I've been reading and posting a lot lately about the future of publishing. The most recent is an article in Forbes Magazine, which gives thumbs up to Amazon, Harvard Business Publishing, and hybrid self-publishing companies, while predicting that traditional publishers will fade away and the written word will go online in shorter ebooks. (Read the
For authors, it's an exciting time and a terrifying one. Unlike the publishing model I first experienced in the 80s, where all I had to do was write the book and give it away to the publisher, now I'm facing all kinds of decisions, any one of which could make or break me as an author. So, this morning, when Amazon e-mailed me a new list of books on publishing they thought I'd be interested in reading, I simply shuddered and deleted them all.
it's time to ask some important questions and find some answers through personal experience.
1. Does offering free copies of e-books for a few days really spark sales and boost the book's rankings?
2. What about the relatively new Kindle Select program? Will people really "borrow" books that they could buy for a couple of bucks?
3. What are the consequences of giving Amazon exclusive sales rights over a new book?
4. Does Barnes and Noble offer any marketing advantages to the authors whose books they sell? And if so, why don' we hear about them?
5. Is it true that publishing a "book-a-year" is no longer enough? Are our readers demanding extra books, even if they are nothing more than long short stories?
6. What about serious works of non-fiction? How are the few daring academics who have chosen to self-publish their dissertations faring? Is there an untapped academic market out there?
7. What about out-of-print books, which an author can re-issue in trade paper if the original publisher will return the author's rights?
8. How effective is the new ploy of re-issuing "old" books (i.e., those that are no longer selling well) with a newly revised title and eye-catching new cover?
I'll be starting my research next week. I have just released on Amazon Select, a small volume of short stories designed to serve as a connection between my last book, Beyond All Price, and my upcoming book, The Road to Frogmore. Starting on Tuesday, July 24 and extending through Thursday, July 26, Left by the Side of the Road: Characters without a Novel will be available as a free Kindle download. How well will it do? What will happen to its ratings because of free downloads? And will that nudge carry over and result in actual cash sales once the promotion is over? What do you think?