Monday, August 31, 2015

reader-powered publishing


Monks and Scribes Guild Seeks Injunction
Against New Self-Publisher, Gutenberg
Recently we've discussed some of the attractions that no-cost self-publishing providers offer to book writers.  Amazon's KDP for e-books, and CreateSpace for printed books, were the focus of our earlier discussions, though there are also other providers.  I published a Young Adult novel, Leaving Major Tela, in both formats with these providers, and found it a generally interesting and encouraging experience.  Now, another new development has arrived: reader-powered publishing.

It reminds one of how the music industry's decades-long, rigid control of who gets to have their music made available to the public, and how much it should cost, crumbled with the arrival of internet alternatives.  Some, like pirating, were not valid alternatives, but others like You Tube gave artists a chance to gain an audience, and revenues, from a large, potential fan base without going through the major labels.  Here's how things have evolved in a related way for book publishing.

Legacy publishers are the long-serving, traditional publishers for the book industry.  Over time, many of these publishers and their imprints have been acquired and merged into a fewer number of mega-corporations.  The modern business practices and required profit margins imposed by the mega-corporations on their new publishing divisions have led to smaller editorial staff to acquire new manuscripts, guide them through the publication process, and conduct the marketing program.  Since they have trimmed their work force to far fewer skilled editorial staff to do this work, the initial acquisition process has largely been farmed out to private, literary agents, who now act as the industry's first-line gatekeepers--at no cost to the mega-corporation.

Gatekeepers--there appear to be many literary agents available to do this job, but they all must compete to sell to the same mega-corporations.  The marketability of any manuscript may depend on genres and themes that are currently in vogue, as researched by the mega-corporations, and a new writer working with a theme in any other area has difficulties getting past the gatekeepers.  Agents, without a sufficient number of well-known writers contributing material to them, may choose to resort to passing along part of their overhead and operating costs to their hopeful, new writers--an increased price of admission for the writer.

The mega-corporations also depend to a much greater extent now on enlisting the free services of authors in their marketing campaigns, such as making book-signing tours.  Some authors may relish this, others may not.

The early business models of the new, self-publishing providers seem designed to give authors greater access to getting their book produced in e-book or printed versions, with minimal gatekeeping hurdles, and at essentially no cost to the author.  However, there has been little marketing followup by the self-publishing provider, aside from displaying an attractive webpage wherein the book description and its contents may be sampled online by the prospective reader, and which provides the reader an opportunity to click on the ordering button.  But how to coax the reader to find that page?  Providing links on your own blogging pages, or getting the book reviewed by other bloggers, are typical author strategies.  An author can also make his book more attractive to the casual web surfer by publicizing favorable reviews from prominent readers' websites, like ReadersFavorites.com, or GoodReads.com.    Such marketing is hard, and requires a degree of luck to get a following, but it can be done in a writer's available time, and from his own office.

The newest business model of "reader-powered" publishing" is the (Amazon) Kindle Scout venture.  In this model:


Authors who want to get their books published submit to Kindle Scout and accept the Submission & Publishing Agreement. The first pages (about 5,000 words) from each book are posted on the Kindle Scout website for a 30-day scouting period where readers can nominate up to three books at a time. The more nominations a book receives, the more likely it gets discovered by the Kindle Scout team. If selected, the book will be published by Kindle Press and all the readers who nominated the book will receive an early, free copy and be invited to leave reviews. 

When an author's book is selected by this process,  Kindle Press offers a $1,500 advance and 50% e-book royalties.   Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.  The advance and e-book royalties seem acceptable, but the proposed Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited compensation is not specifically given.  In the past my opinion of those programs in the earlier (and ongoing) business model has been they provide library content to serve as free perks to attract subscription-based customer programs, but provide little or no compensation to the writers.

I think I might like to submit a manuscript to Kindle Scout, and if so, would report more on the experience later.
Creative Commons License
Fiction Writer's Blog by Gaelwriter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.