Friday, February 4, 2011
Bob Mayer and Randy Ingermanson continue their conversation on the state of publishing.
I’m going to pick up the interview right were I left off from the last post. I will post the last part of the interview over the weekend. Next week will be discussing some of the changes we are making at Who Dares Wins Publishing as we’ve completed a series of after action reviews. It’s an exciting time to be an author.
Randy: Tell me more about Who Dares Wins.
Bob: We started it to get my backlist out in eBook and POD. Once we went through our learning curve, we realized we could expand and have slowly been doing that. Taking on other writers.
Randy: How does your acquisition process work?
Bob: Right now, it’s mainly authors who have rights to their backlist. Most authors think they can do it themselves, but it’s not as easy as it appears.
Randy: No kidding. There is a learning curve on the formatting of an e-book. And most e-books need cover art because they can’t use their old covers from the original book.
Bob: And we’ve done a book that needed to be out right away on social media for writers. A traditional publisher would have taken a year to get it out, which would have made it obsolete. Cover art requires an expensive program and expertise. Has to pop in thumbnail.
Randy: Meaning that a 100 x 150 pixel cover is a whole different game from a 600 x 900 pixel cover.
Bob: Yes. Simple is better. Contrast is important.
Randy: But on the plus side, the cover will appear in RGB format, not CMYK. Which means that certain colors that simply can’t be done on a paper cover will work on electronic media.
Bob: We just did a blog on cover art and some things we learned. We’re still learning. Also there are six different eBook formats right now, so that’s a lot of work.
Randy: Do you automate the process of putting out all the formats? SmashWords uses their “meat grinder” technology to produce them all from one Word file.
Bob: Right now, the other half of my company, Jen Talty, does all that. We dropped Smashwords because you lose some control over pricing and that then becomes an issue with Amazon’s webcrawler.
Randy: Can you elaborate on that? What control do you lose?
Bob: When Smashwords puts a book to all its sources, those sources can reprice it. Amazon will then lower your price on Kindle to the lowest price it finds.
Randy: Amazon has the market clout to do that.
Bob: Yes. So we lost our 70% royalty on some books that got priced below the $2.99 threshold.
Randy: Gack! Not good. The 70% Amazon royalty is huge for authors. That makes the game reasonable.
Bob: We pulled them and are now reloading on Smashwords but restricting where the books can go. The CEO of Smashwords actually came to my blog to explain what they were doing, so it’s getting worked out. What no one talks about is 100% royalty.
Bob: We’ve formatted all our books for the various devices. When someone buys an eBook directly from our web site, we don’t have a middle man.
Randy: Right, but you still have credit card charges, which amount to about 14% of the price on a $2.99 book. Roughly.
Bob: We use Paypal right now, and I think their % is under 5%.
Randy: It is, but they also charge a $.30 base fee, which is about 10% on a $2.99 book. Both PayPal and credit card charges work out about the same, when all is said and done. I love PayPal, by the way. But on small ticket sales, there’s a hefty fee as a percentage of the sale.
Bob: Yes. Still, a 90% royalty is very nice.
Randy: Yes, it’s much better than 8% from a major publisher. Which gets paid 9 months after the purchase. With a percentage held back for fear of returns.
Bob: Yes. I earn more in one month from a book we publish than six months from my traditional royalties.
Randy: I’m not surprised. Speaking of returns, do you think the industry is going to change the return policy in the future? I’m astonished that it’s still in place.
Bob: Yes. Because Print On Demand is the future. Once the price point on the Espresso Machine gets low enough, they’ll be no more shipping of books to bookstores. They’ll be printed right there. We use POD to supplement our eBook sales. We find that for non-fiction, readers often want the physical book.
Randy: I agree. For fiction, I always get the e-book now. But for nonfiction reference books, I still like paper. You don’t think brick and mortar bookstores will die, do you?
Bob: Sadly, I think brick and mortars will die. They already are. Unless they specialize. Do what Starbucks is doing. The trend is to go local. Local authors, local books. Hold more events. Use the Espresso Machine as an income source by letting people print their own books right there.
Randy: But local has the disadvantage that it doesn’t scale. An author can only be in one place at a time. Whereas the web never sleeps.
Bob: True. And with social media an author has a much greater reach than ever before. I think it’s an exciting time to be an author.
Randy: It’s a GREAT time to be an author. You’ve got a book out on social media correct? By one of your authors?
Bob: We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. What’s key about her book is she focuses on content BEFORE worrying about getting on social media. Most authors are using social media poorly without a plan. For example, authors using their book cover or their pet as an avatar is wrong. Unless they’re only going to write one book or sell their pet.
Randy: A lot of authors try to just promote themselves, rather than promoting ideas. Content is still king.
Bob: Content is King. But I’ve had to accept promotion is Queen.
Randy: Promotion is a whole lot easier when there’s content to back it up.
Bob: Most writers hate promoting. Author is INFJ on Myers-Briggs. Exact opposite, ESTP is promoter.
Randy: Right, I’m an INTP myself. So maybe I’m a half and half.
Bob: Yes. Always have to have great content.
Randy: One thing established authors have is name recognition. Like David Morrell, one of my favorite thriller writers.
Bob: Yes. Being a Brand. Morrell just bypassed traditional publishing.
Randy: Right, and I bet he’ll do extremely well.
Bob: He will. Along with his backlist.
Randy: That’s one thing people don’t talk about much with e-books, but it’s huge — backlist. When you discover a new author and he has a big backlist, you can get it all. Instantly.
Bob: I’ve got 18 titles from my backlist up and it’s great to watch the money roll in.
Randy: I just started reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. I started with Book 15.