PD Martin's Blog

March 22, 2011

Is the book world going mad…or moving with the times?

Filed under: Getting published,Writing — Tags: , , , , — PD Martin @ 8:50 am

Everything seems to be changing in the book world. Of course, ebooks aren’t new. In fact, for a few years now people have been predicting that print books will become obsolete as the new medium for story-telling takes over – ebooks/e-readers. And yet, it hasn’t quite happened.

So what is the current status of ebooks? For this blog I went searching for some stats. Unfortunately Aussie stats seemed harder to come by*, but The Association of American Publishers said that ebook sales from January 2010 to January 2011 had increased by 115.8%, from $32.4 million to $69.9 million. If my book sales (ebook or print) went up by 115.8% I’d be pretty damned happy!

Of course, no ONE person benefits from the massive increase, although there have been many success stories hitting the news. Amanda Hocking is one. According to Novelr, Amanda Hocking sells 100,000+ copies of her nine self-published ebooks per month.

Then there’s J.A. Konrath, who in the past has combined traditional print sales with self-publishing to make a living as a novelist. However, in a December 2010 blog, Konrath said he’d changed his mind about the need to be published by one of the big publishing houses and was recommending self-publishing all the way. It was also as his ebook sales hit 1,000 a day!

And this week, there was another attention-getting headline: American author Barry Eisler turned down a $500,000 advance for two books (sounds even more dramatic when you say half a million), opting to self-publish instead. In an interview with the one and only JA Konrath, Eisler said: “I know it’ll seem crazy to a lot of people, but based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers…are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.”  You can read the full interview for more information.

My main concern with self-publishing (whether it’s a print book or an ebook) is an editorial one. I recently picked up a book (print) and was only about ten pages in when the major point of view (POV) problems annoyed me to the point where I put the book down. I very, very rarely put a book aside, but in this case I couldn’t continue reading. It was simply “wrong” — confusing omniscient POV with third person POV and switching within a paragraph and sometimes even within a sentence. At this point I wondered who (publisher) had published a novel with such major problems…and that’s when I realised it was a self-published book. If the author did get the book edited, it was probably by a friend rather than a qualified editor. J.A Konrath, who is known as a bit of a guru in self-publishing and ebooks, talks about the importance of paying for a good cover design and formatting. I’d add the need to pay a good editor, particularly for authors who haven’t been published before. To put it in context, I’m a published author with five published novels behind me…and when I wrote an ebook in 2009/2010, I paid a professional editor.  I’m not naive or conceited enough to think my prose is perfect! By the way, Coming Home is only available as a FREE book until 31 March. I’m inspired enough by these stories that I’ve decided to sell it on Amazon and Smashwords for US$2.99 instead of giving it away! So if you haven’t downloaded it yet, pop by my website in the next 9 days.

Where to from here?

It’s hard to say if ebook sales will again jump by 115% or similar from January 2011 to January 2012, but ebook sales certainly seems to be in an upward trend. And it’s a trend that’s leaving traditional publishers (and agents for that matter) in a bit of a spin. Since hearing of Barry Eisler’s news a couple of days ago, I can’t help but wonder what his agent and publisher are saying! The publisher has lost two new novels, obviously expected to sell well if they were willing to offer such a large advance, and the agent has lost his 15%.

*Note: By harder to come by, I mean I didn’t want to PAY for the information (I’m frugal/cheap) and I didn’t want to spend hours looking (I’m lazy/time-poor).

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