This is the final part of my dialogue regarding the state of publishing with Randy Ingermanson. This is a timely discussion, not just because its coming on the tail end of Digital Book World Conference, or even the current state of publishing, but my own publishing company’s recent review of the last year, which has led us to make a few changes. I’ve touched on a few in this interview, but even since then, as we’ve watched what is going on around us in the world of publishing, we’ve made adjustments. We are already seeing some excellent results for efforts. Next week we’ll post about some of the changes Who Dares Wins Publishing is making and what you can expect from us in the future.
Randy: Part of the publishers' problem is that contracts written more than 10 years ago don't really cover e-books.
Bob: That's what I'm battling Random House over. I stupidly signed away 2 books to them last year, but declined to do any further.
Randy: Books published in the last few years will never go out of print now, because of e-books. Unless you put clauses in the contract to redefine what out of print means.
Bob: There are clauses being built in on that. RH says less than 300 sold in two reporting periods, which is pretty low.
Randy: My agent friends tell me that publishers are rewriting the contracts.
Bob: Yes. The 25% eBook royalty isn't going to work much longer.
Randy: I think it has to go up to 50%, which is still low compared to 70% or 90%, but most authors would be willing to take that to avoid the work. But 25% seems unfair to most authors.
Bob: Yes. We offer 40% right now. It's currently higher than pretty much everywhere else.
Randy: This is a time of chaos for publishing.
Bob: Yes. And the key is to stay on top of all the latest information and try to sift through it all.
Randy: Right, things change every month.
Bob: Reading blogs, things like your newsletter, PW, going to conferences. It's all key. Twitter is a good information source. I hit probably five or six links from people who have good information every day to stay updated.
Randy: One thing that's changing is the required lengths of books.
Bob: Yes. We're focusing soon on shorts. 10-15 thousand words at $2.99. And, on the other end, it doesn't cost any more to do a 170,000 words book.
Randy: The nice thing is that you could write a 10k book in a week.
Bob: Or pull it together from a bunch of blog posts.
Randy: Whereas most authors would be stressed to do a 100k book in a month.
Bob: Yes. I'm getting some experts to put together shorts on their particular fields.
Randy: And as you say, books that were formerly too long (more than 150k or so) can be done economically. It only adds a few cents to the Amazon cost to the author to do a really long book. I think they charge the author about 5 cents in delivery fees for a normal sized book.
Bob: Yes. The other interesting thing is going to be enhanced ebooks. We're not sure how that's going to work, but we're playing with it.
Randy: Meaning "director's cut" editions? Something I've been thinking about a lot.
Bob: Adding in links to photos, maps, etc. And, like Baldacci did, extra content.
Randy: Most of the e-book readers won't support video.
Bob: No. And it could be distracting if done badly.
Randy: The iPad could handle it, I think, but not the current Kindle.
Bob: Readers read. That's why I'm not a fan of film trailers for books. Different medium.
Randy: The thing with video is that it requires really good production values or it looks hokey. I don't like them either. I looked at trailers for a while and found that I was unimpressed with every trailer I'd seen. And a 3 minute video feels like forever. I'd rather have text so I can skim.
Bob: Exactly. I used to have video of my presentations, but dropped it because the quality wasn't good enough. And, interestingly, people would rather listen to CDs or MP3 than watch something. That's another area where we get income: MP3 downloads of my workshops. We're on iTunes with that. We also sell MP3 direct. Just got an order as we've been talking for my Warrior Writer presentation.
Randy: Audio has high value to the customer. They can put it on an iPod and listen on the commute or in the gym. I've been selling MP3 direct on my site for a long time because it's a great deal for customers and therefore a great deal for me.
Bob: Yes. It's one of those things that took a little while to perfect, but we've got it down now.
Randy: What are your thoughts on podcasting books in segments?
Bob: I don't know about podcasts. We've been discussing them, but it's a big investment in time. So it's on our "to look at" list.
Randy: It's something I'd love to try for promoting my novels.
Bob: One thing we thought of yesterday was a free eBook with excerpts from all our books. A sampler. So that will be done before the end of the month
Randy: That would be cool. People tend to be quick to download free, but not so quick to consume it.
Bob: Yes. But it only costs us the time to put it together. It's hard to tell what works and what doesn't as far as promotion.
Randy: One thing I think might be cool would be an "omnibus" version of a series -- get them all in one big e-book at a price that's much better than buying them one by one. It could work for a complete series. Not so much for a series in progress.
Bob: Good idea. I think we'll try that for my Atlantis series. Have six books in it. Pull them all together at a discount. (We’ve already done this since the interview and bundled all six books for the price of four. Also, we cut prices on all our fiction 50%, just this week).
Randy: Joe Konrath mentioned this idea on his blog a few months ago and I've been itching to try it.
Bob: Actually, we could do it this weekend and get it up. I'll let you know how it goes. That's the great thing about eBooks -- you can do things fast.
Randy: Right, once you're past the learning curve. I think you'd need to price it so that it's still a good deal if people have bought one or two books. So it needs to be a deep discount. That's my hunch.
Bob: I'll update you on it. I can hear my partner in NY groaning as I've just made more work for her. But since the books are already individually formatted, it shouldn't take much time.
Randy: LOL, just what she needs -- more work.
Bob: Yeah. Our To Do list is never-ending.
Randy: I'd love to hear how it works out.
Bob: I'll email you and also blog about it at Write It Forward
Randy: One last thing before we break -- how important is POD for an author going the e-book route?
Bob: I don't think it's that important, unless you have a following or are doing non-fiction. We put non-fiction on LSI right away. For fiction, we do a couple a month as they get traction in eBook to keep our overhead reasonable.
Randy: Makes sense to me. LSI is Lightning Source, right?
Bob: Yes. The good thing is you can also sell via LSI in the UK. And it’s expanding to Australia this year.
Randy: When you say "overhead" you're referring to the cost of typesetting, correct?
Bob: Set up costs. Plus, formatting takes quite a while for the POD book. That was a steep learning curve. You only get two shots at upload or they charge extra.
Randy: Gack! What are the setup costs for Lightning Source?
Bob: $75 initially and then another $20 charge for something else. Not too bad. But when you're doing a lot of titles, it adds up.
Randy: Right. Plus the time to do it. And time is money.
Bob: Time is the key for that.
Randy: OK, we've covered a huge amount in the last hour. Anything to add?
Bob: Just reiterate that it's a great time to be a writer, but the most important thing is to have great content.
Randy: Agreed on that. Thanks for your time!
Bob: Thanks -- have a great weekend.
For more information on Bob, his books workshops, and publishing company go to:http://writeitforward.wordpress.com// and http://www.bobmayer.org/