To modify a line from Jeff Bezos: “Your fear is my opportunity.” And I wish it weren’t so. I’d rather not have my opportunity than what results from your fear. I mean that. I’m really torn about this.
The things I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.
As a writer, I’m out of my mind to advocate for these things. My colleague Russell Blake, whom I greatly admire, thinks self-published authors should shut up and stop handing out free advice. And he’s right. Why should we fight for $9.99 and lower e-book prices—where we know publishers will sell more books, get more people reading, and make more money? Their fear of low prices is my opportunity.
Kindle Unlimited launched yesterday, and publishers are slow to sign on. None have, as far as I can tell. Even the Scholastic works might be available only because Amazon is treating every “borrow” as a full-price sale. Whether it’s fear of Amazon having more market share or fear of subscription services keeping them at bay, it’s all opportunity for me and other self-published authors.
But I’m annoyed. Because I am a reader first. And I want more readers. Selfishly, as a reader, I want more readers. I want to see airports full of people staring at books, e-readers, and tablets laced with text. Not people staring at cell phones, Candy Crush, Facebook, or authors’ blogs. I want book culture everywhere. I want interactions with strangers to be about what they’ve read lately. I want my social media feed to be all about books. I’m an addict, and I want to get other people hooked. Maybe that’s a bad thing. I don’t care.
There is so much room to innovate, to get wild and crazy, to try things that have never been tried before (or to bring back things that have been lost to time). Fan fiction used to be a thing. Shakespeare made a career out of fan fiction. Publishers could create their own Kindle Worlds programs, so why don’t they?
The Halo books and Star Wars novels have shown the potential for mega universes with frequent releases. I grew up gobbling down D&D and Forgotten Realms books. Publishers have developed their own IP in the past, so why aren’t we at least experimenting with that now? Create a universe for several genres; hire the writers you want to develop stories in that universe; and enjoy ownership of the IP for decades to come. When the games, films, and merchandise take off, you own it.
Look at what Netflix is doing with original content and how it is released. What if a 12-book universe dropped on the same day? Don’t stagger them at all, just put them out there at once. What would happen? Why don’t we find out?
When the potential of self-publishing became evident, publishers could have launched their own writing platforms. They could have created a website for manuscripts. Maybe Slush.com (or whatever is close and available). Crowdsource the selection process. How many albums did American Idol sell by crowdsourcing the talent pool and selection process? Yeah, we won’t be able to get millions of people to tune in and cheer on writers . . . except Wattpad does just that. Instead, publishers got into self-publishing by signing on with Authors Solutions, a vanity press that takes advantage of aspiring writers.
A lot of self-published authors have had great success with giving away the first book in a series or the first part of a serialized novel. One of my publishers, operating out of fear, haggled with an editor over how much we should get paid for including the first part of WOOL in the sequel to a bestselling anthology. I was willing to pay money out of my own pocket to get INTO this anthology. Fear of “free” is our opportunity as self-published authors. Fear of DRM, of subscription services, of affordable prices, of print-on-demand. Fear of backlist, of promos, of competition. Fear of openness, sharing, fan fiction, communal storytelling.
All of this fear is where I make my living, and all it does is sadden me. I’d give up the former to live in a world with less of the latter.
There are countless things we could try in order to make reading hip and to grow book culture, but what we have instead is a lot of fear and the same-old. You want bookstores on every corner? Make reading as addictive as caffeine. You want to watch bookstores disappear? Keep playing it safe.
Let’s get crazy. Let’s celebrate short fiction and get big-name authors to participate. At least two short pieces a year in addition to that novel. Think of them as singles from musicians. Adele does a track for a Bond movie, and there’s extra revenue, exposure, excitement. What if JK Rowling wrote a 5,000 word short in the Harry Potter universe, but you could only get that story in the back of the new hardback by a debut author who is writing about an epic battle between fairies and dragons? So what if people copy and pirate Rowling’s story? Do it anyway.
Every debut author should be paired with a veteran who writes similar works. And their books should hit on the same day. Staggering releases away from each other is how you create boredom. The film industry makes summers all about blockbusters; the video game industry makes the Holiday break all about marathon gaming session. Where is that entire epic fantasy series that drops around graduation and becomes the must-read binge event of the summer?
Where are the writing groups and reading clubs sponsored by publishers? Where is the partnership with schools to make reading as enjoyable as possible rather than drudgery and something to avoid later in life? Where is my waterproof e-reader? Why can’t I buy John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books for something less than $10 each?
Publishers fear Google for scanning out of print books, and they fear Amazon for changing the way we read, and that fear is so disappointing. I’m a reader first. Selfishly, I want to meet readers everywhere I go. I want to laugh about bookstores on three out of four corners at a major metropolitan intersection. I want fan fiction, new worlds to explore, zero wait between books, short works that I can read over lunch, and some reliable way of discovering great new voices that will lodge in my head for life.
Technology companies are well on their way to owning book culture. The literary world is now on the west coast, not in New York. It’s not too late to compete and innovate, but it requires letting go of fear and taking big risks. It means stop watching other publishers to see what they are doing, and do what they fear doing. Be the first to leap. Take their market share. Stop worrying about a friend, colleague, and fellow CEO calling you up to ask what in the world you are thinking. Tell them, “Your fear is my opportunity.” Tell them to try and keep up. Tell them you want to see readers everywhere you look, and you aren’t going to stop trying new things until that happens.
Fortune favors the bold. Wow me. Impress me. Put me out of business. I’ll happily find a day job where I can sneak some reading in when no one’s looking.
76 replies to “Your Fear is My Opportunity”
Do you have any idea why Amazon hasn’t included its Kindle Worlds books in the KU roster? It seems odd that Amazon would put all indie authors in Select in the program but not the books they’re publishing.
It is curious. I don’t know the answer. I’d love to. Seems like a perfect fit.
Phones make for terrific reading devices. You can sneak many short reading sessions even into the busiest schedules. Phones are useful both as standalone reading devices, and in support to others such as tablets or dedicated ereaders.
Paraphrasing what photographers often say, the best reading device is the one you have with you.
Totally. My sister reads most of her books on her phone. And some bestsellers in Japan were entirely WRITTEN on cell phones!
Mobile’s going to be a huge part of the future of reading the world over. I only read on my iPhone (got rid of my iPad a few months ago because I never used it), and I do find myself preferring shorter works, or at least works that have reasonably spaced breaks (be they by scene or chapter) so I can take a breather.
I’ve read that about Japan, and I find it incredibly intriguing. I wish I knew Japanese so I could take a closer look! Personally, I’ve been writing short stories on my iPhone (on Evernote) and my longer works on my Mac (on Scrivener). I find the phone just feels like an environment with a lot less pressure, where I can write whatever I want, whereas I go into the Mac with a preset idea of how much I should write each session, etc.
Pity they don’t make a trade-sized phone for us folks gettin’ on in years. It’s hard to balance the cell phone screen between “cool, it’s not blurry” and”dang, there are only three words on the screen.”
So true, Jason. My mom is a voracious senior reader and has Parkinson’s. She has a heck of a time sometimes with the touch screens and buttons, but she perseveres. I’d like to see more devices of all kinds for seniors and people with disabilities.
Or how about an ereader phone? Someone tried one already, but if Amazon came out with a phone with an e-ink screen, it could fill a niche.
Peter Brett wrote the first and most of the second books of his Demon Cycle (Warded Man, desert Spear) books on his HP Ipaq 6515 while commuting…
What if a 12-book universe dropped on the same day?
That sounds like such a cool idea. There definitely needs to be more experimentation with books, and I do think it’s happening in indie publishing and small presses, but we don’t always see it because it’s not done by the blockbuster authors, and those books that are really different most likely have a harder time taking off because they’re not what readers are used to.
Does fear hamper us? Without doubt. Is it sometimes justified? I think so. Are publishers often far too fearful? No question. The problem I see with publishers is they try way too hard to hold on to a business model that worked well for them, instead of trying to innovate and create new business models as the old ones lose feasibility.
I always like to use the comparison of Apple. They had a huge hit with the iPod, but they didn’t stay still. They followed up with the iPhone, which started to eat into sales of the iPod, and the iPad did the same thing. But why did they do it? Because they knew the future was in the iPhone and iPad, and that the iPod was on the downswing. Would they cannibalize the market share of iPod with other products, or let another company do it?
That’s exactly what the big publishers and physical retailers let happen. Other companies, most notably Amazon, innovated where they did not, and they’re reaping the benefits instead of those traditional companies because the trads stayed still while the tech companies innovated.
Apple is a great example of competing with itself, making its own products obsolete.
This is rarely mentioned, but it isn’t obvious that Amazon should have revolutionized digital books. Their money was in shipping physical products; they didn’t have to get into e-books at all.
Imagine if Apple had created the first dedicated e-reader. Publishers would be working with Amazon to push as many print books as possible to keep digital from taking off!
“Imagine if Apple had created the first dedicated e-reader. Publishers would be working with Amazon to push as many print books as possible to keep digital from taking off!”
A point that should really be made more often, or swap Apple for B&N.
Bravo, Hugh. What great insight and so very well said. Continued success to you.
Best blog I’ve read in a long time!
Great points, better punch, and now I’m seeing stars and am all cross-eyed!
Those who are scared, more than anything, just hold the energy back from whatever they are invested in. That means they’re just sucking all the oxygen out of the room – or their play pen. A great example of that is all the pro-Hachette/establishment posts online over past months that just wreak of fear, Stockholm syndrome, and are all built on a skeleton of paralysis. Your blog shines a light on the other side of all *those* arguments.
That truth is simply that there is an opportunity where some (many) see a dark shadow.
Be agile and grab it!
But, yes, it would be great if we could all just loosen up and celebrate reading in its many (and new) guises.
I’m dying to get back to Australia and hang out again. I’ll bring my wife next time. In fact, we might be coming by boat. :)
As a reading teacher, the part of this that captured my attention wasn’t the Amazon/publisher information but this, “Selfishly, as a reader, I want more readers. I want to see airports full of people staring at books, e-readers, and tablets laced with text. Not people staring at cell phones, Candy Crush, Facebook, or authors’ blogs. I want book culture everywhere. I want interactions with strangers to be about what they’ve read lately. I want my social media feed to be all about books. I’m an addict, and I want to get other people hooked. Maybe that’s a bad thing. I don’t care.” I have always believed that what is most critical to getting young children hooked on books and reading is reading good books aloud to them and reading them well. I also think that libraries are children’s end of the rainbow. So I’m very curious as to what you believe made you such a voracious and passionate reader.
I agree, Nancy. My sister consented to Grandma getting her (then) five-year-old son an iPad when she realized she could get kids’ audiobooks. My sister loves to read to her kids, but with another young child to take care of, she doesn’t have the time to fill her kids’ heads with books the way she’d like to. So she specified that my nephew is only allowed one hour total of “screen time” per day, but that audiobooks don’t count as screen time. He can have all the book time he wants, in whatever form he chooses.
Most of the time, he listens to audiobooks on his iPad while he’s building with his Legos or playing in other ways. They live out in the middle of nowhere, so he doesn’t have a lot of friends close by to play with, so whenever he’s playing by himself, he’s got an audiobook running in the background.
That kid has ripped through everything he can find that touches on Greek and Roman mythology, and has gone through every young-readers’ version of the Sherlock Holmes stories my sister could locate, and now he’s moving up to midgrade mysteries, midgrade Sherlock adaptations, and midgrade mythology-based fiction. He’s only six years old, and he already knows the complete Sherlock Holmes canon by heart and can debate me on the finer points of Greek mythology.
Reading to kids *and reading well* is so, so important! I’m so thrilled to see my nephew turn into a book addict. I wish every kid in the world could have a device with an endless supply of well-produced kids’ audiobooks. (My sister gets most of hers through various library memberships.)
Wow, there’s the $64K question. I became an addict at an early age; history. One day in study hall I was reading a book about the American Revolution. The teacher ‘babysitter’ suggested I tell my history teacher what I was reading. I was dumbfounded, offended, and stunned; why would I do that? I’m now pushing 60 and have not been able to shake the addiction though now I read more fiction, finance, biographies, everything. My parents never read to me so that wasn’t it. I picked up Dune when I was about 15. That did it, addicted! I will say it’s only been recently that I have gained a solid understanding of why it is important to read history,
Good stuff, Hugh. I am making a note of your idea to drop an epic fantasy series around graduation time next year. ;)
Harper Collins actually has a site called Authonomy.com, which is ostensibly a slush pile organizer for them, but in reality seems to be just a popularity contest to see who can garner the most votes for stuff and a place for Author Solutions companies to advertise. I have no idea if HC ever actually signed anyone from it.
There was another site called slushpilereader.com, but it’s shuttered and the domain now points to a little-used free book site.
I know of one or two young authors who were plucked from Wattpad, so at least NY is somewhat aware of that site.
It really is amazing though that the big publishers are so uniform in the way they do things. You’d think, with their worlds crumbling around them, that at least one would, out of fear if nothing else, take a chance and shake things up with some of the ideas you propose. But, then again, the dinosaurs couldn’t adapt either.
I don’t know what happened at Authonomy. I was a beta member, and the site was just brilliant. Then it started to go off the rails…and it became clear that HC put zero faith in the wisdom of crowds. Even before the chart became corrupt, it was clear HC would never deviate from its habitual methods of selection. Huge missed opportunity.
My theory is that the person who founded Authonomy left the company shortly after the site went live.
You are so right, Hugh. I lived in England for a while and listened to a lot of programs on Radio 4 in which actors simply read literary classics aloud. I bought and read (and still have) many of these books as a result. People can get interested in stories in so many different ways!
Oh my word, how exciting to read your post this morning! I’ve been thinking the same thing. For years, I’ve always seemed to come late to the party when it comes to publishing. THIS time, with Kindle Unlimited just starting up, I wish I had more books ready to publish right now; but at least I have a number of Kindle Select titles that automatically became Kindle Unlimited titles and I plan to write like a maniac this year to complete certain projects that I’ve started. As you know, I’m working on a WOOL fan fiction story and I’d love to write more of those. :) I have a YA Mystery novel with Paranormal elements that always gets a crazy number of requests whenever I offer it for free, it’s getting great reviews and readers are writing to me, letting me know how much this novel meant to them. I have plans to write five more books in that series. THIS will be the year I buckle down and start pounding the keys on my computer keyboard to get those stories written. I have a science fiction novel for which a literary agent almost signed me back in the day when my dream was to publish with a Big Six publisher. I’ve published that novel under KDP Select and it’s also Kindle Unlimited now, but I know it would be more popular if it had a more adventurous plot and greater character development; and with Kindle Unlimited, I have the motivation to rewrite that book as a series. For the first time in a very long time, I’m feeling incredibly motivated to write, thanks to Kindle Unlimited and what that means for readers! I absolutely LOVE Netflix and other online sites for TV shows. I now binge-watch shows, as many people now do, watching an entire season or many seasons in a row. Shows I’ve devoured that way include: UTOPIA, HOUSE OF CARDS, THE OFFICE, PARKS AND RECREATION, 30 ROCK, THE LEGEND OF KORRA, etc. Netflix and other online sites have done what you’re suggesting for books: created a kind of Renaissance for artistic shows where those who enjoy watching them have what feels like an unlimited amount of fantastic entertainment to sample and enjoy. :)
The fear is sad, and it sadly isn’t limited only to publishing. I know people with business ideas—even with funders for those ideas—who never step out and insist on trying it, for fear of failure. One is taking baby steps toward it, and I hope she does eventually step out, but I’ll frankly be surprised if she does.
I’ve wondered this kind of thing, myself. Someday, I’d like to do something like that.
Yep. You can’t succeed if you won’t risk failure.
I’ve been reminding myself of that while mulling on what I’ll do for my next two novel launches. I’ve come up with ideas that’ll likely either flop or go viral. I’ve been staring owl-eyed at my ideas and gulping hard, but also reminding myself… What’s the worst that’ll happen? My career will be in the same position it is now.
Even if I do somehow embarrass myself, most folks will have forgotten about it 6 months later.
The main awkward thing about my idea is that, for part of it, I’ll need to enlist help from others, because I am physically incapable of doing part of what’ll need to be done for that part of my launch idea. Not from overwork or stress, but from health reasons. (Unless… Oh, that gave me an idea for how I could pull it off. Hmm.)
I’m ahead of you on the binge series idea, Hugh. Look toward the first quarter of 2015 for a project called LINGER.
I only read on my phone. The kindle app is amazing. The first book that I read from cover to cover was Wool. I am so glad that I read that because now, like you, I am addicted and I can’t wait to find the next good book to read. I grew up never reading and in the last year or two..I’ve read more than in my entire life.
Noticed Nancy Creech above kind of dissed smartphones in passing, ‘Not people staring at cell phones’ but that’s the most convenient way I have of accessing my free Scribd account, thanks to Smashwords’ savvy negotiations by Mark Coker. My reading has exploded and I’ll probably be resubscribing after it expiires.
Nancy, we’re not staring, we’re reading!
Wow, Hugh, what an energetic motivating rant!
I just finished today’s Wall Street Journal article about the new post-humous “Tom Clancy” book, and it made the comment that the loyalty is becoming more to the character (e.g., Jack Ryan) than to the author. This tees-up perfectly your comment:
“…hire the writers you want to develop stories in that universe; and enjoy ownership of the IP for decades to come. When the games, films, and merchandise take off, you own it.”
Great post, Hugh! I’ve already got my own strategy set up for taking advantage of KU while minimizing its impact on sales on other sites. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where KU takes business — both my own individual business and the publishing world as a whole.
Jumping in quickly and adapting to the changing marketplace — this is what being an indie is all about, guys! We get to be the pioneers. It’s cool!
I think I saw your strategy at TPV. Love all your ideas. Keep them coming!
Hugh this is a most inspiring post.
I hope publishers subscribe to them (out of fear) and hear your voice for change.
Ok, I’m dropping my fear of KU as an author… now, having said that, how in the heck do I get my book featured now? Before, I could have a free promotion and move my book up in rank to get more notice. There’s probably a way to do something similar in KU, but I don’t see how.
My fear (there’s that word again) is that relatively undiscovered writers like myself will have an even larger hill to climb to get noticed. Any suggestions?
John, I think it will be the exact opposite. Since (as I understand it) you’re enrolled in KU automatically when you publish KDP Select and the authors most likely to do that are indie authors, then the pool just got a bit smaller. Less competition with the Big 4 since they’re unlikely to want to go exclusive with Amazon and also those Indies who have diversified into other markets.
Also, voracious readers are the most likely to stick with this, they’re also going to get used to it pretty quickly and think “free” (even though they pay for the privilege) and download/read even more books.
The fact that they’re “borrowing” them, means that they’re more likely to read them, instead of collecting them, which in turn could mean more reviews, more word of mouth, and hopefully, more sales from those without KU.
Win, win, win!
I’ve already seen my borrows take a jump since KU started. I’m pretty pleased with the entire set up. As for rank, keep doing what you’re doing. A lot of people aren’t going to go for this whether they’re avid readers or not, because they want to actually own the books, not just borrow them, so those promos and free days are still a valid marketing tool.
As a side note, I’m thinking this should cut down on returns. We’ll have to see if it pans out the way I suspect it will, but I’d say our more discerning readers are the ones who scarf down book after book, and they’re less likely to keep with something that they don’t like… or as some believe, read and then return, since there will be no need for this any longer.
A lot of the speculation about KU is under the assumption that it will be a big enough hit to drastically change things. I’m not sure that it will. Great idea to get indies back into the floundering select program, but many people will continue to just buy the books they want, when they want, and forgo the subscription model. Imho, this is much ado about nothing until the program takes off and proves otherwise.
I think it’s great, Hugh, that you are not stopping at what you’ve accomplished and are constantly trying new things. Who knows which one of them will become the next big thing. I think Booktrack might. Certainly has potential. It’s such a fun time to be a reader and writer.
Sasha A. Palmer
“Let’s get crazy.”
This is genius….again.
We’re not fighting about how people read (or heaven knows we shouldn’t be) we’re fighting to keep people reading!
I think “Let’s Get Crazy” should be the indie author slogan/mantra/battle cry going forward.
Be Brave, write on, get crazy.
The only thing threatening “literarture” is the lack of interest in reading.
And that is a very real (maybe the only real) enemy.
I was feeling a bit glum this morning. I resigned from my twenty-eight year teaching position this June because I could. Self-publishing allowed me to do that and it’s been such a fun ride. But the roll out of KU sort of knocked the wind out of me. Half of my income comes from BN and Apple so select is not an option for me. Then I read your post and it really brightened my mood again. I have to say– with amazing, insightful authors like you and Konrath — we indies are especially lucky because it seems we’ve got all the cool people on our side.
Thanks for the inspiration,
I personally enjoy all the people on Kboards already making career-defining decisions based on a few hours of KU. Especially the Amazon haters screaming about how right they were, and “Nah nah nah, we told you so!” Personally, I’m leaving my books in Select and see what happens in a couple of months. If it works, I’ll keep it there. If it doesn’t, I’ll adjust. But I sure as hell aren’t going to make a decision that will impact my career for years to come after A FEW HOURS of data.
Standing. Clapping. Music may have swelled.
I’ve been a lurker for awhile, but have spent the better part of a year as a voracious reader of all things related to indie publishing, and your blog is ground zero. I want to say thanks for that.
THIS: “Your fear is my opportunity.”
I’m a hybrid author. I publish books with a legacy publisher and through my own indie press. I first became interested in self-publishing ironically after my debut legacy book became a international bestseller. My publisher and I were excited to work together again, but they had a very specific book in mind that I wasn’t excited about (I felt it was more of the same). I proposed several alternatives to them, all of which were met with lukewarm responses because they deviated too much from what made the first book successful.
After much negotiation and some content tweaking, I did agree to the the second book they wanted, even though I worried it would be little more than the 2.0 version of book one. I did it because I knew it had commercial viability, I genuinely loved working with my publisher, and I knew I could make something of it even within the confines. But I was excited to move forward with my more ambitious idea and self-published.
Fast forward a year, and my indie photography/fiction mashup title is doing extremely well both in ebook form and at brick-and-morter retail. I knew what my audience wanted, how to deliver it in a form that would surprise and delight, and I took tremendous financial risks to make it happen. The point is, I’m as excited as you are Hugh, “to mix up genres and do something fresh and new.” And I agree that more authors and publishers should “get wild and crazy, to try things that have never been tried before.”
That gets me really pumped, both as a reader and a writer.
Am I missing something those who are afraid of KU are seeing?
Seems to me KU in its current form is VERY GOOD for discovery of authors in the Select program. Discovery now being the big hurdle to connecting with readers, wouldn’t it be a good idea to always keep at least one title in the game? Amidst the smaller universe, it’ll be easier for people find my brilliant gem, and then be hungry for more and willing to pay for them.
I’m encouraged by your words, “Be the first to leap.” I’m not necessarily the first, but I am taking the leap to KU with my Sand fanfic story, Scavenger. It’s not a huge leap because in the few weeks it’s been at other stores I haven’t sold much, but the benefit of being part of the smaller section of KU titles outweighs the small sales I’d get at other stores.
Back to work on Scavenger 2. Anytime you want to team up just let me know ;)
Dude please keep doing what your doing. There is so little organized voice about the ever strengthening self-publishing market, and that has large parallels with what happening with indie film making under the $5 million range. My first published title is being aimed at a book/documentary combination using crowd funding in line with the new Obama JOBS act equity project finance law changes. Somebody should be recognizing how far reaching the parallel between publishing and high concept independent documentary film, and even television adaptations are, promoting new models in the favor of the writers, and creating some sort of digital hub where these arguments can be hashed out. It’s the same dynamic.
I’m not addressing this post so much as the body of your continued passion to promote awareness and the cutting edge of what’s happening. I’d be curious if you have any author friends that are realizing success with new utilities like the Crowd Publishr platform coming out of Cambridge that can help allocate crowd funded author advances.
This body of thinking/conversation and its continued evolution is the singular most important development in the history of modern story based art. The cross pollination of ideas, approaches, innovations, and education will in 20 years terraform a new working class for artists if it’s allowed to grow properly.
You should be nominated for a Ted Talks. I was super dissapointed to see the O’Riley Tools For Change In Publishing conference evaporate… please keep pushing with this stuff. Take it to the next level.
My partner and I were just discussing a series via the newsletter. The weekly episodes would be ineterspersed with teasers on Instagram, where our characters would post photos and talk about the weird things happening in their lives. We’re always asking, “what do the middle graders want?” We have that ability to try the crazy things. 99% of them won’t work, but we can take the risk because it usually won’t cost us a penny. Just time. Think weird. Try the stuff that keeps you awake at night. What have we got to lose?
Gosh, I like that idea from Blake of not giving free advice. You know the traditional publishing companies will vilify us in public while copy/pasting those selling and marketing tactics in private so they can later use them against us to gain back those sales we “stole” from them.
It’s a little expensive, but you can buy a waterproof eReader.
I agree with Laure Reminick. Discovery is key. The more exposure the better. KDP has been a wonderful tool and platform for me. People (way beyond the friends and family circle) are reading my words. This is nothing short of marvelous.
I am excited by the atmosphere Indie writers are generating.
When I check out writer’s on this comment thread, what I see over and over are people committed to writing, enamored by reading, hardworking, talented and deserving of success.
Any system that gives writers a voice and readers options is on the right track.
This is a Renaissance, not an Apocalypse.
Just a few thoughts.
My instinct is telling me to get aboard KU.
Today I looked at KU from a readers viewpoint (I took out the 1 month free trial) – almost can’t beat it. You get the book and audiobook version to read/listen to as a rental.
Someone at Amanzon said you could rent 10 at a time. Makes me think that paperbacks will get some residual action due to the “rental” of the digital.
[…] such as iBooks or Nook? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say, but some big names such as Hugh Howey are jumping in on the topic, optimistic that Amazon’s service will be a boon for […]
Hugh, the problem is Select. I will never be in Select again.
For one, I don’t want to punish readers who want books in other formats and who don’t like/can’t run the Kindle app.
For seconds, I’d lose my permafree outside KU.
For thirds, when I was in Select I got almost no borrows. Like, two the entire time I was in. My sales in other channels have always been several times higher than borrows. I don’t expect that to change if I re-enroll.
For fourths, Amazon can yank your account at any time. They almost yanked mine over a misunderstanding. Never gonna put all the eggs in one basket–Amazon’s or anyone else’s.
So yeah, for me, KU is a little nerve-rattling. I’m not running screaming for the exits or exiling myself to an ice flow or anything, but I am not sanguine.
Yes, yes, yes. Many good ideas here. A few of us have been trying to get the bestseller/ mid list/debut idea implemented for so long…and you are right bold and scary and fearless is the only way to move forward and its the right time. We’re seeing so many exciting things working when we go outside the box…great post.
What if a 12-book universe dropped on the same day? Don’t stagger them at all, just put them out there at once. What would happen? Why don’t we find out?
Well, one thing that would happen is the author would lose all that revenue by holding eleven books off the market until the twelfth was finished. There is a lot to be said for three years of comfortable living rather than waiting for the forth year to see what happens. Anyone know what things will be like four years from now?
But for those who want to find out what happens, Go for it. Do it.
And the publishers? Forget about them. Markets don’t change because the incumbents see the light. They change because innovators kick them out.
Do TV shows lose revenue by holding on to finished episodes and then releasing them weekly? Or do they increase viewership by sitting on their media and speeding up the release cycle?
Would anyone watch a show that aired once a month?
Great post. I can’t be certain that everything you suggest would work, or help us tell better stories to more listeners, but I love the idea. Build a festival rather than a series of distant campfires. I like that.
Interesting post, Mr. Howey. I blogged about this subject on Friday, not long after the announcement.
I was Amazon exclusive with Select for some time. Some of my titles are still there, but, when the contract expires on these, I won’t re-sign…at least for a few months.
I felt like I was missing a whole new batch of fans by leaving out Nook readers, Kobo readers, and iPad readers. I’ve since made my work available to those readers, and I’ll leave them that way for a while, to see how they do.
I love Amazon, and I won’t be leaving there. They’ve been good to me. But, I feel guilty leaving out all those other readers that choose to own something besides a Kindle.
My thought on Kindle Unlimited run this way: I’m afraid that the pot isn’t going to be big enough to share. I feel that far too many will sign up for Unlimited, both authors and readers, and the pie will be split into smaller pieces than they were originally. The $2.00 or so per borrow from Select will wind up being far less, unless Amazon really sweetens the pot.
So, once my remaining Select contracts expire, I won’t be participating in Unlimited.
But, every author must choose whatever path is most comfortable and most profitable for his/her needs, and I wish all of us well!
I told my agents and it’s in their proposal, I’d be more than willing to throw in free short stories about the evil angel Judas with each of the five books in my series, just for the paperback deal. An incentive to my readers to buy the print version.
I’m getting ready to release part four of my new YA end times serial FEUDAL LAND. I release a 10K part every two weeks.
I think there will be a growing market for shorter works. My 10 year old daughter reads on her smart phone and her iPod. She doesn’t want to carry anything bigger around.
Amazon has a big opportunity with Kindle Unlimited but leaving out indie authors who don’t sign exclusively with Kindle (you have to be in the Kindle Select program to participate) aren’t eligible. This is a big miss, I think, and reeks of big five publishing. Why not open it up? It would certainly inflate the number of titles available, since right now similar services have a bigger selection of titles and more big name publishers. And I don’t see why I should have to give up selling my books on Kobo and iTunes just to be included in KU. It just seems like they’re cutting their own potential pool of ebooks short.
Because opening it up would dilute the pool of money even further.
I found KDP six months ago and have since then released three full length “legal thrillers” and the fourth is getting his cover and being examined for quality control (editing, yes) right now. If it weren’t for Amazon I would still be mired down in a professional I had come to hate. That said, Amazon is just all right with me. KU is just all right with me too, maybe because I’m newbie enough not to know better, I don’t know. Yet.
But one thing I do know is that where money is being made, there will be copycats.There will be an Amazon II and I think it’s this prospect that Amazon is perhaps preparing for in creating KU as much or more than it’s disagreement with the Big5.
KU itself requires product to survive. The writing is on the wall (no pun): trad pub wants no part of KU. Which leaves little ole us to supply the product. Which a lot of us will do as long as the payment for our product is fair and consistent. That is our leverage in this development–we are necessary to its success. I would have preferred that Amazon tell me up front what my net profit would look like, because I like certainty as much as the next person. Oh well.
Thanks for your wonderful post. Hope to keep returning here and see many more.
The ultimate reward for activism is having to do more activism, while enduring more and more derision.
Ha! You would know. :)
Yes, it’s early but it appears that KU has altered the ranking system, taking borrows into account. My liberal and non-technical assumption is that going forward markers used for previous AE reports no longer apply. ??? Nevertheless, I expect future AE reports to be even more interesting! Authors are already sharing sales/borrow details on kboards.
Hugh, I don’t know how you, Data Guy, and the bots will manage future reports but I truly believe that it is spectacularly awesome that a new development can pop up and authors can just as quickly assess the effects and its potential to make better decisions (Referring to future AE reports as I still believe it’s way too early to understand KU’s impact.)
Data is good.
Great post. A lot of food for thought here, Hugh, and I appreciate it.
“There is so much room to innovate, to get wild and crazy, to try things that have never been tried before (or to bring back things that have been lost to time). Fan fiction used to be a thing.”
Fanfiction still is a thing. :) I joined fanfiction.net not long after it started–towards the end of 1998, I believe. My user ID is in the low four figures. (3000s) I am STILL a mod of the most popular General Forum there, and now my daughter, almost fourteen, has an account on fanfiction.net, along with her bff. The bff thinks I’m a cool mom because I know fanfic acronyms and that I’m a mod on ff.net. *beams* My daughter reads fanfiction for hours at a time and writes her own. How many other families have second generation fanfiction.net members? lol Of course, there are now other sites too, and when my dd tells me about them, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I joined that when it began, but never did much with it. It kills her that I know all these things–but she secretly loves that I do.
If we read all the posts on various venues, it becomes apparent that there is no consensus on how an independent author should approach this market. That is a sign of a healthy, competitive market.
The fact that some authors find one path better, and others find another better tells us there really is competition in the market. So doess the fact that nobody is getting everything they want. They aren’t special.
And the fact that independent authors are choosing different paths indicates they really are competing with each other.
God Bless the free market.
Great article, Hugh! I love the idea of people standing on corners surrounded by bookstores, talking about books — and the idea of publishers creating a universe and inviting authors from different genres to write stories that take place in it. I wish some really rich person would build a small town in a beautiful natural setting and make the entire town about reading and writing. It could be fantastically creative, from the architecture and stores to the hotels and houses. It would be cool to have a bookstore that’s only for indie authors. I recently saw a list of writing awards given by indie bookstores and they were all given to authors published by big traditional publishers. I don’t get that disconnect. Why weren’t they giving any awards to indie authors?
Because most “indie” bookstores are not really indie, they’re beholden to their corporate masters, the publishers. That’s why most of them boycott Amazon imprint books and indie books.
To spite Amazon they screw over authors and readers, and deny themselves a source of extra revenue. Idiots really. And they think we should sympathize with them.
Hugh, how about this idea. You publish a book for $9.99 titled The Collected Short Stories of Hugh Howey, Past, Present, and Future. Every time you write a new short story, you add it to this book, update it on Amazon, Amazon sends the readers an email telling them to redownload. Think about that as a reader. For one price, every short story an author writes for the rest of their life.
Just a thought I had the other day while looking at another author’s short stories on Amazon, all for sale individually. In the end, I decided not to buy any.
Dropping 12 books at once is a rather large thing to ask of an author. When you throw in beta reading, editing, revisions, and so on, you’re talking about waiting five years to make the first sale. But I do like the idea of launching epic-length novels ahead of Memorial Day weekend for the summer beach readers. If I can get that one started now, I might be able to have it ready by May! ;-)
Anyway, this is the first place I’ve heard “stop worrying about KU,” and that’s refreshing. I like that Amazon announced it, simply because it’s going to spotlight library eBook lending through Overdrive or what have you. I can use it as a vehicle to plug the anthology I have in Select, if nothing else. Maybe I’ll go do that right now.
Thank you- you continue to counsel bold moves and fearlessness, and some of us are listening. Seth Godin offers advice in a similar vein:
[…] Your Fear is My Opportunity | Hugh Howey […]
+++ Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, +++
I like the concept. But in a previous post, I asked two digital publishers to describe the things they do for independent and digital authors and both declined to answer.
It would be interesting to have a publisher come here and describe in greater detail their value add proposition. I understand copy-editing and editorial advice. Also, in some cases, internationalization. But beyond that, it’s rather murky. The main value of publishers to authors was physical production and access to shelves.
Physical production is not an issue digitally. Shelves are also irrelevant. So what do digital presses offer in terms of exciting programs?
Great stuff, Mr. Howey. My only complaint with Kindle Unlimited is the exclusive aspect and that’s making me hesitate to move my novels there.
To continue the analogy, Netflix does not require that a movie be only on Netflix and not simultaneously on Comcast Cable On Demand, iTunes, etc. I would prefer if Amazon let me do K.U. but also not exclusively so.
Regardless, thanks for being an inspiration. Self-publishing is a blast however you pursue it! All the best.
[…] here’s a post for you. And like Jeff Bezos says “Your fear is my opportunity” (read the rest on Hugh Howey’s blog)… Have a great […]
[…] Howey is the author of WOOL, one of my favorite sci fi series. His essay Your Fear is My Opportunity is a rant on Amazon and self-publishing, and I really appreciate his perspective as someone who has […]
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