankrupts the industry for good. Yes, some books will need to be paper, but POD technology can step in to fill that gap, minimize the waste, and drop costs so traditional publishers can increase margin.

The competition has not lashed their product to barrels of petroleum. The indies are not hobbled by waste, shipping costs and limited shelf space, and this is why they can pay their authors so much BETTER. Writers might not be great at math, but we aren’t that bad. It is only a matter of time before the Big Six will hemorrhage talent, probably the mid-list first as the demand for mass market paperbacks contracts. 

Traditional publishers! Get those costs down so you can pay your people better. You can’t keep using a handful of mega authors to float the business. In the new paradigm, there is no reason to lose so much money. There are all kinds of creative and profitable solutions to make all authors profitable.

If this is a race, NY, you are riding a horse but trying to beat a Ferrarri. Help me help you!

Mistake #3—Reliance on Outdated Gimmicky Marketing Tactics

For those of you who know the WANA way, we abhor gimmick. Gimmicks worked in the old paradigm before the Internet and social media, but now? We have a much more sophisticated audience that demands authenticity. We don’t like being fooled either.

Tweeting as a character or interviewing yourself pretending to be your characters is, in my opinion, not the best use of time. Sure it might be fun for our devoted fans, but for new people who don’t yet know our books, it can seriously tick them off when they figure out they have been duped.

True story.

I was on Twitter and happened to see one author talk to a NYTBSA who I’d never heard of. So I followed and loved his tweets. Then I spotted him interacting with someone from the CIA. I thought that was really cool so I started following this other person and asking questions thinking I was talking to someone from the CIA. When I realized I had been talking to a character from one of this author’s books, I was mortified, then livid and then I unfollowed.

Play head games at your own risk.

Let’s use some logic. How many people are going to care about an interview from an imaginary character from an author they don’t know and out of a book they’ve never read? There is far better content that actually stands a chance of going viral.

Interviews don’t generally go viral unless they are with a super famous person who then does something very embarrassing (Tom Cruise and the couch thing on Oprah) or dies (Steve Jobs). Interviews with imaginary people? Probably not going to go viral.

A lot of people feel the gimmick is a tool so people will pay attention to our marketing, but thing is, gimmicks don’t work and marketing and advertising don’t work, either. All of it is just busy work that gives us the illusion we are doing something meaningful.

My impression from Thrillerfest?

I felt that the traditional publishers had far too much reliance on these tactics, which is likely why my sixty-one year old mother has a better Klout score. If no one is paying attention to what we post or spreading what we post, then we are doing something wrong.

Any pretending to be characters needs to be initiated by fans. Yes, there are loads of teenagers who love to role-play as Twilight characters. That is cute and fun. When we (authors) do it? Weird, and kinda creepy.

Mistake #4—Over-Fixation on Tools

There was an over-fixation, in my opinion, on tools. Yes, there are analytical tools that can tell us what time of day is best to tweet and what time of week is best to blog, and what time of month is best to run a promotion, but all I could think as people were talking about these tools was:

Are they tweeting or ovulating?

I know that IT geeks are fascinated with the idea of creating a program that can accurately predict human behavior, probably so they can get a date. But, thing is, they can’t predict human behavior. If we could accurately predict human behavior, then we have bigger problems than selling books and should start looking for the chip someone has implanted in our brains.

Yes, there is some predictability. I.e. Spamming people pisses them off. Talking to people and being kind and genuine generally is a good bet.

Beyond the fundamentals? There is no way to predict this stuff. People who love tools, in my experience, are people who want from others what they, themselves, are unwilling to give.

See, for Twitter and Facebook to work, to actually sell books SOMEONE must be present. When people use these tools to post for them, it is because they want the perks without the works. They want ME to actually be on Twitter/Facebook so I can click and then give them money, but they can’t be bothered to actually take time to be on Twitter talking to me.

Yeah, I’m all over that.

Tools RUIN social sites. RUIN THEM! When too many people start using these fancy tools to do stuff for them, the information becomes invisible. Also if no one is there to read and respond to the tweet because they are tired of talking to bots? Then Twitter is a giant waste of time that will not sell books because it is choking on automation. If people loved talking to machines, they’d call their credit card company, not log on to Twitter.

We don’t have to post a lot to be effective, and being real is the best plan. We can’t expect from others what we are unwilling to give. And yes, I know some of you have to work day jobs and can’t tweet during the day but pssst….Twitter and Facebook are GLOBAL. People in other time zones will see your posts.

Again, better uses of time. These tools are interesting, but if you work the WANA way, they you have a whole team of people helping you, so it matters less and less what time of day you post. And besides, I have enough to do without setting my watch for a quick roll in the sack while I’m fertile tweeting.

Mistake #5—Expecting Commerce Before Community

At Thrillerfest there were a couple new book sites introduced where readers could go and interact with their favorite authors. Um, didn’t we already have Goodreads? Now there are two more?

Don’t get me wrong, these are lovely sites and I think they have a lot to offer, but we are back all pitching to the same people, the same over saturated 8-10% of the population who defines themselves as “readers.”

There are hundreds of millions of people who will only read one or two books a year, but I have said this time and time again. Who cares if it is YOUR book? Every mega-success from Harry Potter to 50 Shades of Grey has come from mobilizing the fat part of the bell curve, the people who would not normally define themselves as “readers.” Traditional marketing and “reader sites” will not make our book the next Twilight or Hunger Games.

I am saying this as respectfully as possible, but traditional marketing has some lazy and uncreative people thinking this stuff up. We all want the magical site where we can find….readers. You know what? Back when I sold cardboard (corner board), I would have loved a site called http://www.LetMeComeToYouAndHandYouMoneyWithoutAnyWorkOnYourPart.com. That would have made my job WAY easier. Instead, I had to hit the pavement, look around and look for people who could be converted into buyers. 

For instance, we had to pay attention to the HUGE boxes being used to ship water heaters so we could step in and say, “Hey, I bet those giant boxes are really expensive. If you use four pieces of corner board, some wrap and strapping, not only could you fit more water heaters on a truck, but you could seriously cut your shipping costs and drastically improve your profit margin.”

We had to work for the sale, but NY? Let’s just put more “reader sites” together and then people will come and give us money.

Am I saying these sites aren’t great? No, they are lovely and shiny and pretty but they are not a substitute for creating a customer. We can’t have commerce before community. It’s like building a McDonald’s in the middle of a field and hoping people will show up to eat burgers. It makes more sense to wait until there is a thriving community and then build the McDonald’s. Then the McDonald’s is there to serve the community, not the community there to serve the shareholders of McDonald’s.

This is why it is critical for us (writers) to build community first. If we have a community of support, then these sites with goodies and interviews and all that jazz will work better. I spent two years building the idea of WANA before we built WANATribe. By the time I launched WANATribe, it just made the experience of being a WANA even better. It allowed you guys to interact in new and fun ways.

But what if I had started off with WANATribe? It would have been me taking not giving.

Is NY DOOMED?

So after all of this, is traditional publishing doomed? I say it can have a bright future, but the people in charge have to start listening to people who are doing publishing (and social media) better. I know there is probably some pride involved, but get over it. Yes, you rocked publishing for over a century, but now? Not so much. You have a lot to learn.

The thing is, e-book sales are not a Zero Sum Game. Joe Konrath made a brilliant point about this in a recent blog:

Ebook sales aren’t a zero sum game. A sale of one ebook doesn’t preclude the sale of another, because this is a burgeoning global market with hundreds of new customers introduced daily, and people naturally horde more than they need. 

Let’s say there are currently 100 million ebook readers, and 1 million ebook titles on Amazon. In ten years, there will be billions of ebook readers (following the path of mp3s). But there won’t be a corresponding 100 million ebook titles available–there aren’t that many people writing ebooks, and never will be.

What this means is that traditional publishing can remain if they are willing to change and listen to people who are doing things right in the digital paradigm. Books are not so cost-prohibitive that people cannot buy more than one. I know a lot of us in the indie world have offered to help NY, but we can’t do this for them. The Big Six have a lot to offer and many of us hate to see that go away. We do hold a respect for what they do and they have a lot of talent.

With the explosion of smart phones, tablets and e-readers, this could be a Golden Age for publishing, but the Big Six cannot embrace their future while clinging to the past.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Ideas? What have you observed? Do you think the Big Six can survive or should they be parted out to the indies? Do you think the mid-list is next to defect? I don’t mind any opinion, so long as it is respectful.

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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151 Comments

Low-Hanging Fruit is All Gone–The Future is About Teamwork, Humility & Innovation

 

Wednesday’s post, Big Six Publishing is Dead made me sad to write. Yes, I am an indie author, but I never have held any malice for New York publishing. I’ve liberally offered ideas, suggestions and help. Still do. I think competition in the market is good for everyone. Yet, the current situation does make me wonder. What went wrong? Why didn’t New York act quickly enough? They saw what happened to music. They saw what happened to Kodak. How could they fall victim to the same problem when they had so much warning?

Actually, it is simple. They were a victim of pride and fear. Why am I writing about this today? Not to beat a dead paradigm, but I think we all can take a huge lesson from this in our own lives. History repeats itself only when we fail to listen.

The same thing that happened to NY publishing can happen to you. It can happen to me. Every day we must really challenge ourselves and be unafraid to ask the hard questions.

Beware of the Defense

I can debate with the best of them. I used to be like trying to have an argument with an attorney. For many years I excelled at being “right.” But I didn’t grow. I didn’t learn. I was a lousy leader and had very few friends.

Oh, but I was “right.”

What I’ve learned through years of hard work and failure and criticism is that being “right” is highly overrated. These days, the second I hear myself defending my position…I know I am wrong. When we have to explain and defend, that is a HUGE sign of trouble. We are all wise to listen for this. Will save a lot of headache.

When NY started having to defend the paper-based paradigm, that was a red flag. So why didn’t they see the red flag? Why is it still SO important to be right?

People will always want paper.

Target Fixation Trouble

What we believe is true is not always true. It takes humility to ask others their opinion because we risk not being seen as “smart.” Pride leads us into believing we know everything.

Years ago, I was in paper sales (a tad bit of irony here). I recall being in a corporate meeting and they were putting together the core marketing plan for 2000. They were going to get the customers lower prices.

I was the only female in the room and about 20 years younger than most of the attendees. They were all older men who’d been in the paper business for decades. I was afraid, but I raised my hand and asked:

“Is this what the customer wants?”

“Of course everyone wants lower prices!”

“Um, well, uh, no Sir. Not always. There are other factors we might be overlooking, like lead-times, customer service, quality, etc.”

So I challenged them to table the marketing plan for two weeks. I would write a survey, and, if all the customers wanted lower prices, then at least we would know “lower prices” was where we needed to be putting our efforts.

Turns out price was rated #4 on the list of what customers felt was important. #1 Lead-Time. They wanted their product as fast as humanly possible.

See, the people who ran my company just assumed they knew what the customer wanted. They never bothered asking and it cost them dearly. Even though the customers almost unilaterally said they wanted faster lead times, my bosses would not approve a second production line that I proposed, and it would have only cost a few thousand dollars. They refused to rent a warehouse in Houston (my other idea) where we could have stored the most popular products and it would have given us the ability to have same-day service.

I even suggested that we get away from filling out orders by hand. Do it on a computer. We could digitize the catalogue to make ordering faster. If we used computers for ordering, it would have synced beautifully with the new SAP system that our customers were integrating.

Nope. Fill out the order sheet by hand. Make everything slooooooooww.

And they lost millions in business. I watched my territory hemorrhage customers. I feel it is part of why my health finally suffered to the point that I had to resign.

Granted the company beating our tails was actually cheaper, but time and time again customers told me they wanted to stay with us. They liked us and had done business with us for years. They preferred our quality. But, time and time again they needed our product FAST and we couldn’t get there. Eventually the customers preferred a less-than-stellar product NOW over a better product in a week.

My company never understood that. They had target fixation…price. It kept them from being innovative.

NY believes it can charge the same price for an e-book as for a hard cover and that people will pay it because of stellar quality. Yet, I might suggest learning from my paper parable. Sometimes a customer will take less quality NOW and CHEAPER over later and better quality. (And, the indies and self-pubs are closing in on having as good of quality if not better).

Can’t See the Stories for the Books

NY has had target fixation–protect the paper book–and it has hindered creativity and innovation. Instead of leading the charge into the Digital Renaissance, they’ve been protecting the Dark Ages with agency pricing and grabbing of author backlists. They were so focused on paper, they failed to see they were in the story and information business…no matter what medium.

The Outsider

New York is suffering from what I call “intellectual inbreeding.” This isn’t an insult. All of us will suffer this and we must take action to bring in outsiders and fresh perspectives in order to keep this syndrome at bay.

When people spend too much time together, they begin to think alike. At first this is really wonderful because it is easier to work as a team and there is a surge in creativity. But, after a while, the creativity begins to taper off. As a group, it is easier to get tunnel-vision and target-fixation.

The Trouble with Being an “Expert”

Experts run into this problem a lot. It is why we need to be willing to ask potentially embarrassing questions. It’s why, ironically and quite paradoxically we need to admit we don’t know everything.

Hey, we’re experts not omnipotent.

We need to be willing to leave the safe shores of our expertise. It is why, at the end of every post I ask for reader opinions. Alone, I can’t know everything. With your help? I can get pretty close, :D.

My opinion? New York thinks too much alike. They have too many “experts.” Publishing is centered in New York and has been for over a century. Everyone knows everyone and they all work closely together. It is why we writers must always be kind and respectful (aside from it being the right thing to do). Why? Because that agent we blast in an e-mail because she rejected us might one day be the editor at the house of our dreams. NY publishing is a close-knit community, to say the least.

Which is why it is at a disadvantage.

It isn’t that the folks in New York aren’t brilliant, wonderful people, but their very environment leads to group think. It is easy to become more interested in defending what is, than to think of what could be. I can appreciate the conundrum. How would I feel if I had to envision a world where my colleagues would be out of a job?

The Future is Ours to Shape

Yet, the sad part is they didn’t have to be out of a job. When we are brave enough to face the future, even the scary parts, we can make a plan. We have more power when we face fear and kick it out of the driver’s seat.

The folks in New York could have been retooling personnel. Teach them how to format and be the best dang digital formatters in the business. If e-books were in the future, then by gum, NY would lead the charge.

But they didn’t and I don’t know how steep the consequences will be. They started making fear-based decisions, which never work out well. They may be making some changes now, but the problem is those changes are three years too late.

Many of those in New York are feeling the way many Americans are feeling. In the factory model, we are replaceable, usually by machines or people in other countries willing to worker harder, longer and for less pay. This why it is SO critical now of all times to be proactive, innovative, creative and remarkable.

Top-down decision-making is a dead paradigm. Regular people have a hand in shaping our future.

Creativity Needs Fresh Blood and Brutal Honesty

Creativity and innovation are easier when we bring in those with a fresh perspective who have nothing to lose by offering us honesty. I feel New York can’t see the forest for the trees, and they have underestimated the intelligence of “outsiders.” Has happened to me on Twitter quite a few times. I’m not in NY so I don’t understand. *shrugs* Okay.

I think that publishing could benefit greatly by giving their toughest problems to outsiders. Eli Lilly did it with InnoCentive. Heck, I do it with the WANAs. Some of the best solutions come from everyday people. Sometimes us “experts” get a little blinded by our “expertness.”

It is a remarkable time we live in. We are in the Digital Renaissance. But as the world grows more and more complex, so do the problems. It is taking more than one mind to solve the present problems. All the low-hanging fruit is gone and we need to reach higher. Even writers. We can take a lesson. We need each other.

The 20th century was the Age of the Individual. The Digital Age is the Age of the Collective. We must form teams and work together or we are toast. We are in a global economy with global problems, so we need global solutions. We need each other. We need to be more creative than ever in human history. To do this, we have to be humble enough to admit we don’t know everything and open to outside help.

As this world changes and grows and presents challenges never seen, we have to remember We Are Not Alone. Even you, New York.

So what do you guys think? I think the Big Six is dead, but Madonna, Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr prove resurrection is possible. Industries have been known to reinvent and come back stronger. Do you think this is possible? Or is it too far gone?

What about your own lives? How do you keep creativity and innovation fresh? Have you been the victim of your own tunnel-vision and need to be right? What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Winner of last week 5 page critique–Mona Karel. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com.

Winner of 15 page critique for April is Heidi Thomas. Please send your 3250 word Word document to the same e-mail.

***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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53 Comments

Don’t Eat the Butt #3–Persistence Can Look a lot Like Stupid

Thank you Parks Australia for the image.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new series that I called Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. No, I think there are some important lessons here, so let me explain. I have always found the puffer fish fascinating. For those who choose to eat the puffer fish, there is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.

Take a bite! I dare ya!

Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*

Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.

This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. You might have heard the saying, Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Well, I am saying, Don’t Eat the Butt. 

Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the Literary Puffer Butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.

Without further ado…

Don’t Eat the Butt Lesson #3–Persistence can look a lot like stupid.

The successful writer is the one who never gives up. Yeah, uh…no. This lesson is a bit tricky since, of course, the ability to stick to something is a major factor in success. But, as I like to say, “Persistence can look a lot like stupid.”

For those of you who follow this blog, I hope you took time to read Wednesday’s post The Future of Publishing–Bracing for Impact. Why do I mention this post? Because traditional publishing is certainly not giving up…on an old, wasteful, utterly uncompetitive paradigm. They are being persistent, all right. They are being persistent to the point of making dumb moves like “agency pricing” and clinging to the printed book in a digital world. The Big Six are doing what has worked for decades, oblivious to the changes all around that are about to spell their doom. What do you call the publisher who never gives up (on a flawed business model)?

Extinct.

Big Publishing is currently eating the butt. They saw the music industry eat the Music Puffer Butt and DIE, then the film industry dined on some Kodak Puffer Butt and DIED, and, in the midst of all these dead bodies industries, The Big Six are pulling up a chair and ordering the Literary Puffer Butt thinking they are the special exception. So let us at least be smart enough to learn from all this carnage.

Literary Puffer Butt KILLS.

Okay, moving on…

I believe in persistence, but we need to always make sure it is a smart persistence, an informed persistence, an honest persistence. I love Konrath’s quote, “What do you call the writer who never gives up? Published.” I totally agree, but this really great quote needs a little bit of clarification. Persistence alone (as we are seeing with Big Publishing) can be a disaster. It can make us get tunnel-vision and fail to see that we are on a dead-end road to destruction.

I teach at a lot of conferences, and every year I see the same people with the same books that have been rejected 624 times. They bring the same book to critique and redo the makeup on a corpse that they drag around even though it has started to stink up the place. Granted, some don’t keep querying the corpse, they self-publish it, and, even though it has only sold ten copies (all to their mother), they keep retooling the marketing plan, placing all their future hopes in one book. They remain loyal to a dead novel instead of taking it as the learning experience that it is and moving on to write more books and better books.

We all need to learn to be persistent. Persistence is a mark of maturity and character. Amateurs and infants drift from shiny thing to new shiny thing; professionals stay the course. But while persistence is noble, it must always be taken with a solid dose of reality. We need to stop, take an honest look at the situation, whatever that situation might be, and then be unafraid to ask the hard questions. We must invite real criticism even when we know it likely could sting like hell. And, after we’ve gotten a candid assessment of our novel or business plan or our dream to create the world’s largest Twister board? Then it is time to genuinely seek guidance from others to make a new plan, a better plan.

In the end? Friends don’t let friends eat Literary Puffer Butt.

So I have mentioned clinging to the same novel and reworking again and again as an instance of Literary Puffer Butt. What do you think? What other Literary Puffer Butt is lurking out there on the buffet that we might need to look out for? Have you eaten Literary Puffer Butt and lived to tell the tale? Share your story of survival. Have you saved a friend or family member from Literary Puffer Butt? And, yes, I am having way too much fun typing Literary Puffer Butt :D.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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75 Comments

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