Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ebook Predictions Redux

Eight months ago, I made some predictions about the future of ebooks. Let's see how I'm doing.

1. Ebook readers will be available in stores for less than $99.
Probably. We're on track for this. Kindle just went down to $139. By the holidays, I'm still confident we'll hit $99. I also said that they'll be available in retail stores, and I was correct. Best Buy and Target are selling ereaders, and others will no doubt follow suit.

2. Amazon will adopt Epub standard format.
Maybe. Hasn't happened yet. But I am trying to talk them into releasing SHAKEN as an epub. They've already decided to release it without DRM, which is a huge milestone.

3. Ebook readers will improve.
Yes. The new Kindles boast 50% better contrast, and Nooks have a color touch screen bar. But one trend also seems to be the opposite of my prediction--many ereaders are devolving, losing 3G capability, in order to cut the cost.

4. Ebooks will go multimedia.

Yes. Besides the Vook, a reader just pointed me HERE.

5. A third party etailer will rise to prominence.

Probably. The industry is still dominated by the big three, Amazon, B&N, and Sony. But Kobo and Borders are now in the game, and Smashwords is growing. In fact, I just got my second quarter report from Smashwords, and learned I've sold over 2000 ebooks (1500 of these on the Nook.) And this hasn't even begun to hit its stride yet. I predict earning an extra $20,000 a year from these new platforms.

6. Estributors will become common.

Yes. Andrew Wylie, anyone?

7. Print publishers will get savvy.
Maybe. Haven't seen any real evidence of this yet, though. However, I recently sold the audio rights to many of my self-pubbed ebooks, so certainly the audio publishers are getting savvy.

8. Ebook bestsellers will emerge.

Yes. Lots of indie authors, me included, hit the bestseller lists.

9. Print books will be packaged with an ebook version.
Maybe. Hasn't happened yet, but might. I have released one on my ebooks, THE LIST, in print. We'll see how it does.

10. Exclusivity.

Yes. I've done it. Wylie's authors have done it.

11. I'll continue to pay my mortgage with ebook sales.

Yes. But my prediction was too weak. I'm paying all of my bills with ebook sales. In fact, in the last six weeks, I earned $21,000 on Kindle.

That's not a typo. That's $3500 a week. At that rate, it's $182,000. Add the $20,000 from other platforms, and we can call it an even $200k.

As for my predictions, I was right on 6 of 11, and I'm sure the $99 price point will hit. That puts me at about 63%. Not perfect, but better than anything the print industry has predicted. Plus, there are still five months left in the year, so perhaps my percentage will go up.

Armed with information garnered during the last eight months, I'm ready to make some new predictions.

1. A bestselling author will self-publish an original ebook novel.
This probably won't happen in 2010, but it will happen eventually. Someone is bound to give it a shot.

2. Bankruptcy.
Some major print publishers and booksellers will go out of business. This is sad, but it will happen.

3. The media will catch up.
Kindle and iPad have been media darlings for a while, and the news wire is buzzing about an ebook future, but there really hasn't been much talk about ebook authors. The only real acknowledgment by the publishing industry--who should be paying attention to what I'm doing--was a poorly researched article by Publisher's Weekly structured as an attack piece.

That's slowly changing. In the past few weeks, ebook authors (including yours truly) have been written about in the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and most recently, Newsweek.

4. Print Publishers Won't Get Savvy.
I admit, my prediction that they would get savvy was more of a hope than an actual feeling. But these last eight months haven't shown publishers improving their game. In fact, they seem to be making more mistakes than before. The agency model was an epic fail. High prices are an epic fail. Trying to grab ebook rights not specified in contracts is a big box of fail.

Recently, the publisher for my Jack Daniels novels told me they were going to package them as an omnibus edition, all six in one ebook. I got excited about this, thinking they were finally getting with the program, telling them that six novels for $9.99, or better yet, $7.99, would really spike my sales.

Then they told me the ebook omnibus is going to retail at $34.99.

(Head slap, then sigh) Isn't any of the Big Six reading my damn blog?

5. E-pubbed authors will jump to self-pubbed print.
Both Lee Goldberg and I are using Amazon's CreateSpace to release some of our ebook bestsellers in print, and by Fall all of my ebooks will be available in dead tree versions, priced at $12 for a trade paperback. While I don't see this as being a huge cash cow (I'll still earn more from a $2.99 ebook sale than a $11.99 paperback sale), I find it interesting that the stigma of self-publishing is fading fast.

In the recent past, I've consistently come out against self-pubbers, because POD usually resulted in an expensive, inferior, non-returnable product, and once an ISBN gets attached, those low numbers follow you via Bookscan, making it even harder to land a big book deal with a major publisher, or get your book into brick and mortar stores.

These days, I don't care about landing a big book deal with a major publisher, and am fine with low print numbers. Print has become a subsidiary right.

How will I do on these new predictions? Check back in eight months, and we'll see.

In the meantime, I'm working on several new super-secret ebook projects, including a horror novel with three other bigshot authors, an eighth Jack Daniels book, and a spy novel, among other things.

I've never been busier as a writer. And for the very first time in my career, I'm able to make a decent living at it.

Life is good.