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  1. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    The fallen piano of bad news (And those who were crushed beneath it)

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by tcol4417, May 29, 2011.

    It's a ubiquitous practice that whenever someone asks "How do I convince people to publish my book?" the response is "Write well", but I'm not sure that such an attitude is good enough. Recent developments lead me to believe that the big publishing houses are a sinking ship and certain distributors have been the first casualties.

    So borders has - for a multitude of reasons - filed for bankruptcy protection and while I have little financial expertise, I'm taking this as a bad sign.

    While a few sources I've checked out blame poor business practices such as overexpansion, outsourcing of core functions and putting people in charge with little to no bookselling expertise, one of the big things that has come up is the availability of the eBook.

    Digital distribution and online purchasing is becoming an increasingly big deal. I work the retail floor and every day the company I work for is losing money matching online prices: Prices substantially lower because they don't have to factor the same costs as a store front. Games and movies are also becoming increasingly infeasible for retail outlets because there's no point in paying $35 for a disc off the shelf when you can pay $25 on iTunes.

    This is why Gamestop tried to sue digital distributors: Because once DD becomes mainstream, the brick and mortar pawnshops they run will essentially become obsolete.

    Now I'm all for the shift in medium: DD is good news for publishers and authors alike because it reduces the printing and publishing costs to near zero. HOWEVER, right now publishers have been left out in the cold with an IOU for millions of dollars, and mid-list authors who only barely scrape a profit when the getting's good are going to be given the boot as publishers become increasingly risk-averse, much like Hollywood and AAA game companies.

    The question is: Given the inevitable change in the way books will be bought in the future and given the already turbulent times distribution giants like Borders are and will be going through, is there any point in writing for paper publishing?

    If so, how long will it last? As a new author, I want my books to be published but I know that publishers are only interested in the bottom line. To that end, what hope do I have of getting my book on the shelf, given the likelihood of turning a profit?

    If not, how do I go about getting my book published digitally? I've seen a lot of threads here about agents and publishers, but a change in the medium will almost certainly mean a change in the system because of the changes I mentioned above.

    I personally would like to ride the digital walrus under these circumstances, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on if, when and how it should be done.
     
  2. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, there are publishers for digital books. There's also the option of self-publishing and giving away free copies to generate interest. If someone wouldn't have heard of your book anyway, there's no loss in giving away a free digital copy.
     
  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Ah yes, here we go again. I fail to see the relevance. Do we honestly think that the big publishing houses are unable to keep up? To adjust to the shift in medium? If that is the argument I'm going to have to ask you to back it up. If I look on my kindle right now most of the current bestsellers are available for me to buy. I can have them transferred to my kindle in less than 10 seconds and they were published by all of those big printing houses. Obviously, they're doing alright aren't they? It's not as if you get published by a printing house and now you won't be read because they don't understand how to market your book, to the contrary, they're doing just fine. Have they had to modify the way they do business? I'm sure they have, but I'm unconcerned.

    They will continue to do as they have always done and publish the works they deem worthy. I can get new releases and pre-order and in some cases I can even get the book before it's in the stores. But the books are cheaper you'll say! So is the overhead for those editions because they're in digital format.

    So basically, the argument is pointless. "Paper Publishers" publish digital editions as well and you can't close them up in that box. They just don't fit.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen commentary in the industry that eBooks are going to hurt mid-list authors in terms of traditional sales. Not sure whether there are any real numbers on that or not.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not following your argument here. It's not as if e-books are being _written_ by computers. They still require authors, agents, editors, illustrators, designers, marketers, and so on. I agree that brick-and-mortar bookstores may have a great deal to worry about, but I don't see any obvious way that e-books should affect the prospects for authors.

    ChickenFreak
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as i see it, the advent of e-books and e-reading devices will only be a problem for writers if the books sold that way are priced way below the paper versions and the same royalty system remains in place as now determines the size of the author's slice of the pie...
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Yes, because of the accessibility of e-books, you don't have to write as well anymore! Errr, what? What did writing well even have to do with your argument? lol If anything, there's more competition than ever, so you'll have to write better than ever, as literally anyone who wants can now published, and in a medium increasingly showing the ability for random, breakout authors.

    But yeah, not worried. If your claim is in fact true that print publishers only care about the bottom line (I know, I know, they're just so darn evil, all of the, right?), then it's foolish to think they won't follow the money. Most of them are now offering e-publishing, and in many cases with all the same support and backing, but far less overhead with printing and distribution, thus actually increasing the number of authors they're willing to give a shot to.

    Though, the ugly side of it is also how easy it then makes legit publishers turn to vanity publishing, as well, allowing people to essentially self-e-publish but with a publishers logo attached... for a fee, of course.

    It's murky, but [perhaps sadly] the big publishing houses will be just fine.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    How do we make the leap from Borders filing for bankruptcy to publishing houses not keeping up with the times? Borders is a distributor separate from publishing houses, and as the OP notes, there were multiple reasons for the bankruptcy. Digital media may be a problem for retailers, but I think that internet-based booksellers (read: Amazon) are a much bigger factor.

    Which is not to say that publishers won't need to be agile to keep up. But regardless of the media in which one reads good writing, there still needs to be good writing to read.
     
  9. Enerzeal
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    Enerzeal Member

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    In this day and age take it with a grain of salt when any company files for bankruptcy protection. Companies are covering there backs, or are losing income for a variety of reasons not specifically peoples choice of e-books over paper books.

    The vast majority of people I speak to agree that e-books are no substitute for a real book. I recently purchased an e-book because it was a few pounds cheaper than the paper book and to be honest, I was looking to read it right then, as if I had the time to wait I would of happily grabbed it on paper even factoring in the price difference.

    The comparison to games and music doesn't really work either because they are enjoyed electronically. The disks and boxes are just a storage issue, digitally obtained media is easier to pick up as well as the wait is only as long as the download bar.
     
  10. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    I think of it this way - stores like Blockbuster started going out of business (thanks to companies like Netflix, movies can now be watched streaming online without having to go to the store and pick up the DVD). It doesn't mean that the movies are being watched any less, they're just being watched in a different way. Same goes for e-books.
     
  11. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    There's no doubt that e-books are the way of the future, Amazon I believe just announced that their e-book sales outstrippe their paper sales for the first time. But publishers and agents can still be involved. The change in media doesn't remove players, it just means they have to change their game a little.

    At the same time e-books do give self publishers an opportunity they might not have had previously - I speak as one of them. But ultimately if you want to do well, you have to write well. Speaking only for the kindle stuff since its the only one I know, customers have a seven day right of return. Now if your books not good, even with the best marketing campaign in the world, a mesmerising cover, a blurb from heaven and really hot reviews, you are going to start seeing books being returned and bad reviews warning others off.

    Cheers.
     
  12. Jewels
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    Jewels Member

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    I haven't heard of the 7 day return policy before for ebooks and I find it a bit strange considering that most books can easily be read in that time frame. I don't doubt that there are many, many people who take advantage of this to never buy a book again!

    The biggest issue for publishers is copying which means that only one person has to buy a book that can be copied unlimited times. This is completely different to a paper book which can only be read by one person at a time.
     
  13. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Jewels,

    This is a cut and paste of the Amazon policy on refunding e-books.

    Returning Kindle Content
    Any content you purchase for Kindle from the Kindle Store is eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within 7 days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you will no longer have access to the item. To request a refund and return, click the Customer Service button in the Contact Us box in the right-hand column of this page to reach us via phone or e-mail. Please make sure to include the title of the item you wish to return in your request.



    As for how many do it, I can say that I've only had one item refunded, so that's less then one percent. It doesn't seem to be a major issue for me at least so far.

    Cheers.
     

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