Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Ebook and The Author

Ladies, Gentlemen, Dragons and Aliens, give a warm Mad Genius Club Welcome to Jacqueline Lichtenberg, an author who needs no introduction from me and who, this morning, writes about one of our most pressing concerns: ebooks and how they're changing the field.
Without further ado, I'll get out of the way of a much better writer than myself.

Sounds like a bad joke, and it just very well may be one.

Writers are finding the very foundations swept out from under them as publishers collapse. Publishers are collapsing because distributors are collapsing.

The entire entertainment industry is being hit by a hurricane.

This post will be a collection of links describing what writers are facing followed by a solution some of the geniuses among the professional writers have come up with.

First - what writers used to make off writing.

Part of the reason for the falling profitability of any given title is that "readers" (or potential readers) have so many choices of what to do with an hour in the evening -- or with $10. 200 TV channels instead of 3 and a few Radio stations if you can make them come in without static. 12 screen movie theaters, now a lot with 3-D. Netflix by mail or online -- even on your living room TV which is now almost the size of the wall. And then there's fanfic posted online for free reading - often better than anything professionally published.

Who'd read a book with all this yanking at the attention?

Well, a person who used to read 1 book a week will now read maybe 2 books a year, and they'll likely be TV spinoffs or non-fiction with stuff they need to know.

Second - read up on copyright law as it is evolving before our eyes.

Now, writers with really bad old contracts will be able to retrieve their rights and put their books up on Kindle etc.

Meanwhile, there's a huge socio-philosophical argument going on that copyright is no right at all, but actually EVIL. And counterpoint to that is the development of the electronic world which is now making "intellectual property" worthless.

Third - Read this blog entry about an article in Wired Magazine which you may not have the patience to get through. But read about the Wired Magazine article here:

The business model of publishing has changed. Is changing. Because the market for fiction is morphing beyond recognition.

But storytelling is still a triumphant artform with much of value to add to the lives of those who imbibe fiction.

It's just that today it's graphic novels, and films, YouTube Video shorts, music videos, and anything with pictures.

So writers are flailing about looking for another way to access markets.

Fourth - read this article about a new way to market writing, fiction and non-fiction alike.

And this from Yahoo News

Why are creators of fiction seeking markets so desperately? Because everything has shifted hard and fast -- derailing careers and making some skills obsolete while others are demanded. And it takes a genius level person to be able to acquire those new skills after decades perfecting antithetical skills.

Here is a website that tracks the state of the ebook -- it tracks WHOLESALE sales (in dollars) of ebooks, profites garnered by big publishers.

Now the problem with that parabolic arc of increase is the OLD book contracts signed by most authors.

That's why the copyright law link I gave above is relevant.

Yet, when you get your rights back, what do you DO??

You still have new books coming out, and fans want the prior books.

Writers are having fits. Agents are having fits. Why? Because though ebooks are cheap to distribute and have no warehousing, the AUTHOR gets a very small (unfairly small) percentage of what the publisher makes off the Kindle or other ebook.

Kindle is telling you that publishers have to charge large amounts for current titles as they come out because the authors get a lot.

But the authors are telling me they don't.

A whole bunch of Science Fiction (and other genre) authors on facebook have been muttering privately to each other for some time.

Several of these geniuses came up with the same solution at the same time, including living lights such as Norman Spinrad.

Kindle decided to let authors put up their own backlist and take the profit. Kindle's first deal with 35% to the author on each sale. Recently, they upped that to 70% to the author.

Buy a Kindle edition an author has put up themselves and thereby thank them for their dedication to entertaining you.

However, when you go onto Kindle's lists and searches it's very hard to tell the beginning writer who's self-publishing without benefit of professional editing, without understanding marketing, from the professional writer making a well-edited novel that's been specifically crafted for a certain market (you).

Now, however, facebook's muttering authors have muttered together to produce a solution to your problem as a reader.

On or kindle -- various other sources -- you can find the ebook version to replace early entries in a series you love that you lost in a flood, fire, move or to nosey in-laws.

And here is an index that is being developed by writers for readers to help you find where your favorite writers have made backlist titles available.

Here's a blog entry introducing the project:

And here's where you can find the list of authors on facebook.!/BacklistEbooks?v=app_4949752878&ref=ts

And you can see comments from those authors if you click the WALL tab above.

Maybe that page isn't available to you if you're not on facebook.

The group is planning to launch a domain which will host these pages to the public and make them more informative and interactive. The authors will pay a fee to cover the expense of creating and hosting that domain, but you will have a handy way to sift the welter of new titles and find books you may not have heard of (because the bookstore chains keep books on the shelf for maybe 2 or 3 weeks now -- it used to be about 6 for a long-lived book).

You can fill in your collection and then venture into the new authors' self-published offerings with more confidence.

Here's the way Doranna Durgin, one of the founding forces behind "Backlist Ebooks" explains what they're doing:

"Backlist Ebooks is a brand new venture designed to help ebook readers find
quality fiction from established authors who have e-released their out-of-print novels. Participating authors must have self-published one or more backlist titles that were originally published traditionally, in print, by a major professional publishing house." The FaceBook page offers author listings by genre, and author contact information; soon (October) we'll have an interim website up at, and are developing toward a site that will present individual books to make it easy for readers to find what they're looking for.

I can tell you that our listed mystery authors have been among the first responders to this new project, really on top of the whole idea and interested in connecting to readers in this way--we definitely look forward to adding more!

So there's the tale of the Ebook and the Author. It starts out pretty sad, but ends up with the Author having the last laugh, don't you think?

Oh, and you will find me on that Backlist Ebook facebook page. I have several titles on Kindle, (the Romantic Times Award Winning Dushau and its 2 sequels, Farfetch and Outreach, plus an omnibus edition of the two novels, Hero and Border Dispute, and more to come. I also have ebook versions of Molt Brother and City of a Million Legends in Trade Paperback and Ebook from Wildside Press.

You can usually find them all and more on this Amazon page:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg (free chapters of currently available books) full bio-biblio and more free reading where I post on Tuesdays -- here I post exclusively on writing, publishing and the film industry

(Edited to fix links)


MataPam said...

The ebook market may turn into a money maker for writers with a backlist and fan base.

For those of us with no publishing history, or just a few shorts here and there, it may be as tough a job to attract significant numbers of readers as it is to hook a publisher.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Thanks for the informative post, Jaqueline.

It looked like we writers are 'living in interesting times'!

Brendan said...

I think as with the short film makers new writers may need to treat their stories as loss leaders, sticking collections up on Amazon etc. for little or no money in the hope of exposure.

The problem is the 20thC is really an aberration in human history. It is about the only time I can think of where 'art' has primarily been a sellers market. The 21st will be different, but just how different I suppose we will have to wait and see.

Brendan said...

I just noticed that the site Fantastic Fiction is now including kindle links for titles as well as a 'new kindle' releases along side the hardback, paperback and audio catogories.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Thank you for the inclusion in the Mad Genius club - an astonishing privilege!

My description of the hurricane hitting the fiction-marketing industry from all directions may seem rather bleak from this little snatch.

The situation, however, is not at all bleak from the writer's point of view, once you can see a little bit of sun through a crack in the clouds.

So if you found this post depressing, take a look at what Heather Massey at The Galaxy Express is saying here:

And then check out the comment I left on her post.

It's all about enlarging the audience for our work, and directing those readers to the specific items that will be worth their time and money, to items they will treasure as discoveries. And yes, I'm all for indie publishers and even for self-publishing writers.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg