From author Ron Vitale:
The state of indie publishing is in flux. Is print coming back? Are indie authors losing sales? And with the rise of more competition from traditional publishers, what is an indie author to do?
Based right outside of Philadelphia, I took the train up to New York and went hoping to find answers at Digital Book World Indie 2017. Truth be told, one of the main reasons why I went was to hear Data Guy talk in the Tight Insights: The Indie Universe Quantified session. I wanted to see his data on the big screen. I could have listened to him for hours.
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How are indie authors going to compete and thrive against huge conglomerate corporations? At the end of the first session, Porter Anderson reminded all of us that when photographers needed to streamline their services, they came together to form a co-op. Professional services (developing the film, marketing, etc.) could be provided by reputable and vetted individuals while the photographers could stay out longer in the field, shooting. Anderson, in his understated way, turned to the audience and said, “Now it’s all on you.”
The biggest take home message from Digital Book World Indie is so simple that I almost missed it while preparing for the next talk. When we as indie authors unite, we have strength. We are the sum of our individual skills.
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While I sat in the conference room listening to the talks, I had my phone out, sharing information with members of a private Facebook group. And throughout the day, I kept checking in on Michael Anderle’s 20BooksTo50K Facebook group. I joined the 20BooksTo50K group back in December when there were 1,200 members. Less than a month later, there are more than 3,450 members. Fellow indie authors who are sharing their launch plans, screenshots from their sales dashboards, asking for advice on covers they are having designed and talk through the most in-the-weeds details about email lists.
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The mismatch between the experts at the conference and the brain power available from within the room itself could not have been more pronounced over the course of the day.
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The second most important lesson I learned at DBW Indie is that traditional publishers, to quote Jane Friedman, “are kicking ass in marketing.” Judith Curr’s (President & Publisher of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster) talk brought that home to all the authors in the room. Not only are publishers creating apps such as Crave, but they are performing A/B tests with their advertising, targeting the appropriate readers with the ads as well as sending out thousands of ARCs in advance to build reviews online.
Judith Curr came to speak to a room full of indie authors with an olive branch, asking us to consider traditional publishing. The word “hybrid” floated throughout many of the sessions and authors were pitched not only by Curr, but by Kobo, Wattpad, Ingramspark and, if you wanted, one-on-one with iBooks. Opportunity flowed throughout the day.
The challenge that I see is that without the deep (for now) pockets of traditional publishers, indie authors will continue to struggle. Although traditional publishers have amazing teams to produce extremely high quality products, the opportunity for indie authors comes in our being able to control our own careers. We have choice. With knowledge, there is power. In today’s publishing, we could license our print book rights, but retain our ebook rights and publish as we like. We have bargaining power that did not exist a few years ago.
Link to the rest at Ron Vitale
Here’s a link to Ron Vitale’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.
PG doesn’t know Mr. Vitale, but PG does know something about large conglomerates, including publishing conglomerates, pre-internet and internet marketing and technology in general.
Conglomerates are large collections of people and money that are not all the same. Some do reasonably well at attracting capital and running some of their businesses. Others do dumb things all the time.
If you want to rapidly accomplish something innovative, a conglomerate is not the way to go. If you want to attract and keep creative employees, a conglomerate is not the way to go.
No smart entrepreneur tries to start anything inside a conglomerate. Apple would have been killed in the crib inside a conglomerate. So would Amazon and Google.
As a group, publishing conglomerates are among the slowest and least innovative members of the conglomerate class. PG worked for one of the largest (RELX Group, previously known as Reed Elsevier) for three unhappy years and knows of what he speaks.
Specific points mentioned in the OP:
- Apps such as Crave from big publishers. Do you know how easy it is to build an app? Ten-year-olds build apps. There are over two million apps on Apple’s App Store. PG looked at the most popular book apps on Apple’s App Store. The first page includes a large number of apps. Crave was not among them. Three out of the top five apps were from Amazon.
- A/B tests for advertising. PG wasn’t one of the Mad Men, but his boss at a very large advertising agency would have qualified. Needless to say, PG’s adventures in advertising occurred centuries ago. A/B tests with advertising were a routine practice during Mad Men days.
- Sending out ARCs in advance to build reviews online. Publishers have been doing this forever. Smart indie authors have email lists, social media accounts, etc., and use them to do the same thing.
PG agrees with the OP that authors should get together and share ideas, support each other, etc.
However, there’s a key difference when indie authors get together and when traditionally-published authors get together.
When an indie author hears or reads about a great idea for marketing, he/she can implement it immediately and see the results (good or bad) in a few days or weeks by watching their KDP dashboard. When a traditionally-published author hears the same idea, it’s a different experience.
To pirate a saying, an author needs a big publisher like a fish needs a bicycle.