Monday, October 24, 2011

The Idaho Book Extravaganza and Other Stuff, Like Going Self Pub

I went to my eye doctor today. As I sat in the office chatting with the doc, my career as a writer came up, as did the IBE (this Friday and Saturday in Boise). I think she and her husband may attend, which would be really cool. I love making connections like that, especially when it means it might produce results. 

And I’m not talking only about money or sales. I’m talking about making a difference with my art. But I digress.

She was telling me how on a recent trip to Portland and the legendary Powell’s Books, she walked the aisles taking mental notes. Her strategy was to save money by not buying hardcopy books. She was just browsing. She eschewed Powell’s for the purchase and bought the titles she liked later, on Amazon, for her Kindle. I find that to be hilariously capitalistic; I’m almost giddy about it.

Her question: “Should I feel bad about that?”

My response: “Hell no!”

She probed further, however, and a new issue came up. She wondered if buying the Kindle version of a book hurts the author, stunting his potential earnings somehow. I told her no, in some cases an author can make more selling a Kindle version of his book for $2.99 than he can selling a paperback for $14.99, depending. And it’s the truth (though this scenario is a different story for indie bookstores, which is obvious). I told her that anyone who’s got a backlist on Amazon is a big kid, and if they signed a horrible contract with an awful publisher, they will have to deal with the consequences. We’re all grownups around here. I don’t need to tell you, dear reader, that it’s far better to pull down 70% than 15% for the same dizzying amount of time and work.

It has to do with how one goes about one’s business, really, so pay attention. For all intents and purposes, there are really only two groups of published authors on Amazon (or anywhere else, for that matter): those with traditional contracts and those who are going it alone. I don’t want to belabor the point, so I won’t. I’ll just focus on those of us with at least a little entrepreneurial passion oozing from the creases of our fat rolls.

Basically, if you’re not signed with one of the Big Six, you’re self-pubbed. Hate to break it to you. But it is so. What’s the difference, really, between a guy signed with an indie house, a guy who bought a publishing package on CreateSpace and a guy who basically did the same thing through selected vendors as an LLC? I’ll tell you. The only difference—if there is one—is going to be in the quality of the final product. Cover design. Editing. Formatting. Technology levels absolutely every other part of the playing field. No, really. Because even if you’re walking around with that gold-framed contract around your neck that says I’m a Big Six Author and I’ve Made It, you’re still going to be working your cheeks off the same as me, and for far less in the end.

Those of us flying solo have the double-edged advantage of control. We call the shots. And we live with the consequences. The point of this tirade? Simply this: that, to this day, you basically have several variations on two options.

  • Cash up front vs. Potential
  • Control by committee vs. Total control
  • Work for peanuts vs. Work for reward
  • Being crushed by huge overhead vs. Running efficient and lean
  • Me waxing eloquent some more vs. Me wrapping this up

Here’s the rub. Okay? Here it is. The dirty little secret is that some of us are diligently about our business. Those of us who are, are producing Big Six quality stuff even though we’re pretty much self-pubbed—if that’s how we define entrepreneurism in the publishing industry. That’s fine with me. I couldn’t care less about what name adorns the contract, except for mine. What matters are what numbers are on it…or not on it. All my contracts cut out the middleman entirely, wherever possible. It’s part of my top secret common sense business philosophy, which is a no-brainer.

In a nutshell, it’s this: Focus most on what matters most. How are you going about your business? Are you focused on what matters, or what highfalutin name is on the letterhead? Tell ya what: pop on over to the IdahoBook Extravaganza this weekend at the Boise Center on the Grove and learn a thing or two about the biz and those who are shaping it. The future doesn’t automatically belong to the big baddie corporations (cry me a river, you Occupy sissies), at least as long as there are some go-getters down here at ground level with the rest of us. 

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