Tuesday, January 25, 2011

EBOOKS -THE GOOD AND THE BAD- Together?

Here is the beginning of a great debate. Anyone can publish an ebook. True. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Some professional authors don't like the idea,  as in this quote taken from  Meghan McCarthy's blog with her permission: (thank you Meghan.)

"There are so many reasons why I find ebooks problematic. 
Barnes & Noble has what’s called Pubit. 
It’s a self publishing platform. Anybody can upload what they've written and illustrated. 
B&N takes 65% of titles listed under 9.99 and 40% of those listed over. The cool thing for 
most people doing this is that THEIR BOOK gets to be placed on the BN 
website along with standard edited, designed, copyedited PUBLISHED BOOKS! 
How great is that? For THEM. Here’s where I think things get VERY problematic." 
      

Meghan goes onto say that when you browse for classic books, such as Good Night Moon, you'll get self-published books right beside it which are done in an amateurish style, drawn in crayons, or poorly created computer art, etc. In my opinion, I don't think it is a bad thing that all ebooks are offered on the same playing field. And who decides what is "good" and what is "bad". My thought is that  if the ebookstores give priority to "real" or "traditional" publishers, then those of us who want to get our OP or original works in ebook formats, will be forced to the back of the bus.   Meghan also mentioned the price points being low. I don't think expensive ebooks are necessarily better books.  I hope to offer my books in the low price range,(1.99-3.99). SO I say- let the readers/buyers decide.


(BUT in reality- I'm not even sure that the ebookstores aren't already giving priority to big publishers. Both Apple and B&N only gave their double page spread formatting secrets to big publishers, leaving small developers scrambling.)


What do you think?...How do feel about your ebook being next to Sally's school book report that her parents turned into an ebook? Should the ebookstores separate published authors and one book wonders? How? I would love to hear what you think.


(Note: To clarify B&N pricing:  PubIt! eBooks priced at or between $2.99 and $9.99, publishers-(meaning the author) will receive 65 percent of the list price for sold content; for those priced at $2.98 or less, or $10.00 or more, publishers will only receive 40 percent of the list price.  I do believe if a developer submits formatted books, B&N will take 30% off list price.)  

30 comments:

  1. I for one am not too worried. Creating a decent picture book is very hard work. In its own way it can be compared to writing and singing or playing your own music or making your own film. It seems to me that some talented people, who would not otherwise get a chance to show what they can do now have a way to get seen and heard. The dreadful, do not last long. Why would this be different for books, ebooks or otherwise. Meanwhile, maybe some interesting things can happen when the real marketplace decides, rather than the marketing departments.

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  2. Fascinating topic, Maryann! You have to wonder who will "curate" all this stuff that's already flooding B&N and Amazon and other ebook stores. YA author John Green had a great SLJ article about this topic published at the beginning of last year, in which he talks about bookselling websites that make "no real distinction between a classic like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the self-published picture book My Puppy Is Adorable and These Illustrations Prove It." He nominates librarians for the job as arbiters of quality.

    But I have to wonder how many individual people will rush in to get their books onto sites like Amazon or B&N, if there will really be a tsunami of clip art monstrosities coming to an e-store near you. Even if it's easier to self-publish to these sites, it's not that easy for the inexperienced person. And marketing any title requires a TON of work.

    Of course, all of this ignores the vast amounts of crud already produced by reputable publishers. : ))

    -- Laura

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  3. Oops. That SLJ link isn't right.

    Try this..

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  4. Laura- The thing is -there's already lots of "clip art Monstrosities" up as ebooks. PubIt really makes it easy. Like some self-published books, many people just want to make their book about "grandma" available...even if it's just the family that buys it. I do think it is the marketing that is going to get an ebook noticed. And that will not be easy!

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  5. This is funny to me, because *I* thought all that file formatting and what-not required to upload stuff to the various stores looked hard! (Tech-idiot-alert).

    But let's say there are lots of horrible, horrible things up on B&N already, even more on Amazon, and more coming on myclipartmonstrosity.com. I'm not convinced that it will make it harder for serious artists to get noticed (er...harder than it is already) I mean, if it's easier for people to get published, then it's easier for US, too, no?

    -- Laura

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  6. To understand the future of publishing, look to the music industry. The major labels became meaningless, anyone with a computer and ProTools can record and release their own music and things got pretty chaotic for a while.

    But look what's what happened:

    Musicians are building nice careers by developing a hardcore base of fans (using social media as the linchpin), cutting costs by avoiding expensive studio time, CD press and ad-driven marketing. Plus, by self-releasing, they get all of the money for a track sold, not just a fraction of it.

    The result? A band with a 10 or 15 thousand loyal fans can do just fine. Maybe they'll never get on the cover of Rolling Stone, but they're in control of their creative vision, they make all their own business decisions and they have the lovely experience of connecting ona daily basis (via blogs, video blogs, Twitter, etc.) with fans who greatly admire them and their work.

    My point? this is *exactly* the scenario writers can pursue, starting right now.

    Don't wait for "curators' -- go out and build you own audience, connect with them and provide great books to read. Then, lather, rinse, repeat! :)

    Jon Bard
    Managing Editor, Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers

    PS: I strongly recommend that you get a handle on what's happened in music because it really is a precursor to the future of publishing. the best place to start? This blog: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress Here's a good example for starters: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2011/01/11/the-canadian-copyright-settlement/

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  7. Yeah, I agree with Jon. It doesn't matter that much what happens on B&N site. It's all about the author and the following. The middlemen are the ones having a tough time. And I also think that music industry is a good one to look at. Get ideas from them -- they're way ahead of us but we're on a similar trajectory.

    Also, I imagine these sites will do as app stores do and make the popular ones float to the top. Books about grandma's life will be at the bottom, but available to those who have the link.

    On the other hand, when I think about me being responsible for selling my books I began to think that seems like an awful lot of marketing responsibility on my shoulders.

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  8. The good and bad together has to do with EVERYTHING on the internet, no? It's the nature of the beast. Information doesn't go thru any fact checking. Any voices can be heard, no matter how nuts/violent/sick they might be. And yet the alternative is not great, because WHO will be the censor, the fact checker, the arbiter? Scary thought-- in general.
    But I still would like seeing my own books connected to a brand with certain standards, to enter the marketplace with group clout rather than market them by myself.

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  9. I can't post this on my own site or blog but I work at B&N. I read what they're talking about (kind of the insider deal) and the way they are trying to brainwash us into selling their Nook and ebooks, etc. It's a very sudden shift and has to do with the new CEO, who is a real tech guy. It's sad because with Borders going under what other stores are there? The small guys have already been wiped out. If this becomes like a free-for-all where you upload your own stuff w/out an editor or designer, etc. then I don't want to publish books anymore. Despite the fact that I want to pull my hair out half the time when dealing w/my editors, a much better book emerges. And it's impossible to sell books without a publisher sending out F&Gs for review and all of that. A single person can't trek themselves around trying to sell their books. It's not worth the time and money. I'll find another career. This is why I think ebooks will be the death of books--they won't be properly edited, designed, you won't know who did what... ugh... it'll just be a mess.

    meghan

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  10. We're talking about different kinds of books here--books that have been previously published and new, untested books. And that's what I was talking about before, the untested, original books, where they meet certain criteria so merit inclusion under the banner of a brand or group, kind of like a housekeeping seal of approval (one way to separate the wheat from chaff, which was supposed to be the traditional publisher's job). You could say that will involve some sort of censorship-- judging quality of art/design/text and appropriate content for the targeted age. When I worked as a librarian this was called SELECTION.

    Some authors are brands unto themselves, but most of us aren't and can't do it all by ourselves-- creating AND objectively evaluating our own work AND marketing.

    Please, dear not so Anonymous--don't give up your career!!! Not yet. This stuff is still new and shaking out....

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  11. Meghan:

    I think you're right in that books -- whether they're electronic or paper -- need to be properly edited and designed. And you know, the readers *do* notice that kind of thing. I've read comments on Amazon mentioning a lack of editing, bad covers, terrible design, etc. on ebooks they've bought, even the ones they spent only .99 cents for.

    I know things are chaotic now, but I believe that things will get sorted. They won't go back to the way they were, but they will get sorted. I'm with Phyllis -- don't give up!

    -- Laura

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  12. Ditto that books need proper editing, illustration, designing. Fresh eyes are always a good thing. The question is: how can this be achieved? Is a traditional publishing scenario the only option, or can book-creation teams be assembled in other ways? Freelance editors and designers can be hired, as one example.

    Personally, I have shown dummies, sample artwork, and so forth to whoever wanders into my studio and have often received excellent feedback. They've seen things both I and my pub have missed. That reminds me, copyeditors are also a must.

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  13. I'd again point back to the music industry. Artists releasing their own works are investing in professional help to to mix their tracks and design their artwork. And it is an investment -- work by artists who spend a few bucks upfront sound better and usually sell better.

    No difference here -- authors who invest in professional freelance editing, art direction, etc. will have a leg up. The path to doing that may not seem clear right now, but it will very soon. Anyone who's panicked by the new environment needs to take a deep breath and let this nascent way of doing things develop a bit.

    And remember -- cream will rise to the top. It will *always* be about quality writing and storytelling.

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  14. But this sounds all backward. Right now I get PAID to do books. Why should I PAY! I'm trying to make a living from this. If publishing houses disappear then I will have to quit making books. I cannot afford to pay people to review my material and I cannot afford to make books without a big advance. How will I pay my rent and cell phone bill and eat and LIVE? This isn't a hobby for me! Those people who self publish do it as a hobby.

    I HOPE with all my heart that ebooks will supplement regular books and will not be used much for picture books, etc. IF print books completely disappeared books as we know it will be be no more. It will be a sad, sad day. it will not be like the music industry. The big stars in music make money in other ways--off of merchandise, concerts, etc. Authors don't make money that way. And authors can't sign an ebook. I LOT of people will be out of work.

    meghan

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  15. P.S: if you check out my blog you'll see that I've decided to do an experiment. I'm going to put up one of my out of print books on PubIt to see what happens...

    meghan

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  16. Meghan, you'll have to post a link. : )

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  17. Oh, and cream doesn't always rise to the top. I've been a bookseller for many years and witnessed it time and time again. Shoppers see Madonna on TV and ask for her book sight unseen... or Jay Leno's book - because he's funny on TV so his book MUST be (his book is TERRIBLE), or they come in with the NYT bestseller list and ask for books off of it... They don't know how to judge for themselves. It's kind of sad and scary.

    meghan

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  18. It's at the top of Maryann's post!

    meghan

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  19. I guess that links to the one post. Here we go:

    http://childrensbooks-goodbadugly.blogspot.com/

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  20. Thanks for posting this link, Meghan.

    I'm no expert, and I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't see publishers disappearing. It's too much work to produce a quality book, no matter what the format.

    As for self-published ebooks and/or bad titles selling boatloads of copies on B&N or Amazon, well, some people are always going to buy something just cause Madonna or Jay Leno or Snooki "wrote" it. Not much we can do about that. But I don't think the bad ebooks have enough competition from the good ones yet. The publishers don't have all their backlists available, erights issues haven't been worked out, children's book creators are just beginning to reprint their own titles, etc.

    And we can't forget price. I think early adopters of Kindles, Nooks, etc. — despite the cost of the device — are price conscious, and are looking to fill up their devices with cheap books. So they see something that costs less than a cup of coffee, they click on it. (I don't like this, as I feel that a story that provides hours and hours of enjoyment shouldn't be valued so low, but there it is).

    I can speak for myself and say that even though I might experiment with putting an OOP title on Amazon (or wherever), I don't have the design experience to do the job right, so I will have to hire professionals to help. That will, essentially, turn me into a publisher. I don't want to become my own publisher. But I'm doing my best to accept that the industry is changing. Not dying, but changing.

    Anyway, I'm glad that you posted here, and I'm glad that you decided to put a title of your own on B&N. I wish you the best of luck with it!

    -- Laura

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  21. I agree- Publishing is not dying. IT IS changing. 2 of my editors are now "freelancing" by editing for a fee. So if I ever decide to put an original ebook up- I'll have it edited. What worries me is that the license characters & celebrity books will take the front seat in the ebookstores just like "real" books do in the bookstores- we'll have to work even harder to get our e-titles out there. I do think we HAVE to ban together and make a presence. One thing we are NOT are beginners. We have a track record and "fans" (a few). Thanks Meghan. Regarding making a living...We have to look at all sources of income when it comes to our books. I think of ebooks as another format to make money. I do hope that "paper" books never go away. Please keep us posted on your B&N book. You will probably be changing your tune when you sell a million copies!
    Maryann

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  22. While licensed/celebrity books will always be with us, I think they'll become less of an issue in the future in terms of competition. Here's why:

    Scenario 1: One mom tells another mom at playgroup about a great new book she's bought for her child,

    Old way: Second mom writes down name of book, makes a note to go to bookstore. maybe she does, maybe she forgets. if she does go, bookstore may not have the book in stock or she can't find it. result; she buys nothing or maybe buys one of the books the store is pushing that day.

    New way: Mom whips out her Kindle/Nook/whatever and buys the book on the spot, seconds after getting the recommendation.

    Scenario 2: Teenager hears about YA author who sounds cool.

    Old way: He asks his friends if they've heard of the author. He asks a librarian, or the bookstore clerk. He digs around trying to find titles. eventually, he gives up or, perhaps, just buys something from the big name author everyone else is reading.

    New way: He visits the author's website, reads her blog, maybe e-mails back and forth with the author a bit. He's joined her Tribe. He will buy books directly from the author's site and send the link to all his friends so they can do the same.


    So let the licensees and the celebs make their money. that's not your concern. Just focus on how much more power the author now has to create, promote and sell.


    And a PS to the poster above who said authors, unlike musicians, have no way of developing ancillary income. Not so. Live appearances, licensing, merchandising, joint ventures, multimedia editions, apps, etc. etc. etc. Once you've built up a following, have established a brand and have what marketers call a "platform", you have myriad ways of developing income streams.

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  23. I love Jon's last comment... it deserves to be a post in itself!

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  24. I believe you have to think about whether there are true opportunities beyond the ebook in terms of what kind of book you're talking about. Is it a picture book? A middle grade? A teen novel? I think there are plenty of opportunities for the latter two. And frankly, if I were published as a novelist I wouldn't be that concerned about ebooks to begin with. But I'm a picture book author. Little kids aren't downloading apps and I don't think they should be suckered to buy anything else beyond the book. I wouldn't want them to. I write nonfiction books and I'm trying to educate kids about a range of topics--history, science, nature, etc. I enjoy giving things away for free on my website--tools to help teachers in the classroom, free coloring pages, and that sort of thing. I don't think young children should be exposed to "advertising" that teens are or would be when it comes to ebooks. Perhaps this is one more reason i'd just sink if books went out of existence.

    Jon, in my case, as a nonfiction picture book author, what kinds of things do you think I could make money off of beyond the book? I'm not asking rhetorically or sarcastically. I'm merely curious. I do some author visits when I can (they do pay very well) but I can't do many for health reasons.

    meghan

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  25. Hi Meghan,

    I think picture books actually represent a tremendous opportunity, because of the ability to add animation, sounds and so on. Have a look at this: http://www.write4kids.com/blog/2011/01/19/this-may-be-the-future-of-picture-books/ It shows the sort of technology that can make picture books really come alive. And it's the parents -- who will already own e-readers -- who will be buying the books. So I don't think that's an obstacle.

    As for author visits -- did you know that lots of authors are doing Skype visits? From your desk you can visit schools around the world. Here's an example: http://www.cynthealiu.com/skypevirtual-author-visit-how-it-went/ More info: http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com

    Beyond that, as I mention above, if you develop a list of parents who enjoy your work, you have many opportunities to earn more, via t-shirt sales, merchandise, autographed copies, apps and so on. If it doesn't seem clear to you at the moment, don't fret. It will in time!

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  26. Well... I sort of feel that if you add animation to a picture book then why not just make an animation? I don't understand the need to try and make hybrids of things. I think making books "animate" is going to cause kids to have trouble focusing and create illiteracy. I'm not joking at all. I always had a lot of trouble reading in my younger years because of my attention problems - if you add animation to books for little kids it will be hopeless for kids like me. I'd refuse to learn to read at all. There's no easy way around learning sometimes. Plop the kid down and make them read. It does get easier. If you give kids options - like hey, some books animate! Then I'd ALWAYS want to watch animation and I'd be more and more lazy and eventually I'd be like "Hey, I just want to watch cartoons. Give me a DVD." I think it's all a big mistake. My 2 cents!

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  27. I'm late to this topic and am just releasing a few of my out of print books as ebooks. I'm not worried about competing with "self-published" authors because I see it as quality against quality. If they write a good book then they'll be my competition. If they don't, then they won't even appear on my radar. I'm hoping to bring my already established fans along on the journey. What I like about being able to create ebooks is that it gives the author power again. The 70% royalty from Amazon is quite a step up from the 25% of net publishers offer.

    If you want to read about a few successes read JA Konrath's blog: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

    Of course it is hard to know how many ebooks are not successes. But I see it as a great way to get a bit more exposure and money out of my out of print books.

    And relatively simple to do. I'm somewhat techy, but it really was only about 2-3 hours work to get my book on amazon.

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  28. Hi Arthur. Nice to "see" you here!

    Wondering how you got those files up on Amazon. Did you scan your physical copies? Format a Word file?

    Also, what did you do about cover art?

    -- Laura

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