Friday, March 19, 2010

Self-Publishing in the Digital Age

I spend much of my year traveling with my wife, who is a fine art photographer and painter. We do art shows across the country.

There are so many talented people out there in the visual art world. Real craftspeople, with great vision and dogged perseverance. And after they create something, they get to take it to a gallery or art festival, and it often sells for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

As a self-published writer I'm always struck by the difference between the market for books and the market for fine art. Books are also made by real craftspeople, with great vision and dogged perseverance. But, collector's items aside, an individual book is never worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

There are, of course, many reasons for this disparity, the chief one being that a book is easily reproduce-able, and fine art is not. When you buy a painting, you buy an original work. If it's not an original work, then it's not a painting but a reproduction of a painting. When you buy a book, you (almost) always buy a reproduction.

Indeed, the amount people are willing to pay for art or entertainment pretty much comes down to how easily reproduce-able the work is. If it's extremely easy to reproduce, it's worth less, sometimes much less, than something that is difficult or impossible to reproduce.

What does that mean in the digital world, where pretty much everything is very easily reproduce-able?

I don't think it means good things for the price of your book, especially your ebook.

The good news is this: With the advent of digital (POD and ebook) technologies, self-published authors can get their books in print cheaply, quickly and easily, and the price they get per unit is typically more than what they would get from a commercial publishing company. Moreover, with digital's racy cousin the Internet, authors can choose to eliminate the middlemen of distributor and retail outlet for many sales, further increasing the percentage that comes to them. The Internet also makes it possible to reach audiences a self-published author twenty years ago could never dream of reaching.

No doubt digital cuts both ways for the book-length writer, but we'd be fools to ignore the upside, which is that we can pretty much do whatever we want artistically, and if we can find someone to pay for it, we can keep most of the money.

Worse things have happened.

Yours in laying down the law,


Try Ghost Notes, the award-winning novel, in print form for just $5.

Try Ghost Notes the Audio Book as an unabridged digital download.

Or try Ghost Notes the Ebook.


DarkWyrmReads said...

Hi! Just found your blog via AW.

Great post. E-books and self-publishing are definitely coming into their own, but still some ground to cover - especially in how people see them.

I think the main problem the 'Big Boys' are having is they fear losing some bucks, but they've lost sight on why those big price tags were originally established.

Publishing a book the traditional way costs money; publishing in electronic format doesn't come with such a high price tag...but they still want to get those high $$$.

Why continue to charge so much when it doesn't cost as much to produce something electronically? I'm afraid the honest answer is probably greed (IMO, anyway).

Writers and publishers are now having to deal with the same things photographers have had to deal with since digital started making taking pictures easier and cheaper.

Anonymous said...

Correctly your article helped me terribly much in my college assignment. Hats off to you dispatch, intention look audacious for more related articles in a jiffy as its one of my pick subject-matter to read.

Anonymous said...

Hi Art
Came here by way of Jane's 'The Self-Publishing Review.' So impressed that you have impressed her! - and of course many others.
Skimming through your blogs I can't find any account of how you actually self-published this book. I guess POD - but which company?
Currently researchin options for a friend. Hope you can point me towards some info.

Art Edwards said...

I have a different, dormant blog where I published most of my self-publishing info. It's called the Artful Self-Publisher.

This link should take you right to the section on POD self-publishing, which is how I published Ghost Notes.

I was as surprised as anyone by Jane's review. Surprised in that good way.


Art Edwards said...

I just re-read one of the posts at the link above, and it is a bit out of date. The line:

"Not only is [Lightning Source] the least expensive of the three options on the front end..."

This clause, as I understand it now, is false. It's probably cheaper in up front fees to use Lulu or Createspace.

But the main point of the blog still holds, I believe: You still make more money per sale going with a POD printer like Lightening Source as opposed to a subsidy press like Lulu, Createspace, etc.

Ghost Notes was published through Lightning Source, as was the second edition of Stuck Outside of Phoenix, my debut.

Good luck,


Anonymous said...

Hi Art
Looking at a new site called Completely Novel which uses Lightning Source as printer or CPI-UK. Haven't spoken to anyone who uses it as yet, but it has a friendly look.
Thanks for the help

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.