Thursday, March 24, 2011

The E-Revolution

By Jaden Terrell

For the past few years, writers, agents, and others in the publishing industry have been engaged in a dialogue about whether e-books were the future of publishing, whether the new e-book technology would make self-publishing the smart way for writers to go, and whether digital publishing and internet marketing heralded the end of traditional publishing. While it seems likely that traditional publishing is here to stay--at least for the foreseeable future and at least as a niche market, there are some signs that the ease of digital publishing has shaken the industry to its core. Joe Konrath, who, as J.A. Konrath, writes the Jack Daniels thrillers, became the first author to sign a publishing contract with Amazon and is making much more with his electronic books than he ever did with a traditional print publisher. Of course, Joe is a marketing genius and a fiend at promotion. There was no proof that his success could be duplicated.

Then along came Amanda Hocking and the Kindle Millionaires. People were making big money at this self-publishing stuff. Big, big money. Now, thriller writer Barry Eisler has turned down a $500,000 print deal in favor of self-publishing his new stand-alone. I got the link to this dialogue between Barry and Joe from two people on the same day: fellow Murderous Musings blogger Pat Browning and former literary agent Nathan Bransford. Barry says that, while traditional publishing has been kind to him, he can make much more money over time with digital self-publishing. From someone who was just offered half a million dollars, that's staggering. He has compelling numbers to back up his argument. Whether his numbers (or Joe's or Amanda's, for that matter) are any indication of what the rest of us might make is uncertain, but there's no doubt the opportunity is there.

Of course, there are still advantages to the traditional model as well. Currently, it's still the easiest way to get reviews and contracts for subsidiary rights, such as film and foreign. It will be interesting, though, to see how the landscape will change over the next five years. Some publishers are already reporting e-book sales that are higher than their print sales. If that doesn't bring about some major changes in the industry, I don't know what will.

I like Chuck Wendig's take on the subject (warning: Wendig's post contains some adult language) on his blog, Terrible Minds. Why choose one, he says? Why not choose both? Wendig says if you can write two books a year, why not write one commercial blockbuster for the traditional publishers and one niche-market book for the digital self-publishing market? I kind of like the way this guy thinks. While you're there, take a look at his post on the 99-cent pricing of e-books and jumpstarting a stalled novel. You won't be sorry you did. Only . . . did I mention the adult language?

So where do you think the e-revolution is taking it? Has it affected how you read and/or publish and/or market your books?

If a traditional publisher offered you a $500,000 deal, would you take it, or would you turn them down flat?


Earl Staggs said...

I can't imagine turning down a half million dollars -- unless I already had several times that much in the bank.

With all that's happening -- and not happening -- in the traditional route of find an agent and hope to find a publisher, I'm thinking seriously of taking my new novel straight to ebook and TPB.

Jaden Terrell said...

I can't imagine it either, Earl. Right now, I can't think of a single problem I have that wouldn't be solved by half a million dollars. I wish him well, though.

It's going to be interesting to see what the publishing landscape looks like in a few years.