Monday, May 03, 2010

And They Say That A Hero Will Save Us

Just got back from six days in Ohio, at the Romantic Times Convention.

As usual, I drank too much, said many inappropriate things, annoyed a bunch of people, and had a great time.

The conference was very similar to the dozens of others I've attended. Fans and writers interacted. The panels were pretty much same old same old. It was comforting, and familiar.

And yet, if you looked a bit closer, you noticed there was change coming.

I saw over a dozen Kindles. Two Nooks, two Sony Readers, a Kobo, and three iPads, all in the hands of readers anxious to evangelize them.

I heard, from a prominent industry professional, that mass market returns among the top publishers were at almost 80%.

The line for the ebook seminar was about a hundred yards long.

I heard from a librarian that their Overdrive program (lending ebooks) now accounted for 34% of their loans.

F. Paul Wilson is making just as much money on self-pubbed ebook sales as I am.

And four separate people came up to me and called me a hero.

The "hero" thing took me off guard. The first time it happened, I smiled politely and brushed it off, as I do all compliments.

By the fourth time, I began to realize how much this industry was really changing.

When I was a newbie, I was mystified by the publishing industry. I believed getting published meant being invited into some exclusive club. One with gatekeepers who had strange demands, and where control was out of a writer's hands.

But that dynamic is changing. In a big way.

With the Internet, writers are savvier than ever. They aren't nearly as naive as I was when I got started. They go to conventions, and read blogs, and talk to each other. Agents have blogs of their own, and they explain how this business works, and are happy to answer questions.

In other words, today's newbie is much more informed than newbies from even three years ago.

This makes me wonder.

At RT I talked to several name authors. People who sold more than I do. People who are now very anxious to get their backlists up on Kindle so they can start making money.

But I also talked to a lot of newbies. And these folks are gung-ho about completely forsaking traditional print publishing all together.

I'd always assumed that print publishers would begin to lose market dominance once ebooks took off in a big way, and they'd have to either restructure or die.

But now I'm predicting another death for them.

What is going to happen when authors stop sending their books to publishers?

If I know I can make $100,000 on a self-published ebook in five years of sales, and I have the numbers to back up this claim, why would any informed writer--either pro or newbie--ever settle for less?

The dominance of ebooks is coming. I have no doubt. But I always thought it was the readers who would lead the charge, based on cost and convenience.

Now I'm starting to believe that the ones with the real power are the ones who should have had the power since the beginning of publishing. The ones who create the content in the first place.

The authors.

It's a wonderful, dynamic, empowering time to be an author. For the first time, we can command our own ships.

We're the ones who write the books. We can reach readers without any gatekeepers at all. And we can make money doing it.

The print publishing industry's biggest fear shouldn't be the eventual dominance of ebooks over print.

Their biggest fear should be not having any books to publish in any format, because the authors all wised up.