Friday, July 10, 2009 on Kindle and the Self-publishing Paradox

As an experiment I've just made available for subscription on the Kindle store.

Price is $1.99 a month. Don't complain to me about the price, as curiously enough Amazon sets whatever they think it's worth for you. The provider has no choice in the matter. If it seems high, keep in mind that it includes wireless download with no fees, which I think it one of the coolest things about the Kindle.

If you haven't noticed, the price on the Kindle 2 has dropped too, down to $299. If you're interested in buying a Kindle, you can also support our efforts here by buying it through the Kindle link in the sidebar to your left.

I don't seriously expect a lot of movement on the subscription thing, but it's an experiement in what will likely be an ongoing series of experiments in Kindle (and other types of) self-publishing.

Now, some of you will be saying (possibly screaming) to your computers, "Steve, you and Chris have written extensively and repeatedly about the wrongness of vanity presses and self publishing. What kind of B.S. hypocracy is this?" (If you haven't read what we've said about the subject, check the index of past writing articles on our blogs. It's in the sidebar to your left again, down a ways.)

Okay, point taken. However, I stand by almost all of what we've said on the subject. Though the publishing world has changed and continues to change rapidly, certain basic things are still true:

It's Foolish Not to Exhaust Conventional Markets Before Going to ePub - Yes, things are changing, but conventional publishing is still the major thrust of the publishing industry. These are the people with the exposure, the money, and the market penetration. They're still the people who will actually pay you a significant advance against royalties on things they publish.

Publishing as a conventional book is still (for the moment, anyway) the better deal. That's why ePublishing mega-successes still almost always end up getting printed as dead-tree books eventually.

Submit to the Big-Guys first. ePub new stuff only when you don't have other obvious options.

Money Should Flow Towards the Writer - There are now many electronic and print on demand options that require no up-front expenditure on the part of the writer except for their time and trouble in setting up.

It took me about thirty minutes to establish an account on Kindle Publishing for Blogs and to publish this blog. Cost zero.

There's just no reason for you to be paying money to publish your own stuff. Companies that charge big up-front fees just don't make sense any more, if they ever did.

Most of the Newbies Eager to Jump into Self-Publishing are Wasting Their Time and Cluttering the Internet - Sorry newbies. The great majority of stuff in circulation that doesn't see to a commercial market doesn't sell because it just isn't good enough. Such stuff shouldn't be sold. It may sour the market for your stuff as your writing improves, and you may develop the skills to fix it later. Tricking people into buying stuff that isn't good enough to sell isn't a win, even if it makes you money in the short term.

The Other Side of the Equation
On the other hand, ePublishing offers a possible revenue stream for writing that doesn't have an obvious commercial market (like the essays on this blog), work that didn't sell to commercial markets (but which hopefully is still of publishable quality), and work that has previously seen print, for which the author retains rights, and which is currently not making them any income.

That's what we're looking at. We're still working with commercial publishers, and plan to continue to do so. The ePublishing is a side-project that may generate a little income where there was none before, and that may eventually turn into something more.

Mostly, it's bread upon the waters. We'll see what comes of it.

(Since posting this, I've just read a post by Michael Stackpole on the breakdown of conventional publishing that's a lot more extreme that what I said above. To be honest, I can't find a lot to argue with in it, and it's certainly worth readng.

He does ignore one intangible of conventional publishing that still applies. While, as he says correctly, publishing "brands" don't have much value, collectively, having a recognized publishing imprint on a book, having it appear on shelves in print, and having it show up in bookstores still offers a stamp of legitimacy that a straight eboook doesn't have.

But beyond that, publishers termendiously over-estimate their worth, and it gets worse every day. It's only going to take a few run-away ebooks (and that now seems inevitable) to completely erase the ebook stigma and cut that value to nothing.

Anyway, go read what Stackpole has to say and reach your own conclusions.)


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