The Realities of the E-Book Revolution

(NOTE:  I wrote this post a year ago.  Since it was first posted, ebooks have continued to increase market share and traditional publishers have continued their struggle for survival.   Now, more than ever, it’s time for authors to consider their options carefully before taking the traditional route to publication! – RDM 7-9-12)

BY ROBERT DAVID MACNEIL – On a recent flight out of DFW, I picked up a PC Today magazine and read an amazing statistic.  The magazine reported that 12% of the adults in the US now own an e-reader.  (Pew Internet Project’s May, 2011 survey)

I found that statistic impressive, but as I read further, I discovered three additional factors that make it nothing less than earthshaking…

FACTOR ONE:  The 12% figure does not include tablet devices like the Ipad.  If you add in tablets, the percentage owning an e-reading device soars to almost 20% of the population.

FACTOR TWO:  Less than half of the adults in this country are avid readers.  (Only 30% of Americans even visited a bookstore in the past five years.)  So of the actual “reading” population, the number using e-readers is probably approaching 50%

FACTOR THREE (And this is the kicker)…. That 12% rate in Pew’s survey is DOUBLE the e-reader ownership reported in Pew’s November, 2010 survey, just six months earlier.   So e-reader ownership in this country actually doubled in six months!  (Lots of people got e-readers for Christmas!)

That’s why e-book sales in America experienced a 202.3% growth in the last year while hardback and paperback sales fell 34.4%

That’s why e-books are now the single bestselling format in American publishing. (Apr 2011 Association of American Publishers)

As authors, we need to see that the publishing world is where the “horse and carriage” industry was in the early years of the 20th century.  It has a long and glorious history, but it has passed a tipping point and will never be the same again.

That makes it a whole new world for authors.   I’ve talked to many authors who have been where I’ve been for the past year.  Do I stay with the old paradigm and seek an agent and publisher… or do I take a chance on this “new thing” that’s shaking the publishing world?

That’s one of the hardest decisions any author can make, and each author needs to consider the options carefully.  I am fully convinced my SciFi thriller, Iona Portal could have done very well going the traditional route, but the more I looked at the publishing world, the more I saw that route as a dead end.  So two weeks ago I chose to launch out into uncharted waters to e-publish Iona Portal.

If you are still debating the options of self-publishing, I encourage you to read my post, 6 Reasons Why It’s Foolish Not to Self Publish.

NEWBIE 102 – MORE TIPS FOR NEWCOMERS TO TWITTER! (An Expanded Version of the Original Tutorial)

Several commented recently they are still trying to figure out twitter.  I remember those days well!   When I started, I had no idea how this “Twitter thing” worked!  I every mistake possible!  But the Twitter community is very patient with newbies and over time, I began to learn.  In the process I’ve met some wonderful people and made some great friends.  And I’m still learning!  I have a long way to go.

A few weeks back, in response to a comment from a newbie who was trying to find his way around the twitterverse, I tweeted a few tips.  I don’t consider myself an expert, but these are things I wish I had known when I started.  The response to these tweets was so favorable; I decided to post them here for easy access.  I call it “NEWBIE 101.”

BULDING RELATIONSHIPS

The goal of Twitter is to help you build relationships.  When I started I didn’t see how that was possible, but I now have a growing number of friends in the twitterverse.  They live all over the world.  I may never see them in person.  But they’re friends.

START WITH FOLLOWERS

Twitter will give suggestions of people you might like to follow.  Take a look, and if they seem interesting, go ahead and follow them.  You can always “unfollow” later.  (When you follow someone, it means their tweets will show up in your timeline.)

Click on the name of a “tweeter” and their “profile” will appear on the right-hand side of your screen.  This is your first introduction to the tweeter.  If they seem like someone you’d like to know, click follow.

If you want people to follow you, be sure to add interesting content to your profile. A picture helps too!

If you follow someone, It’s a good idea to visit to their blog or website.   The URL of their blog will be listed in their profile.   This is a valuable part of the Twitter experience and lets you know who you’re following.  Also, when you mention to someone that you visited their blog, it lets them know you are serious about getting to know people.

To increase your followers, you might want to look at the follower lists of people with similar profiles to yours.  I’m a SciFi writer, so I look to see who is following SciFi writers.  I skim down the list and look for people who sound interesting, and follow them.  Since they’ve already shown that they are interested in following SciFi authors, many of these follow back.

Also, check to see who is following you.  If they sound interesting, follow them back.

INTERPRETING THE NUMBERS

By going to someone’s profile, you can also see a list of people they follow, and the people who follow them.  The numbers listed for each of these categories also tell you a lot…

If someone has just a few followers, but is following a lot of people… it’s another newbie. They are fishing for followers.

If someone has LOTS of followers, but only few “follows,” it’s a celebrity. U can follow them to read their tweets, but don’t expect them to follow-back.

Some reasons NOT to follow someone back – 1. All their tweets are in a language you don’t read! (how can you follow that?)

Some reasons NOT to follow someone back – 2. If they’ve followed hundreds of people & made zero (or very few) tweets, something’s wrong.

TWEETING

Make your tweets interesting to others.  Twitter is not your diary.  (No one wants to read your diary but your mom!)

Have variety in your tweets.  Share random thoughts, interesting websites & quotes. Have conversations.

MAKING A LIST

Your timeline shows tweets of all the people you follow.  Skim through it daily to find people you’d like to know better.

As you find people you want to relate to, add them to a “list.”  You can click on that list and see only what they are tweeting.

TWITTER MARKETING

Many writers use twitter for marketing.  That’s OK, but learn to do it right.  Just repeating, “BUY MY BOOK!” is not marketing.  In fact, if all you tweet is about your book, many will view you as obnoxious and will be LESS likely to buy your book!

Here’s a good blog by Andy Christofferson @VizProd on how to market, and not market on twitter! http://curiosityquills.com/5-marketing-techniques-that-work-on-me/

@DarinCalhoun also made an excellent comment on marketing:   Twitter… “is about building connections, not pushing sales.  Readers are not just customers but supporters & friends.”  That sums it up perfectly.

KEY:  If you use twitter to market, don’t overdo it.  Rule of Thumb:  Limit self-promotion to one tweet in 10!

TWITTER ETIQUETTE

Always be positive!  Don’t argue or criticize.  This is a supportive, encouraging community.

If someone posts something you like.  Retweet it.  (RT) They will notice, and will appreciate it.

If you have a personal question, comment, or correction, use a direct message to keep it private.  No one wants to be corrected in public

If you want to pay someone a compliment or encourage them, use a “mention.”

Check for messages, mentions & retweets at least daily.  Thank those who mention or RT you & look for opportunities to return the favor.

AVOIDING SCAMS AND SPAM:

As with every other part of the internet, there are sharks in the Twitterverse ocean!  Enjoy your swim, but stay alert!

If a stranger DMs you to tell you that someone posted your picture on their site – DON’T click on the link!!!  Delete it! It’s spam & might infect U!

if someone “mentions” you and includes a link to click, be careful!  Check their profile.  If they’ve sent that link to 50 people, but never followed anyone, its spam!

Before clicking on a link, hold your cursor over it & see if the pop-up shows a valid URL.  If the pop-up doesn’t show a URL, you’re dealing with a spammer, or worse.  Block or report spammers.

To find more helpful hints on using Twitter effectively, enter #newbie101 in the search box on your twitter homepage.

I’ll try to add to this list as I go along, but if you have any questions, please feel free to tweet me!

READY TO PUBLISH

The time has come to PUBLISH!

This week I finalized the cover art, and had Iona Portal proofread… one last time.  It’s been proofread and edited several times, but each time I remained dissatisfied.  (Didn’t someone say, “There are no good writers, just persistent re-writers?”)  So I would take that edited, proofread manuscript and begin making changes.

And I’m STILL re-writing… Probably the most re-written part of the book has been the first five paragraphs.  I’m sure they’ve been re-written 20 times since Chapter One has been posted on the website!

But the time for re-writing is nearing its end.   Ten days and counting ’till my target date for Kindle publication.  (Feels like those anxious days when your wife is VERY pregnant and her due date is just a week away!)

This week my goal is to make the changes generated by the last round of proofreading. (Mostly punctuation… I’m terrible at that.)  Then I begin to format for Kindle!  I’ve read their material online, and found several blogs that sound helpful.  I’ll be evaluating their advice as I go, and post my own “step-by-step” when I’ve finished the process.

In the midst of it all, my daughter is graduating from college tomorrow with her masters degree!  Big week!

BTW – The Dallas heat wave finally broke today!  For the first time since early June, it didn’t hit 100!  And it rained!  Sounds like a good time to publish a book.

6 REASONS WHY IT’S FOOLISH NOT TO SELF PUBLISH—PARTS 1 & 2

(To read this in a black-on-white format, click here.)

WHY IT’S FOOLISH NOT TO SELF PUBLISH — PART ONE

BY ROBERT DAVID MACNEIL – I’m not a newbie at writing.  I’ve been writing books for 20 years—two through a major publishing house and three self-published.  All have sold well.

For my first book I went through the traditional publication process, partly because I thought that was what you were supposed to do, but largely because I believed the “myth.”

That myth, propagated through the media, pictures an author’s life like this… you sit at your computer, composing your latest book, occasionally taking a break to go to the mailbox and pick up your next royalty check.  The myth says once you’ve published a book, life will be easy.  You will be rich and famous.  You can live anywhere and have lots of free time.  All your problems will be solved once you get that publishing contract.  WAIT!  What’s that sound?  Oh NO!  It’s the alarm clock!  …It’s time to WAKE UP!

Let’s look at the harsh realities of the “writing life.”  I’m not a psychic, but I CAN PREDICT YOUR FUTURE if you go the route of traditional publishing:

AGENTING – You may spend a year or more finding an agent.  I’ve talked to some who have spent several years, sending query after query, and still no agent.  Rejection slips pile up.  Some agents don’t even send rejection slips any more.  If they’re not interested, you never hear back from them.  You wait… and wait… and wait…

EDITING – Once you have an agent, your book will be edited, and the agent will ask you to make changes in your manuscript.

FINDING A PUBLISHER – Your agent will then begin the process of trying to sell your book to a publisher.  That also can take time.

RE-WRITES & PUBLICATION – You find a publisher.  The publisher may also ask you to do re-writes of your book.  Then comes the actual printing and distribution.  The typical timeframe from a query to seeing your book published can be 2 ½ to 3 years.

EUPHORIA – You have a brief period of euphoria.  You are now a published author!  You hold your new book in your trembling hands.  Your name is on the cover.  IT WAS WORTH IT ALL!

Then come more harsh realities…

NO PROMOTION – Your publisher will do little or nothing to promote your book.  (You didn’t know that was part of YOUR job?)  Without promotion, no one outside of your close circle of friends even knows your book exists!

LITTLE DISTRIBUTION – Your book may or may not make it to your local bookstore.  If a bookstore carries your book at all, it will usually be only two copies.  Two spines on the shelf, among thousands of books by better known authors.  Chances are very good your book will not sell.

FAILURE – The typical shelf-life of a first-time author’s book:  3-6  months.  If it hasn’t become a best seller in that time, it’s usually taken off the shelf and returned to the publisher.  No time to develop a fan base.  No time for word of mouth.  Your book has failed.

According to statistics, the failure rate of first time authors is 90%.  You’ve poured your life into your book; you’ve gone through the agony of seeking an agent and the long process of publication.  And in 3-6 months, it’s all over.  Your book, if not sent back to the publisher, will be put on the clearance table.  Your dream has been shattered.  You’ve not made much money.  Few people have read your book.  Many first-time writers are so discouraged by the process they never write another book.  That’s the experience of the majority of first-time authors!

The truth is, the traditional publishing model has always been a bad deal for writers.  The problem is, until recently, it’s been the only option.  (Traditional self-publishing was even a worse deal for writers.)

But in the last 5 years a major earthquake has struck the publishing world.  Things like the rise of Amazon.com, print on demand, and most of all, the E-book revolution!   The whole paradigm has changed.

The key to success used to be having your book prominently displayed in brick-and-mortar bookstores.  Let me tell you a secret:  That’s not even an issue anymore!   We’ve entered an era when a smaller and smaller percentage of books are sold in bookstores.  Think of it like this:  When was the last time you went down to a record store and bought a vinyl LP so you could listen to your favorite music?   See the point?  The same thing is now happening with books.

The whole publishing game has changed drastically!  If you read the trade publications, bookstores and publishers are frightened.  They’re desperately trying to find a way to survive in this new reality.

And in this new reality, the traditional route of getting an agent and a dead-tree publishing company is no longer the default option.  In fact, unless you are a celebrity, or you’re already a bestselling author, that route is probably not your best option!

In part two of this post, I will give six reasons WHY I believe self-publishing is a much better deal for a first-time author.  In fact, I believe, for almost any author, it’s foolish NOT to self-publish.

WHY IT’S FOOLISH NOT TO SELF PUBLISH — PART TWO

Most of us have assumed that traditional publishing is the only route to success for a writer.  That may have been true at one time, but it’s no longer true.  In the first part of this post, I tried to “burst the bubble” on the myths associated with publishing.

In recent years, a number of authors have achieved success by doing an end-run around the publishing industry.  A good example is the Christian novel, The Shack by William P. Young.  Young submitted The Shack to 26 publishing houses, both Christian and secular.  It was rejected by every single one.  The Shack was too “different.”  It didn’t fit any of the standard categories.  So together with three friends, he formed his own publishing company for the sole purpose of publishing his book.  (Essentially, they self-published.)  The Shack went unnoticed for over a year, but suddenly became popular in the summer of 2008.  By May of 2010, The Shack had over 10 million copies in print, and was number 1 on the New York Times best seller list for 70 weeks.  According to Wikipedia, The Shack achieved its success via word-of-mouth and a $300.00 website!

Yet The Shack was written before the E-Book revolution!  Now the whole publishing industry has changed.  Just as MP3 players and music downloads have made “record stores” obsolete, now E-readers and downloadable books are putting brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business.  (I’m not saying that’s good. It’s just reality.)

When I wrote Iona Portal, I assumed the best way to publish fiction was to seek an agent and a publisher.  I even queried one agent.  But in the process I began to research the publishing industry.  As I read the trade journals I discovered that publishers are frightened.  They see the traditional model in decline, and are struggling to find a way to survive in the new paradigm.

But while the new paradigm might bring hard times for publishers, it offers unprecedented opportunities to you, the author.  Here are 6 reasons why I believe self-publishing is now a better route for most authors…

1. YOU BYPASS THE QUERY PROCESS

Many aspiring authors spend years seeking an agent.  They send query after query and get rejection after rejection.  Why do they have such a hard time finding an agent?  Maybe the book is no good.  Maybe the book is great, but the author writes poor query letters.  Maybe the book doesn’t fit easily into one of the agent’s categories.   As The Shack proved, the success of your query doesn’t say much about the salability of your book.

Of course, the agony of the query process would be worth it IF getting an agent would guarantee success.  But as we’ve seen, having an agent does not mean your book will sell.  90% of first-time authors—most of whom have agents—still fail.

2. YOU MAINTAIN CONTROL.

In traditional publishing, you yield control of your book to the publisher, who may ask you to make major changes.  In my first two books, I was lucky and few changes were requested.  But on my third book, the publisher asked me to make major changes, which I was unwilling to do.  That’s when I switched to self-publishing.  Interestingly, that self-published book (WITHOUT the publisher’s requested changes) has sold better than either of my traditionally published books!

3. YOU DRASTICALLY CUT THE TIME TO PUBLICATION

The average time from query to publication is 2 ½ years.  Combined with the year or two you spent finding an agent, that means you’ll have to wait a long time to see your book in print!

With self-publishing, you can have your book published on major e-book platforms in less than a month!  You can spend those extra years marketing your book and building a following instead of trying to get your book published.

4. You get better DISTRIBUTION

When my first book was published, I assumed the publisher would distribute it widely.  My naive dream was to go into bookstores and see my book prominently displayed.  It never happened.  Three times I found my book on a bookstore shelf.  I actually had people write me asking where they could get my book.  They’d seen a friend’s copy and wanted to buy one, but could not find it in a bookstore.  That kind of availability is not a formula for success.

But with e-publishing… in a single weekend, you can have your e-book for sale in the biggest online bookstores in the world, available to anyone who wants to purchase it, no matter where they live.

5. YOU CAN EARN MORE MONEY

The royalty rates for self-pub e-books are WAY ahead of anything traditional publishers offer.  So even though your e-book costs less to buy than a dead-tree book, you will make more money on each book sold.  That’s a better deal for the reader, and a better deal for you.

6. YOU GAIN TIME FOR YOUR BOOK TO SUCCEED

When my first book was published, I assumed the publisher would market it…  that they would invest time and money to “get the word out” so people would buy it.   Wrong again!  The publisher did almost nothing to market my book.  That’s pretty much the norm.

FEAR OF MARKETING – One of the biggest reasons people give for NOT self publishing is the fear that they’ll have to market their own book.  The truth is, if you are not a celebrity, you WILL have to market your own book, no matter how you publish it.  (But you CAN learn to do that!  Other people do  it, and you can too!  There’s tons of material on the web to help.)

THE SELF-PUBLISHING ADVANTAGE – Self-publishing gives you one major advantage in marketing:  TIME.  With dead-tree publishing, you have a 3-month window to make your book a best-seller.  If it’s not a success in 3 months, bookstores begin pulling it from the shelf.  (Every book you’ve seen on a book clearance table represents some author’s crushed dream.)

There’s no time for word-of-mouth.  There’s no time to build a following.  You must “hit it” in a 3-month window.  Some books are overnight sensations.  But others take time.  It took a year before people began to notice The Shack.  But then it went viral.

Self-pub e-books give you all the time you need.  Your e-book will be available to everyone, in the biggest online bookstores in the world, for as long as you want.  You still have to market it.  But you have time!

That’s why I decided to self-publish Iona Portal.  And that’s why I believe, for the majority of first-time writers, it’s foolish not to self-publish!

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IONAPORTAL CONTEST:  YOUR SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG IS ALSO YOUR CONTEST ENTRY.  WHEN IONA PORTAL IS PUBLISHED, ONE SUBSCRIBER, CHOSEN AT RANDOM, WILL RECEIVE A FREE COPY!

NEWBIE 101 – TIPS FOR NEWCOMERS TO TWITTER!

(To read this in a black-on-white format, click here.)

Several commented recently they are still trying to figure out twitter.  I remember those days well!   When I started, I had no idea how this “Twitter thing” worked!  I every mistake possible!  But the Twitter community is very patient with newbies and over time, I began to learn.  In the process I’ve met some wonderful people and made some great friends.  And I’m still learning!  I have a long way to go.

Today, in response to a comment from a newbie who was trying to find his way around the twitterverse, I tweeted a few tips.  I don’t consider myself an expert, but these are things I wish I had known when I started.  The response to these tweets was so favorable; I decided to post them here for easy access.  I call it “NEWBIE 101.”

BULDING RELATIONSHIPS

The goal of Twitter is to help you build relationships.  When I started I didn’t see how that was possible, but I now have a growing number of friends in the twitterverse.  They live all over the world.  I may never see them in person.  But they’re friends.

START WITH FOLLOWERS

Twitter will give suggestions of people you might like to follow.  Take a look, and if they seem interesting, go ahead and follow them.  You can always “unfollow” later.  (When you follow someone, it means their tweets will show up in your timeline.)

Click on the name of a “tweeter” and their “profile” will appear on the right-hand side of your screen.  This is your first introduction to the tweeter.  If they seem like someone you’d like to know, click follow.

If you want people to follow you, be sure to add interesting content to your profile. A picture helps too!

If you follow someone, It’s a good idea to visit to their blog or website.   The URL of their blog will be listed in their profile.   This is a valuable part of the Twitter experience and lets you know who you’re following.  Also, when you mention to someone that you visited their blog, it lets them know you are serious about getting to know people.

By going to someone’s profile, you can also see the list of people they follow, and people who follow them.

To increase your followers, you might want to look at the follower lists of people with similar profiles to yours.  If you’re a writer, look to see who is following writers.  Skim down the list and look for people who sound interesting, and follow them.  Since they’ve already shown that they are interested in following writers, many of these follow back.

Also, check to see who is following you.  If they sound interesting, follow them back.

TWEETING

Make your tweets interesting to others.  Twitter is not your diary.  (No one wants to read your diary but your mom!)

Have variety in your tweets.  Share random thoughts, interesting websites & quotes. Have conversations.

MAKING A LIST

Your timeline shows tweets of all the people you follow.  Skim through it daily to find people you’d like to know better.

As you find people you want to relate to, add them to a “list.”  You can click on that list and see only what they are tweeting.

TWITTER MARKETING

Many writers use twitter for marketing.  That’s OK, but learn to do it right.  Just repeating, “BUY MY BOOK!” is not marketing.  In fact, if all you tweet is about your book, many will view you as obnoxious and will be LESS likely to buy your book!

Here’s a good blog by Andy Christofferson @VizProd on how to market, and not market on twitter! http://curiosityquills.com/5-marketing-techniques-that-work-on-me/

@DarinCalhoun also made an excellent comment on marketing:   Twitter… “is about building connections, not pushing sales.  Readers are not just customers but supporters & friends.”  That sums it up perfectly.

KEY:  If you use twitter to market, don’t overdo it.  Rule of Thumb:  Limit self-promotion to one tweet in 10!

TWITTER ETIQUETTE

Always be positive!  Don’t argue or criticize.  This is a supportive, encouraging community.

If someone posts something you like.  Retweet it.  (RT) They will notice, and will appreciate it.

If you have a personal question, comment, or correction, use a direct message to keep it private.  No one wants to be corrected in public

If you want to pay someone a compliment or encourage them, use a “mention.”

Check for messages, mentions & retweets at least daily.  Thank those who mention or RT you & look for opportunities to return the favor.

Beware scams & spam.  Before clicking on a link, hold your cursor over it & see if it shows a valid URL.  Block or report spammers.

To find more helpful hints on using Twitter effectively, enter #newbie101 in the search box on your twitter homepage.

I’ll try to add to this list as I go along, but if you have any questions, please feel free to tweet me!

NOTE:  THE SECOND PART OF MY BLOG POST ON SELF-PUBLISHING WILL BE OUT THIS WEEKEND!