Friday, July 6, 2012
The Virality of the Medium.
When I got on the internet three or four years ago, it was with a sigh of relief. I’d been suffering from frustration. A writer can’t compete in the modern world, without the internet and all of the opportunities to save time, money and effort in research, marketing and promotion. At the time I knew nothing about electronic publishing.
I always thought ‘desktop publishing’ meant spiral-bound books that involved binding a bunch of coupons from local businesses and then going from door to door trying to palm them off for twenty bucks to folks who were never going to use a tenth of the coupons but figured if they only used two or three they would get their money back. This always seemed like woolly thinking on the part of buyers to me, unless they were buying on pure charm, which maybe I don’t have much confidence in. Why would they want to work so hard?
Starting off with a free blog, and then signing up for Facebook due to an e-mail invitation from a person I had submitted a story to by e-mail, was a natural progression of events. At one point I had five blogs, but streamlined that after a while. Then I got on Twitter, and a half a dozen other social networking sites.
Now I have signed up for so many social platforms I can’t even remember some of them. I have a regular beat, and I am always trying to find new sources on any number of topics. The internet has gone viral in my brain.
But the virality of media doesn’t stop there. When I read that the more distribution channels you have, the more books you will sell, I agreed—why wouldn’t I want my books in as many stores as possible? So many more chances to make a sale, right?
When Apple iTunes opens up thirty-two stores in different countries all over the world, and when Smashwords adds a couple of new distribution channels, (one of whom has four of their own,) and when Amazon decides to open up stores, as they did a few months ago in Spain, France, and Italy, just as they have stores in the U.K., and Germany, at some point the distribution goes viral. That’s both heady and kind of frightening. Think about it. Maybe I’m selling fifty books a month on ten or twelve channels, but there are authors out there selling a thousand books a month on a limited number of channels. They might be in (or on) Amazon U.S. and U.K. and nowhere else. What about a million-seller? Like Amanda Hocking or John Locke; or Joe Konrath in any of his personas. Nothing is stopping them from being on fifty or a hundred or a thousand channels in ten years or so.
This helps to explain why there are so many new and unproven writers writing stories and publishing them instantly, many of whom have never in their lives submitted a story to any sort of editorial review. This is amazing, and a completely different world than before for a writer. It does not lessen competition. I think it increases it, for surely before, a good percentage would have backed off from a major pro magazine for their first efforts. They might have started out small. As it is, readers are swamped with millions of reading choices in one single online store.
Maybe my dream of selling a thousand books a month just got a little closer, because what started off as a half a dozen distribution channels is looking a lot more like fifty or so. I mean, at some point I can’t even count, because Google Books, (yes, I’m in Google Books,) has channels in the U.K., Germany, and other countries, including Australia, etc.
The marketing platforms themselves are in a race to go viral. If I did no marketing at all, in ten years I might be selling a thousand books a month just with the titles I have. I might never have to write a book again. I’m sure I will, of course. There’s that ineffable thing called ‘art,’ and the higher-quality products must surely win out over the long term. Under the old model, a book had six months to prove itself, if not, it was whisked away from the eyes of the public.
The short term looks pretty crazy. I say that because some lucky son or daughter of a gun is going to write the next ‘Twilight’ or ’Harry Potter,’ or ‘Hunger Games’ and go viral on a global basis. They might go down in history as the first billion-dollar independently published writer in the whole history of the world. This is a distinct possibility when you think of Michael Crichton, who wrote ‘Jurassic Park,’ which grossed about $914 million in its first year of film release, or J.K. Rowling, who reportedly made a similar figure from the Harry Potter books over the course of some years.
Incidentally, film rights, foreign language rights in print, film, video, game, display or electronic or audio media are still available for all titles published by Shalako Publishing. Contact the author via Facebook or Twitter for further discussion.
Last year I sold or gave away about 17,500 e-books. I made ‘x’ in revenue. Divide the revenue by the total number of books sold and you have an average sale price. In Canada, under the old publishing model, people were generally considered to be best-selling authors when they had sold over 5,000 books…at any price. Under that model, the percentage-ratio of freebies to sales was significantly smaller, although I don’t have exact figures.
I’ll let you know when I figure that I’m a best-selling author, because under the new model I really don’t know how to define it yet.
This year, I’m going to give away fewer books, make more full-price sales, and revenues are on the way up. What sort of a curve we can expect is a mystery and will remain so for some time. Anyway, I have to get back to work on my ninth novel, because the more products you have, the more the customer has to choose from.
I really don’t care what part of the world they live in.
Here is a more doom and gloom, 'The Dead End of DIY Publishing,' perspective on self-publishing. (The Phoenix.)
There is an interesting Kindleboards discussion here.
The only conclusion I have dreawn is that it's not necessarily a dead end, but a different way to begin.
As an added bonus feature today, here are some Frank Herbert quotes from 'Dune.' (Generation Terrorists.)