Good News: Reading Is Here To Stay

As long as there are readers, writers will have work to do

Good News: Reading Is Here To Stay“Reading is here to stay,” wrote Robert M. Sacks in the November/December 2012 issue of Publishing Executive magazine. His astute observation caught my attention, captivating my thoughts, both then and even more so today.

Discussions and speculation about the rapid evolution in the book publishing industry threaten to overwhelm us; considerations abound:

  • Options such as traditional publishing, self-publishing, and assisted publishing
  • More options in the form of indie presses, outsourcing, and support services
  • Help from consultants, coaches, and editors
  • Requirements for platform, promotion, and marketing
  • Social media to blog, tweet, and message
  • Communication through e-newsletters, RSS feeds, and subscriptions
  • Technologies of e-books, e-readers, and e-publishing
  • Changes via consolidation, closures, and layoffs
  • Audio books, foreign rights, translations, screenplays, and movie deals

My brain’s about to explode with all these developments, options, and choices.

Yet one thing remains: reading is here to stay. And with the future of reading secure, the future of authors and publishers is promising – for all of us willing to change, adapt, and dream.

Tomorrow will be interesting, exciting, and exhilarating, because reading is here to stay, and those readers will need authors to write content for them to read.

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Why We Must Understand the Continuum of Book Publishing

Book publishing options are no longer a black and white decision but an array of grays

Why We Must Understand the Continuum of Book PublishingIn past posts, I discussed the benefits of traditional publishing and the benefits of self-publishing, as well as the downsides of traditional publishing and the downsides of self-publishing.

Book publishing, however, does not exist as two sides of a coin, with traditional publishing (often called royalty publishing) on one side and self-publishing (once disparaged as vanity publishing) on the other.

Instead, book-publishing options exist on a continuum. At one end are the major presses who carefully screen, edit, produce, and promote books, much as they have done for years. At the other end are the do-anything-for-a-buck outfits who will print any book, for anyone willing to pay their fees, regardless of its content, quality, or marketability.

In between them lies a vast array of options, from indie presses, to assisted publishing, to outsourcers, to any number of companies with intriguing labels, seeking to find a niche and fill a need. Although a few of these presses care nothing of books and only about money, most possess a sincere desire to help writers become published authors, advancing the cause of book publishing in the process (as well as earning a profit). They just do it in different ways.

These permutations of publishers are too numerous and evolving to delineate with any accuracy. An author should carefully vet each publisher before making a selection.

The key in evaluating them is to realize that each has a business plan and must make money. Comprehending what their plan is (sometimes we needs to dig a bit) and understanding how they make money (even nonprofits must generate income) will provide a basis for determining if their sweet spot matches a writer’s needs.

Book publishing exists on a continuum, as do the needs of the authors they serve. Finding the right match of publisher and author is essential for the success of both.

Don’t Debate Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

There are 4 reasons why self-publishing versus traditional publishing doesn’t matter

Don’t Debate Traditional Publishing vs. Self-PublishingAuthors often wonder if they should bypass finding a traditional publisher and just self-publish their books. It’s a weighty question with a plethora of answers. Each option possesses a list of pros and cons, warranting careful consideration, but today I’ll share four reasons why it doesn’t really matter.

Readership: Either way others can read our work. Although some write for personal gratification, almost all writers have a deep desire for other people to read their work. Even those who won’t admit it, generally have an inner yearning to share their words. Both self-publishing and traditional publishing can accomplish this.

Marketing: Either way we must market our books. Except for A-list authors – those all but guaranteed to sell a million copies – all other authors need to promote their own work. True, traditional publishers will do some marketing, but their budget will be limited. Unless our book becomes a run-away sensation (unlikely), its success will hinge on our willingness to promote it – regardless of the publishing method.

Earn Money: Either way we can make money. It’s possible to make money with either publishing model. Though the amount of money varies with the situation, type of book, and market size, as well as our personal preferences and personality, either form of publishing allows the potential to earn income.

Tangible Results: Either way we can have a printed copy of our book. There’s something significant about holding a printed copy of our book. It’s tangible proof our work is viable – and is something we can autograph. Both forms of publishing can result in a printed version of our work (as well as an e-version and usually both).

In future posts, I’ll address the pros and cons of both options, but in the big picture, it doesn’t matter.

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3 Perspectives on Print Versus Digital Publishing

The form that a published book takes doesn’t matter as much as many people think

3 Perspectives on Print Versus Digital PublishingPublishers, authors, and readers each approach the print versus ebook debate from different perspectives. Among these three points of view exist an array of opinions. Consider:

Publishers are in business to make money. Never forget that. They aren’t philanthropists, seeking to advance authors’ work or serve the common good (though both are laudable secondary goals). They can make money in print or with e-books. While the outcome is not guaranteed, the potential for profit is there. Some focus on the printed word and others, electronic output, while most do both. For them print versus e-book becomes a strategic decision with a financial outcome.

Authors often enjoy the tangible feeling of holding a book, their book, in their hands. For them, there’s an emotional attachment to the printed word. As such, they may view e-books as a second-rate, unacceptable alternative. However, the underlying desire of authors is to have their words read. So does it really matter if it’s on paper or through a device? Like publishers, authors also want to earn money for their work. Each medium offers the opportunity to do that.

Readers may be the most passionate in their opinions about print and electronic reading. I use both, and I enjoy both. So do many readers, though some insist on a book and others will only use a device.

As long as the public consumes books both ways – which, I suspect will be for years to come – the print versus e-book debate will remain unresolved. And, I’m okay with that.

What’s your preference, print or electronic?

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Are You a Linear Thinker or 3D?

Effective communication should address both linear and 3D thinkers

Are You a Linear Thinker or 3D?Linear thinking people process thoughts and ideas in succession, logically moving from one point to the next.

3D thinking people jump from one thought or idea to another, which often seems to have little connection with each other.

Printed material, such as magazines and books, lend themselves to linear thinking. Digital content, such as websites and social media, lend themselves to 3D thinking.

We must learn to communicate with both linear thinkers and 3D thinkers.

To make books accessible to people who process in 3D, we should put content in short, self-contained sections, provide sidebars and ancillary information, offer links, and make content easy for readers to scan.

To make websites and social media accessible to people who process linearly, we should put content in a format allowing sequential access, offer structure to those who seek it, and provide indexes or directories.

Our world contains both linear and 3D thinkers. If we only address one group, we ignore half the market.

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How Can Publishers Become Developers?

Is it enough for authors to embrace a publishing mindset or must they go further?

How Can Publishers Become Developers?I once read, “publishers are becoming developers.” This sounds profound, but what does it mean?

A publisher is someone who prepares and issues information or material.

A developer is someone who creates, who builds, who advances.

How can publishers become developers?

  1. Turn a book or publication into a platform or business
  2. Repackage past and current products (books, articles, posts, and so forth) into innovative offerings for a new audience
  3. Build a social media presence to curate and share information
  4. Create mobile apps of content for the on-the-move, I-want-it-now demographic
  5. Establish new information dissemination channels
  6. Reinvent being a writer into something with a greater, grander vision

These are all general ideas, of course. I leave the details for each author-turned-publisher to determine, pursue, and achieve.

Then, just as authors become publishers, we can take the next step to all become developers, too.

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Generation Y Leads in Book Buying

Young people are more apt to read books than older folks

Generation Y Leads in Book BuyingTo listen to mainstream media about the state of book publishing leaves most people with an incorrect understanding of the industry. The press gives the impression that fewer people are reading and those who do are mostly older. The industry is dying, so why bother to write and publish books?

Yes, things are changing, but not how most people think – and that’s exciting. The truth is young people are buying more books, not less.

A 2012 news item from Bowker, based on extensive research by Bowker Market Research and Publisher’s Weekly, proclaimed that Gen-Y is now leading all demographics in book consumption. More recent reports confirm this reality. That’s great news! There is demand for books and a future for books.

The report also confirmed a shift to online purchases and an increase in e-book sales. Other reports suggest it is older readers who embrace digital reading, with younger readers preferring print. Go figure.

Times are changing, so writers and publishers must adapt, but the most important thing is people still want to read and young people are leading the way.

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9 Keys to Self-Publishing Success

It’s never been easier to publish a book, but that doesn’t mean we should

9 Keys to Self-Publishing SuccessI once read a self-published e-book, a novella. I read it for several reasons: it was recommended (which turned out to be a bad reason), it would be a quick read, I’d never read a novella, and it was free (I got what I paid for).

On the plus side, the opening captured my attention, the story line was intriguing, and the ending was a delightful surprise. On the negative side, the book did not flow smoothly, was poorly edited (or not edited at all), contained many errors, and was poorly converted into e-book format. Overall, the great ending did not overcome all the negative elements.

For a self-published book to be successful, it needs what all great books need:

  • A Promising Idea: If you don’t have a great story idea or theme, don’t start writing. This novella did, but its implementation fell short.
  • A Compelling Opening (a Hook): The opening didn’t grab me, but it was sufficient to make me want to read more.
  • Great Writing: I felt I was reading a rough draft. Elements of good writing were present, but they were too sparse to be effective.
  • Professional Editing: The novella may have been self-edited (never a wise idea) or done so on the cheap, but the result wasn’t even close to professional. While publishing perfection is hard to achieve, the goal should be to get as close as possible.
  • A Satisfying Ending: The ending of the novella was superb. It was the most notable element of the work. But one good line does not make a good book.
  • A Memorable Title: Some titles are hard to forget and others are hard to remember. I can’t recall this novella’s title.
  • An Attention-Grabbing Cover: The cover didn’t hurt the book, but it didn’t help either. If I were judging this book by its cover, I would have passed.
  • A Pleasing Layout: In print, the book shouldn’t look self-published. (We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it). In electronic form, the formatting should flow smoothly with no glitches, misplaced text, bad alignment, or floating words or titles. In any good book, the interior design should be innocuous. When people notice the layout it becomes a distraction.
  • Effective Marketing: The above items all relate to the quality of the product. (There are more elements to consider, but these are the main ones.) A quality product requires effective marketing. A stellar book with no sales will not be a success, nor will great marketing of lousy writing work out.

If you’re considering self-publishing, be it in print or e-book, make sure you cover all nine of these items before proceeding. Your book’s success will depend on it.

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What is the Future of Book Publishing?

Will book publishing follow the path of the music and movie industries?

What is the Future of Book Publishing?When people look at the future of book publishing they often draw parallels to music and video. In many ways this is instructive, but not in all cases.

Look at the history of music. With music there were 78-rpm records, cassettes, 8 tracks, vinyl records, CD, and iTunes/iPods.

Next consider the progression of video. With video there were Beta tapes, VHS tapes, video disks, DVD, and Blue Ray.

Both show a user progression of format and consumption to the digital realm. One might conclude, therefore, that printed word will give way to the digital word, that print books will cede to digital books, be it e-books or audio.

I don’t see that happening, at least not completely.

To say that e-readers will completely replace printed books is like saying iTunes will replace concerts or Blue Ray will replace theater. It’s not going to happen.

True, e-readers may one day dominate the reading public’s preference, but just as there will always be demand for concerts and theater, so too for the printed word. The key for authors and publishers is to embrace both options, not pick sides.

As a reader, do you prefer print or digital? As a writer should you care?

3 Types of Self-Publishing

Explore the 3 types of self-publishing: print, e-books, & audio

Three Types of Self-PublishingSelf-publishing, once vilified as an exercise in vanity, is now accepted as a viable option by most everyone – except perhaps those who earn a living in traditional publishing.

There are three segments to self-publishing: e-publishing (for Kindle and other e-readers), POD (print-on-demand), and audio books. Some POD vendors will also produce an e-book version, allowing for one-stop-shopping.

Of the three, POD may be more satisfying to the author, giving him or her something tangible to touch, see, and show. Whereas e-pub may be more profitable, having no printing, storing, or shipping costs. Audio books reside in the middle, having a higher production cost than e-books but also enjoying the ease of digital distribution. Ideally, the self-published author should consider all three, starting with e-books, followed by print books, and wrapping up with audio books.

When it comes to profit per unit sold, both print and e-books surpass traditional publishing, whose royalties are much smaller in comparison. Of course, traditional publishers have a more extensive reach, greater connections, and bookstore distribution, so the lower payment per book is often more than offset with a much higher sales volume.

Whatever route an author takes, there are pluses and minuses to each, so the key is to become educated, know your strengths, weaknesses, and available time. Then find the best match for your situation, personality, and goals.