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Now for Dave's post:
Right now, the publishing world is in turmoil. People are buying electronic books in huge numbers. In fact, it appears that as of today, more than fifty percent of all sales are electronic. This puts traditional paper book publishers in a bind. You see, most books earn only a modest profit. But if paper books are shipped to bookstores and then returned, they get destroyed, and thus don’t make any money at all. In fact, the publisher then goes into the hole on every book he publishes.
The losses right now are so large in the industry that, as one agent put it, “Nobody in New York wants to be in this business right now.” That’s why bookstore chains like Borders and major distributors like Anderson News have gone bankrupt.
So where do the publishers make up for those losses? By selling electronic books for the Kindle, Nook, iPad and similar devices. The problem is, so many electronic books will come out in the next year, according to Bowker’s Identifier Services (the guys who make the ISBNs that you see on the back of a book), that the market will be flooded with over three million new books.
Why? Because authors who couldn’t find agents or publishers last year are self-publishing their novels this year. I was talking to a bestseller last night who groused that in the past week, he’d run into three different “authors,” none of whom had sold more than fifty books, all of whom were self-published.
That creates a problem for readers. It means that we now have to try to figure out which of those novels are worth buying and reading and which should never have been published in the first place.
Some of those novels may look good on the outside. They might have cover quotes from the author’s friends. They might have gorgeous illustrations. But inside, maybe halfway through a book, you might find that the story falls apart.
In fact, a lot of criminals are out there right now trying to sell e-books which Tracy Hickman has labeled “Frankensteins.” These are novels stolen from bits of other novels and cobbled together in a way to look like a legitimate book. The “author” hopes to steal a couple of dollars from unwary readers. Sure, it’s not a lot of money, but in some countries, like Nigeria, a few dollars goes a long way. If there are no laws against it (and in some countries there aren’t), the thief doesn’t even have to worry about getting punished.
How are we going to combat crummy novels? How are we going to get past the Frankensteins? Ten years ago we had gatekeepers in the industry—literary agents and editors—who made sure that only the best novels got published. It’s true that the system was flawed, but at least there was a system.
So who are our new gatekeepers going to be?
The truth is that there will be new kinds of publishers. Right now, I’m starting a company with my partner Mile Romney, called East India Press. We’re going to published “enhanced novels.”
Enhanced books are text files, like regular books, but they also combine elements like film clips, music, video games, author interviews, audio files, illustrations, and animations. They’re part book, part movie, part game, perhaps. These books are then sold electronically to be read on your iPad, phone, computer, and so on.
Are enhanced books the real future of publishing? There is good reason to think so. You see, making a beautiful book in this market will cost tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a bar to most wannabe authors. So money alone will limit the competition.
These new publishers will still have to establish their own credibility. They’ll have to select great books, create superior products, and develop a “brand” presence. In other words, you’ll want to read the books because of who the publisher is and what they represent.
A hundred years ago, that’s the way that books were bought in the first place. If you went to the bookstore, the books were ordered by publisher. You might pick through the piles and find that a certain editor liked the same kind of “science fictional stories” that you did, and that became the place that you visited over and over again.
There will be other ways to judge a book. It might come from an author with a long list of awards, or great cover quotes from independent review agencies, or maybe the fact that the book is a bestseller will give it a lot of credibility.
So I expect enhanced books to become the dominant art form for novels in the next two years, replacing and outselling simple e-books on the bestseller lists, and even outselling hardbacks and paperbacks within a couple of years. As my agent, Russell Galen, put it, “Enhanced books are the entire future of publishing.”
Now, I’ve published some fifty books in science fiction and fantasy. I’ve won a number of awards and my books have been translated into thirty languages. I worked for years as the lead judge for one of the largest writing contest in the world. I’ve trained authors like Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, and Stephenie Meyer who have gone on to become #1 international bestsellers.
So I know books. I know a good story when I see one, and I know how to fix a story when it needs fixing. Given this, and my own background as a novelist, video game designer, and movie producer, it seemed like starting a new type of publishing company was a must.
In fact, I believe in this new medium so much, I’m even putting out my next novel through this publishing company. It’s called Nightingale, and tells the story of Bron Jones, a young man abandoned at birth and raised in foster care. He discovers that he’s not quite human, and suddenly finds himself at the center of international intrigue.
This is a model for the new publishing industry. I think it’s a great book, and I could have sold it through normal channels. But this is the best way to go. So we’re offering the book on our site at www.nightingalenovel.com. You can buy it in hard cover, for your e-reader, or in enhanced mode for the more advanced e-readers, or we even have an emulator so that you can run it in enhanced mode on any computer. It also has a forty-five-minute soundtrack, lots of art, optional notes from the author and other features. In the future we may add a game or trailers. I believe this is the way books--good books--will be done in the future. I invite you to check it out, and check out our new company, East India Press.
If you’re a writer, look into our short story writing contest while you’re there. You could win $1,000. You can find out more about the East India Press or the writing contest at www.EastIndiaPress.com as well.