Friday, August 26, 2011

Who Wants Whom? - A Dialog Between J.A. Konrath & Blake Crouch About Who Has the Power in Publishing

Joe: So my friend and collaborator Blake Crouch and I are in Ohio, working on Stirred, and naturally we started talking about ebooks and the future of the industry...

Blake: Shouldn’t we be writing our book?

Joe: Look, I'm just happy to be avoiding monkey and frog videos...

Blake: Yeah, that scarred me for life. Be the monkey!

Joe: We seem to have hit upon a less-offensive analogy to represent our thoughts on this matter. But let's start back at the beginning. And by that, I mean going back to working for the Big 6, and what they represented.

Blake: Back in the day, writers were hampered by a crucial component to getting their work to the reader: The means of distribution. We could write the best thing of our lives, but the only profitable method to getting a copy of this to the public was via legacy publishers, who were the only source for getting books into bookstores and non-bookstore outlets. This is why self-publishing used to be such a terrible and vain option for the writer.

Joe: Sure, you could self-pub. But you'd pay a fortune for sub-standard books that were non-returnable--or if they were returnable, you ended up with 3000 books in your garage because they were too expensive and the cover art was terrible. So bookstores wouldn't stock your book, and if they did, it probably wouldn't sell. Before ebooks, self-publishing was basically a one-way ticket to epic faildom.

Blake: Then along came Kindle, the first runaway hit in the ebook revolution. A few things made this momentous. First, the Kindle represented the first reader-friendly e-reading device that wasn’t clunky. It was light. Sleek. And even at the opening cost of $399, reasonably affordable. But what made Kindle truly successful was the platform that supported it. Namely, Amazon’s Kindle store. Never before had such a powerhouse of interconnected algorithms--geared toward leading the reader to niche content--been available to the book buyer.

Joe: Amazon created the Kindle, the proprietary format for the Kindle, and the store which directly linked to the Kindle. If it became successful, it could control distribution. Which it is currently doing.

Blake: But now, as we write this in the summer of 2011, Kindle isn’t the only moving force. We have Kobo’s ereader, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple, Sony...each creating their own proprietary format, their own online content stores.

Joe: But let's talk about the content provider. The writer. People like me and you.

Blake: You and I have had a good deal of experience with Big 6 publishers, and something we’ve come to understand is that, up until now, “content provider” hasn’t meant a whole helluva lot. And it's not even a question of respect. There is a palpable disdain for writers that seems to permeate a lot of legacy publishing. You can even follow a number of "anonymous" twitter accounts from publishing insiders to get a view of how much the content providers are despised. Writers have been treated like mentally damaged children, incapable of providing input on basic elements such as cover design, title, product description, and even, God forbid, the next book we should write. Considering what's happening with ebook distribution these days, no writer should ever have to put up with that BS again from people who peddle the written word.

Joe: The Big 6 would come on to writers like a very attractive woman would come on to an eligible man. A crude analogy, but an apt one. They could pick and choose who they wanted to get into bed with, and the men were always grateful for the opportunity. After all, when a cute girl chooses you, you're flattered, excited, and you go for it, no questions asked.

But that ship has sailed. Now, the attractive woman isn't the Big 6. She is now the ereadermanufacturers who sell content on their online stores. Amazon, B&N, Sony, Kobo, Apple...

Blake: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Joe: Sort of, but not exactly. The new boss offers more. Better royalties, more control, faster turnaround, non-exclusivity. There are some things that used to be included in the package but that the author is now responsible for, such as cover design and hiring an editor, but overall it's a more favorable deal.

Blake: Though maintaining control of things like cover design is actually huge gain.

Joe: Agreed. Sticking with the dating mentality, this new woman is better for you than the last woman was.

Blake: Absolutely...the difference is profound. All these benefits you just mentioned....it’s like dating a woman who cares more about your needs and wants, is willing to try harder to make the relationship work, and who recognizes your value--what you're bringing to the equation.

She won't ever drop you. She'll let you make mistakes and forgive you. She'll take everything you have to offer, and give you more in return.

Joe: So now we have many writers deciding that the Big 6--which often have a love 'em and leave 'em mentality--perhaps aren't as preferable as other partners.

But I've also heard a lot of other rumblings in the writing community, from those who are afraid that Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Sony, Apple, Google, etc. are going to cut royalties as soon as they have a lock on more content, getting a bigger share for themselves and not treating the writer as well as they currently are.

Blake: They're going to cut off the nookie?

Joe: That seems to be the fear. But is it a good idea to bank on this fear? Should writers be afraid in a Cold War kind of way? Should this paranoia accelerate to the point of building bomb shelters?

Blake: Remember Y2K? When certain groups thought the world would lose critical power grids which might lead to mass hysteria? Some people bought assault weapons, stored up on years’ worth of food. And mistrusted everybody. And what happened?

Joe: Not a damn thing. Paranoid is not a good way to live.

Blake: So walking around worrying that the hot chick is going to lose interest and dump you--to stick with the dating analogy--is equally a useless waste of anxiety. In reality, we have zero control over what corporate giants like BN, Amazon, etc., choose to do, particularly when these decisions may issue from boardrooms which have concerns far removed from those of independent authors.

Joe: I love working with Amazon, both through Kindle Direct Publishing and through Thomas & Mercer. Maybe I'll sign another deal with Thomas & Mercer, if the offer is right. But if it isn't, I'm not worried. I can still use KDP.

And if KDP decides to cut royalties, then there will be other places to go. But not back to the Big 6--if Amazon cuts royalties for authors, they will for publishers as well, which would mean an even smaller cut signing with a legacy house.

But worrying about anything beyond your ability to influence is pointless. Instead, we need to change the things that are within our control.

Blake: We need to make smart choices about the women we're dating.

Joe: Exactly. I like this dating analogy, so let's clarify it.

At first, the hottie was one of the Big 6, willing to plunk down an advance to publish your book, which we needed because they controlled distribution. They called the shots. We meekly obeyed, and were just thankful for the attention and the confirmation.

Lately, the hottie is the ereader manufacturers, who sell our content on their proprietary devices and give us more money and freedom than we ever had before.

But let's really think this through. In either case, the Big 6 or the ereader manufacturers, when we get paid, who is the one that is ultimately paying us?

Blake: The reader.

Joe: Exactly. The reader is the one who wants to go out with us. They're the one who ultimately pays us, by buying our writing. The store they buy it in, or the platform the buy it from, is secondary to the actual content they are procuring. First, they got our book in a bookstore from a Big 6 publisher. Then they got our book online from a website. But it is OUR books they're buying. We're the writers.

Blake: This isn’t to say the platform, be it Amazon, BN, etc., isn’t at the moment serving an incredibly useful purpose. They’re facilitating two critical aspects of the reader-to-author transaction:

1) Convenience. The one-click, send-a-book-directly-to-your-personal-ereader has revolutionized reading in the 21st Century.

2) Visibility. More people discover writers on major retailers like Amazon and BN than anywhere else. In other words, you can go to one of these retailers looking to buy Lee Child or Stephen King, and, “accidentally” through customer recommendations and niche-focused best-seller lists, come across the work of J.A. Konrath or Blake Crouch.

Joe: If a hottie wants to date you, she has to know you exist, and that you're available.

In some cases, depending on how attractive and/or how eligible you are, she'll try harder to land you.

But we need to ultimately remember who the hottie is, and why she wants you.

Blake: The hottie isn’t the Big 6 publisher. And she isn’t the online retailer. She’s the reader. That is ultimately who the author needs to connect with. Up until recently, the author has needed an assist in this area, but things are quickly changing. Here’s a hard question...does a writer have to deal with an intermediary in this transaction?

Joe: Yes and no.

I think we all need to be assisted to a certain degree. Even J.K. Rowling, who is launching Potterville on her own, would no doubt sell more ebooks if she invited other retailers to sell her ebooks instead of doing it exclusively.

Blake: So why do you think she isn’t partnering with other retailers?

Joe: Because attraction is mutual.

Blake: What the hell are you talking about?

Joe: I'm taking the analogy through to its ultimate conclusion.

A hottie is looking for you for one purpose: to get some. You can be flattered. You can be paranoid. But ultimately, they want what you have.

However, you also have what they want. You have the content.

We began this analogy by saying how much we wanted the hottie, whether it was a Big 6 publisher or an online retailer.

Then we realized the real hottie is the reader.

But the fact is, the hottie also wants us. Attraction goes both ways. Readers want books, writers want readers. We're hot for each other.

The writer is a hottie, too.

And we don't need anyone interfering in that relationship, because we're the only two parties who are actually needed in this equation. Everyone else is a middleman.

Blake: Yep, a dating service. The content, for the most part, has been relegated to a supporting role. But in reality, the content is the movie star.

Joe: No Big 6 without us. No online retailers without us. Those who sell the book exist because of the book, but the book can exist without those middlemen who sell it.

Blake: Don’t we need retailers? Vetters? Publishers? Sellers? Not only to make work better, but to bring it to the attention of the masses?

Joe: We get our money from the masses. They're the ultimate hottie. Not the retailer. Not the publisher. Not any gatekeeper. Those second-tier hotties cannot exist without us. And their existence takes money from us. Perhaps they are worth the money they take, because they help us reach more readers, or help us release better content. But, ultimately, it is the readers who pay us, not those second-tiers.

Blake: And in a perfect world, the content provider, us, would sell directly to the reader, the content receiver.

Joe: Believe it or not, there is a way to do this, while still allowing for the assistance of the retailers.

We can emulate clouds.

Amazon.com is one website with loads of content.

www.JAKonrath.com and www.BlakeCrouch.com are two websites, with specific, niche, limited content.

BarryEisler has been working with his web designer on a PayPal store that automatically delivers ebooks to anyone who wants to buy through his website. Which got me thinking.

If I gave Barry two of my titles to sell on his website, we could split the money 30/70 on any he sold. Then I could sell two titles of Barry's on my website.

If I did this with a hundred authors, making sales from their books on my site, making sales from my books on their sites, I'm doing something analogous to cloud computing. I'm selling my books via a network rather than a specific location.

Blake: I'm also talking to a company right now who wants to do this very thing. They sought me out, because they saw a huge opportunity here to turn author websites into storefronts with the maximum amount of profit going to the writer. Their demo is mind-blowing and so smart. A reader can register their device on an author's website, and with a 1-click, have an ebook delivered straight to the device, the convenience factor has suddenly made shopping at a writer's website no different than shopping at Amazon or BN.com. And don't you think readers want to spend their money where the maximum amount goes to the writer?

Joe: Earlier, I talked about the ereader itself being a storefront. But web sites are also a storefront. They're the purest type of storefront as well, because they are a direct link between reader and writer. No publishers taking money. No retailers taking money (other than a small PayPal fee.)

Writers need to have their own PayPal stores. And it's a smart idea to say, "If you like my books, here are some others you might enjoy," and then offer other authors' books, as well.

If you were selective, choosing only books in your genre with similar appeal, you'd be helping readers wade through all the ebooks out there by giving them specific recommendations.

Let's look at the broader picture.

On Amazon.com, or BN.com, readers who are looking for my ebooks can find them. They can also find my ebooks by browsing, which accounts for a lot of my sales.

But those sites are only one URL, and they have a million other titles on them.

JAKonrath.com is also one URL. Readers who visit my site already know who I am, so why not make $2.60 on a $2.99 sale instead of $2.04? And since readers are on my site, why not sell your ebooks and give you 70%?

Then you can do the same for me on BlakeCrouch.com.

Now we're for sale on two URLs, mine and yours.

Let's add another dozen authors to the mix. Let's also cross promote by having one-page ads for each other's novels in the backmatter of our ebooks.

Now we're not a website. We're a cloud.

Blake: According to Wikipedia: Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).

By providing fans (readers, hotties) direct access to our works, and the works of others we recommend, we're providing a service.

Joe: It's not about what you have to sell. It's what you have to offer.

Blake: They're coming to our websites already, so they already know us and want to buy us. We're making it easy, and offering suggestions of other authors to buy. With fifty authors all in the same cloud, doing the same thing, we can reach a lot of people, and sell a lot of books.

If we choose these authors carefully (good writers with decent followings who write in similar genres) we can expand our brands, and our fanbases, exponentially.

Joe: I only have 10,000 people on my mailing list. You only have about 6000.

But put them together, that's 16,000.

Add more authors, more newsletters, more websites, more Google hits, and we have a niche cloud store that attracts fans, makes us higher profits, and is easier to find things than on Amazon.

We signed with the Thomas & Mercer imprint of Amazon because they can do a huge email push that sells a lot of ebooks for us.

But once a writer has a fan, that writer doesn't need a middleman anymore. They can sell an ebook directly to that fan. And if they also sell similar books by similar authors, that they believe they're fans would like, it's win-win.

Blake: I'm not ready to say the writer doesn't need that middleman anymore. He certainly doesn't need a middleman once a fan knows about him or her. But what Amazon and BN.com provide is the best possibly opportunity (as of August 2011) for readers who have not heard of me to discover me.

But...looking down the road, if enough writers with similar material were to have this "cloud," then other author websites would step in and serve the purpose online retailers like Amazon now serves. In other words, someone unfamiliar with me would discover me on Barry Eisler's website, or Brett Battles, or Ann Voss Peterson's, and they would have the option to buy me there. That's the future.

Joe: It would provide additional ways for readers to discover us, over a wide network of interconnected writers. Not competing with the browsing features on Amazon, but supplementing it.

Plus, we'd also make money being the retailer, selling each other's ebooks.

We would become our own middlemen. Sort of like United Artists, escaping the studio system and making their own movies.

Blake: All that's left is for a bunch of writers to band together and start selling their own ereader.

Joe: Let's call it the Konreader.

Blake: Let's not.

133 comments:

Gary Ponzo said...

Joe, everytime I read one of these "the future is closer than you think," posts, it sounds so out there. Then I look back at past predictions and realize how spot-on you can be.

Could you tell us who will win the 2012 Kentucky Derby, so we can really cash in.

Simon Haynes said...

I wrote the ebook storefront/delivery system for my website in a couple of days. Buy my ebook with Paypal and it arrives attached to an email a few moments later. Works 24/7 and I keep the whole amount less Paypal charges.

There's no reason I couldn't add other ebooks. They're just a line of code and a file hidden away on my server.

http://www.spacejock.com.au/BuyHal.html

(I recently put Kindle links at the top because that's where the big sales numbers are.)

Simon Haynes said...

PS - the covers ... they're temporary.

Joe Konrath said...

Could you tell us who will win the 2012 Kentucky Derby, so we can really cash in.

It'll be a three-year-old Thoroughbred.

SL Clark said...

Setting up a store is doable for a small percentage of writers; the backend report generation for each included author is a NIGHTMARE - and it carries over for what, a generation or two.

If Blake's unnamed company is to make this work, they'll likely want an Amazonian size 25-30%.

This feels like the near future, but it's going to take some well financed tech heads to pull this off for a minimal fee - and be able to offer it to author websites? Sounds like a sophisticated Affiliate system is the way forward.

Ellis Jackson said...

Great idea about the cloud, but would you end up having to vet the other author's work? Or would you only allow established authors into your cloud? If so, what about us new starters, how do we break in?

Without new talent the whole industry comes crashing down at the end of a single generation. The Big 6 are doing this already, by battening down the hatches and taking on very few new writers, leaving us only Kindle to go to. Whatever the model for the future is, it has to have some way to bring in new talent.

Mike Fook said...

Enjoyed that.

There are dozens of things I could comment on, pro and con, but I'll hold back.

1. Unless you have the skills to create a website, or the money to pay for one - you cannot distribute your own books very easily. Amazon provides the distribution and directory. Google now provides a directory, so if I want my books at ThailandEBooks.com to be found - I just get ranked #1 for Thailand ebooks. I think I still am. I have 12 years of SEO background, so that's not that difficult. The average writer doesn't. It's difficult. My books are auto-delivered by e-junkie.com - which uses PayPal for payments. Been that way for years. If you know how - it isn't difficult.

2. Web surfers want things to work flawlessly when it comes to purchasing something. Amazon is almost perfect in this way. I click a button. The book is sent to the iPhone. I read it on the plane. I've never had a screw up, never had the wrong book or too much money taken. Decentralize this, putting the responsibility in the hands of thousands of writers outsourcing the development of their store, or worse, doing it themselves - there will be screw ups. Customers will be frustrated and buy at Amazon instead. Like the iPhone, Amazon, just works. At Amazon, perfect transactions are a given. Not so when each writer creates a unique site himself, and manages the whole puzzle. Readers want the transaction to be transparent and perfect. Writers are incapable of that on their own - and will be for years.

3. I really believe writers need to connect directly with the buyers. Amazon holds all that from you - and THAT is the power. The ability to re-contact those that bought from you once, is being withheld for the bonus of having more sales in the short term. Build a giant email list of your buyers and you no longer need amazon at all - you can do your own business.

4. I like the idea of sharing. Putting my books on Joe's site and Joe's on mine. But, Joe's reader is then buying Joe's book on MY site, which means I have the contact info and can email the reader for another sale, not Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

I should have mentioned in the dialog that I'll have an ebook Paypal store in September.

Anders said...

Those scared by the technical side of things will find http://pulleyapp.com/ useful — instant digital content payment/delivery. If you're selling hard copies as well, you can integrate Pulley with a shop at http://bigcartel.com.

Eric Christopherson said...

Great idea about the cloud, but would you end up having to vet the other author's work? Or would you only allow established authors into your cloud? If so, what about us new starters, how do we break in?

Become less new. First earn your bones through sales and reader reviews. Or get lucky. Get recommended by someone in the cloud who's read your stuff.

Good concept here.

Paul Salvette said...

That's a great idea on using PayPal to sell eBooks, and I'm sure it will be a huge success. I was trying to do something similar when I released my first novella. However, I was under the impression that it required complicated PHP scripts and such. Is there a tutorial on how to do this?

Anonymous said...

Ellis Jackson said...

Great idea about the cloud, but would you end up having to vet the other author's work? Or would you only allow established authors into your cloud? If so, what about us new starters, how do we break in?


The thing is, Ellis, is the cloud will be full of all sorts of website stores. Some like konrath's could afford to be very selective in what they display, others will probably charge you a $50 upfront fee and probably have 2 website viewers a day.

Ultimately there'll probably a graduated range of websites that'll you'll try to work your way up - you'll be accepted on similar newbie sites at first, and if you are lucky or sell well then gradually larger web-stores will take you on.

I think the e-webstore industry will, in some respects, have the same sorts of heroes and villains as the traditional publishing industry. The difference though, will be you can be associated with multiple webstores....

more ideas:
-Konrath runs a newbie competition for his webstore and gives someone like us a break
- I start a 'Best Ebook Webstore' website
- A darwinian arms race between webstores will occur and Konrath will have to evolve hard to keep up
- Swap websites will arise where you can find someone of similar genre and following who is prepared to swap books onsite

TheSFReader said...

Once again a great conversation !

What about "Books in the Cloud" persistence ? It's a feature I like quite a lot (with caveats of course), which is missing with such a paypal only service.

I'm also intrigued by the service provided by the company Blake is talkingto, but don't see how it works WRT B&N's offering. (no "send to..." email for example). Any information on that ?

bettye griffin said...

I always feel so smart when I read your blog, because I see thoughts expressed that are similar to those I've had myself.

I have already started cross-marketing with writers in similar genres, posting excerpts of each other's work in the back of our eBooks, because that seemed like a sensible thing to do. I thought about the feasibility of selling eBooks direct to the public (I already sell my books that are available in print form in this manner), but was concerned about formatting for the different eReaders. Can you offer any advice on that?

The one thing I know for sure is that changes are always in the works...

Paolo Amoroso said...

As a reader, a killer feature of devices such as the Kindle and its Amazon infrastructure is synchronization across devices and reading apps. I hope author stores will provide similar features and convenience, possibly by forcing^H^H^H^H^H^H^H encouraging ereader manufacturers to adopt open formats and standards.

chris said...

Guys, just use e-junkie instead of paypal direct. Much easier.

TheSFReader said...

@ Paolo, are you pointing at someone specifically ? (Amazon, I guess it's you...)

David Gaughran said...

I saw a video interview with Bob Mayer yesterday where he spoke about something similar - I guess it's the same thing.

It's a great idea. Really smart. And I think you've only touched on the possibilities here. There is so much you could do with it. I'm sure it will be a success. Good luck with it.

Dave

Anonymous said...

Was wondering when you savvy guys would get to the question of "how long will the reading masses continue buying a separate/dedicated piece of hardware for reading e-text when we already have a generalized one in every browser on every web-connected piece of hardware"? Amazon's new Cloud Kindle seems to answer "Not for very long." Google Books point in the same direction (even allowing for the fact that Google wants to live in the cloud).

One aside : pls stop mis-using the Y2K as an analogy for falsely crying wolf. We poor IT people spent all of 1999 being savagely over-worked dealing with the wolf, i.e., all the Y2K bugs. The reward for succesful prevention is often to be called paranoid and fear-mongerer, but if you feel like reading a few terabytes of log files from test systems, I'll SHOW you what would have happened WITHOUT the Y2K prevention effort. Believe me, it's not a pretty sight!

While on the subject of BS - my experience with legacy publishing is limited, but they have never BS'ed me. They HAVE demanded lots of changes to make stuff profitable (according to their experiences). Doesn't mean they hold you in contempt or hate you; does mean they have investors who want a profit. Like it or loathe it, that's how Amazon works, too. It just so happens that some very smart guys in e-pub moved at the right time to earn money on the long tail.

In the same vein, the 'hotties' of legacy pub are not the content providers. The hotties are the content providers that sell. The hotties of e-pub are the readers, and the money may be in the long tail; but long-tail profits are only big to those who host the long-tail marketplace. The army of guys hawking their wares only get very small slices each. Unless they produce a lot and/or have a large backlist of almost-ready-made stuff. Like you and Blake. Oh, yes, I envy you ;o)

So currently the new Big-6 (or thereabouts) have no reason to cut royalties. They earn plenty on the few well-selling writers, and on the long tail as a whole.

The individual writers in the long tail have plenty of reason to up their sales, and your idea of using cloud-type cooperation to set up brands like TV channels is a good one; Seth Godin's thinking along those lines, too, and he is fairly good at guessing right about future trends - as are you two ;o) E-books are already "crowd-sourced" for cover, proof-reading and formatting (depending on how much help you hire), so why not "crowd-source" PR and selling, too?

But, unless I'm missing something, you seem to avoid the dreaded "race to the bottom" pricing problem; the hottie readers are also web-savvy readers - the(ir) right price is zero. Oh, I know the iTunes argument : people pay for the ease of getting stuff onto their gizmos (as opposed to going through the hoops of bit-torrenting warez). But doesn't that only work in Apple's walled-garden world? If you deliver stuff in standard formats (PDF, whatever) through a standard website, where's the ease you charge for? And on a purely tech level : why "deliver" (i.e., download) at all? Why not just read the stuff right off the web page? Because that would eliminate any trace of ease-for-pay?

Speaking as a humble long-tail content provider, those are the questions that really nag me. I hope you can find the time to apply your experience to those in a future dialogue, because I sure as **** don't have any intelligent answers ;o)

JD Rhoades said...

I like it. One of the bedrock concepts of the Internet is decentralization (the system was, after all, first designed to be able to keep communication intact after a nuclear first strike). And it's also interesting to see how you're now moving from trumpeting the advent of the brave new world to figuring out new and better ways to live in it--and to deal with its own limitations.

Jude Hardin said...

All I want to do is write and get a paycheck. How about literary agents, some of whom are already moving toward the e-distribution business, setting up these websites? That way the work would automatically be vetted as well, which I think would eventually be more attractive to readers.

Adam said...

I recently set up on my own online storefront so I could definitely see doing something like this in the future.

I used Digital Delivery App to set up mine. Very low costs with lots of storage options. Site is easy to use and has a ton of tutorials to help you set it up. Combined with Paypal's micropayments I only end up losing like 15 cents!

Sean Black said...

Thought provoking as ever, Joe and Blake. Particularly enjoyed your new analogy. The great thing about the e-book revolution is that it gives writers choices they didn't have before, and that can only be a good thing.

TheSFReader said...

@Jude or something like an "e-publisher" just like what Ridan does ?

R.E. McDermott said...

Hot Damn! Sign me up. I'd be happy to throw in my 100 reader email list.

Seriously, I think it's a very interesting idea, but then again you guys always seem to come up with those.

Thanks for sharing.

Jude Hardin said...

or something like an "e-publisher" just like what Ridan does?

Sure. Then, of course, we're back to having a middleman, but I would rather focus on what I do best--the content--and let someone else handle everything else for a percentage of the royalties.

Anonymous said...

But you also have to take into consideration the level of comfort with online payments. I was buying books at one author site by using my credit card on Pay Pal. Pay Pal decided for some reason to close my account that I had had since 2000.

Admittedly it only had pennies in it and I only used it 2 or 4 times a year, mostly on eBay so I wasn't going to jump through any hoops to get it reopened. so I waited until this author's book showed up on Amazon before buying it.

So you are going to have to deal with people like me who are more comfortable with using a system I trust and have extensive experience with.

Monica Shaughnessy said...

Blake wrote: And don't you think readers want to spend their money where the maximum amount goes to the writer?

Yes and no. I think readers want to support writers when they can, but you're talking about changing purchasing behavior (away from aggregated ebookstores). It's possible, but it will take time. (sort of like people quitting dead-tree books)

To snowball this behavior change, add extra content to the books you're selling on your website, content that's not available anywhere else. Bonus chapters, character bios and backgrounds, introduction from the author, etc. So, the "plain jane" version would be available on Amazon, and the "souped up" version would be available on your website. Behavior would change fairly quickly in this scenario (as in overnight).

Bottom line: I think it's smart for genre writers to band together for marketing purposes. The more writers, the bigger the muscle.

Can't wait to stop by the store in September.

Anonymous said...

Joe, Blake, well said, even if it was a bit "as you know, Tom," lol. Only one point I disagreed with though, and that's if you have 10,000 readers and Blake has 6000 you reckon you have 16,000 between you, but thats only if his 6000 are different from your 10. In reality there will be some crossover so its probably more about 12000.

MT Nickerson said...

So. I had a long post which never showed up. Two days in a row that my posts have not gone through.

I wondered what kept powerful clouds from charging a premium for inclusion? It seems that would be a concern. I find that when money is involved, there are people who figure out a way to get as much as they can. I don't see the future as being any different.

Aric Mitchell said...

Joe, have you ever been to Flickchart.com? They are a movie comparison site that allows you to choose between two movies in these one-on-one match-ups. It's highly addictive, but that's not the point. The point is each match-up takes a second for the user to choose. From that, a list of all time favorite movies develops. It's a great idea, and something that you may use on a theoretical website to gain books and authors exposure (with a storefront, of course). On one side, have your hand selected recommended author books. On the other, have a non-exclusive database that perhaps you charge a small inclusion fee for to the authors, who wish to be featured. Let the battles begin. Even if you bury us, each time a new book for comparison becomes available, one of us randomly gets exposure up against your title and, who knows, gradually starts to pick up steam in the algorithms the more wins we have. You could also have it where we go head to head with each other and based on the comparisons, an algorithm spits out those "if you like this, you might try this" recommendations. Nathan Chase is the guy, who runs Flickchart.com, and it's been an enormously popular feature that could translate well to our niche market. Hope I explained what that is well enough. Keep up the great work! You, too, Blake!

Shawn Reed said...

As a reader, I want the ability to wirelessly download anything from anywhere direct to my ereader, without having to hook it up to an intermediate device. That's because I am, quite simply, lazy. I have 2 or 3 pdfs on my desktop that I've never gotten around to putting on my Kindle. It's that incredibly easy, "find the book, press a button, & POOF it magically appears on my ereader" that really hooks a reader/consumer. If you can create a website that will do that, I think people will be delighted to use author websites & networks.

As a writer, I love the idea of "author networks". I'm very happy that the big online retailers put processes into place that allow authors to take more control. But I also want to see more marketplace diversity. The issues I see that need to be worked out once you have the software in place to make the readers happy, are the back-end business issues that will keep the writers happy.

You'll need to have somebody do the accounting & make sure everybody in the network gets accurate sales reports. You'll need to vet your writers for business savvy & ethics as well as writing capability, & make sure everybody gets "cross paid" in a timely fashion - really, you'll have to set up some kind of process to deal with this, preferably one that is automatic & as near to idiot proof as possible.

Any new business model, process, what have you, is gonna have glitches to be worked out. Once there's a functional model in place, I think this would be AWESOME.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the hottie, I've found that you have a better chance of landing her if you get her drunk first. Is there any way to serve liquor from a website or cloud?

Stephen Knight said...

Thanks for the dialog, boys. And the hottie device is certainly better to monkey-on-frog action.

The PayPal stuff is really, really interesting. Gotta look into that. Thanks for the steer in the right direction.

Paolo Amoroso said...

@TheSFReader I was pointing to Amazon in the sense that I'd like similar synchronization features and download convenience to be available on other reading devices. But I guess Amazon wouldn't be happy, hence the need for open standards -- file format but also synchronization protocol standards -- that any vendor or distributor can support.

Simon Haynes said...

Okay, a 99c ebook sold via a business paypal account nets 66c profit (they take 33c in charges)

That definitely makes it worthwhile, and you can include multiple formats in the archive.

Joe Konrath said...

In reality there will be some crossover so its probably more about 12000.

Maybe. But there's also something to be said about brand reinforcement. Supposedly someone isn't aware of a product until they see it a few times, so a mention in my newsletter, and Blake's, and Barry's, and Ann's, even if we all have the same fan, might nudge them into looking at it.

Also, the writers you align yourself with can't be spammers--no more than one newsletter per month.

Joe Konrath said...

While on the subject of BS - my experience with legacy publishing is limited, but they have never BS'ed me.

I've had my titles changed, been given zero input on covers, and been forced to accept editing suggestions I didn't agree with. I've dealt with gigantic release mishaps and distribution screw-ups. I've watched a series that was growing in sales get dropped. I've had legacy ebooks released with dozens of errors in them. I've experienced lackluster foreign exploitation even though world rights were taken. And don't get me started on 17.5% ebook royalties.

For the most part, I've liked the publishers and editors I've worked with. They've done a lot of good for my career. But they also failed in some key areas. And guess what? Once I began doing this on my own, I didn't fail in those areas. I was able to do better, and sell more.

Joe Konrath said...

does mean they have investors who want a profit.

Theoretically, yes. But so many books lose money you begin to wonder if profit isn't a motive for publishers.

Joe Konrath said...

the hottie readers are also web-savvy readers - the(ir) right price is zero.

I agree. It'll all be free one day. But writers will survive on ad income.

Why not just read the stuff right off the web page? Because that would eliminate any trace of ease-for-pay?

No one has created a portable ereader that does that well yet. But that'll be the future. People capturing text on a page with their device, reading it that way instead of a download. But they'll also capture ads. :)

Eric Christopherson said...

All I want to do is write and get a paycheck. How about literary agents, some of whom are already moving toward the e-distribution business, setting up these websites? That way the work would automatically be vetted as well, which I think would eventually be more attractive to readers.

Had the same exact thoughts, Jude. Seems a natural fit.

Werner said...

This ain't no vague anomalous subject like Y2K was - this is big bid’ness. It has been my experience that big business is ALWAYS looking for ways to increase and deepen that bottom line. Increasing their take of royalties is a foregone conclusion, and like you stated, there's not a damn thing we can do about it - from that end.

There will be alternative outlets with better royalty share - sure, but they won't have the exposure or reach of an Amazon or B&N. The writer's who are making their bones now are going to be the most fortunate. They can build their brand and begin to teach their readers to go to their website or blog and buy the ebooks directly from the source. To entice them to do so, offer readers exclusive discounts on the price or other incentives not being offered by the larger outlets.

Selena Kitt said...

We've had our own cart for three years. But excessica only takes 10%. And I've got almost 100 authors on the roster. The accounting is the worst part, but we use Zen cart and there's a report function you can install, which is helpful. Of course, we keep track of sales not just on our site, but also for authors on Amazon, BN, Omnilit, Bookstrand, Google, Smashwords, and all our other distributors as well.

I know that people have found me through other authors and vice versa, because we've banded together as a "brand." The power of the collective is, well, powerful! :) It's a good thing, well worth the effort.

Honestly, setting up your own cart is NOT that hard. It's the data entry that's time consuming - and then all the accounting. But you could pay someone to do those. (I do).

sara said...

Maybe I'm dense, but I don't get how you can sell Kindle books on your own website and make a bigger profit than selling them on Amazon.

Paypal takes a pretty huge cut off each sale. So I can't see how $2.99 sales via Paypal would be worth it at all. How else would you do it?

Walter Knight said...

Amazon's brand is so dominant I am surprised they don't lower the 70 percent royalty payout to the 35 percent they pay overseas (UK).

Amazon has no real comptetition. Sure there are other platforms like Nook, but they are nothing. I do not believe even famous authors can sell much from their own websites.

If Amazon messed with the royalty payment percentage, authors would be helpless to stop it. I would like it to be otherwise, but I don't see it.

Claude Nougat said...

Great conversation, as always, you're full of stimulating ideas! Sounds like you and Blake plan to become small "Pottervilles" (actually the Rowling site is Pottermore)by banding together in a given genre.

Because that seems to be one essential ingredient in your proposal: writers in the same genre band together to sell their books on each other's sites.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of who's going to keep the accounts and be responsible so that no glitches occur, it still means that your site is offering a product in a limited, specific genre.

But my question is: are you sure that readers are addicted to a single genre?

I know I'm not, and I know a lot of people who aren't. I like the kind of thrillers you write, Joe, but I also like historicals and fantasy à la Tolkien, and even a good romance now and then. And I will really go for a good contemporary novel, the kind that is deridedly classified as "literary".

So for people like me, who like different genres and keep changing so as not to get bored (remember escaping boredom is what drives the fashion industry: change, change, change is what sells the most! That's true for Contemporary Art too, by the way), well, for people like me, what's needed is a good old-fashioned bookstore that sells all kinds of genres, a whole range of options, including that rare gem, real literature.

Of course, in the Digital Age, we've moved from bricks and mortar bookstores to the likes of Amazon.

Since Amazon is the KING bookstore in the Digital Age (and B&N close second), I will always need to go to them, no matter how much I like your books, Joe, and your pals' books.

So, yes, I think that what you are proposing is going to work for you and your fan base.

But that won't make Amazon unnecessary. You might succeed in pulling away some of their clients but not all of them, mainly because you can't expect to create a site that can duplicate their "book discovery" functionality.

In other words, you can't expand beyond your proven fan base - something Amazon (and B&N etc) can do for you.

Of course, I could be wrong. And for your sake, I hope I am ! So, I wish you every possible success with your new paypal feature on your site! But surely, you don't plan to move out of Amazon, do you?

JL Bryan said...

Eventually, someone will put out an "open source" ereader that can handle ePub, PDF and other formats, and have wireless internet and download direct from any retailer or website. Imagine the Smashwords equivalent of an ereader. That's what this conversation made me think about.

Anonymous said...

Not going to work.

with more and more people buying Kindles and Nooks, they want to do the one-click purchase from the STORE it's connected to, not buy from a secondary source and then worry about downloading/sideboarding/whatever to get the content onto their ebook reader.

right now a lot of ebook stores are having this very problem because people are being indoctrinated by Amazon and B&N to buy only from them because of the ease and simplicity.

people don't want to have to do a lot of technical work to read an ebook. They want to point, click, read. They don't want to worry about setting up different accounts on different sites, worrying about security on their credit cards and then fretting on how to sidebar this new content to their ebook readers.

yes, people are just that lazy.

before anyone sets up a store you might want to look around at the other ebookstores like Fictionwise and their ilk to see how sales have dropped. Even small publishers who offer sales direct from their websites have seen sales diminish because of the ease of buying direct from Amazon/B&N. And people will pay a bit more for the ease and safety of a click buy.

K.M. Weiland said...

Thanks for bolding the names! Makes it much easier to navigate the interview. Great stuff, as always.

Blake Crouch said...

"Not going to work.

with more and more people buying Kindles and Nooks, they want to do the one-click purchase from the STORE it's connected to, not buy from a secondary source and then worry about downloading/sideboarding/whatever to get the content onto their ebook reader."

Right now, that may be the case, and selling from author websites will be slow-growth in the beginning. It's all about changing customer buying habits and teaching customers (who are fans) that buying direct from the author is the premium option. One-click capability on the author website is a must for them to compete with BN.com and Amazon, no question. But again, we are the content providers, and we can offer things to drive direct sales and traffic that no retailer can....we can't undercut Amazon on price, but what if, for my next self-released novel...it was only available for purchase for the first month from www.blakecrouch.com? Now you're dealing with truly exclusive content.

Brett Battles said...

Excellent. This makes such perfect sense to me. (FYI...we need to talk).

I've been thinking about the United Artist idea for months now, more though as a group of like minded authors sharing services and promoting each others works...but this takes it to a much more logical and damn exciting place. A cloud. D'uh.

Blake Crouch said...

Btw, I would love to hear from fans and readers about this dialog, and what their feelings are right now about buying direct from author websites. Other than the convenience factor, what else is important to you?

Karl El-Koura said...

I've spent the last week looking for reviewers who might be interested in an ARC of my upcoming biblically inspired science fiction humor book (yup). I noticed an interesting trend: the overwhelming majority of reviewers interested in Christian fiction only wanted a hardcopy, and they weren't interested in self-published work. The reviewers who accepted ebook ARCs? They had no problem reviewing self-published books. This is anecdotal at best, but I came away with two conclusions that reinforce what Joe and Blake and others have been saying: one, there is a huge untapped audience for ebooks (I think the people currently with Kindles and other ereaders could still be classified as early adopters, the ebook revolution has not yet begun to scratch at the surface of most readers); two, once a reader converts to ebooks, they couldn't care less if a book is traditionally published or indie published. Given a certain basic level of formatting skill on the part of the publisher/author, it all looks the same on their ereaders, so all they care about is getting a good, entertaining story, no matter the source. The playing field is being leveled in more ways than one.

Anonymous said...

Great brainstorming JA and Blake and kudos for thinking about the future, but I don't think it will work. Books are bought by READERS and what do readers want? They want a great place to go where the inventory is unlimited and as cheap as can reasonably be had. That means a megastore, not 10,000 scattered websites maned by bands of authors.

One exception is if the fragmented website is the ONLY place to get the product (e.g. Rawlings).

New Anon

Blake Crouch said...

"Great brainstorming JA and Blake and kudos for thinking about the future, but I don't think it will work. Books are bought by READERS and what do readers want? They want a great place to go where the inventory is unlimited and as cheap as can reasonably be had. That means a megastore, not 10,000 scattered websites maned by bands of authors.

One exception is if the fragmented website is the ONLY place to get the product (e.g. Rawlings)."

I think you're missing one of our points. Yes, readers want to go to an Amazon-type store, but hopefully, in the future, they will go to Amazon to DISCOVER writers. Once they already know about us, there will be no reason not to be linked directly into purchasing straight from the author him or herself because of all the value we can add.

Anonymous said...

Look at Smashwords. Authors don't necessarily sell books from there so much as use it to get their products uploaded to B&N, Apple store, etc.

The readers are going to go where it's easiest to get what they want. Amazon/B&N are cornering the market on ebook readers and their readers are aimed at pointing the reader/consumer to their website to buy the ebooks there. No muss, no fuss.

I think you need to do more research on what small publishers are experiencing as far as diminished sales from their websites. Even at discounted rates the majority of sales continue to come from Amazon because it's easier.

People aren't that techie-aware. They want it simple and easy. They don't want to have to fuss with uploading stories, different formats, sideboarding via a USB port.

you're treading on ground already marked by the ebookstores that are floundering under Amazon's heel. You're trying to run the corner store when Walmart is already there.

you'll get sales from teh dedicated fans but not as much as I think you'll expect.

I.J.Parker said...

I need to get new readers. As a rule, readers of my books come to my web site after they read the book. They might even return from time to time, but I certainly don't get the same number of visits as my book pages on Amazon. Amazon cross-references over a wide spectrum.

Mind you, if disaster strikes and Amazon lets us down, I'm pretty sure something else will open up now that the revolution is in full swing.

Sean McCartney said...

Joe,

You said awhile back that you have never bought a book through an ad. So how come ebooks will have adds for other authors? Unless you mean it will be like Amazon's "People who liked this book" kinda thing.
How would one who has a limited readership look to do something like this especially in the YA field?

Sean

author Scott Nicholson said...

I'm glad to see the conversation move from "Big Six is dead" (most of us knew that a year ago) to "Well, NOW what?"

And that direct sale is the next step, if you can bring it to the table. You got to have something really big like Pottermore to make it happen, and then you have to offer extras, lots of tech content, interactive stuff, and you are truly running a small business. But you can also sell other things, or sell in other ways (sponsorships, serialized books, cross-promotion, etc)

I can see it as a nice hedge against the certain changes to come, but if you are only making an extra 60 cents a book from all that trouble, and your email base is 10K, then I don't think the shift is workable until maybe 2020. I am definitely investigating it myself and have been selling from my site since the beginning, but in a very clumsy and non-directed way. A few people are going to be very good at this, and will become kings of new media--creative, driven entrepreneurs who like telling stories more than they like making easy money in a corporation with the same talents.

Blake Crouch said...

"I think you need to do more research on what small publishers are experiencing as far as diminished sales from their websites. Even at discounted rates the majority of sales continue to come from Amazon because it's easier. People aren't that techie-aware. They want it simple and easy."

We're surprised that publishers have screwed the pooch when it comes to selling their own ebooks direct? Really? And you're suggesting that because they haven't done a bang up job on this that we shouldn't even bother? That's laughable.

I don't know how many ways I can stress that:

1) yes it needs to be one-click, fast and easy....that's the goal. The only way this will work. And it is achievable.

2) at first it will be die-hard fans, but as more and more writers develop direct sale capability and share marketing, promo, and storefronts (the Cloud), this will slowly begin to change.

To quote Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, "A path is made by laying one stone in front of the other."

In other words, this is not an overnight, set-up-a-storefront and you're rich scenario. It's going to take time to change buying habits. But there is absolutely no reason why writers shouldn't begin the process of building this cloud.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

@Simon

You can get a PP micro payments account and pay even less.

"PayPal offers support for Micropayments to merchants for US to US, GB to GB, AU to AU, and EU to EU transactions for Business and Premier accounts. This feature is offered at a special rate of 5% + $0.05 per transaction.

Merchants who wish to use PayPal's micropayments pricing need to open a new PayPal account through this account registration page.

Merchants who receive both macro and micro payments should maintain two separate accounts:

An account to apply their standard rate to macropayments.
An account to apply the micropayments rate to their micropayments.

Each PayPal account is associated with only one merchant processing rate. That rate determines the fee that's applied to funds received into that account (additional information on PayPal's Standard Fees is available here). For example: if your Premier/Business account rate for receiving funds is 2.9% + $0.30, using PayPal's 5% + $0.05 micropayments rate would reduce the total transaction fee charged to payments received below the value of $12 (per payment). However, if you accept payments that are greater than $12, you would pay a lower processing charge by accepting the payment into the account set with the 2.9% + $0.30 rate."


Trick is that your regular PP account and your PP micro payments account can't be linked to the same bank account. ANNOYING!

https://www.paypalobjects.com/IntegrationCenter/ic_micropayments.html

I sell lots of my books from my site, but I hadn't considered adding books from other authors. A great idea.

Joe Konrath said...

what if, for my next self-released novel...it was only available for purchase for the first month from www.blakecrouch.com?

And what if it came with an alternate ending, and an exclusive interview that you can't get elsewhere?

Eloheim and Veronica said...

And what if it came with an alternate ending, and an exclusive interview that you can't get elsewhere?

Feel the power of being the writer!

Joe Konrath said...

You said awhile back that you have never bought a book through an ad. So how come ebooks will have ads for other authors?

An ad as an announcement works. While I wouldn't pay for a book ad in a newspaper of magazine, a book ad in a book is akin to a coming attracting in a movie theater. Those do work.

Sean McCartney said...

Joe,

For some of us authors on the D-List how would you go about creating an author cloud as an author with a small, YA, readership?

I like the idea of coming attractions.

Sean

Alan Tucker said...

The question, it seems to me, is whether it's worth the extra work/hassle for that extra 10-20% (assuming of course that Amazon et al keep the current royalty structure as is).

Do you want to spend your time running a website or writing?

By extension, if you pay someone else to run the website, the benefits diminish. It's an interesting conundrum.

Blake Crouch said...

"The question, it seems to me, is whether it's worth the extra work/hassle for that extra 10-20% (assuming of course that Amazon et al keep the current royalty structure as is).

Do you want to spend your time running a website or writing?

By extension, if you pay someone else to run the website, the benefits diminish. It's an interesting conundrum."

If a company is willing to do this for an upfront set-up fee, or even a 10% commission, then that extra 20%, saved over years, could be a substantial amount.

SL Clark said...

"But they'll also capture ads. :)"

Seth Godin & The Domino Project are putting out "free" books for the first few weeks of sale - because he uses sponsorship! In his case, aligned corporations are jumping to be included.

Content creators beware, there will always be marketers reaching for your wallet - this can be a good thing for you, or not.

Paolo Amoroso said...

Blake Crouch said: Btw, I would love to hear from fans and readers about this dialog, and what their feelings are right now about buying direct from author websites.

I have recently become a fan of Joe, and yesterday bought his third ebook. I will eventually buy all his works. But mostly from Amazon and not his site, at least in the short term. Even if this means paying a little more and not having exclusive additional content.

As I said in another comment, for me synchronization among my Kindle device and Kindle smartphone app is a must. I read most titles on both devices, and may eventually start using Kindle Cloud Reader on my PC. I love this feature, which allows me to read more and optimize reading time (and buy more books of my favorite authors).

However, I will closely follow your experiment to see whether you will provide something equally convenient or more.

Also, as a reader, the idea of googling for books and author sites, rather than searching Amazon or similar retailers, doesn't appeal me. In another comment you said that Amazon can be used for finding authors or titles and then get the books elsewhere. But, once I am at Amazon, I am probably going to complete the transaction there and have the added synchronization convenience. At least in the short term.

Note that I do understand that what you are going to experiment with is the future, or a good approximation of it. But I don't know the specifics, and, from the information you provide, the implementation doesn't currently make me want to switch from large online retailers like Amazon.

Paul Mannering said...

BrokenSea Audio Productions is now producing audio editions of books using professional readers. We operate on a royalty system with publishers (and self-publishers) where we take a percentage of the audio book edition sales you make, so there are no fees up front.
Contact audiobooks@brokensea.com for more information.

Blake Crouch said...

@Paolo - Thanks so much for your comment....exactly the type of reader feedback we're looking for. What I hear you saying is that first and foremost, the 1-click convenience factor has to be there in abundance, and secondly, there must be some additional value to shopping at the author's website to draw you away from Amazon for follow-up purchases once you've discovered and enjoyed our work.

Paolo Amoroso said...

@Blake Crouch Although I do appreciate 1-click buying convenience, the technical feature I am more interested in is synchronizing the latest read page across Kindle devices and apps, i.e. picking up reading from my Kindle for smartphone app where I left off with my Kindle 3. If I don't have synchronization, I have to decide in advance on which device to read a particular book. That's why I prefer Kindle over my ePub reader, a Cybook Opus. I can't synch ePub devices. If I start an ePub book on my Opus at home, I can't pick it up on my smartphone with the Aldiko ePub reader when I'm away from home, and can't take advantage of the extra time. I could of course bring the ereader with me, but it would take extra room.

You are correct that for me there must be some additional value to shopping at the author's website to draw me away from Amazon for follow-up purchases once I've discovered and enjoyed your work. But right now, aside from the technical features I have mentioned, I'm still not sure what that value may be. I feel that having extra short stories or interviews wouldn't be a major part of that value. I do think that content is interesting and valuable, but it woudln't currently significantly influence my decision to prefer an author store over a retailer.

KL Mutter said...

I think this type of marketing might play well into something Joe mentioned a few blogs back - readers that complain about content. I believe Selena Kitt also echoed his experience that, although books are clearly labeled as having violent or explicit content, when you're in the larger market it seems that some people still buy without first looking at what they are buying. Then they register a complaining review.

It may only apply to a niche of the market, but maybe in the long run it would be better to sell some things to readers that are specifically searching for that type of content. I think that's a strength of publishing with excessica or another specialty ebook publisher - built in audience, cross-germination, and less buyer remorse.

Anonymous said...

Obviously 1 click purchase is important to several people, as expressed often in these comments. My only addition to that is, please don't forget the tech savy customers. If your e-store also includes a no hassle 'file download' option, that will itself be a draw over Amazon/B&N. (presumably Smashwords does this, but then, the aptly named meatgrinder kind of limits the quality that can be provided.)

This will be impossible for 1-click functionality, but don't forget to allow purchase/download (or send file via e-mai) without account set-up. See:
http://www.uie.com/articles/three_hund_million_button

Michael E. Walston said...

Whoa! That probably is the future. Thanks, guys. It just keeps getting better and better.

TheSFReader said...

Since I'm living in France and have a Nook, I can't 1 click at the B&N Store, nor at Amazon. However, when confronted with the choice of between an author's website and a retailer, I prefer the retailer provided he has a "cloud" library.
Why ? because I prefer having an "additional" and centralized location where my ebook is stored, in case of failing hardware...
Since I don't like DRMs and like the companys (or rather it's CEO Mark Coker), My preferred ebooks buying place is thus --> Smashwords.
A detailed post about it : http://bit.ly/n3Yqo8

chris said...

Guys, you do rrealise that 1-click is an Amazon patent.

That's why no one else has it.

I'm fully supportive of direct sales from an author site, but it's a lot tougher then some people think.

Lots of A/B testing for every single author website: on landing page, on checkout, on exit.

Keep spitballing though. Some good stuff will stick.

Anonymous said...

Joe & Blake:

The greatest benefit of having large mailing lists like yours should be that you can get thousands of people (i.e. the fans on your lists) to buy your books from Amazon within the first few weeks of release.

This pushes your books up the Amazon rankings, and you get seen by millions of other customers that have never heard of you and have never heard of the other authors that you bring into your cloud. (And these relative numbers will always hold true no matter how many authors you bring into this private "cloud.")

But if you pull your most loyal customers away from Amazon for a few percentage points more, you're losing the potential to have your books marketed by Amazon to millions of others.

In the end, my view is that it will always be better business for you to drive your customers to Amazon for purchases. They are in the business of marketing and selling, and they get traffic that you could never come close to generating no matter how many private authors' mailing lists you pool.

You're so happy to give away 15% to your agents to do things that you feel aren't your core strengths. You should apply the same logic when it comes to selling books.

Thanks for posting.

- Z

John Patrick Tormey said...

Blake Crouch said: Btw, I would love to hear from fans and readers about this dialog, and what their feelings are right now about buying direct from author websites.

Last year Richard Russo edited Best American Short Stories. I like Richard Russo so I picked it up. The stories he chose to publish were great. As a collection, it was better than any previous edition of Best American Short Stories I've read. I made the comment to my wife that Richard Russo should do this every three years. Not exactly what you guys are talking about, but close. If one of my favorite writers had a bunch of novels or story collections for sale on his site by writers he vouched for, I would be more willing to give them a shot, as long as new writers were included.

Michelle Muto said...

Joe, I think Apple should have made you CEO. You've certainly got Jobs' innovation and insight.

Jon Olson said...

Seems to me browsers, impulse buyers, aren't going to find go hunting for an author's site. They want a bookstore experience, an Amazon or Pubit experience. Your hardcore fans will hunt you down on your website.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone

Darlene Underdahl said...

'Blake: You and I have had a good deal of experience with Big 6 publishers, and something we’ve come to understand is that, up until now, “content provider” hasn’t meant a whole helluva lot. And it's not even a question of respect. There is a palpable disdain for writers that seems to permeate a lot of legacy publishing. You can even follow a number of "anonymous" twitter accounts from publishing insiders to get a view of how much the content providers are despised. Writers have been treated like mentally damaged children, incapable of providing input on basic elements such as cover design, title, product description, and even, God forbid, the next book we should write.'

Shocking, but not unexpected.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Interesting idea, and certainly combines a lot of current trends. I think Pottermore could push this along, getting the reading public used to the idea of visiting author websites as a primary, rather than secondary activity (which even the ereading public is not completely on board with yet).

Also: Love the dialog format!

Walter Golden said...

Can we trust our current e-book providers to pay decent royalties? I think we can. Don’t forgot sites like Smashwords. If Amazon, Nook, Sony and all the others decided to cut their royalty payments, you would have some site like Smashwords who could and would ignore them and pay the old, higher rate.
And it would be better for the author than doing it himself. When I want a mystery I don’t want to fish through a dozen different web pages, I will go to a dealer who has thirty or forty thousand of them..

Joshua Simcox said...

Blake Crouch said:

"Btw, I would love to hear from fans and readers about this dialog, and what their feelings are right now about buying direct from author websites. Other than the convenience factor, what else is important to you?"

As a fan? That Luther Kite dies the slow, painful, and gloriously graphic death that I was pulling for at the end of "Locked Doors". And that Andrew Thomas finally catches a break.

And as a fellow North Carolinian and paying customer, I wouldn't mind seeing a few more Crouch stories set in the Tar Heel State.
:)

As a consumer? Well, Amazon's one-click shopping is addictive, frighteningly convenient, and I wouldn't be quick to give it up. Some bonus content for website shoppers maybe?

All the best,

Joshua Simcox

wannabuy said...

I like the cloud analogy. It emphasizes why any book retailer has *far* less control than with music or TV.

Oh, I disagree on books going ad-supported. I consider it like Hulu. I love it, but numerous friends of mine will not use it due to the frustration of the ads. They buy download videos elsewhere that are ad free (or nearly so). Ads will play some role, but there is a reason hardcovers aren't billboards.

Neil

wannabuy said...

@Paolo:"synchronization among my Kindle device and Kindle smartphone app is a must. I read most titles on both devices, and may eventually start using Kindle Cloud Reader on my PC. "

Agreed. I left my Kindle at home during a business trip this week. The cloud reader made it a non-event. IMHO, the 'whisper-sync' is worth $0.50 per book.

But only so much... if Amazon gets greedy (or the 1st month it is only on the authors site), I'll defect.

Neil

L.R. Shimer said...

One aspect of being my own publisher... Is anybody else fussing about the pressure to price ultra low? I don't like seeing 99 cent books. Seems to me if my Reader can afford to buy a drink at Starbucks, she ought to go for at least the same amount for my well-written and richly illustrated time travel romance. (Forgive me if this has been much talked about before. I've just found this blog)

chris said...

Oh, I disagree on books going ad-supported. I consider it like Hulu. I love it, but numerous friends of mine will not use it due to the frustration of the ads.

Do you use the internet, Neil?

Place is full of ads!! ;-)

We'll all put up with ads if it means we can have stuff we want for free. If we don't want ads we then choose to pay premium. That's an upsell typically, not a standard offering.

That said, a free ebook platform requires some serious development. And whoever tries it first is going to b confronted with Google and Apple in the blink of an eye.

Disruptive platforms like this are going to have to be very innovative to beat the big guys. That requires cash and very smart people (some of whom will need o be hardcore developers).

Andy Conway said...

Brilliant discussion and very eye-opening!

I've posted in comments on other blogs here about targetted marketing of special interest groups, and it's close to what you and Blake are talking about here.

Next month I'm releasing a novel that appeals to a very specific online interest group. It numbers 100,000 people at least and has been rumoured to include as many as 2 million members.

I'm hopeful of high sales because this book is about their lives. I'm telling their story. And they are very easy to find online, gathered across 10 or more websites.

So, instead of releasing that book through Amazon, my plan has always been to set up a page where it can be downloaded automatically so that I get a 100% profit (minus Paypal fees).

For me, and this book, that is feasible now, not the distant future. It merely requires a little bit of technical expertise to make it happen.

So can anyone talk about the technicalities of using e-junkie over/with paypal? If I can get my head around it, I can do it all myself rather than hire a techie.

Oh, and the hottie analogy is very apt. Oh brave new world, where writers have realised they're the hotties... ;-)

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 on Amazon and Smashwords : 6 down, 5 to go
Meet me in Montmartre, a blind date in Paris, out now...

chris said...

@Andy Conway:

Andy, you really need to release this new title through Amazon.

Success in retail is about distribution. And if anyone thinks that online retail is any different then they have never tried to sell their own product or seek distribution. This is the biggest newbie business mistake. Everyone thinks they can cash in with direct sales. It just doesn't work that way.

By all means sell the book on your site, but seriously, you should consider selling it everywhere that you can. There's a reason Amazon kicks arse online. They have cosumer data, they have distribution, they have 1-Click (which is patented by them ie, not available to others without a licence fee - I mentioned this in any earlier comment that seems to have vanished).

You may get to keep 100% of your revenue from your site but trust me you will be missing thousands of sales. If only because of simple things like landing page design, site colours, workable call to action, laborious payment gateways. Guess what, Paypal sucks as a gateway if you don't have an account. And it takes several steps even if you do. Be prepared to lose sales using paypal... or any gateway besides 1-Click.

That said, if it doesn't return what you expect then iterate the business model and go to Amazon and B&N. Joe and Blake's idea to sell direct is fine if you have the numbers but there is no way you are going to beat sales via Amazon... unless you are Rowling.

Again... everyone should try direct sales... but be open to iteration.

nicoleschwegman said...

My mind is blown...I'm going for it guys. I'm gonna try it. The sales person in me absolutely loves this idea and it makes perfect sense.

Keep talking Joe and Blake. It's like you guys have a crystal ball or something.

Shawn Reed said...

Paolo Amorosa expressed his need for the technical issues as well as extra exclusive features at the author website, in order to use the author website.

For me as a reader, all I need is the technical stuff ... the one click download, the synchronization so that I can automatically go to where I stopped reading. I hadn't thought about the synchronization across devices ... I mostly read on my kindle, but I got hooked through the kindle app on my smart phone & on the rare occasions when I forget the kindle I love the synch factor that allows me to pick up where I stopped reading on the kindle when I transfer to the smart phone.

I couldn't care less about additional/exclusive features, but that's a personal thing. I rarely bother with them on DVDs; all I truly want is the story itself. I recognize that other people do, but as a reader, I will happily go to an author network/cooperative if the technical functionality is there.

Someone else mentioned the eclectic reader ... I'm like her. There is a basic consistency to the kinds of stories I like -- I like humor, snark, clever lead characters, eccentric side characters, like that. I could see cross-genre author cooperatives being very functional. If, as an example, I could get Jenny Crusie (romance), Donald Westlake (mystery/heists), and Terry Pratchett (fantasy) in the same author network, I could die a happy reader.

Sean McCartney said...

Joe,

Just curious how you get hooked up with another author who wants to do the "coming attractions" in their ebook? I am sure their is competition between authors.

Sean

Smuggy Smith's First Year said...

Amazing. Obvious. The more control we take the better.

You mentioned covers. Since I've got Photoshop experience, I'm learning how to do it myself.

Ellen O'Connell said...

"Btw, I would love to hear from fans and readers about this dialog, and what their feelings are right now about buying direct from author websites. Other than the convenience factor, what else is important to you?"

As a reader, I'm not going to go author websites to buy. In the past I've shrugged at posted info about free this or that if I had to go to an author website and download it. As a writer my experience is similar. I have a short story for sale on Amazon and free on my website. It sells on Amazon, and I admit I'd pay $.99 for the convenience of having it effortlessly show up on my Kindle myself.

Also as a reader I'm not interested in the add-ons that are supposed to attract me. They actually repel me. I don't want alternate endings, multimedia whatever, or info about the author, just the story please.

Yes, the internet has a lot of ads. That why I run Ad Blocker.

Anonymous said...

Prior Anon at 7:41.

I'm a reader (and buyer of books), so I thought some more about the situation. The web site I mentioned where I stopped buying due to Paypal issues had three authors involved whose books I usually autobuy, so I think I count as a fan. I didn't feel at all bad about no longer buying on their web site but going to Amazon for the books.

I actually consider myself a fan of no more than half a dozen living writers.

I'm not sure how many people really care about extras until they are rabid fans. The idea of an alternative endings strikes me as kind of bizarre. If I didn't like the way your book ended the ending is already in my mind and I can't erase it and plug some other ending in. Maybe it would work with movies, but I never watch DVD out takes (after the first time which was an x-files DVD set) nor have I ever even wanted to watch an alternative ending.

(J. K. Rowling could probably get her fans to pay to be allowed to select an ending for the Harry Potter series, but that's Rowling. She was never going to please everyone with how that last book ended.)

Adam Pepper said...

I think most writers depend on browsing and random purchases too much for this business model.

Simon Haynes said...

"One aspect of being my own publisher... Is anybody else fussing about the pressure to price ultra low?"

I'm happy to pay up to five bucks for something I'm keen on. I don't believe fiction ebooks are worth any more, because they're essentially one-shot disposable items. You can't give them away, you can't sell them to recoup some of the purchase price. Ignoring lending for a moment, that means publishers (and authors) earn a cut from just about every reader of a given novel, forever. With that in mind, they HAVE to be sold at lower prices than paperbacks, which can hang around for decades (or centuries)

I think a low price for the first novel in a series is a good move, provided at least two are available. Hook 'em in, then charge a fair price for the rest. I don't believe professionally edited ebooks with professional artwork should be 99c.

David Wisehart said...

Do you even need a website storefront? Isn't there a way to do it all in email?

Rather than drive your fans to your author website (or to Amazon), put a PayPal "Buy Now" button directly in the email.

Your fan sees an email from you, they open the email, read your pitch for the new release, click on the buy button, pay via PayPal, and then get a thank you email with the book file attached.

Seems like it would save a step and come closer to the one-click idea.

Requiring readers to link from the email to a web storefront is adding a step where you can lose the buyer.

Granted, this would work best for existing fans who've already discovered you and signed up to hear about new releases. But most readers going to your website will already know who you are. The discovery phase is likelier to happen elsewhere, like on Amazon.

Thoughts?

David

Simon Haynes said...

@David I don't know about everyone else, but I use an offline email client and it's set to display plain text only, even if the sender specifies HTML. Very secure but useless for inline images and other web-based goodies like 1px gifs and the like.

Christopher John Chater said...

This is a great idea, and I think both distribution sites and direct sites can exist together. Writers can also create website content, like Rowling does on Potterworld, that gives fans and readers an experience beyond just the book.

Paolo Amoroso said...

@David Wisehart What you suggest has major security implications, great potential for phishing.

Walter Knight said...

I place sample chapters of other authors' new books at the end of some of my E-books, but have limited that to my publisher's catalog.

It's an advertisement that lasts forever, so you want to be selective. Or, treat the sample chapters as a freebee.

Anonymous said...

Joe said : "No one has created a portable ereader that does that [read stuff right off the web page] well yet. But that'll be the future. People capturing text on a page with their device, reading it that way instead of a download. But they'll also capture ads. :)"

A portable ereader that reads stuff right off a web page. Uhm, isn't that what's done with a browser on a phone, pad, tablet, netbook or laptop...????

Joe Konrath said...

Uhm, isn't that what's done with a browser on a phone, pad, tablet, netbook or laptop...????

No.

Imagine a reader that can not only access web pages, but can capture an ebook, format it as an ebook, and store it on the device even if the device is offline.

It wouldn't be one-click buying or downloading. It would turn appropriate webpages into formatted ebooks, immediately, and for free.

Joseph D'Agnese said...

Who are these anonymous Twittering sonsabitches? Grrrr...

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading when you two went into your oversimplified and therefore WRONG blow-off of the Y2K problem. Makes me wonder how much, if anything, here is reliable. I don't have a blogger account, so I'm going to be anonymous, but my IP address is not cloaked.

Blake Crouch said...

@Anon 3:53

Not to get off topic, but those suburbanites who stockpiled assault weapons and years of food in advance of Y2K made the right call?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, once again for making my head swim with info. 8-)

The only struggle I have is that as a reader, I very rarely visit author websites. Oh sure, a few here and there but not much. I don't have time.

Do readers truly spend that much time visiting authors' direct sites?

BK Jackson
http://www.bkjackson.blogspot.com

Joe Konrath said...

Not to get off topic, but those suburbanites who stockpiled assault weapons and years of food in advance of Y2K made the right call?

Stop being so unreliable, Blake. We both know how we should constantly be worried about everything, all the time, and let fear and paranoia influence our every irrational thought.

That's why every dime I earn on ebooks is going toward shotguns and canned beans.

Adam Pepper said...

Joe said, "That's why every dime I earn on ebooks is going toward shotguns and canned beans."

No beer?

Rex Kusler said...

I've stockpiled enough razor blades to last almost 14 years. Find out why:

http://rexkusler.blogspot.com

Sherri said...

I'm generally in favor of giving more money to writers, but I'd be very unlikely to go to an author's website to buy a book vs. Amazon. I hate PayPal, whereas I already have a trusted relationship with Amazon. I use the synchronization feature available on books bought from Amazon. I don't worry about backing up the books I've bought from Amazon. We can argue about whether I should back them up or not, but I think it's pretty clear that Amazon's less likely to lose my book in the cloud than an author is.

I don't know what features you could add to get me to buy it from the author instead of Amazon. Getting it early wouldn't be enough; I have too much to read already. Interviews don't do it; I don't really care that much about them. The content provider is important, no question; but Amazon has made the process of getting and consuming the content easy and frictionless, and that's important, too. Middlemen who provide a service are still quite useful.

KDJames said...

I love innovation and trying new things. Good for you and I hope it works out. But since I kinda like you guys and appreciate all the shared info all the time, I need to ask a few questions. (And really, I'm asking everyone who has said they sell books on their sites.)

What are you doing about sales tax? I haven't researched this topic, but since I work in the world of retail finance, mentions of it catch my eye from time to time and it seems there is a bit of contention about who is supposed to collect sales tax on ebooks (if anyone), and based on what location (seller's v. purchaser's). I've noticed that some ebooks I buy have sales tax added, some don't. I don't know why. As I said, haven't researched it.

Also, since you're becoming retailers, I assume you all are going to apply for the proper retail business licenses? In all the locations in which the writers will be doing business? And related to the sales tax thing, if you do have to collect it (now or in the future when the dust clears from that battle), I hope you realize that the more states in which you have physical locations, the more sales tax reports you'll have to file [for physical goods, sales tax is based on where the customer takes possession, so "delivery" is a critical concept]. And sales tax reports are a bitch.

When you pay each other, are you considering each other to be independent contractors? And do you plan to issue 1099s at the end of each year? Or will you be employees of a group "company," in which case you'll need to compute and withhold and report payroll taxes?

I'm not trying to be a wet blanket (well, maybe a little), I just think these are legitimate business concerns. You don’t have to answer me here in public, but you should be asking yourselves this stuff. Although I really have been wondering about the sales tax thing for a while now and am curious to know how others are handling it.

If I were in a position to make this choice as a writer -- and I'm not, yet -- I'd much rather let Amazon keep 30% if they're willing to be the retailer and do all the related paperwork for my writing business. Because I do it all the time in my day job.

I love the cross-promotion stuff, I'm just not sure this idea, as presented, is the best way for independent writers to do business.

Robert W. Walker said...

Take two aspirin and get back to me in the morning. Would having 100 other authors selling their wares on my website give me headaches esp regarding accounting, and as for paying an accountant, do you know what they charge per hour? I personally need no more nightmares in my life but if you want to sell my books on your site, fine and dandy. Let me know. It is hard enough for me to know what day it is much less how much I will be owing another author who, eventually, would likely sue hell out of me for slow payment or nonpayment. Or am I missing something?

As some others have said as well, Kindle is King and will very likely remain so, and I may have no fortune-telling experience worth a damn, but I do believe that amazon has a special place in its heart for authors and readers and they're not out to shaft us.

rob walker

Merrill Heath said...

@Scott Nicholson, I'm right there with you. I'm focused on creating content, not developing new ways to deliver it.

My 5-year goal is to have 20 books available. That comes out to 4 books per year. During that time I hope to find a formula that works for me - 2 novels and 2 novellas, 3 novels and 1 novella, 3 novels and a book of short stories... Right now I don't know what will work best for me and my readers, but in 5 years I will know. Then I'll produce my work according to that model.

Like Jude, I want to be a writer first and foremost. If someone else can handle the distribution and delivery for me I'm more than happy to pay them a reasonable percentage of the sales.

Like Rob Walker, the last thing I want to do is worry about making payments to other authors, managing their listings on my sites, etc.

I admire the vision of some of the people on this site and it's interesting to read some of the comments. But I'm still learning to walk right now. For me, walking is being able to produce 4 new books each year. After I learn to walk, I may consider some of this other stuff. But right now it's still baby steps for me.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a reader only I am more interested in convenience than additional content (even more so than price). I know I can download ebooks from other sites for my Kindle but I haven't as I don't want to mess with it. I will sometimes look at an author's website for their bio or info on upcoming books, but I still buy everything on Amazon.

As a sidenote I'm in the tech world and cloud computing has a lot of security issues as yet unresolved. I would not be comfortable with that setup as a buyer.

Coral Russell said...

I've seen this on author websites and the one I like is e-junkie, so you don't need to spend a fortune. 10 items for $5/month. I just don't have 10 items, yet. :)
http://alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/who-wants-whom/

Nancy Beck said...

And sales tax reports are a bitch.

I live in NJ, and this is what stopped me from considering offering my stuff from my own site.

My husband owned a homebrew supply shop back in 1990s, and I had to set up a sales tax account. PITA to keep track of all that (not that he did a huge business, but it was enough to make a tiny profit for a few years).

I really don't want to go through that again.

If I get to the point where writing is my main source of income, I might consider it then (but then I'd work with someone else to take care of that).

Ten Cent Wings

Coral Russell said...

Oh and as far as Indie Authors banding together to share their fan base and sell eBooks - here's an invitation to Konrath, Crouch and any other authors on here to check out Indie Book Blowout Sept. 2-5

http://www.indiebookblowout.com/Indie_Book_Blowout/Home.html

I don't know if they are still accepting titles, because there are a couple of things you need to have done in two days, but so far it's been really great and well organized.

Robert Michael said...

I am relatively new to this discussion, but these concerns about legacy publishers and the promises of self-published success seem simplistic. If you peel away the layers of rhetoric, it boils down to two things: money and control. Successful self-published authors want more money and more control. Pretty simple, pretty understandable.

But, on a deeper, crowd-pleasing, grassroots-developing level, the conflict here reaches aspiring authors who see the "us vs. them" mentality appealing. Rejection is Hell. I can relate.

Following your advice can lead to self-published success, one could demise. No gatekeepers, no one keeping your hard-earned money (the author is, afterall, the producer of the intellectual collateral), no one to override your decisions on marketing or cover art and no one to tell you which book to write next. Sounds downright sexy.

After reading much of what you have written, though, I have discovered that the truth is actually more complex than: self-publish, you will be better off. To become successful, a self-published author must have one of three traits: a great marketer, a great writer or an established celebrity (have an existing platform). This, regrettably, will leave many aspiring authors still on the outside of publishing success looking in.

Your real audience is those authors that are great marketers, great writers and established celebrities who want more control and more money. It is a genius marketing ploy (ok, technique) to appeal to a larger group of less than talented writers and marketers who want the success you have had. They become potential customers, gladdened by your heartwarming message of "you can do it, too!"

Reading ebooks is a choice. So is reading traditional, clunky, dusty tomes stocked in obsolete brick-and-mortar stores. The revolution you say is coming may very well come to pass. I hope, though, our future holds a place for both types of distribution. Choice is paramount to change.

Anonymous said...

I still hope you two are right about all of this, but I am still plugging away at Costco watching members toss dirt-cheap legacy publishing superstar authors' old & new books into their carts along with the gourmet triple cream cheese and fruit leather. Why not? Costs the store nothing to throw them on a couple of folding tables next to the produce, and as said, it is an international corporation that apparently is able to cut deals with publishers for a low unit cost in order to sell millions of books to one chain store that stretches from Podunk Wisconsin to Hong Kong. Lot less trouble than wading through thousands of internet choices and waiting for delivery of anything but an ebook.
It also still seems to me that publishers have managed a mighty coup through their own inertia. Writers have agreed to take on all the cost and risk of their own launch. The Big Six has only to sit back and wait and offer the very few winners a fat advance and a contract. Since they haven't invested one cent in trying to pick the front runners, they ought to be able to manage some decent advances.
I ask again, if Amazon has become its own publisher, as it were, what are they prepared to do for writers as far as advance publicity and financial support? All of this cheering on the part of hopeful writers leaves me a bit queasy. The other shoe has yet to drop, I think.

Theresa M. Moore said...

Good God, people. I can't believe you just now figured this out. I've been selling my own books and ebooks from my own site for 4. years! It's true people would rather go to the instant delivery sources, but I do pretty well on my own. You can see how I do it on Antellus.. And I am planning some new features, like a slideshow instead of a list of covers. You can do anything you want in this verse and still reach the readers. It's just a matter of getting some discipline and doing it!

frank palardy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Dean said...

I guess that answers my earlier question about selling from your own site, which seems like it should be the goal. But I’m confused about something. The best (read: simplest) strategy would seem to me to involve bundling books: a reader finds you on the retailer (Amazon, etc.); he then gets referred to your site from the inside your book; you offer bundles of your books for less than individual titles on Amazon as an incentive to buy directly from you, which makes you money because you don’t lose the royalty and you sell more books to boot.

Now, I suspect that this has already been thought of and rejected because Amazon somehow prevents you from doing this presumably through contract (or maybe there's something else I'm missing). But I’d like confirmation from someone.

tmastgrave said...

You have a lot of good points here, but I think something I'd like to see more about is cloud computing. I've heard a fair bit about this, but no specifics, just general how-tos and explanations. I'd like to see some good data on how effective cloud computing really is, especially for new writers who only have one or two books published (because that's me).

Riley said...

Joe,

Do you think this model is genre specific, or will it work for everything out there? For example, young adult is big ... but I don't know that it's selling as much digitally as it is in print (I can't find figures to back it up right now.) But, then we look at the infamous Amanda Hocking. I'm putting finishing touches on a my debut - YA Urban Fantasy - and I'm leaning toward self-pub, but does it make business sense for the genre?????

Periphera said...

As an avid reader and converted e-reader, I would be extremely cautious of making book purchases online from other than a well known seller (like Amazon or B&N) without some kind of branded financial middleman (Paypal, e.g.)

And the suggestions, reader reviews, and fora on Amazon and elsewhere have sold me many an enjoyable book I would never have looked at otherwise.

Then, who would be responsible for re-sending purchasers' books that got screwed up or lost? I can move books onto and off of my Kindle with a few clicks; no storage issues or proof-of-purchase involved. It's like having an offsite library of my own books at my fingertips.

Christine said...

@ Blake, what do readers want?


Price: I wouldn't pay more than amazon would charge.

Extras: i.e. out-take scenes similar to things at the end of a dvd. Funny stuff and perhaps what happens next to a great secondary character. You could add sexy stuff for the romance junkies out there. I could go on and one, but I suspect you're getting the picture. Then you could add music, say the music your hero sings when he's drunk as a skunk, or a song he hears in a bar when all looks lost.

The key is to connect to the READER and have somewhere they can meet and talk about what they loved. You couldn't pay for feedback like that.

Gadfly said...

The two of you sound like you're riffing a bit on Jaron Lanier's long take on Amazon and Google likewise wanting to be information monopolists. http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2011/08/dark-side-of-internet-apple-google-and.html

Gadfly said...

Missing from this discussion? The amount of spam e-books already on Amazon and Amazon's unwillingness, so far, to do anything about it. I think self-sale is a great idea in theory, but, there are tech issues indeed so far.

Robin Sullivan said...

I've been saying for quite some time that unless you are selling direct you aren't removing all the middle men. Ridan has been selling both ebooks and print books (signed/dedicated) since we’ve started and it has been very successful for us. We offer all formats and the only downside presently is we email them by hand after ordering. I hope to have a fully automated system in the future.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing