Everything I know about indie publishing

 
 
A lecture on ebook publishing I prepared for a tertiary seminar on publishing.

It’s been a few months now since my last post, but this isn’t the kind of site where I promise to deliver three weekly updates, only to disappoint with the inevitable absences. Google Analytics tells me that people come here to find out how to do things concerning ebook publishing, get what they need and vamoose. I understand, because that’s exactly the way I browse the internet.
 
But that won’t stop me boring you with the minutiae. In the meantime, I’ve been as sick as I’ve ever been, to the point that for about three months the only thing I was concentrating on was getting better, or finding a tall building with unlocked roof access nearby. The good news for statisticians is that I’m 95% cured and now have a 99% immunity from developing the same condition ever again. Which is great, because I spent a decent part of July and August bouncing between GPs and specialists (when you need two hands to count how many times you’ve been misdiagnosed, you know you’re in trouble) and wondering if I’d reached the point where life stops being ‘normal’. It’s a pretty humbling experience. Of course, I’ve broken every damn promise I made to myself about a monastic devotion to improving my life, should I get better, but I suppose that’s a part of the human condition.
 
Oh, and I’ve also finished three manuscripts in the six months from May. Before I sound too much like one of those people who gets shit done, I should divulge that two of the manuscripts are children’s chapter books weighing in at about twenty thousand words each. Naturally, they’re terrible and I’ve completely failed to even begin editing them. It may be 2014 before I can even stand to look at them again.

Lecture
What happens when you let me get within five metres of a whiteboard     (source)

But you’re not here for that. In early September, I delivered a seminar for Holmesglen’s Industry Overview publishing subject, detailing what people might need to consider if they were ever mad enough to try releasing their books via indie publishing. And, in the spirit of 21st century recycling, I thought I’d throw the powerpoint and a few guiding notes up on here, in case anyone was ever trying to prepare an assignment on ebook publishing the night before it was due. No! That’s wrong! Don’t plagiarise, kids, or if you do, be smart about it, because they’ll nail you shut if they catch you doing it.

Everything I know about indie publishing

Once again, that powerpoint link, for anyone who missed it. (If the link goes dead, shoot me an email and I can send you a copy.) If you’re wondering why it’s taking so damn long to download it’s because the file is 9MB. I was lazy and didn’t compress the images before assembling it.
 

Slide 3: the decline of physical storage

1. Where have record stores gone?
2. In the US (US consumers are early adopters), between 2000 and 2010, CD sales fell more than 50%. Record store sales fell 75%.
3. Remaining 25% of existing sales will fall 75% again by 2016 (meaning 2016 store sales equal ~6% of 2000 sales).
4. Emusic sales surpassed physical sales in Jan 2012.
5. Electronic media rising in popularity: mp3 killed CDs, streaming video on demand (Netflix, Hulu, something we don’t really get here compared to the US) is killing DVDs and Blu-ray, online store Steam is killing physical PC games.
6. Will this happen to books?
 

Slide 7: burned by rapid obsolescence

Consumers have been burned by brands which collapse much sooner than their competitors’. In the case of HD DVD, the time from launch to discontinuation in the United States was less than two years – a galling proposition to consumers who outlaid almost a thousand dollars on a player.
 

Slide 12: the indie publishing process: money

The price quoted for editing and the cover design reflects the high cost of hiring professionals in Australia. There is a middle ground of hiring people from developing countries and/or students, but the maxim of results may vary very much holds true. Of course, sometimes a great student designer can bring your cover to life for very little outlay: check out the results of an experiment to purchase ebook covers from various sources by Reddit user Sprachprofi.
 

Slide 22: the long tail model of publishing

Who makes a graph without labelling the axes? Me. I’m a monster, I know. The vertical axis represents a linear increase in books sold, and the horizontal axis is the number of authors, i.e. a very few indie authors sell a large proportion of ebooks, a larger group of authors have modest sales, and the vast majority of indie authors sell very few ebooks.
 

Slide 23: other opportunities

These are, of course, the personal opportunities which have occurred for me because of indie publishing. You can’t have them. No. They’re mine. But the broad thrust is that, even if no-one buys your book, just having gone to the effort of producing a quality product may open other doors for you.
 

Slide 24: authors who succeed

‘Popular genres’ is not a slur. In fact, I see an echo of 50s blue collar writers in today’s hard-working indie publishers, i.e. people who can make a frugal but full-time living off their writing, and anyone who can write more than half a million words per year (as many of these people do) deserves respect.

Proceed to ‘Review: The Five Day Writer’s Retreat’, or return to Re: writing.
Return to Re: writing
As always, feel free to unleash below.

Rhys About Rhys

Teacher, writer, editor, cook: a bit like that nursery rhyme, really.
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