So you can read my books

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Why is this such a big topic?

Why do bloggers and twitterers go on about how publishing may be doomed?

Because it hits to the core of who we are as a society.

We live and die by the printed word.

Communities change because of what has been written, and if Aldous Huxley is to be believed, society will suffer tremendously without it.

Nearly every day I read of another magazine or newspaper that is folding,

closing its doors and giving up the ghost of publishing.

Is this signaling the chaos before the end?

I'm an optimist for the publishing industry. A pessimist for what lies ahead for struggling writers

Let me explain. Consider how many books are printed every single year.

In 2005 (the most recent year data was collected for),

there were 206,000 new titles, while the US saw 172,000.

That’s titles, not the actual number of books.

Say there was an average of 10,000 books printed per each title. (Probably a conservative estimate.)

That would mean at least 3,780,000,000 physical, paper books were printed. This is only new titles that were introduced that year.

qHow many of those books hit the NYTimes bestseller list?

How many sold their entire first print run?

How many made back the money that was spent on their physical production?

Not all of them.

Nor even most of them.

It’s relatively few that ever make it big.

The publishers know not every book produced will succeed,
But now in these dark economic times for publishing, it is very likely

that will ask themselves,

"Why not save money and precious resources for most (if not all) of the titles that don’t have as much chance for immediate success?"

Translation :

the purchasing agents will slam shut the gates on most of the books brought to them by agents.

Those agents, in turn, will reject nearly every query sent them by unknowns.

So, yes, publishing will have a future. We, as unknown authors, may very well not.

Oh, but there is ePublishing you say.

self-publishing may be the next dot-com bubble:

There's money to be made, so people are climbing over each other to post eBooks on Amazon so they can start raking in their fortune.

Except that's not going to happen, and eventually the flood of first-timers testing the self-publishing waters is going to subside.

some of the self-publishing poster children (Amanda Hocking being a good example) have used their success to procure traditional publishing deals.

And how sometimes it seems like there's more money to be made in teaching writers how to self-publish (i.e., a lot of self-publishing advocates aren't selling salvation, they're selling their own brand).

Amazon is turning eBook shoppers into bargain hunters who will stop paying for books in favor of ones they can get during free promotions.

All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars,

conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers' union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing

Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times "81% of people feel they have a book in them ... And should write it.

Are we deluding ourselves?

Dangerous if that is true. If it is indeed a bubble, and the epub bubble bursts, as all previous bubbles have done,

the fall-out for publishing and writing may be even harder to repair than it is proving to be in the fields of mortgages, derivatives and personal debt.

Because this bubble is based on cultural, not purely economic, grounds


  1. I think we will hit equilibrium here soon.
    But most books produced by publishers don't make back their money. My own publisher warned me of that. I think no matter what the venue, very few ever really make it big.
    I knew going into this that if my books made anything at all, it would be a miracle.

  2. Alex:
    Yes, the odds are definitely against it. We must enjoy the journey I guess. Even John Locke is trying to make lightning strike twice and having a hard time with his print books. Thanks for dropping in and chatting. Roland

  3. Interesting post. The things you have surmised may very well be the future, and debut authors are experiencing an odd place in history with the current ease of being published (ebook). Who knows where we will all be when the dust settle on the shifting publishing world?

    I found you on the A to Z linky-list. Look forward to reading more of your posts :-)

  4. With Starbucks going strong there may soon be no need at all for a coffee table at all.

  5. Hah, love the comment by Michael, but Starbucks isn't going strong in Australia and several have closed.

    Now to ebooks. Well, as a much-published ebook author Roland you should know about the 'money' to be made. Precious little, I'd say, judging by the number of ebooks out there and as you say Amazon directing buyers to free books and book libraries where the hard-working author makes zilch for their thousands of hours.

    But we love to write and if we want to get a book or two out there, self pubbing is the last frontier and we'll continue to do it such is our love of the written word. I buy a lot of print and ebooks, but I think a lot of people aren't buying print anymore.


  6. Teresa :
    None know the future. But the past is prologue so ebooks could be the new dot com bubble. I heard of authors taking a bath due to their books ... but never a bubble bath!

    LOL. But where would we put our coffee table books?

    With the economic slow-down here, Starbucks is having a hard time, too.

    eBooks may not be a bubble. Only time will tell. I only buy print these days when the book I want is not offered for Kindle ... or to replace one of those lost in my house fire.

    Ebooks or print, there is precious little money to be made for most authors. Except for me, of course. I will be the new John Locke!! :-)

  7. It is a bubble we live in. I think it will be some while before we see it not exactly burst, but loose air.

    The bookstores are what will go under, eventually. This is what I saw when I tried to get a book signing at B&N. Vertually 1/3 of the books were discounted--even the book about Steve Jobs was 40% off! I couldn't beleive they could not order my books merely because my publisher was not traditional. They wanted everyone to "pre-order and pre-pay" I eventually had to cancel the book signing because those I invited didn't understand this was the only way I would have a book signing. The idea that a corporation is so frightened about having to worry about sending back a couple of books was what struck me as the idea that they are on the brink of desaster.

    In other words, eBooks are winning out. Duh! I see so many authors offering free ebooks or discounted books (I have a publisher, so it's up to him). If you have some sort of e-reader you'll most likely buy the ones discounted or free (saying nothing of the quality)

    I'd rather hold a book, myself, and enjoy the read. I see that this bubble has given traditional publishers the head spins. People will find the authors they enjoy, no mater what the publishing venue. I don't think we can predict who will win out at this point.

    I'm just happy to be invited to this party!

  8. I think we're hitting an equilibrium too. At least, I hope. This new direction is troubling of late.

    I used to know a small bunch of committed self-published authors. Now I feel like every other day, another blogging buddy/Facebook friend has a self-published book coming out. Most of them have offered the book for free at some point. I must confess, that's when I've downloaded them. I now expect they'll all have a free run.

    And while I've read a few decent self published books, too many people are flooding the market with books that aren't properly edited. Will there be a backlash at some point?

    If most people aren't making $ because their books are free and some of them are getting bad reviews because of poor quality, then what was the goal of publishing? Just to have a book out there? To make it high on an Amazon list for a couple of days? How does that love and support all writers in the long run?

  9. Those numbers sound kind of high to me. I liked your count until you added the 10k multiplier. 2-300k books per year sounds to me to be a reasonable number to expect.

    Wiki Books Per Year

    Getting to the top of that pile is not impossible. Have you been watching Talli Roland? Mary McDonald?

    Have you been watching ~yourself~?

    You have attained a significant number of adamant and loyal followers who genuinely like your work.

    While the money might not be rolling in -- and it may never roll in -- you can at least be happy of your accomplishments as a writer. You WRITE. You PUBLISH. People PAY for your books, and they ENJOY them.

    I've paid. I've enjoyed. I've lived as Sam McCord through your eyes.

    As the NYT posits: 80% of people have a book in them.

    The fact is, 99% of that 80% will never write the book. I would guess only 1 out of 100 people with a book idea actually plot, draft, edit, revise, edit, edit, revise, go on a binge drunk, edit, revise, stand on the ledge of a building for several hours debating whether to go on, and then, finally, pull themselves back in through their first-story bedroom window and publish the dang thing.

    Much less publish a DOZEN said books!

    Anyway, success comes to those who wait, work, wait, work, and work. It just depends on what your definition of success is.

    Bubble or not, I don't think that will ever change.

    - Eric

  10. I have to agree with Eric. It just depends on your definition of success.

    We've all heard it, Roland. Going into this, I've always said, I'll never make it to the bestseller lists. Not because I'm a pessimist, but more a realist. Sure, I dream. Don't we all?

    But, I'm certainly not doing this for money. I'm writing, and soon, hope to be publishing because it's what I'm here on this planet to do. It's what makes me happy, content, full-filled.

    Will I end up self-pubbing? Who knows. But, when I'm ready, when the novel is ready, it'll happen. Even if I have to carve it into a stone tablet. I just have to believe it. And want it bad enough to make it happen.

    Do I wish I had it like Amanda Hocking? Hell yes, but then reality slaps me upside the head.

    Was the this past work week nightmarish for you?? I hear it in your words.

    You've done amazing things, Roland! You've acquired many followers / readers who admire and support you. I think it boils down to Eric's question.

    What is your definition of success?

  11. This is such a thought-provoking post, Roland.

    I, too, agree with Eric. I consider you to be successful, Roland, because you've developed a brand for yourself and you sell books. I have bought your books, as well, because you have talent and longevity. The 80% do not all have talent. And those who don't will fall to the wayside.

    I truly believe the market will change again in time, but not burst. People will always want something to read. For example, I see a future in interactive books, and as long as a writer can also be a business person and change with the times, he/she will continue to be present in the marketplace. Not always monetarily successful (I've written on spec for over 15 years now, so I'm not in it for the money), but will maintain a presence in the publishing industry.

    Great discussion here!

  12. An extremely thought provoking post!

    I, myself, enjoy the feel of a book in my hand...hoping there are many still left like me.

  13. Lorelei:
    There is a certain feel to having a book in your hand certainly. But I have a leather binder for my Kindle Fire, and it feels as if I'm reading a real book with it.

    I believe you are right. The bookstores are vulnerable. Without them, Amazon will be the only game in town. Monopolies always are bad for the consumer eventually. Sigh.

    Theresa :
    Yes, the quality of the formatting and the editing are often questionable in ebooks. Not everyone has an ereader or computer. And reading a book off a phone's tiny screen is not an optimum reading experience!!

    The numbers were just something I used as an educated guess which is all any of us in the tar baby of publishing can do until the dust settle! Thanks for joining in the Sunday fun. I'm still at work, of course! Whew!

    That you've looked at the adventures through Sam's eyes means a lot. I was just taking a look around me while I was busy in the arena.

    I did not mean to sound unappreciative of those who paid hard cash money to read Victor's and Sam adventures!

    You're right, too, in that those who dream are many while those labor to put their dream to life are very few!

    Candy :
    To see my dream come to life and touch even one reader who is happy for the experience is my idea of success.

    But like you, I would not turn down Amanda Hocking's or John Locke's success!

    You are right: this week was and still is nightmarish for me. Sometimes people in authority yield to temptation, making things rough for those under them. All of which would make me happier if I could support myself modestly as a full-time writer. But 95% of the writers out there, like struggling actors,have to have a day job to pay the bills. Ouch!

    Hasn't this been a good discussion? I think that true success for all of us would be to reach a point to be able to support ourselves with our writing. But we must blend reality into our dreams.

    Interactive books do seem to be the wave of the future, don't they?

    That's why I bought my leather Kindle binder to have that feel and the smell of real leather.

    Like you, I hope that books continue to exist, for I love to roam the aisles of bookstores, just letting my eyes wander along titles, looking for a suprise and an enchantment. Oops, here comes the blood drive. The game's afoot!

  14. I think you are right on when you call the self-publishing phenomenon a dot com bubble. And overall, I believe the authors who love what they do, and who are committed to putting their best work out there, without tallying sales numbers, will be the happiest and most successful when it all plays out.

  15. KarenG:
    I fear self-publishing may be exactly that: a bubble waiting to pop.

    In the last episode of THE RIVER, a missing father defined (on tape) what success was to his searching daughter: success if finding something you love to do and finding somebody willing to pay you to do it!

  16. I definitely think that for most writers, it's never going to happen 'big time'. But there's no point in giving up on the dream, even if you have to make that dream happen yourself, through self-publishing.

  17. Trisha:
    My sentiments exactly. Publishing is too unstable to take financial risks on very many unknowns. There are more open slots in the NBA than there are for novice writers.

    Getting an agent is only the first hurdle novice writers must clear to become printed. Sigh. Thanks for writing, Roland

  18. I think the next few years will be interesting for the publishing business. On one hand, it's easier than ever for anyone to write and self-publish their own work. On the other, it's getting harder to be traditionally published.

    We'll just have to wait and see what happens!

  19. Hopefully things will equal out again, once the self-pub craze runs its course. I have lots of day friends who say they think they could write a novel or short story - usually while I'm crowing about an acceptance or begging people to buy an anthology.

    Then they listen to how I spend my weekends and evenings and suddenly it doesn't seem so attractive to write. But, there are plenty of us dedicated to the craft, and yes it does seem hopeless to attract an agent or publisher.

    And then there are friends like you who've gone out and made their dreams come true with the e-publishing options.

    Yep, perhaps the publishing world has balanced out. Look how many you've published in just under a year. Your life's work is now available for everyone. Just shows if you work hard enough at a publishing dream you can make it come true :)