Marsha Canham's Blog

April 8, 2011

Guest blog, pithy thoughts from Bob Mayer

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 3:46 pm

Bob wrote this post over at Kindleboards and with his permission, I’m posting it here.

I Don’t Know; I’m Guessing;  I Know–the future of publishing for authors.

This past weekend I gave the keynote at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference.  Like most authors, I have several basic keynotes that I can choose from and then adjust.  But I realized after attending the conference for a day, having dinner with the faculty, and listening to everyone, that things have changed so dramatically, that I had to do something different.

Also, I got an email from the Emerald City Writers Conference saying they’d like me to do a workshop this October on “Selling Your Novel.”  Based on my Novel Writers Toolkit, I have a Powerpoint presentation for that, but I, again, suddenly realized, it was out of date.  Because there are two paths to selling your novel now:  selling it to a publisher and selling it directly to a reader and I’m doing both.

So I started making notes the morning of the keynote.  I started with the basic premise that no one really knows what’s happening in publishing.  Anyone who says they do is deluded.  So I wrote:  I DON’T KNOW.  On the left side of the page.  Then I wrote:  I’M GUESSING next.  Then: I KNOW.

What the future of publishing is.  But 95% of the pundits have been wrong and they will continue to be wrong.  Most will protect their turf rather than try to be accurate.  Even while they switch deck chairs on the Titanic.

Why there is such a rift between Indies and Trads.  Both are writers.  They’re just choosing different modes of getting the book out there based on their own circumstances.  Heck, there’s a discussion on Nathan Bransford’s blog today about the term indie and people are getting upset.

What the exact percentage of ebooks vs print books will be by the end of the year; and by the end of the year we still won’t know because people with vested interests will continue to juke the stats.

In real terms, by the end of the year, 50% of sales will be ebooks.  The rep from Amazon sitting at the front table shrugged when I said that.  There are a lot of variables.  But for fiction writers, in real terms, I believe this will be their number.  Non-fiction, texts, etc. will skew the overall numbers.  We’ve found at Who Dares Wins Publishing that we sell 95% ebooks for fiction and 50% print for non-fiction.  But we also price ebooks realistically unlike Trads.  $2.99 for most of our fiction, with lead books in series at .99.

The role of agents will change dramatically.  This was perhaps the first thing I picked up from the agents at the conference, some of whom I’ve known for years.  Remember the days of agents swaggering down the hallway, in charge of all they purveyed?  It’s over.  They’re scared and confused now.  Most have little clue what their role will be.  A few, Jeff Kleinman was one, have a good plan for the future in re-examining what role his agency would play.  Bottom line is that the midlist is going to die.  And agents who subsisted on a bunch of midlist authors are in deep doo-doo.

Agents becoming publishers.  It’s happening.  Two key issues:  what can they offer the author that the author can’t subcontract out for a flat fee?  And what about conflict of interest?  The best answer was that agents could now publish those manuscripts they loved but couldn’t sell to NY for whatever reason.  I think that’s valid.  If they can hold the line there.

Niche is the future.  Find a specific area and become known as the writer who does that type of book.  The Internet has made things more specific rather than broad.  Duty, Honor, Country a Novel of West Point & the Civil War comes out on Tuesday, the 12th, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The title immediately tells you my niche, although I think a vast number of people have more than a passing interest in the Civil War.

The Trad midlist will die.  The need for an 80% sell through means less copies ordered. Combined with less brick and mortar consignment outlets and the writing isn’t just on the wall, it’s flashing in neon.  Yes, ebook sales will pick up, but check your Kindle top 100 lists.  Lots of Indies there.

I control the writing.  Above all, writers have to focus on writing the best possible book.  Self-publishing is not a short-cut to success.  Regardless of mode, readers will walk away from sludge.  And 99% of it is that.  Just as 99% of what’s in an agent’s in-box is.  I’m not being mean, but realistic.

The same traits the mean success in Trad publishing are the same traits that will spell success in Indie publishing:  great writing; persistence; consistency, persistence; business acumen; persistence; great writing; willingness to adapt and change quickly to the changing publishing world.

Here’s the bottom line:  in only a few months things have changed so dramatically it was palpable at this conference from the last one I attended.  Things are changing exponentially, not linearly, so a writer need to really focus on where things could possibly be in a year, not where they are now.

And in a year, I can guarantee they will be very, very different.


The full blog is at Write It Forward:


1 Comment »

  1. The rift between trads and indies I get, but the rift between indies and indies has me stumped. 😀

    I do wonder about small press authors and where they fit in.

    Thanks for posting this. I really enjoyed it. 🙂

    Comment by Ruth Ann Nordin — April 24, 2011 @ 3:15 am | Reply

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