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Does Anyone Buy Paperbacks Anymore?

Our new project this week - the book trailer for Faerie (see post from hubby below, YouTube, Yahoo Video, & Coming Soon Everywhere We Can Think Of)  turns my thoughts to marketing and the state of the industry generally. 

Of course, it also turns my thoughts to Faerie which is my "rest of the story" spin on the famous legend of the Clan McLeod of the Isle of Skye in Scotland.  After Ian's handfast marriage to a faerie princess ended after a year and a day, per his agreement with her da, the Faerie King, the princess returned to the land of faerie.  Her braw, strong hubby watched her go, holding their infant son, without making a single protest.  Later, the babe cried and the princess returned to comfort him, leaving him wrapped in a faerie flag that could be used to protect the Clan.  Interesting story, but what laird worth his highland blood would let a beloved go without fighting to keep her?  And after she left, we have a fine laird with a castle and no lady wife.  When he marries, how will the princess feel?  Surely, the many tears she'd shed would anger her powerful father into appearing at the wedding reception and pronouncing a curse. 

Check out the trailer for A Faerie Fated Forever, and you'll get a glimpse of that handfast marriage that ended in a curse that the current laird must meet or risk living his father's tormented, unfulfilled life.  You'll also get a glimpse of the gorgeous terrain of the highlands and hints of the rest of the plot.  So watch the trailer and buy the book or the e-book. 

After watching markets recently, I'm betting you'd buy the e-book. 

My personal experience has been that e-books are moving and paperbacks are not.  I distribute e-books via Smashwords and Lightning Source (LS), and they seem to do well via all the e-tailers the sites feed.  I distribute paperbacks through Amazon's service, CreateSpace (CS) and they're not moving at all.  I know, Amazon has its limitations and it doesn't reach most of the market.  And yes, I intend to distribute through LS which covers much more territory, but to do that I have to buy a block of ISBNs and they cost around $250.00.  And then I have to pay a fee of around $75.00 per title to get them listed with LS.  In this economy given the current circumstances of my household where survival is a luxury that might depend on things like a Christmas bonus and a big tax refund, the LS stuff is going to have to wait.

But the paperbacks aren't moving at all.  I even reduced the price to $9.99 per, bargain basement level for CS/Amazon books, and nada.  Yet the e-books still move nicely so the work is selling - thank y'all very much.  With those thoughts boogling through my brain, I ran across a story on Reuters headlined "Book Trade Seeks A Deal With Google."  Despite the headline, much of the story discussed next week's Frankfurt Book Fair and the changing publishing landscape.

The Reuter's Story notes that this year's book fair is being held amidst the "long-feared transformation of the industry for which few are well-prepared."   Why isn't the industry better prepared?  As the story notes, the publishing industry watched the music and news industries go through the digital revolution earlier.  If the big publishers didn't see the handwriting on the wall, it's because they weren't looking.  And those companies owed it to their shareholders to be watching and changing as the curve progressed.  They didn't, so now they must play catch-up. 

The article notes that technology research firm Forrester estimates that by the end of 2010 - next year - 10 million e-readers will be in the hands of buyers looking to fill them with digital books.  That total DOESN"T include other media that carry e-books like PCs and Cell phones.  According to a number of stories, Nintendo DS is even introducing e-books for their popular device.  The dawn of the e-book era is at hand.

The industry that hasn't been prepared will have to scramble to make changes.  All of the changes will have to focus around the core of the revolution - IT PUTS THE POWER IN THE HANDS OF THE BUYER.  Given that power shift and that e-books can and should cost less than printed volumes, the Royals in the Castle will have to change the way they do business if they want to survive.  It means that publishers will have to tighten their belts and streamline, just like all the Commoners have been doing for a while now.

Publishers will have to eliminate using agents as gatekeepers and throw open the castle drawbridge.  The Royals will have to take direct submissions from the people who built the Castle (the writers).  Literary Agents will survive by courting the writers and selling their services, which only makes sense.  Real Estate Agents don't sit back in their offices and reject most of the sellers who want to list their homes for sale because the houses aren't big enough, expensive enough, aren't built of the right material or just aren't houses that appeal to the Realtor.  And writers will have to learn that advances will be limited or perhaps nonexistent.  That means, a writer won't make a living on his/her craft for a few books down the road (if ever), unless a movie deal comes along (less likely than being struck by lightning, by the way).   But writers will get paid to write, even if they have to keep their day jobs. If everyone streamlines, the industry can not only survive -- it can prosper.

The new devices and formats court new readers.  Never has there been a better opportunity for publishers to broaden their market.  The companies that survive and prosper will be those who learn the Wal Mart lessons - (1) give the people what they want;  (2) don't screen the offerings according to what editors or the literary establishment want to push;  (3) sign writers in much larger numbers because the power and the money accompany the volume; (4) charge less per book but put out a lot more books with a lot less cost by selling all of them as e-books, a fraction as paperbacks and a select few heavy hitters as hardcover. 

Does anyone buy paperbacks anymore?  Less and less, I think and the number is dwindling everyday.  My tears in my always refilled coffee cup for my lack of CreateSpace/Amazon paperback sales aside, the dwindling paperback market is a GOOD THING.  It signals that change is not just coming, it has arrived.

This change puts the power back in the hands of the people - which is where it always belonged.