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Friday, July 26, 2013

Clueless—The More I Know I Don’t Know

By Linda Lovely

Each month Romancing the Genre bloggers are given a group theme to kickstart our blogging muse. In July, many of us are using the titles of movies or books for inspiration. After scanning lists of movie titles, I settled on CLUELESS. Though I haven’t watched this movie, the title seemed apropos as a header for some random thoughts about writing and authors.

I just returned from five days at the RWA National conference in Atlanta, attended by some 2,000 women and a handful of brave male authors (published and unpublished). Every time I go to a writing conference, I realize how little I know about the fast-changing publishing industry—and how often, what I think I know is wrong. The reality is that “facts” learned one or two years ago may be totally outdated and irrelevant in today’s market. As a result, I’ve come to grips with my ignorance. While I’ll always strive to keep learning, I will remain clueless about many aspects of our industry. Here are just a few of the tidbits I picked up at RWA, which will influence the publishing decisions I make in the coming year.

Self-Publishing
  • In 2011, while self-published authors earned an average of $10,000 a year, the median annual income was $500. Translation: half the authors probably had negative profits, while a small percentage of authors made a bundle.
  • Factors related to financial success for the self-pubbed were no surprise. Professional editing and professional covers plus sharing info with fellow authors increased success rates. So did the number of titles an author has to offer readers (more on that later).
  • Authors can co-op to split the cost of participating in NetGalley to get manuscripts into the hands of professional reviewers.
  • The ability to set up "pre-orders" for ebooks is on the near-term horizon.
  • $1.99 appears to be a “black hole” for ebook pricing. E.g. authors who price books at 99 cents or $2.99 will probably make more than if they price their titles at $1.99.
  • Digital book readers are said to buy 4.6 x more books (some of them print editions) than print-only readers.
The Rise of ‘Shorts’ or Frequency Matters
  • New Amazon Singles and Short Story offerings are growing rapidly.
  • Authors are being pushed (even by traditional publishers) to create short works that can be offered between their major releases to keep their names in front of readers.
  • Many authors are collaborating on “shorts” for anthologies or collections.

Books Get Voice
  • Audio books are growing at an even faster pace than digital books.
  • Some 12,000 actor/actress/producers have subscribed to Amazon’s ACX.com (which matches authors with their creative audio counterparts).
  • Amazon will be bundling digital & audio versions of books. This will allow a reader to stop reading on the Kindle, get in her car and start listening to the same book precisely where she left off. All automatic. The audio and digital books will be automatically synched.

Unchanged
  • The most important thing an author can do to ensure success? Write a GREAT book. No matter how many changes occur in publishing, a good book (once it gains an audience) will have readers eagerly anticipating (and willing to buy) the author’s next novel.
  
What has surprised you most in the publishing world of 2013?

9 comments:

Paty Jager said...

Good post, Linda! The thing that has surprised me is all the ways writers are trying to make their writing be seen. I'm one of them. I will have a book in a box set this fall and I partnered with 10 other authors to be part of a Christmas Anthology to hopefully pull in their audience to my writing. Partnering with other writers seems to be the new way to go these days.

Linda Lovely said...

Interesting, Paty. I guess I need to give some more thought to short stories/anthologies. Too bad I'm so long-winded and prefer novel lenth.

Judith Ashley said...

Not really a surprise...more of an on-going acknowledgement is that writing the best book you can and having that professional editing and book cover is not enough. It is as much, if not more work, to get your name out there so your books are purchased. I'm in awe of the amount of work authors put in on top of writing the original book.

Linda Lovely said...

Judith, I'm awestruck, too. Some authors at the conference were spending 14-15 hours a day on a combination of writing and promo. One set a timer to force herself to spend a certain amount of time on writing--the time spent on research and social media didn't count.

Diana Mcc. said...

Linda,
Thanks for the recap of National. What you said about the average making $500/yr vs the few who make $10,000 a year I would think has a lot to do with distribution or lack there of. Self-pubs have a hard time reaching all the markets that traditional publishers can reach. I'm talking about book stores in every state, grocery stores, drug stores etc. Do any of you have suggestions on distribution for hard copies of e-books?(from Diana who is e-publishing an Anthology with Sarah and Judith)

Linda Lovely said...

Diana,
Actually, I think the stats only reflected ebook sales--but I could be wrong. And it wasn't a few making $10,000. Since the "average" for the entire group was $10,000, that means some authors were pulling in six figures (in some cases seven figures!) to make up for the half of the group that made less than $500. As far as distribution of paper copies goes, I have no good suggestions unless you're willing to give standard terms to the chains (e.g. 50% cover price plus returns). If you're unwilling to offer those terms, you can court independent bookstores, who will probably want to sales on a contingency basis.

Diana Mcc. said...

Thanks for the info, Linda!

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Good info, Linda! I'm still in learning mode after several years of being published. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Shobhan Bantwal

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm surprised more publishers haven't folded. Maybe the big ones are becoming a little more nimble?