Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thank You, Intrepid Beta-Testers! | What? Huh? Print Rights Are the New Subsidiary Rights?

First, a huge thank you to all of you who beta-tested The Book Trailer Project. As of tonight, the last of the fake books has been auto-removed, and the statistics for the trial run are available here.

Thanks especially to FairyHedgehog, who gave me lots of feedback, and Josh Vogt, who not only was game enough to create a book profile and upload it, but who also asked if there was anything diabolical I would like him to do to stress the system. I very much appreciate it, both of you!

Eurgh. But you know what this means? It means I now have to go to the (scary) next step of convincing published authors to upload their book materials to the site and then try to entice large numbers of strangers to browse for stuff there. Whoo-hoo, and OMG-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into. Certainly, if any of you know a published author who would like some extra free publicity, please direct them either here (so they can stalk me and convince themselves I'm not a psycho), or to The Book Trailer Project's home page.

Thank you in advance, if you do!


This article by J. A. Konrath is one of the most thought-provoking things I've read about e-publishing in a while--probably because he is not a convert to self-publishing, but he does have some interesting monetary facts to note and is feeling fairly conflicted about them.

The short version of the article is he put some of his early books--ones that had been rejected by major publishers--on Amazon for $1.99, and he's now making about $125 per day selling them. And this has provoked a crisis of faith in him, because he's always advised new writers to go the traditional route--get an agent, sign with a major publisher, do not self-publish. But he's making a non-trivial amount of money by essentially self-publishing.

I'm not sure what to think of this either. I do agree with him when he says:
[I]f you're a writer, and you're changing your career path based on a blog, you aren't thinking long and hard enough about this business.

I've walked the walk for a long time. Your mileage my vary. Don't give up your agent search because I'm pondering aloud about the future. Don't rush to put your stuff up on Kindle without fully understanding and weighing the potential costs vs. benefits.
(Emphasis mine.)

The reason for Mr. Konrath's reticence is he is definitely a self-publishing exception. He already has a brand, one he has spent years creating in conjunction with traditional publishing, and that is NOT something most self-published authors get. He also has the experience of traditional publishing behind him; he knows more than us newbies do about what makes an eye-catching cover or a gripping blurb, and he probably can self-edit pretty effectively at this point in his career. In short, all the legwork has been done; now he can reap the benefits.

One of my blogging-buddies, Sandra Cormier (author website here), has taken a smartly-planned and careful stab at both self-publishing and e-publishing in the past few years, and I know she's not making $125 a day doing it. That's a much more typical experience for a new author trying to go the non-traditional route. One of Mr. Konrath's commenters, Ellen Fisher (who has a pretty interesting blog, by the way), summed it up like so:
I haven't seen much crap doing well on Amazon, no matter how cheaply it's priced. But some good writers (such as Mark Terry) seem to get overlooked. Then again, there are plenty of good writers trying to break into New York who are getting overlooked too.
In other words, don't jump into this. It's not a silver bullet. If you go this route, be smart and realistic about what to expect.

But here's the idea in Mr. Konrath's article that most piqued my interest:
For me, print has officially become a subsidiary right. If I ever sign another print deal, it will be to supplement my ebook income.
Paper as the subsidiary right? That's a huge paradigm shift--and it's not one I welcome because, as I mentioned in the comments of this previous post, when you make something available only online, you're essentially denying it to the poor. It's hard for us computer junkies to wrap our brains around this, but not everyone owns a computer.

On the other hand: $125 a day before taxes. That's a persuasive argument too, because artists of all flavours tend to not be able to make a living at their art, and you can live on $125 a day. It's not a strapping income, and it comes with no health insurance, but you can live on it. That's the thing that keeps me from dismissing what he's done as Not Right For Me. He has persuasive evidence that this tactic can work.

Mr. Konrath's blog article has not changed how I'm going to conduct my writing career; I'm still dedicated to going the traditional route. However, I think it has changed how I'll view e-print rights from now on. For someone with a known brand, they apparently can be very lucrative, and being a bit more aggressive about keeping them may pay off someday.


What do you think? Would you put your trunk novels on Amazon if you were a published author? Would you do it if you were still a wannabe? What effect do you think it would have on your career?

Do you find Mr. Konrath's experience intriguing? Disturbing? I'd love to hear your thoughts about this!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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