Trash BooksThe ebook revolution is dying under the deluge of rubbish that is being passed off as books.

It may sound like a whole lot of moaning and groaning, but ebooks have in general not really helped author’s or small publishers’ income. Forget the outliers like Amanda Hocking, as these are rare instances of success.  Ebooks have in fact moved most of the profit in book sales to a few electronic distributors such as Amazon, B&N and Apple and killed street front bookstores with a sad loss of jobs.

As I begin to write my next book, I really wonder why I am bothering at all. Quite honestly, I can make more money from Adsense advertising on my blog or writing blog reviews for useless gadgets. At least these avenues will pay for the hosting fees of my website.

I see so many terrific new and enthusiastic authors (and a lot of really terrible writers as well) appearing with their fabulous new books everyday. Hopeful of fame and fortune from the self publishing bonanza. But it’s a bit like a gold rush. By the time you get there, all the gold is gone. Kindle ebooks in particular are now so numerous, and of which so much is rubbish, it has swamped the market to the point where it is difficult to find the decent books that are there to read.

Even worse is the new wave of ‘spamming authors’ who are proliferating at an astonishing rate on social media and in the process are devaluing the work of genuine authors, as well as polluting the enjoyment of social networking.

Yes, you could say I’m being pessimistic, and you’d be right. To be quite honest, I don’t see a bright future for writers. Unless that is, you’re happy to give your hard work away for next to nothing and watch monopolies profit from your labour and then envelope your work in an ever increasing pile of ebook garbage.

But then again, I’ll probably wake up tomorrow morning in a far better mood and get back to being a writer, come what may.

 

 

Who’s Killing The Ebook Revolution?

47 thoughts on “Who’s Killing The Ebook Revolution?

  • 23/10/2011 at 8:16 pm
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    I think the difference is soon going to be the quality of marketing support behind a book. Publishers, instead of controlling distribution of physical books, will be the experts in distributing the ‘brand’ of an author.

    • 23/10/2011 at 8:49 pm
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      Unfortunately Benjamin, publishers are abandoning marketing of their authors and sending them out into social media to promote themselves. A quick check of how many repped authors are on Twitter and Facebook will confirm this. So, where is the line now that defines an Indie?

  • 23/10/2011 at 8:58 pm
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    No. Twitter and fb are just new tools. If you’re with a publisher they’re maybe not doing traditionally book tours but are doing other things to establish the author. They won’t see their return on investment from the advance otherwise.

  • 23/10/2011 at 9:38 pm
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    There exists a great opportunity now for an already established arbiter of taste to create an arm that would embrace indie/self pubs. They could market the review/recommendation site as an adventure…looking for gold in the jungle of junk. I think traffic would be huge if the gatekeeper was well known enough. I’m not talking about paid reviews such as Kirkus (blecch). And I’m not talking about book bloggers, who are great, but are not an established ‘voice of authority.’ I can definitely see someone stepping into the void, just to be seen as edgy and current, if nothing else.

    • 23/10/2011 at 9:52 pm
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      Ding ding, we have a winner :-) This is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of when I said “there’s no longer a compelling reason why the publisher has to be the one to provide the filter”.

  • 23/10/2011 at 9:54 pm
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    Reality sucks, doesn’t it? But shouldn’t some light fall on all those established authors who jumped on the self-publishing bandwagon (some of whom sneered at self-publishing for years previously) and kept telling aspiring authors they didn’t need publishers and bragging about their big royalty checks?

    The main problem is that all the attention about ebooks has focused on those Johnny-come-latelies in New York. There’s been a thriving independent ebook publishing industry since 1994, an industry, I’ll note, that was routinely criticized as being just another way for untalented writers to claim to be published. You know—vanity publishing, but with a pretense there was some sort of gatekeeping in place.

    In fact, that’s still the view of ALL of the major writers organizations, including the ones whose members are now loudly self-publishing. I hope I can be excused a bit of cynicism on the subject.

    When there’s an inexpensive way to produce a product, it’s a given a lot of people are going to think they can make a good buck utilizing it. On-demand printing and ebooks are just another example. I make no secret that one of the reasons we use on-demand is that it keeps our production costs down. When 95% of your books are by writers no one’s ever heard of, whose ability to promote themselves is a question mark, it just makes sense.

    It also needs to be noted that many independent bookstores only survive because they can utilize a system no other retail business can on a regular basis; they get to order stock then send it back for full credit if it doesn’t sell. On top of that, they receive financial support from publishers for hosting author events and giving books prime placement. In other words, most have never actually had to do what any other business does, which is make enough money from sales to show a profit.

    I think it’s too early to call apocalypse—our sales have been increasing steadily for the last five years. To no surprise, this year our print sales have declined significantly, but they’ve been more than replaced by the increase in ebook sales, mainly through the Kindle Store. On the other hand, I built our business model from scratch based on the new technologies, and we’ve worked that model with the help of our very talented authors.

    Maybe it’s just time to stop trying to fit the square peg of the old business model into the round hole of the new one.

    • 23/10/2011 at 9:59 pm
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      I really appreciate your comment Elizabeth. It really puts this into clear perspective. You are 100% correct. It is a round peg and square hole conundrum. Time for clear re-thinking my many of us.

  • 23/10/2011 at 9:54 pm
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    I agree wholeheartedly Jane. I know the NYT have started to take some notice of Indie authors, but not sure how they select their reviews. Seems to me mostly to be very established authors who have changed sides. There are many sites that could fill this void, but have yet to make any genuine contribution. I hope something better comes along.

  • 24/10/2011 at 1:47 am
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    Seems a bit nostalgic, Derek. Surely you aren’t saying traditional publishers are the only ones in possession of the secret sauce to publishing success. That genie has long since left its bottle.

    As many of the comments have observed, the real challenge is how best to come up with a system that provides you, a potential consumer, with clear, factual guidance on where to invest your time or coins. Exponentially increasing choice, of itself, is not bad. Unless it smothers or paralyzes you with a fear to act because you’re unable to make some kind of informed decision.

    I suspect the next paradigm shift we’ll see is a significant one in the fundamental reviews, ratings, and recommendation systems. Something will rise to the top because it is successful and leads to positive results and confidence in its approach. Repeatedly.

    Until then, I think I’d rather have a world with more choice in it–including sub-optimal fare–than one where we’re spoon-fed by those who claim only they can dictate what consumers deserve.

    • 24/10/2011 at 9:35 am
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      I have to agree Todd. I’m probably of an age when nostalgia and an aversion to change take hold. I should be more accepting.

      But your point about giving potential customers some guide is at the heart of this debate I believe. Amazon’s reluctance to include word counts on their ebook pages smells of a plot to deceive in my view. While their listings of paperback versions include a page count, this gives a customer at least an indication of what value they are getting.

      But what does 225K file size tell a buyer? This could be 80k words, or one image and one 10 word sentence.

      A word count is such a simple piece of information to provide. Smashwords by the way always include a word count on their ebook listings.

      So I have to conclude that Amazon’s failure to include this information is intentional. But why is the real question.

      • 24/10/2011 at 11:48 am
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        Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence… The file size is easier to measure than the word count. (Not much easier, but still…) They might think word count isn’t useful or meaningful to readers, who are used to measuring book length in pages.

        I hang out on a forum with a lot of newbie writers, and they regularly ask “how many pages should my novel be?” or “how many pages should I have for a chapter?” When the more experienced writers tell them that it’s word count that matters, they look at you (virtually) as if you’re speaking a foreign language.

        If we start telling readers the word counts of our books, initially we’ll confuse them, but eventually they’ll get used to it.

        • 24/10/2011 at 2:45 pm
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          You’re right about page count and word count. Increasingly, though, writers are discussing the value of including some information in your description, where descriptions are allowed, such a word count and whether the book is a novel, novella, or short story.

  • 24/10/2011 at 9:10 am
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    It’s true that there’s a lot of low-quality, unedited work. But there are also a huge number of great indie books that I might never have had chance to read, so on balance, I like the freedom. I find books via friends’ recommendations and sites like Goodreads, and I always get the free sample before I buy the book. I don’t mind a few minutes ‘screening’ books.

    • 24/10/2011 at 9:41 am
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      I agree Rachel. I download samples for any ebook I’m thinking about reading. Traditional or self published. Usually the first two pages tell me enough to make a decision. Not just about the quality of writing, but also the formatting. I’ve had a couple of experiences of extremely bad formatting from large publishers. Even they seem to be rushing material to Kindle and skipping some quality control.

  • 24/10/2011 at 9:47 am
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    I, too, have discovered some really great books by indie authors. Some as good, if not better, than a few big names in the business. As a writer myself, twenty years in the making, I certainly appreciate the attention that my self-published book and blog are receiving. I also socialize a lot on Facebook, twitter, and goodreads, mostly with a lot of indie authors. At times when the moment strikes me I always make a point to recommend that every new writer have their books fully proofed and edited prior to publishing. The reason is simple enough. The quality of the work speaks better of the person who wrote it, as well as cutting down some of the negativity that surrounds self-publishing. Just last week on amazon chat, there was an ongoing groan about books by indie authors and a straight up request on how to get rid of them altogether. That is not a good thing to read when there are so many fantastic and entertaining indie authors out there who deserve their chance in the lime light. My only suggestion for potential readers is to download the free sample offered on the seller’s site. Small as it may be, having a glimpse into the author’s writing style will make it easier to decide if you want to purchase their book or not. I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time reading the sample because there is always a chance of discovering a truly gifted writer that you may have otherwise missed. Just saying. :o)

  • 24/10/2011 at 3:17 pm
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    I agree with Tracy. When I physically go to the book store, I sit down with a few books and quickly read through the prologue – and sometimes entire chapters – to see if I like the way it’s written and if I’m curious about the rest. It really is the equivalent of the free samples.
    My purchase decision is based on that sample, not the cover, not the publisher, not the reviews or even the summary. All those things will bring me to the sample.

  • 25/10/2011 at 10:08 pm
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    Derek, you never write a post that doesn’t make me want to respond! First-off, I want to remind you of what you said in “Self-publishing — Not for Dreamers” — that you write to be read, not to make money, and so that when you’re gone, someone will pick up your books and your words will still be alive. That’s exactly why I write! — and why a very private person like me has started all this flurry of self-promotion! Now I want to ask you what you mean by “wave of spamming authors.” I need to know the etiquette of using social media like Twitter, chat rooms, forums, message boards, etc. I’ve been sending tweets to individuals whom I thought might be interested — telling them what I was doing and referring them to my blog. I’ve made some interesting connections that way. Have I been “spamming?” Can I legitimately go into a chatroom or somebody else’s blog and speak about what I’m trying to publish? How else do I promote myself?

    Also, I have to say this: I’m a former librarian and one of the roles of libraries is to preserve knowledge. How many libraries are archiving ebooks? If you publish only as an ebook, can anything be more ephemeral? The Kindle or the Nook is going to wear out and be thrown away — nobody is going to sell the contents at a garage sale or to a used book dealer. And a great miracle has occurred — the Gutenberg Bible’s batteries have never needed recharging in 600 years! I believe that too much reliance on electronic media is going to damage the preservation of knowledge. That’s why I wouldn’t think of self-publishing solely on ebooks and why if it were possible I would have a hardback edition of every book I intend to publish. I want my words to still be alive long into the future!

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