While Amazon and Macmillan and Apple publicly tear at each other throats, and Google and Authors’ Guild wrestle over the goldmine of literary cyberspace, authors are quietly setting up bookstores on the sidelines, building the publishing industry of tomorrow.
Yes, readers can already find author-published e-books on superstore websites like Fictionwise and Amazon, the big forums encouraging authors to venture into e-publication. Except authors pay a high premium at these sites for the simple privilege of placing a title there, often 70% of sales.
Others of us have decided there is no reason we should pay 70% of our hard-earned money to do what we can do ourselves. Equally, there is no reason for readers to have to pay the inflated price for that 70% cut. So we are gathering together to experiment with author co-ops like bookviewcafe.com, or distribution centers like AwritersWork.com. Essentially, what we’re doing is eliminating the middle man. We’re taking titles that have already been edited, revised, and proofed, sold in paper, then returned to us, and we’re reformatting and selling them as e-books for lower prices than the big guys offer.
What we’re learning is that it’s not as cheap to sell e-books as we’d hoped, but we can still make more money doing it ourselves while keeping prices substantially lower. (image to right is my attempt at creating a cover for an anthology of historical novellas.)
Take a look at the two sites I mentioned. Bookviewcafe.com is mainly fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal. Today is the grand opening of Awriterswork.com, and for the moment, they’re romance-oriented, but the diversity for a start-up is promising. Drop by and tell them hi and welcome them to cyberspace!
The variety of authors on these sites is phenomenal, and the prices are below anything Amazon is currently offering on comparable quality. And much of the material is not available elsewhere—pretty good for a cutting edge frontier store!
BVC is already publishing some original fiction. AWW has some original nonfiction, as well as newly released backlists, plus anthologies of novellas and short stories that have never appeared in the same editions before. (As much as we wanted to put up each story for 99 cents, we learned it cost as much to put up a short story as a full book, so it was cheaper to collect the stories.) If you find a favorite author on any of these sites, you only have to sign up for a newsletter to learn of their next release. Can you envision a future where you may never have to go to a bookstore again? (image left is a combined attempt by several authors at creating new cover art for Merely Magic)
I know the print model is still out there. Print-On-Demand books are already on the way for BVC and may be in AWW's future. But as e-readers and netbooks and iPads become prevalent, more and more books will find their way into the hands of readers via technology. We’re hoping readers will discover it’s cheaper to buy direct from the source, but right now, it’s a brave new world out there, and we don’t know what will happen.
Obviously, I’m fascinated with change and not everyone is. But if you can’t buy some of these books anywhere else, why not take a look around? Now’s the time for readers to speak up and steer the future toward the next generation of publishing, so what directions would you like to see us try?