Mark Terry

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Dear Writers

July 5, 2011
Dear Writers,
I know that the ebook self-publishing trend has been a great thing for you. Your out-of-print backlist is now live and in many cases bringing you well-deserved income. Also, you were able to write more than one book a year, but your publisher wasn't interested in publishing them, especially if they were outside your "brand" genre. As a result, you have suddenly e-published about 10 books in the last year.

Now, as a reader, I generally like to read all the books my favorite authors write, even if they're outside the genre.

However, I have discovered that I have significantly more books on my Kindle than I have time to read, and you keep publishing books, which I have somewhat limited funds to purchase.

In other words, although I am trying to be loyal to you, you're overwhelming me with product and I feel a need to become more selective about what I purchase. Some of you, for sure, I intend to buy everything you write. Some of you, well, you've heard the phrase "cull the heard?" Yup. It's a gamble, I know.

Sorry. Hope you have a nice day.

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

There is a question of whether ebook sales will continue at the same level after the initial boom of people buying reading devices and filling them levels off. And, yeah, even if you like an author how many books by one author are people willing to buy? More reasons why I have no idea what to make of ebooks but suspect it will not change book publishing for as many authors as people seem to think.The basic problems are going to remain. You are still competing with an enormous number of authors to get readers' attention and then to hold it. No matter how easy it might be to self-publish those problems remain and may, in fact, worsen due to so many people self-publishing making the competition for attention even worse.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'm willing to admit that my crystal ball is cloudy on this subject and, in fact, that the part of me that periodically gets paid to write market research reports and analyze and report and predict market trends finds that many of the people who are shouting the loudest and most confidently on the subject also seem to have the most to protect without necessarily presenting the whole data picture. It's fine to present 20 or 50 or even 150 self-pubbed authors making lots of money, but Smashwords just sent me an email today indicating they had "published" 6000 novels in the last month! So even 150 successful e-book authors represents a minuscule fraction of e-book authors.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Pseudie has old stuff with not-so-great covers, from way back when e-publishing was new. Since those old books suck, I've told my publisher that I love the covers, and there's no need to update them. I don't want a reader's first experience of me to be those books! LOL! I'm hoping readers will just select the good-cover books.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I don't like all my covers, actually, and someday will probably replace a couple of them, but these things cost money and it's hard for me to justify it at the moment. And I've been thinking a lot about what my time should be worth, so if I'm spending 1/8th of my business time on something that's only responsible for about 1/80th of my income (or less, considering expenses), then maybe I should re-evaluate. If it's really, really enjoyable, okay, but if I think it's a headache or irritating me, re-evaluate.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Robert Carraher said...

I thin k i am familiar with this sentiment. I suddenly am overwhelmed with requests to read and review everything! Now, as an avid and voracious reader this sounds like heaven, but really how many reviews in a calander month can my review blog support by the same author(s) without it appearing as if I am pimping books? And now publishing houses are starting to send me books and my reading list is now set, in order, with time limits and due dates until winter! I think I need a real job....

11:54 PM  
Blogger Mark Boss said...

Mark, you have an excellent point here. The good news is that I only have one book out on Kindle/Nook.

(The bad news is that I'm working on two more.)


2:25 PM  
Blogger Mark Asher said...

My guess is we'll continue to see rising ebook revenue as readers switch from paper to ebook, but overall spending on books won't rise dramatically.

That means at some point the rise in ebook revenue will flatten as the ebook reader market reaches maturity.

At that point the revenue per book from sales may diminish for the majority of writers as more and more books are published and remain on sale, unlike the old bookstore model where they would get pulled from the shelves after a period of time.

The top 10-15% writers will continue to do well, but the rest may struggle with reduced revenue. That reduced revenue may still be higher than what they are making today, though, after the ebook market has expanded.

Just my two cents.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Mark A,
I'm inclined to agree with you. Some of the projections I see from currently successful e-book authors seem to suggest the growth will continue for a long time, but I think they're being wildly overoptimistic. I'm also waiting for a certain backlash.

One recent poll found that most eReader buyers were women, while most tablet buyers were men. Additional surveys have found that most people don't use tablets as reading devices.

Sometimes I read articles talking about the growth of ereading devices that include tablets and to me that creates a really distorted view of the e-reading market.

Also, although I'm not really pessimistic on this front, I'm just skeptical of anything that shows anything greater than, say, 12 or 15% growth. In my experience analyzing the clinical diagnostics market, where some companies show growth of 150% a year, that's not sustainable, it's just a sign of new companies exploding into an open market. Once they "mature" their growth tends to be in the 8 or 9 or 10% range.

At the moment e-readers and e-books are showing 150% and things like that and it's just plain naive to think that will continue for more than a few years. And contrary to what some people say, I don't think EVERYBODY'S going to want an e-reader. For the person who reads one or two books a year, primarily when they're on vacation or that they received at Christmas, I just can't imagine them wanting to justify the expense of an e-reader.

I personally suspect - without any numbers to base it on, just a gut feeling based on experience - is we'll see explosive growth for a couple more years in which paper sales drop, then the market will reach some level of saturation. Some e-reader owners will decide they're not as fond of e-readers as they thought and will want paper. (After all, the book doesn't require electricity!)

But I seriously doubt that e-readers are going to lead to an increase in reading in general.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Mark Asher said...

I think if the market follows simple economics, something has to give.

If you take it as a given that at some point the growth in ebook revenue will flatten as the market becomes mature, then what we will have is a situation where demand isn't increasing yet the supply of ebooks is. And since older ebooks will still be for sale, the supply will keep increasing month after month.

What happens when there's an oversupply? Prices go down. Another thing that happens is that some of the suppliers go out of business -- I think in this case that would mean writers who wrote a book or two and saw meager sales will give up and not write anything else.

It could be a weird situation because even if someone gives up writing, he may continue to leave his books up for sale. Further, we have a massive backlog of books from the 20th century that are not available in ebook form. Many of those probably will be converted into ebooks. Think of all the pulp magazine stories out of copyright because copyrights weren't renewed. Someone is going to figure out a way to get that stuff into ebook form.

It's not all that hard to imagine a time in the not too distant future when there may be ten million ebooks for sale, many of them at $0.99.

It's anybody's guess as to what that will mean to individual writers. It's an exciting time, but it's easy to see some icebergs just below the surface.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think you're right. And I think because e-books and e-readers are basically new products, we're seeing fairly atypical buying behavior that some writers and pundits aren't necessarily taking into account.

For instance, when you buy a new e-reader, you typically go out and buy a bunch of books. I did. A friend of my wife's who is in her early 60s bought a Kindle on our recommendation and says she's buying more books than ever.

My response is, But for how long? Because at some point you get 30 e-books on your reader that you haven't gotten to and it's easier to forget they're there than on your shelf (I've got books on my shelf I haven't read yet, either).

For me - and I don't know if I'm typical, but I may be in this regard - I'm moving away from hearing about a book that sounds interesting and buying it on my Kindle instantly, to grabbing the free sample and getting around to it when I have time. So I'm no longer buying on impulse, I'm using the free samples as a reminder that in the future when I'm looking for something to read, I MIGHT look at this book. And I am anecdotally hearing of more and more readers doing the same thing.

And I would guess that when the batteries die your dog eats it or it gets lost or you drop it in the water somewhere (toilet, beach, bathtub, swimming pool, hot tub), and assuming you replace it (I would guess most will, but some will not), you're not going to go on a buying spree, you're going to update your files and move on.

And your point about legacy books - all those formerly out of print books or literary works that you could only find by going to a library or by haunting used bookstores (James Reasoner is always running a "forgotten books" column on his blog) - could potentially hurt the new author market. My guess is you're going to always have blockbuster authors, and there are definitely better odds of success now for a self-published e-book author, but that doesn't mean that the odds are great.

12:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home