In a follow-up to my last post containing some thoughts on eBooks, I’d like to discuss two additional recent articles I’ve come across relevant to the topic.
The first is a blog post by Lee Goldberg that asks the question “But what about the content?” In many discussions by eBook proponents we hear a lot about how self-publishing via eBook can be both personally liberating and financially rewarding, but we don’t hear enough folks concentrating on the content of eBooks so much as marketing them. That’s a fair criticism, but I think that the need to write a good book that can be marketed and sold as an eBook almost goes without saying. I haven’t heard anyone suggest that a crappy book will make the author a mint, if only it were packaged and sold as an eBook. Goldberg’s concern that precipitated his post is a very real one though, and one worth thinking about.
Last post, I talked a little about the “Gatekeeper” function that traditional publishers serve (for good and for ill), and I see this Gatekeeper function being taken over by the community of readers for eBooks. That has the potential to “democratize” the entire industry, and that’s probably a good thing. I like that basically by cutting out the traditional publishers and retail outlets, who each get a cut of the revenue as middle men, authors make more money and readers pay less. They buy eBooks, review them — and this is critical — thereby telling other readers what they liked and what they didn’t like. Good eBooks will garner good reviews and those will precipitate more sales. The cream will rise to the top. The opposite will happen to crappy books. That’s pretty cool, assuming it works. I don’t see why it won’t, but it is predicated on prospective readers seeking out multiple book reviews of eBooks they’re interested in, and it’s obviously dependent on other readers to honestly and diligently post reviews (on Amazon, blogs like this one, etc.) I think that there may be a coming author/eBook glut, and I think we’re currently in a kind of “Wild West” / “Gold Rush” period where a bunch of authors can make a killing on eBooks if they are savvy marketers. Sure, many of them may be producing crap, but it’s relatively easy to ferret that out, and I think the market will take of that problem for the most part (eventually).
Amanda Hocking — essentially the most successful self-published eBook author of all time — has, interestingly, just landed a $2 million advance for four books that will be traditionally published. The last line of that article sums up why she went this route: “I want to be a writer,” she said. “I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.” I think her traditional publisher will provide her with some very valuable editing functions and will help her get her name out there into bookstores. Not everyone lives online, and not everyone wants to buy eBooks. I have no doubt that this move will also, ultimately, increase her eBook sales of her other titles that won’t be sold by the new publisher. It’s a win-win. But she only got this deal, keep in mind, because she went the eBook route in the first place. And she can always end the arrangement down the road if it doesn’t work out. Good for her.