Tag Archive for digital publishing

Writing… or Marketing?

I’m seeing a lot of advice lately to ditch the traditional marketing scheme and self-publish through places like Amazon CreateSpace. Writers avoid all the middle men like publishers, printers, distributors, and retailers, and they get to take a bigger cut of the royalties.

This is all well and good, but there’s one question writers always seem to miss: do I want to spend most of my time writing or marketing?

Take this Los Angeles Times article for example. It talks about the number of authors who are taking their work to digital self-publishing, guys like J.A. Konrath, Neal Stephenson, and David Morrell. Konrath is a huge proponent of self-publishing through the Kindle, and he talks about it frequently on his blog. The Times article and many like it suggest this is the next big wave of publishing (newsflash: print on demand was the next big wave ten years ago, and nothing changed), and writers can make a living on digital self-publishing.

Yes, they can, but I call it the Konrath Anomaly, primarily because he is such a vocal proponent. Joe can make the shift to digital self-publishing because he already has a following built on several years in traditional publishing. You don’t have a series of novels published in hardcover without having a fanbase. Stephenson and Greg Bear can team up to try a new, digital subscription model because they, too, have substantial fanbases. There’s a good chance it will be successful for them because they certainly have fans who will pay them to read the new story they’re building, and I’ll bet they have more than a few hardcore fans who will pay the $1000 to become patrons. Writers like Morrell (the creator of Rambo, folks!) can take their backlist and put it back into print with the click of a button, letting them reconnect with fans and generate income again on dormant work.

Is that to say the rest of us shouldn’tĀ self-publish? Absolutely not. Understand, though, that it’s just one of many tools available to you. Yes, traditional publishers are going to take big chunk of that cover price because they have to cover all of the work they’re going to put into it, from the initial editing through marketing and distribution. (Notice we haven’t even discussed agents yet. They like to be paid, too.)

Let’s put aside editing and manuscript quality for a moment and talk about marketing, and let’s take a real-world example. Let’s pretend Bentley Little was about to get his start today. For those unfamiliar, Bentley Little is somewhat of a hermit. He doesn’t do blogging and social networking, he doesn’t do convention appearances, word is he’s not a fan of email, and there’s even a story out there about how he submitted a short story to an anthology in print via snail mail (complete with a self-addressed, stamped envelope in case of rejection). He’s successful on the strength of his writing and the marketing efforts of his publisher.

So here’s young Bentley ready to submit his first novel. We’re confident it’s good because he’s Bentley Little. He learns digital self-publishing will make him scads of money, so he uploads his manuscript to CreateSpace, sets a price, and sits back and waits for the cash to roll in. Now, keeping in mind he’s a hermit, this is all he does. He presses send and he starts typing his next novel.

Answer me honestly: is anyone going to buy that novel? Whatever you may think of Little’s work, no matter what kind of following he has now, I contend that if he just hit upload and ignored the rest the very first time he unleashed a novel on the world, he wouldn’t be a full-time writer today. How does anyone find it amongst all the other self-published books out there? Amongst all the other books out there, period? Maybe — maybe — if someone got a hold of that novel and started talking it up, he’d see some word of mouth traction. Would it amount to enough to make a living on? Now we’re talking some fairly significant word of mouth. Remember, reviews don’t make a bestseller. Success stories like Christopher Paolini’s are one in a million, at best.

Again, I’m not saying self-publishing is wrong. I bet Brian Keene has enough of a following it might be worth a shot, especially with some of his backlist. But he busted his ass the traditional way, too: he went to conventions, and he marketed the hell out of himself. He built the brand that is Brian Keene, and that brand now has value.

As for myself, I don’t think I could pull it off… yet. Sure, I might make a buck if I were to have posted The Pack: Winter Kill on CreateSpace, but I sure as hell wouldn’t make a living. I wouldn’t have the editing input I received from Mr Ommus at Evileye Books. I would have had to pay the cover artist. I would have talked up the book on my blog and other social platforms and online outlets, but I wouldn’t have had the banner campaign Evileye set up, or the PR people pushing releases and review copies out to places like The San Francisco Books Examiner. And so on.

Sure, some of those costs will come out of my royalties, but you know what? I’m okay with that. Their marketing people are a lot more savvy than I am, and that’s more time I can spend writing. I’d rather be waiting on royalty checks than paying off debt generated from paying for marketing. I also haven’t been able to make much time for writing or marketing the last few months, and I’d much rather put that scarce time into writing than begging people to buy my book.

Digital self-publishing is a tool, one of many available to you as a writer. Just take a good, long look at all of your options and at your following. Don’t expect it to be easy money, and don’t quit your day job.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

E-Books: Not Just a Fad

I’ve noticed the gripes about e-books have largely faded, and today I read Amazon has announced they’re selling more electronic titles than they are hardcovers. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise given they’re so much cheaper, but I also think the devices have finally gotten to the point they’re both useful and user-friendly.

Given I’ve got a book available for the Kindle, and I’ve watched my wife enjoy hers, I decided to take a crack at the iPad as a digital book reader. I noticed the iBooks store and Amazon are fairly close in price, but I decided to use the iPad Kindle app instead so I’d have the flexibility to read the books on just about any electronic platform.

Gone Mobile

Next month I'll have all of my purchased Kindle titles on an Android phone, too

I started with the Kindle edition of Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler. The book itself is a great, straight-up crime thriller and a damn fine read. But reading it on the iPad? A pleasure.

I read it on a plane trip to Hawaii, and the iPad battery lasted the entire flight, including through a layover in Los Angeles. I even switched over to Pages for a while to work on some of my own writing with no problems. I liked that I didn’t have to hold it the entire time; I was able to set it down on the seat tray and keep reading. Quick brightness adjustments made reading easy on the eyes when the lighting in the cabin or outside changed, and I had no problems with glare even though I was sitting in a window seat.

In fact, after just a few minutes, I forgot I was reading an electronic edition at all. I just read, swiped, read, swiped, read, swiped, all without thinking about it. I had no troubles with the font, developed no eyestrain with the backlit screen, and never lost my place even when going in and out of the Kindle app. I did use the bookmark, but going back to the same book every time made it unnecessary.

Next I’ll try reading it in bed. My wife reads her Kindle in bed, but she tends to prop herself up against the headboard in a sitting position, while I like to lay flat. I can’t imagine the Kindle will be any worse than doing so with a hardcover, but I’ll find out. I’m already planning on purchasing another Kindle book, probably Gischler’s Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse.

I’d also love to start building a reference library on the iPad. Not just dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus, but technical manuals, programming guides, and even martial arts books could all be handy. For example, it would be nice to have Kodokan Judo and my karate school’s curriculum videos available on one portable device rather than lugging a laptop and book(s) around. This would even make them readily available in class, not stashed away in a gym bag in the locker room. (Now I just have to wait for some of those books to show up on Kindle…)

While on vacation, I started looking at the folks who accompanied us on the trip. Some of them were avid readers, and they packed along several books. They were very curious about my wife’s Kindle, with the obvious advantage being they can cut down on the weight of their luggage. If they needed to pick up another book while on the trip, they could just download one instead of picking up one at the bookstore.

One of those avid readers has poor eyesight. I showed him the Kindle and iBooks apps, and we learned he could read from the iPad much easier if he switched to white text on a black background and zoomed the text a bit. He didn’t read from it for any length of time, but at least we now know it may be an option.

The next step for me will be carrying it around more often. I still haven’t convinced myself it will replace my trusty Moleskine (I can still write much faster with a pencil than I can on any keyboard, and I type almost 100wpm on a standard keyboard), but for writing outlines or making edits that I’ll need to share with other people or push to another computer, I have no problem using the iPad.

Heck, with Dropbox, I have all of my documents available on all devices just like I do Kindle books. I dropped three or four PDFs into Dropbox before the flight, all of them comics I’m reviewing for other folks or needed to look over for Evileye (including Big Bad Wolves), and the resolution and clarity were great, even on a color book. I pushed an outline I was working on from Dropbox to Pages with no problem, though I do wish I could export from Pages to Dropbox just as easily, instead of having to go through iTunes.

I’m not convinced it will ever replace my laptop for day-to-day work, but for travel and short road trips I could easily get by with it instead. Having just a camera bag and the iPad on a flight made things so much lighter and easier, and I could have had several books available should one have been disappointing or just not what I was in the mood for. I still have a pile of dead tree editions waiting to be read on my nightstand and I won’t be completely replacing my library any time soon, but I do think I’ll be making more digital purchases in the future.

Back to my original point, I don’t think e-books are going away, nor do I think it’s fair to assume they’re just a fad anymore. The major bookstore chains have their own readers and stores now, and every time I run into someone with a Kindle they can’t wait to show it off.

Bibliophiles love their paper books, but it would appear the average reader just doesn’t care. It’s LPs vs cassettes and cassettes vs CDs all over again. Paper books will be to future generations what vinyl is to our generation: novelties and collector’s items.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Digital Craze

The digital publishing market has just exploded over the last couple of months. I’ve hardly worn the newness off my iPad and now we’ve got Barnes & Noble entering the e-reading app fray, Borders about to drop their Kobo ereader (which Wired is already calling a possible Kindle killer), and even a new device called the enTourage eDGe (their ridiculous use of caps) that looks something like a Kindle strapped to an iPad.

It doesn’t stop there. Amazon may keep their sales figures quiet, but it’s clear they’re enjoying a fair amount of success and it was only a matter of time before Barnes & Noble responded with their own e-publishing arm. Realistically they’re more digital distributor than digital publisher (individual authors and small presses like Evileye are technically the publishers), but that line gets fuzzier when they sign exclusive authors.

Now I wonder how long before Barnes & Noble — maybe even Borders — jump into the POD market, too. It appears Amazon will be the first with an official Android reading app, though, and as the first to understand the store is the real killer feature, they’re just going to keep pushing the envelope. You don’t stay the leader by waiting to see what the other guy is going to do next.

Which reminds me of the Sony Digital Reader. There are several ideological and some technical advantages to being open, but it just doesn’t have the convenience of Amazon’s WhisperSync. Sure, my wife’s a bit bummed she can’t loan a book to her mother or her sister, but to her it’s hardly even a nuisance as it’s far outweighed by the system’s advantages. (It also doesn’t help that, in my experience, the Sony reader is slower on refreshes and somewhat awkward to navigate.)

This eDGe thing is technically interesting, though it strikes me as more prototype than product at the moment. Here’s their intro video:

They obviously have the best of both worlds in mind. However, why do I care about being able to scribble on the eInk display if I’ve got the tablet right next to it? In watching the usage, it doesn’t appear it has an accelerometer, and the interface seems slow compared to the iPad’s (which to me suggests it will be underpowered). For my taste, a touchscreen has to be instantly responsive to be worthwhile (a test the Nook also failed). Ommus called it ugly, but what really bothers me is you can’t use a simple protective sleeve on it and hope to flip it open, and when it is flipped so the screens are back-to-back, you’re always going to have one screen face-down when you put it down. How rugged are the surfaces of their screens?

I don’t know. I’m sure this is more subjective opinion than objective, but I really don’t see the need to carry a two-in-one device. I’d be content to carry one device that nails it’s job than something that, for the moment at least, may be playing catch-up in two categories. Battery life and outdoor reading are the only real advantages of eInk, and the iPad’s battery life is long enough to make the eInk advantage negligible. So now I’m paying the same price for what may be an inferior device just so I can read outside? No, probably not.

I’m sure there are more in development, and we have yet to see what some of the iPad competitors will bring to the table. Anything with a reading app — be it Kindle, B&N eReader, or something like Stanza — is now an e-reading device. Battery life is getting longer, processors are getting smaller and faster, storage is getting cheaper (or is effectively replaced by cloud storage in Kindle’s case), and displays won’t be far behind.

We can call it a craze for now, but I’m thinking soon this will be the status quo. I still don’t believe they’ll replace paper anytime soon, but I do see a future where paper books become more about collectibility and nostalgia. They’ll be to the next generation what vinyl records are to us.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Pack: Winter Kill hits the iPad

My editor at Evileye Books just downloaded the Kindle version of The Pack: Winter Kill to his shiny new iPad:

Now that looks sharp.

Now that looks sharp.

I’m told it reads just like it does in hard copy. I might be getting my hands on an iPad in the next few months (we seriously want to evaluate them at work), so I can’t wait to see it for myself.

The nice thing about digital editions is we can pack them with extras that aren’t feasible in print. Some of these things may not work so well on the black-and-white Kindle itself, but given the Kindle app is available for desktops, laptops, iPhones/iPod touches, and now the iPad, well, that really creates some opportunities.

Keep your eye on Evileye, because things are really getting exciting.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Future of Publishing

A great video for those of you living in fear of digital publishing:

Like it or not, digital publishing is here to stay. The movie and music industries went through it, and now it’s our turn.

Adapt or die.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.