One of the things that has struck me in the last few months has been the number of ‘Billionaire’ type titles that enter the Top 100 Lists in the Kindle Store and the Nook Store. It shouldn’t really be a surprise – 50 Shades of Gray created a hot new market. Now everyone wants to read about billionaires who can tie more types of knots than a drunken sailor.
The thing that is really intriguing is that a lot of them have been indie authors. Riding a Hot New Market to hit the Top 100.
It’s a replay of what happened when YA and Twilight and Sparkling Vampires suddenly became big. A lot of indie authors were able to take advantage of the trend before Publishers could.
At first, this seems strange.
- We have the Big 5 Publishers with thousands of people, hundreds of millions of dollars, specialists in every area. They have all the expertise, all the tastemaker skills, all the polish and refinement tools.
- We have indie authors who are mostly one-person crews. Most of them have never had a hit before. Some of them have never even written a book before.
How are Indie Authors able to outpace Big 5 Publishers to the opportunity?
Well, it’s quite simple.
Publishers move like Giant Dinosaurs, Indie Authors move like Cheetahs
Here’s what happens with a Publisher –
- A book like Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray shows there’s demand for a particular type of book. Basically, it validates the existence of a lucrative market. Let’s call it the ‘Hot New Market’.
- Publishers start trickling this information down to Agents and Authors. Perhaps it takes 3-4 months until Publishers decide which authors should try and tap into this Hot New Market and get a few of them to agree.
- The Author takes 3-9 months to finish the book. Perhaps longer.
- Then, and this is the surprisingly slow part, it takes ONE ENTIRE YEAR for the finished book to be polished and readied and published to the stores.
- The End Result: Approximately 1.5 to 2 years after the Hot New Market was found, Publishers have books catering to that market. Sometimes, Publishers move faster and get the books out in 1 to 1.5 years. However, it’s usually 1.5 years or longer.
So, and you can see this if you check some of the new Young Adult novels coming out from authors who haven’t written YA novels before, a Hot New Market gets catered to after 1 to 2 entire years have passed.
Readers just have to twiddle their thumbs while their need for new books in the Hot New Market goes unfulfilled.
This was quite alright when Publishers controlled the distribution channels and were the gatekeepers. During those dark and dreary 1 to 2 years of waiting, no one else could cater to the Hot New Market and the demand went unfulfilled – sometimes it increased, sometimes it died away. However, no one except Publishers could cater to it.
Indie Authors, who can now reach readers quickly and easily, without needing the blessings of a Publisher or a Bookstore Chain, can react much quicker than Publisher Dinosaurs.
- A book, let’s call it Book X, proves there’s a Hot New Market with HUGE demand.
- Indie Authors who are quick can make a call within a few months. Perhaps even a few weeks. Let’s be conservative and say 2 months.
- Indie Authors, if they manage things well, can finish the book in 3-6 months.
- Optionally, Indie Authors can take a few months to polish the book.
- That’s it. They are ready to release. They can send out the ebook quickly and easily. The minute it’s done, it’s ready to be sent out and readers can get it the next day – No printing, no shipping, no distribution, no shelving, no complicated business deals.
- Total Time: 5 to 9 months.
Whereas Publishers take 1 to 2 entire years to respond to a How New Market, Indie Authors can respond within 5 to 9 months. A few Indie Authors are even faster.
What is that Hot New Market going to do in the Interim?
Here’s the timeline –
- Day 1: Book X launches.
- Year 1: Book X proves the existence of a Hot New Market. So an entire legion of readers discover and fall in love with this Hot New Market.
- Year 1 and Year 2: All these readers, who now love this Hot New Market, wait for more. But there’s NOTHING for them.
- Opportunity for Indie Authors: During Year 1 and Year 2, there are not going to be ANY Publisher published books catering to this market. There might be a sequel to Book X – that’s it.
- Publishers: Take their 1 to 2 years. By end of Year 2, or perhaps as late as Year 3, they launch books that cater to the Hot New Market.
Indie Authors get 1 to 1.5 years where they have –
- A Hot New Market that is DEMANDING more books to satisfy it.
- Publishers unable and/or unwilling to meet this STRONG DEMAND for the entire 1 to 1.5 years.
Basically, Indie Authors become the only Hamburger stand at a Carnivore Convention.
Meeting Demand Quickly is more important than Price
Publishers seem to fixate on ‘low prices’ of books by indie authors. However, the real danger indie authors pose is SPEED.
- Speed at which Indie Authors can react to a Hot New Market.
- Speed at which Indie Authors can publish sequels and series.
- Speed at which Indie Authors can switch from one market to another.
For that 1 to 1.5 year gap, when the Hot New Market is waiting for ANY Book that will satisfy the insane demand, Publishers have nothing to offer. Price isn’t even a factor.
Indie Authors, on the other hand, can deliver quickly and repeatedly. It will take Publishers 1.5 years to 2 years to refocus an existing superstar author on the new market opportunity, polish the book, and ship it. In that same time period, a superstar Indie Author can deliver an entire 3-book series. The first might arrive within 6-9 months.
It’s not even a contest.
That Hot New Market can either wait for 1.5 years, or it can read the books Indie Authors are delivering. A LOT of readers pick the Indie Authors. That’s why we see a non-stop stream of ‘Billionaire’ indie titles hitting the Top 100. It’s a trend that’s going to get much stronger – Indie Authors are getting better and better at catering to Hot New Markets long before Publishers can.