Posts tagged ebook
Late last year, I predicted we would absolutely see ebook sales hit 25% of the book market in 2011, and possibly even break the 50% barrier this year as well, but absolutely do it in 2012 at the latest. That was a bit ahead of a lot of industry analysts, at the time.
But those predictions are looking pretty on target right now.
Last week, Fortune magazine ran an article talking to a Barnes & Nobles exec, who said that in the next twenty four months is when the industry will shift – meaning more than half of all book sales would be digital. That’s a big deal, because B&N has a lot invested in the print industry, so it’s advantageous to them to make conservative estimates.
Today, Nathan Bransford (agent, writer, and well known blogger) estimated that ebooks already represent about 20-30% of the market. Bob Mayer is predicting 50%+ ebook market share by the end of this year. Dominique Raccah said last month that she expects ebooks to reach or approach the 50% mark this year for “certain types of books”. We’ve also seem publishers announcing as much as 25% of their sales in certain areas have been ebooks in January and February.
Right now? I think we’re on line to see fiction ebooks break the 50% mark this year. I see non-fiction still lagging behind, and I think that will take longer to catch up. People still like having paper for their reference material, and not all non-fiction books work well on 7″ eInk readers. But we’ll continue to see growth there, as well.
I think the question is really not will fiction hit 50% this year – but what happens next? What happens when indies can hit the majority of their market with the click of a few buttons? What happens when bookstores cease to be the primary place people buy books?
That future is almost here.
In the wake of Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath’s discussion of Eisler’s move to self publishing (turning down a $500,000 contract in the process), Dean Wesley Smith has posted some thoughts that he disagreed with their views on how to get help in those bits of publishing a writer wasn’t able to do, or didn’t want to do: things like covers, formatting, and uploading the books.
Today Dean, Joe, and Barry all posted a chat they had where they discussed these different opinions. Dean insisted that these services were “day labor” and that authors should resist paying a percent. Joe was adamant that they were worth a 15% fee to agents-turned-book-packagers who would take your book, edit it, slap on a cover, format it, and put it up online, managing the book and sending you a check when sales came in. Barry sort of took a middle road.
I am firmly on Dean’s side in this issue. There’s so many holes in the percentage idea that it would quickly turn into a nightmare, I think. Let me hit some of the major points here. More >
Yup – a brand new Ryan Blackwell story will be in the upcoming Twelve Worlds anthology, due out next month. I was also honored to have my story chosen to be the first in order, which puts it up in its entirety in the ebook sample. I’m thrilled to have participated in the project with such a dedicated group of writers, and look forward to doing more with them in the future.
Here’s the cover for the book:
It’s an awesome painting by artist Les Peterson, who donated his time and effort to the cause. Twelve Worlds will include over a dozen stories including science fiction, fantasy, contemporary/paranormal, romance, and more. You want vampires? We’ve got them. Space travel? Got that, too! Magical battles, strange cultures, mysteries to solve – the collection is quite a ride.
My story is a previously unpublished tale of Ryan Blackwell, the hero from my upcoming novels By Darkness Revealed and Ashes Ascendant (oops, did I just let slip that there’s now a sequel in the pipeline? yup!). In this story, Ryan discovers that someone is tapping magical energy from the ley line nexus at Northshield University. Ryan tries to find out who’s stealing the power, and why – but things quickly go from “bad” to “extremely explosive”!
Twelve Worlds will be up for sale on all major ebook sites in April for $2.99. All authors’ shares of the sales will be donated to a charity to promote literacy. More details on that, and on the anthology as a whole, as soon as I can release them.
Macmillan’s president was recently quoted as saying ““The fear is I get one library card and never have to buy a book again.”
Random House has announced they will be limiting library loans of their ebooks to 26 loans, after which libraries will have to pay to license the books again.
Boys, you’re just not seeing the trees for the forest here.
OK, they’ve got a legitimate fear. Libraries around the country are at risk of closing. Most of them charge “out of the area” people for a library card. It’s not beyond the realm of reason that some enterprising librarian might convince town officials to buy a bunch of ebooks, then advertise heavily to get readers from all over the world buying library cards. Then channel those funds into still more ebooks, etc. A library that did this very well could end up with tens of millions of “card holders” from all over, each able to download books. Now, libraries are limited already: if a library loans a book, it’s unavailable until returned or until the loan period runs out. But even so, the idea of a central clearing house where readers can pay an annual or monthly fee to borrow books at will is a powerful one.
Think Netflixs, for books.
So Harper-Collins is limiting downloads. Macmillan seems to be all sorts of worried. It would not surprise me if more big publishers try to follow suit. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to fear: circle the wagons!
The Thing Is, They’re Wrong.
Libraries are a net gain for publishers. They always have been, and probably always will be. No, publishers don’t get paid for every loan of a book (in the USA, at least – in some countries, libraries pay small fees for each loan). But that doesn’t mean those books equate to lost revenue. Quite the opposite.
As this blogger points out, she estimates she reads about $1200 a year in books at her local library. She buys about $320-600 in books per year, as well. But those $1200 are not lost sales for publishers. Magically making the library go away would not give her an extra $1200 a year in disposable income. What it would do is remove $1200 a year in books from her hobby, changing the hobby from something she does all the time, every day, to something she does much less frequently. And we’re much more willing to spend hundreds of dollars per year on hobbies which we do regularly.
Libraries encourage people to buy more books, because they make books available as a day to day hobby for folks who otherwise would not be able to read regularly. Because libraries serve this crucial role in building the importance of reading to people all over the country, they have an extremely positive impact on book sales, and therefore on publishers’ bottom lines.
And Libraries Will Buy eBooks Anyway
Yes, Harper-Collins. Libraries will buy ebooks anyway. They just aren’t going to buy yours. They’re going to buy the books by some other publisher. We have about 1200 publishers in the USA right now. Be a darn shame if Harper-Collins books were simply not carried in any ebook library in the country. A shame for them, and especially for the writers they publish. Libraries help spread the word about books, help encourage new readers, help build readerships. For a lot of people, if a book is not in the local library, it might as well not exist. In our increasingly ebook dominated world, the same thing will be true – for ebooks.
And if you’re limiting loans to 26 times, and your competitors are not, guess whose books libraries are going to buy? And on whose they are going to say “pass”?
Short term thinking at its finest. My advice? Work with libraries to develop good, reliable, fair methods of ebook loan distribution that will maximize readers. More readers is a good thing. People who learn to love books at libraries buy books from bookstores. The digital distribution of books has the potential to catapult reading from a second-string hobby into one done by nearly everyone. It’s a wonderful future, and it’s going to happen with, or without Macmillan and Harper Collins. Whether they are involved, or get left behind, will be up to them.
So after thinking about it for a while, brainstorming it, plotting out a bit of the storyline, and generally doing all the things I do beforelaunching a new project, I’ve officially put fingers to keyboard on the new series today. For those that missed my earlier posts on the subject, I have a theory: I think that ebooks are a beautiful medium for telling short, episodic stories. The concept is that each story is self contained as a single plot, but is connected to the other stories in the series, much like a set of TV episodes are connected. And since TV is woefully short on good science fiction right now, I thought I’d write some good episodic SF to pick up the slack and test my theory at the same time.
I’m only 1800 words into the story so far, but the day is still young. I expect to be about twice that far in by the end of the day (cross fingers). Which should put me about a fifth of the way into the first story, I think. I’m not really sure how long these stories are going to be, and I’m not locking myself into any specific length, but I am guessing this first one at least will be somewhere around twenty thousand words, give or take a few thousand. I expect the stories will generally fall around 10-25k words, in the novelette to novella range.
Now, I don’t know if episodes would work with longer chunks. I think writing gets more difficult and complex at an almost geometric rate as the work gets longer. More moving parts means more places things can go wrong. Or maybe it’s just that my natural storytelling length is shorter, who knows? =) But I think episodic content begs for rapid releases. No one wants to wait six months for the answer to the questions posed in the last episode of a TV show, and I think we’ll see a similar annoyance with long waits in episodic writing. Serialized stories worked in the pulp era because they were released rapidly, so I believe that will be essential today as well.
Back to work!
The interwebs are abuzz these past weeks with news about Amanda Hocking. From unpublished author in April 2010, she now has nine (going on ten) books self published, sold 100k books in December, 450k books in January, and goodness only know how many in February – probably a lot more than January, because the mainstream news media got hold of her then, giving her a lot more exposure. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s an amazing success story, and I wish her the absolute best. I hope she keeps writing, too, because I’ve read two of her books now and enjoyed both of them (Hollowland more than Switched).
But a lot of people seem to be latching on to her as the sign of everything to come – “see, this is why you should publish independently!” Well, no, no more than you can use Stephen King as an example of why you should publish with mainstream/legacy publishing.
In any system, there will be outliers whose success greatly outstrips that of most other folks. It just happens – no one really understands the process. That’s not a good indication of the norm, though. Amanda actually blogged about this a little bit – she’s got a good head on her shoulders. I hope she remembers that the writing is the important part though, and keeps putting out good work book after book. This sort of early/fast fame is problematic for many artists.
So if Ms. Hocking’s success does NOT mean that the average indie will be able to sell 400k books a month soon, what does it mean?
Still playing with the art some. I rough-drafted a new layout, which I think might have more energy. Also tried tweaking the colors again. Just brainstorming various ideas. These new ones are just mock-ups – I haven’t scaled everything perfectly yet or redone the fonts. But they’re decent concepts, I think. Like these better? Or the original one?
Second draft of the cover art for By Darkness Revealed. Next version will see a few tweaks, but the art is almost there, I think. I’m pretty pleased with the overall effect, to be honest – simple whitespace, iconic imagery, bold and easy to read fonts. This is for the ebook cover – the print version will use similar art and layout, obviously with spine and back cover material as well – and the monster wraps around the spine onto the back, for the print version.
The image, of course, is the big nastie that Ryan has to face as part of the story. Or a stylized version of it, anyway. In By Darkness Revealed, Ryan Blackwell is a new student at the private military college Northshield University. Ryan has some past experience with magic, but what he runs into during his first months at the University challenge his skills and his willpower to their utmost. Because the campus holds an ancient secret, and something sinister stirs in the darkness…
It’s really nice to see things coming together. So, what do you think of the art? I’ve got similar art lined up for the next two stories, with a stylized image for the focus of each.
I’ve been thinking more about the episodic novelette idea. I’m really fond of the concept, and thinking I’d like to do something science fiction with it. Why SF? Well, my other series is contemporary fantasy. So breaking up the work a bit sounds more fun.
But it’s also because there’s really not a lot of serial science fiction available out there right now. For years, we’ve had either Star Trek or Stargate or Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica or a host of other shows. And we’re really in something of a lull for SF serial TV right now. I know there’s a market for that sort of fiction (even if it has been mostly filled by video, in the past). Why not write it now? More >
A number of things have converged in my mind, of late.
There’s been a renewal in the short fiction world, for one. People are selling shorts – and doing decently with them! – for the first time in quite a while. Dean Wesley Smith points out how it’s possible to set up a solid residual income selling short stories as ebooks. Joe Konrath was blogging the other day about a novelist friend he convinced to write his first short story, publish to Kindle, and he’s already in the top 500 ebooks for a 6600 wd story selling at $2.99. That means he’s getting a ton of readers. Lot of other folks are hopping on, writing from true short length through novella/short novel length. More >