Monday, 19 September 2011

Ebooks . . . A Contemporary "David and Goliath"

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.           - Stephen Fry

But has Stephen Fry seen the research on this anomaly?

This is a sad day for all who love books.  It was announced that our beloved Borders would close forever on Sunday, September 18, 2011.  Rumors were flying like locust, but the starkness of the situation was a jarring reality. It's happened!!

Ebooks are now being viewed as the new bully on the block as they push forward toppling the mega-booksellers in their wake.  Much like these same establishments buried the small bookstores of the past, which was the premise for the movie, "You've Got Mail" . . . if you remember.
Last week, a member of SheWrites brought an article to our attention.  This article noted a decline in the sale of adult paperbooks of 64%, whereas the increase in Ebook sales was 162%.  These figures are staggering!!

Technology has proven Ebooks are here to stay.  We must adapt our writing careers with this in mind.  The entire publishing world is changing like a giant Transformer . . . and no one knows for sure what it will look like in the end.

(Note: Much of this information has been drawn from the article listed below with the author's written permission.)

"I believe there will be a war between the writers who want agents and traditional publishers to "take care of them" and indie writers who want to control their own careers."    - Barry Eisler

Another article mentioned that some publishers attempt to slow the transition from paper to digital by holding back the Ebook release date, or they may authorize insanely high Ebook prices.  

We're the writers.  We provide the content that is printed and distributed. 
For hundreds of years, writers couldn't reach readers without publishers.  We needed them.  Suddenly, we don't.  Publishers don't seem to be taking this into account.

It appears that most publishers offer 25% royalty on ebooks, which equates to 14.9% to the writer after everyone gets their cut.  Now consider there's virtually no cost to creating Ebooks . . . no cost for paper, no shipping charges, no warehousing.  No cut for Ingram or Baker & Taylor.  Yet they're keeping 52.5% of the list price and offering only 17.5% to the author.  Does this seem right?

NYT best seller Barry Eisler turns down $500,000 advance in favor of Self-Publishing.

I mentioned this same article in last week's blog.  I don't know how many of you found the time to read it, but please do your career this favor.  GoogleEbooks and Self-Publishing - A dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath."  It's a MUST READ for anyone ready to publish their work.  The article is extensive, but worth the time . . . then decide for yourself.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.    - C.S. Lewis

I'm a new kid on the block.  I've spent sixteen years writing my memoir, my first book, and my journey into publishing has opened my eyes to a world I was unfamiliar with.  In my other life, I worked as a Sr. Buyer in Aerospace and Electronic manufacturing, both on an international basis.  That is, until these companies moved overseas in order to increase their bottom-line profit.  Was this fair?  Not for me . . . and the thousands of other displaced workers left behind without jobs in America.  But it too happened . . .

And it taught me a valuable lesson . . . LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.  In essence, do your research!! 

 "Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn."   -  C.S. Lewis

My original plan was to query agents for one year . . . until November.  Then move into self-publishing, if I wasn't picked up by an agent.  Little did I know what was happening behind the scenes . . .

The explosion of the Internet gives writers the opportunity to do tremendous online promoting: blogs, social networking, chatrooms . . . and now with digital books, there's no more profitable use of an author's time than writing . . . traveling and book tours may become passe.

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.   - John Steinbeck

Ask yourself this question . . . Are you writing for pleasure or money?
Personally, I love to write!  The entire process makes me feel complete, doing what I was born to do.  But it's hard work!  Most people hold a 9 to 5 job, Monday through Friday, where they collect a paycheck for their time and productivity. Writing should be no different . . . but it is! We work in isolation, sometimes for years, creating a piece of work from our very soul that hopefully will touch others. And we too would like to be paid for our work . . . I know I would.

I think Henry Miller has had huge influence not because he wrote about sex, but because the memoir or the nonfiction novel has become such a monumental force in American publishing, if not in literature.       - Leslie Fiedler
There are two major differences between virtual shelves and physical shelves.
  • A virtual shelf is infinite.  A bookstore has a limited amount of space.  Books are crammed spine out, and copies are limited.  A virtual shelf, like Amazon or Smashwords, carries all titles, all the time.
  •  A virtual shelf is forever.  In a bookstore, you have anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to sell your title, and then it gets returned.  A big waste of money. 
But Ebooks are forever.  Once they're live, they will sell for decades.  Someday, long after we are gone, our grandchildren may be getting our royalties.  Forever is a long time to earn royalties!

If you're thinking about Self-Publishing, be sure your manuscript has been refined to perfection, as you would do when submitting to an agent.   

You can make 70% self-publishing!  You can set your own price.  There are reams of data what show how ebooks under $5 vastly outsell those priced higher.  This is a critical point.  Digital books are a price-sensitive market, and it appears maximum revenues are achieved at a price point between $.99 and $4.99.  You set the price, but keep this in mind.  You can always lower it later . . . have an international sale!

Lessons learned . . . my two cents 

If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food.  Write about the foods you love most.  Be specific. Details.  Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it? 
  - Natalie Goldberg

Think of "Julie and Julia". . . one of my  most favorite and delicious movies!  This movie taught me how to cook mushrooms to taste like succulent bites of fillet mignon.  The secret?  Butter and . . . "don't crowd the mushrooms!"
Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!

Welcome!! I'm so happy you stopped by during Blogger Ball #7.

My name is Nancy MacMillan, and my blog is My Uncharted Journey into Publishing My First Book, a memoir, Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  My blog shares the steps I'm taking towards publishing and what I'm learning along the way, which I share weekly with others.  My first blog on April 9th, In The Beginning, sets the stage . . .

Please share your thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment  listed below in red, and include a link to your blog.  I'll visit and comment as soon as possible, I promise!  Then double-click on the bookshelves to return to SheWrites.  And please visit again. 


  1. Hi, Nancy, I'm stopping by for the ball. I'm no stranger to your blog. I'm not sure what will happen with the future of books. Personally I hope there is always room for different forms of books. I don't ever want to see print books die though. I love the feel of a book in my hand. And while I enjoy my Kindle, it's just not the same.

  2. Kelly, I feel the same way you do about a "real book." I don't own a Kindle yet. I love my books on their shelves, they're friends. To pick one up in the middle of the night when I can't sleep, or when I'm sick. We can't stop progress, but I believe paperbooks will stay, too many love them. And maybe small quaint bookstores will rise again. Wouldn't that be amazing? And thanks, Kelly, for coming by.

  3. Hi Nancy - good to *see* you again :)
    I loved how you said the industry is evolving like a Transformer, but that nobody know how it will turn out. That's what I find most interesting about the most vocal proponents on both sides of the publishing (trad vs. self) issue; they know FOR CERTAIN that what they're doing is right in terms of where the industry is going. IMHO, they need to be focusing on doing what is right for them right now :)

  4. Hi Nancy,
    This isn't my first visit to your site, but it is the first comment. You have a talent for making complicated issues sound less daunting - like self-publishing. I suppose we should see this as the glass half-full. Glad to find you - again - at the 'ball'!

  5. Shelley, I'm happy you stopped by again. This is indeed like a "Stranger in a Strange Land." I'm sure publishers are reeling, and I do hope they find a place that is right for them. But they must be willing to change with the times. We all must. :)

  6. Nancy,
    Thanks for sharing all your info! The more I read, the more I think self-publishing makes sense--at least for the book I'm writing, which would be quite expensive for a publisher to produce. As an aside--I have a friend who is creating ebooks that include interactive maps, videos and all sorts of bells and whistles. The publishing world is definitely changing and a new generation is embracing it. Now we just have to try to get excited about it too. I'm still a HUGE fan of books which I can hold in my hands, feel the texture of the pages, and the smell of the ink. If they could just add that the Kindle or Ipad! : ) Keep up the great work on your blog. It's a treat every time I see a new post!

  7. Oh, Renee, where are you?? I'm thrilled you left a comment, and that I seem to demistify your apprehensions. I love sharing what I've researched and learned. Only wish you would have left your blog address to visit. Guess I have to go thru all the rest to find you . . . may take a while but I'm on a mission. :)

  8. In some ways I'm very frustrated that I went assisted self-publishing (iUniverse) for my first two books--partly because they will not let me set my own e-book price. They want to set $9.95 which in my opinion is too high --$7 at most (less than mass market paperbacks in my genre.) I got them to bring the e-book price on Homecoming down once, but they promptly put it back up again.
    The main problem with self-publishing is getting exposure. People who've read my books are enthusiastic, but most people have never heard of them.
    Ah, well--I'm visiting on the blog ball. Drop by and say hello, though my blog ball post is now a couple of posts down.

  9. Becky, I am always delighted when you stop by:) Again, I'm honored to share what I learn. We're both riding the precipice of this new world, head swimming, eyes glazed as we tiptoe forward. So many choices! A huge chunk of life has gone into each of our books - we must choose wisely. Paper books are like treasures, not only for the reader who loves them, but for the author.

  10. Hi. Thanks for stopping by and giving me the opportunity to stop by yours. I'll definitely be back!

  11. Call me old fashioned, but I still think this phenom of e-books and Kindles are a fad. Already many are seeing the rather substantial drawbacks of purchasing a book they cannot share with others, pass around, or keep for years. You download enough books, you will eventually have to delete some to make room for others, right? Also, many true bookaholics like me will still hunger for a true library of paperbacks and hardcover books on their shelves. Even if it's not a fad, I still can't see books disappearing. If they do, then the world will become an empty, cold place indeed.
    Yep...old fashioned, that's me.

  12. I think Stephen Fry's comment is correct insofar as he means there'll always be books. But indeed, e-Books are a competitor. I began to take this seriously when my first self-published book began to sell 100 copies a week on UK kindle. Like you noted, it is something we all have to consider.

  13. Hi S.L., So glad you stopped by. I do believe
    e-books are here to stay, but paperbooks are loved by too many to disappear. POD should always be an option, unless they become cost prohibitive. Remember when foreign cars began appearing in the states? They didn't go away. I truly hope paperbooks will continue to delight us who cherish our beloved bookshelves. Nothing wrong with old-fashioned.

  14. D.J. - You joined my blog, I'm honored. I so respect your work, though sometimes too rushed to leave a message.

  15. Myne, Great comment! And terrific information to learn your "1st self-published book began to sell 100 copies a week on UK Kindle!" Congratulations!! I love personal testimonies like yours, it's an inspiration to all writers!

  16. I wasn't blogdancing.. and not stranger to your blog.. I quite enjoy stopping by here and learning about your journey.. sisters in kind on the same journey