Ten Daring Predictions for 2012 from the Indie Author Trenches.
2011 saw great change. 2012 will bring even more. 10 predictions below.
The reality is, to thrive and not just survive, everyone in publishing must be willing to change on a dime and innovate. My background in Special Forces taught me how to do that. Also, it taught me that to succeed, I must take risks. The company isn’t called Who Dares Wins for nuthing (as we say in da’ Bronx).
What do I see for 2012 in publishing from the perspective of someone who spent two decades in traditional publishing and two years in indie publishing?
- One big thing lurking is a major trad author who goes indie, once they crunch the numbers on their royalty statements (which are still working via the Pony Express rather than the Internet) and realize their loyal readers will follow them regardless of which imprint the book is published under and how their royalty rate can skyrocket on their own. I still feel the fear coming off many authors about abandoning traditional publishing, even though trad publishing will dump them in a hearbeat if the P&L statement isn’t favorable. And gives them very lousy royalty rates and restrictive contracts to boot. Fear will kill you.
- Slow will also kill you. I’d forgotten that “I’ll get back to you next week” in traditional publishing equals “I might get back to you in a few months, but likely never” in the real world. That’s not going to cut it in the electronic age. Five years ago, when describing publishing, I’d use two terms: SLOW and TECHNOPHOBIC. Both are killers today. And they’re still damn slow. Tick-tock says the reaper.
- Agents as publishers. Yep, every agent wants to make a living and keep their clients. So they’re cobbling together some “experts” and offering services to their clients. I’m not even going to weigh in on whether it’s ethical, my issue is can they do it? Being an agent is not being a publisher. It took almost two years to get feet on the ground with Who Dares Wins Publishing. Can an agent do it? Can their clients afford to go through their growing pains and mistakes?
- Authors as publishers: ditto. I call myself indie, but in a blog post earlier this year I pointed out the term “self-publishing” is a dangerous one. I’m not self-publishing. I’ve got a company. I can’t do it all myself. I think the success stories from self-publishing will occur, but be few and far between. What will happen is agents and publishers will use self-publishing as the new slush pile, letting the author do all the work, and then scoop in. Nothing wrong with that. I think it gives authors a fairer shot by letting readers and thei authors’ own initiative and work ethic count a lot more than the vagaries of the unpaid intern reading the slush pile.
- I’m also waiting to see someone develop a system like ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) for books, marrying up the content providers with the talent to produce a finished, professional book, both print and eBook. I see a lot of start-ups sort of doing this, but their focus is more on making the author pay than making the reader pay. Money should always flow to the author, not from the author. And, ACX does something publishers are going to have to do with eBooks: Pay a sliding scale royalty. Selling more should get you rewarded. My Area 51 audio is already close to hitting the first royalty bump (starting at 50%) and it’s only been available for a couple of weeks.
- But in a case where money flows from the author, self-publishers have to realize it isn’t free. With ACX the author either decides to outright pay the talent to produce the audiobook or profit shares at 50-50. Authors have to pay for editing, for a cover (no your little sister’s drawing on your cover isn’t going to cut it), for marketing, etc. A key thing I see looming is more profit-sharing and the drawdown of the advance. This has a lot of upsides (not so much for agents): it means everyone has a stake in the success in the book. Like the old Saturday Night Live skit about lawyers: I don’t make my nickel until you make your dime. It’s the model we work on at Who Dares Wins Publishing. Also, profit sharing with a solid royalty rate for authors (at least 50%) gives them more motivation to promote their book.
- Pricing. While I believe in the value of the .99 eBook for getting readers, and $2.99 is a nice price for an indie, I think the real value of a novel has to be around $4.99 in eBook format. As a consultant, I’ve learned people don’t value what they get for free or for cheap. I don’t see NY lowering it’s prices much except that they will start to see the eBook as replacing the mass market paperback and price accordingly as they cut back on the bloated print overhead they no longer need.
- Royalty rates. Going back to #2 above, the 25% rate is a no go. Not with 70% lurking for indie publishing. I think 50% of gross is fair. Which brings up the dangerous term “net”. Who the hell determines that? Publishers can play games all they want with contracts and terms, but sooner or later someone is going to turn over all three of the cups instead of just one and find out they’re getting conned. I see lawsuits pending over publisher accounting for eBooks.
- Those who don’t “get it” will be gone. I just moved to Chapel Hill, NC and on US 15/501 near the intersection with I-40 is a large Lowes. With a large, empty Borders building in front of it. I see major changes coming at large publishers as they shift from their traditional way of doing things to the new way. An issue few discuss is the fact there are people inside those companies actually fighting change for the better, because they know their very job is threatened. While this is a normal human reaction, it’s costing the publishers, agents, and authors a lot.
- I attended Storyworld in San Francisco this year and it was all about transmedia. What fascinates me about this is that I heard the old way of doing transmedia is to start with the book, then transform into games, movies, shows, etc. etc. Yet I never heard the word transmedia from a single agent, editor or publisher in all my years in the business. Gale Anne Hurd just optioned Area 51—unfortunately the wrong one. The nonfiction bestseller, that my fiction Area 51 has outsold in eBook—to make a TV series to follow her success with The Walking Dead. I suppose that’s transmedia. What I think should happen, but might not really happen, is to bring the creative types from the various media platforms together at the idea stage and then branch out transmedia from that. Develop stories unique the medium with the same idea. Not try to develop a story from a story. If you understand this, you understand how story develops out of idea.
2012 promises to an interesting year and the bottom line for authors is to Write It Forward!
Posted on December 26, 2011, in Write It forward and tagged Bob Mayer, E-book, ePublishing, Future, Publishing, Self-Publishing, Write It Forward, Writer Resources. Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.