Monday, April 18, 2011

It's Easy Being Green

After spending the morning reading articles on digital piracy and showing that you can drive sales to your book, it seems more and more that that publishing is doing less and less and expecting more of authors. In the case of digital piracy, publishers expect authors to give up royalties, and in the case of marketing, it's about what the author can and should do to get noticed by the big publishers.

While the article on piracy mentioned Barry Eisler getting hit harder than a publisher (WHAT?) because he doesn't have the big publisher to do battle for him, it just does not wash. Either way, self-published or traditionally published, the author takes the hit, so what's the difference? The difference is the same as it always was; publishers are pushing more and more off onto author's shoulders (and royalties) and taking fewer risks. Oh, that's right, there is no difference and no change in the way publishers are doing business.

In the article on the Selling Books blog, the premise is that writing a good book is nothing in the end; anyone can write a good book. The trick is to get noticed by marketing and promoting your own work through sales, speaking engagements, promotions, etc. so publishers know you can drive sales up. My question is this: If I can drive sales to my books, then what do I need a publisher for?

Absolutely nothing.

With sites like M. J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype blog about promoting your book, for a fee you can promote your book through their services, even getting the notice of thousands of libraries and book clubs, to drive sales. I would be willing to bet no publisher is going to pay the fees; that's up to the author, like paying for the cost of the publisher fighting digital piracy and getting a publisher's notice. Why? It's the same old song and dance with not a new tune in sight. It's School Days dressed up as Music of the Night without Andrew Lloyd Webber's talent for re-invention.

If I'm going to deal with piracy, the best way to do that is by not worrying about it. At 0.05% of digital sales, that's not a lot of money. That's less than one-half of one percent in total sales, and that's not even a solid number; it's a guesstimation. No one really knows what the cost of digital piracy is or is going to be. In a way, it's about the same as second hand book sales where one person buys the book and resells it so someone else can sell it again. It's money for those down the line, but the author gets paid once, and I don't see too many authors worried about that, especially with paperback books. After all, paper disintegrates and new books are needed to replace old ones, and with digital books, there is no need for replacement. Ebooks, as Joe Konrath is so fond of saying, are forever.

In the end, it's a better use of time and money to invest in yourself and self-publish than it is to let a big publisher take your money and give you back a pittance. I'm not saying that traditional publishing is dead -- it's not. Just as folk songs and nursery rhymes were used as seed for greater works (Andrew Lloyd Webber again, and Bach, and Beethoven, and Mozart, and any number of classical composers, like Liszt), there is a place for traditional publishers. As long as you can do enough work and promotion to get noticed by publishers and broker a six- or seven-figure deal and a healthy (better than the current 12%) royalty, go for it. Having one the traditional publishing route (no, I didn't get the star treatment) and doing it myself (ebook and now print), I'd rather get more of the money so I can choose and buy my own promotions and drive sales that I can benefit from. That way I can pay for future covers for new books, and my editor to keep her in Kindle books, including mine, and maybe be freed from wage slavery and build my own little cottage industry writing good books. I don't need to be halfway to getting notice by a publisher when I can be all the way toward getting notice for my writing and my books from the people who actually buy them. Fewer copies will end up in landfills that way and I prefer the green approach.

It's easier being green.

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