What do books, music, TV and films have in common?
Someone has to gamble on them.
The publishing industry as a whole gets kicked around by “indie authors” an awful lot these days- in some cases, rightly so. A “good read” should always get published, or at least be picked up for distribution. As an industry, we owe that to the book-buying public. There are just too many “B-grade” books on the shelves these days from “one hit wonder” authors who received a multi-book deal.
No industry survives without paying attention to the buying public.
Some publishers will make the case they just could not afford all the staff necessary to do all the query reading. They are right, but there is a free resource for the feedback they need- their retailers. They often overlook these “recommends” in favor of continuing to back a “one hit wonder” who is now on book four; ever clinging to the success of a “debut album” in the hope that more hits will follow, just as with the music industry.
QUESTION: Why do both the publishing industry and the music industry do this?
ANSWER: R. O. I. (Return on Investment)
Both industries sink large sums of money into what boils down to a bet on a horse. They pay signing bonuses (advances), production costs, promotion costs, and distribution costs UP FRONT in the hope that they have backed a LONG TERM WINNER like Elvis or The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. They typically put out a VERY HIGH QUALITY PRODUCT. Even with these huge names, only one remains today. Yes, there are many other names just under those, but they often break even or just pay bills and are more quickly forgotten.
The two industries employ teams of expensive specialized people in order to accomplish this lofty goal. Both industries take a gamble, a leap of faith or outright RISK to produce the next “BIG thing”, just as with the film industry. Yes; let us drag in the film industry too.
The problem with a debut book, album or film is the talent’s first work is a “best of” product from the author, musical act or director. These people worked years or perhaps their entire lives on the refinement of their this initial SINGULAR PRODUCT.
Mark Twain, The Rolling Stones and Steven Speilberg are ANOMALIES and not the norm- they do not even come every generation, but THE GAMBLER NEEDS TO BELIEVE IN HIS HORSE.
Digital technology has hurt two of the three industries.
Film has not suffered because the movie going audience has high expectations for their audio-visual experience. Digital special effects have enhanced the film experience, but are far too expensive for the “indie film producer” to entertain. Independent films are celebrated because of their innovative low-cost solutions, while putting out a noteworthy product. TV screen writers take note. You must pitch economy and value of the production- not just a story.
The music industry has suffered tremendous losses. Everyone knows about illegal downloading of music so I will not bother delving into it here. The album market is in its death throes. The single song download means the record company only receives 10% of the revenues they once did, and they now have only 10% of what they are accustomed to keeping in the bank. Sure there are some artists who can get as many as three singles from ten songs but they are rare. The record companies just do not spend money like they once did.
They are in SURVIVAL MODE.
They have battened down the hatches to ride out the storm by cutting back everywhere. There are few new signings, few sponsored tours, layoffs, and restructuring throughout every aspect of the once rich industry. The “indie music scene” has an abundance of talented players and performers, but continually pumps out badly recorded, badly engineered, badly mixed, and badly mastered products, and they wonder why they cannot sell it beyond their core fans. Additionally, the sheer volume of indie artists producing crap on “home studio” gear, do nothing but create “noise” which masks the true talent that is out there.
I could almost copy and paste the above paragraph and just substitute out a few words here and there, but I will earn my pay.
Authors are not rock or pop stars. They never have been. Their earnings are rarely even close. J. K. Rowling might be the only exception these days, and if we take away her movie deals, even she would not be close. We sell books, e-books and audio books. J. K. may get an appearance fee here and there, but nothing compared to a top music act on tour.
In essence we have ONE REVENUE STREAM. We sell words. We do not perform those words. This is why the publishing industry has never been as rich as the music industry. More people in North America buy music than buy books, by quite a large margin. The book publishing industry is MUCH SMALLER than the music industry, and it is suffering too.
How do they hedge their bets these days?
In music, the record companies have been backing proven horses for decades. Deep Purple’s Machine Head album featuring the song Smoke on the Water was not a debut album for the band, but just their North American debut. Additionally, I believe that Metallica sold something like 40,000 albums off the back of their truck, before they signed with a record company.
These were “sure things” to invest in.
The book publishers hedge their bets by narrowing their focus to textbooks and children’s books, as that is the core of their business. In other words, the least risky and most profitable. They publish fiction from well-known authors and non-fiction from celebrities and doctors- whether they can write or not. Ghost writers are often employed.
The prevailing attitude is one of “Why gamble when we can invest.”
They are playing it safe.
The MEGA-PUBLISHERS have streamlined their operations and craftily removed all the query reading by having an AGENTS ONLY SUBMISSIONS policy putting the job of screening out all the crap squarely on the literary agents; and crap there is. The big name players reduce their risk further by LIMITING NEW UNPUBLISHED AUTHORS TO 10% of their yearly offering to the book-buying market.
I have recently seen a plethora of $1.00 or even FREE e-books primarily in the fiction genre. They had bad covers; bad interiors, bad editing, and some even featured bad writing. They had next to no publicity, no reviews, no press, and the “indie author” wonders why there have not been any sales. It is very sad these authors have become so desperate to get noticed that they will give away their work, but the cause is “indie publishing” where ALL THE RISK AND ALL THE COSTS ARE INCURRED BY THE AUTHOR.
The major publishing houses own some of these so-called “indie” publishing houses, so do not think you are a true “indie author” until you know everyone who is sharing your money. There is an opportunity to be “discovered” with one of these affiliated “indie publishers” if the editor loves your book. It could get “kicked upstairs” so to speak, and you may have to go scrambling for an agent to deal with a publishing offer. This is rare.
I can create a respectable e-book these days without the need of an editor, publisher, cover designer, social media team, sales team, warehouse, merchandiser, promotions department or publicist. I can send a PDF out for conversion to Kindle and place that on a server and start selling books next week for $9.95 and I will make about $5.00 a book.
Sounds great but it is doubtful that anyone will ever find it.
At a book a day, I would expect an average yearly income of $1825.00. I cannot retire on this.
Question: So how do we sell more books?
This does not mean giving your product away for $1.00 or even for free. It means you must create interest in YOURSELF as a writer, in order for people to become interested in your book.
You must BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with magazine and news editors, publishers, the media, bloggers, tweeters, people on social media site,s and people on relevant association sites. You must have reviews and be EASILY FOUND on the web through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) categorization and tagging techniques. You must appear as though you are capable of being put in a chair across from Oprah without embarrassing either yourself or the publisher. The publishing industry refers to all these self-promotion activities as being part of your PLATFORM.
Question: Can E. A. Barker instruct you as to exactly how to do all of this?
Answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT! (Some of it maybe.)
At the beginning of this blog, I said I would tell you everything I know. I do not know everything yet, but I LEARN about each area every day by WORKING AT IT. After 30 days of massive frustration with Facebook, I finally conquered it. I was able to take what I learned to WordPress, and in less than a week I had it doing what I wanted. I took those combined lessons to the AiA site, and had a nice page in less than a day.
The more KNOWLEDGEABLE you become- the better and faster you become. Your skills are honed and you work like a well oiled machine.
YOU ARE PAYING YOUR DUES!
Hype aside, here is where I really am after 18 MONTHS OF EFFORT and usually WORKING 7 DAYS A WEEK on it:
√ Alpha readers: Very positive feedback so far. (Surprisingly)
√ Pitching Publishers directly: Only one request for chapters from a sketchy publisher.
√ Pitching Agents: 7 still out there who have not said no.
Website: URL only so far. No time or money for this at present.
Amazon store: after the website, promo goods and book is in print.
2 rounds of revisions remain with the publisher for the interior.
Promotional products for sale: not until site is up.
√Daily Tweets: but have yet to get a handle on building followers.
√Weekly Blogs: but have yet to get a handle on building followers.
√Sneak Peek of book on-line
Monthly e-mail blasts: This will soon be a reality.
YouTube book trailer: Time and money again. I refuse to put up phone-made crap.
Facebook Author page: Is new and growing steadily with some great people.
√AIA Association of Independent Authors: A minor presence there.
IndieWriteNet.com: Not yet.
FromTheAuthors.wordpress.com: Not yet.
√ The Coalition for Independent Authors
Canada Council for the Arts: Not yet.
Grants and Contests: Not yet.
12 / 25 or almost halfway to where I want to be, with WHAT I KNOW currently. Unfortunately, with each new exploration comes more stuff on your “to investigate” list, which in turn creates a larger “to do” list.
To be continued next week.
Ms. Creant: The Wrong Doers!
Life With Women: The Long-Awaited Instruction Manual.
… talks of relationships, health, life, biology, philosophy, sociology, theology- even physics, as well as the idea that CHALLENGES MUST BE MET HEAD ON.
Hug someone who needs it.
See you next week.