There’s a fundamental theme emerging as publishing companies begin to die, the Kindle begins to become a major force, and readers’ options skyrocket - the democratization and opening up of publishing. Here’s a modification of a quote from Tim O’Reilly –
The problem in the age of the Kindle is not piracy it’s obscurity.
The kindle is enabling authors and publishers to do things they couldn’t even imagine earlier. This is directly leading to a lot more competition to gain mind share amongst readers and we’re going to see a lot more authors begin to give away one or more of their books for free. There is also going to be the rise of self-published authors – the speed of which is going to be dictated by whether or not companies rise to serve them as quasi-publishers.
Here are a few key trends I’m seeing –
Free is the new Marketing
Paulo Coelho is a great example of an author giving away a lot of his books for free. However, I found a mention of Cory Doctorow being the first author to start the trend of releasing his books (under a Creative Commons license) free on the web. Here’s a partial list –
- Free downloads of “Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now”.
- OverClocked – a collection of stories that was nominated for the Nebula awards, and one of the stories ‘After the Siege’ won the Locus award for best novella.
- A Place So Foreign and Eight More – A collection of stories that was nominated for the Nebula and Sturgeon awards.
- Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom -
The book won the 2003 Locus Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the 2004 Nebula for Best Novel.
Overall, these seem to be some really good books – you can order signed copies if you’d like, or printed editions, or you can just download one or more free books to see why they keep getting awards and nominations. Also, Cory co-wrote a nonfiction book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Science Fiction (2000), with Karl Schroeder. So that might be worth checking out given his experience and success.
Another free book (albeit with a non specified end date) – Scott Blum’s Summer’s Path. This is a limited offer, so be sure to download it now before the price goes up.
Download Text – FREE Limited Offer (Regular: $9.99)
Download Audio – FREE Limited Offer (Regular: $9.99)
Also, Scott Blum has a free kindle contest – a free kindle and/or? 65 free books.
Exclusively for the Kindle
This is some sort of strange hybrid of beta testing novels and creating a category of novels that probably won’t sell enough to justify print editions. It directly leads to a lot of books that otherwise would not see light of day getting released on the Kindle. Soon, only a few of these novels will get any mention amongst the deluge of free novels and free first novels. Here’s an example –
Fallout 101 is the story of this world’s people as told through the eyes of a man, newborn to existence. He has few memories of his own, little past but in dream; he is determined to find out where he came from. As he does, he comes to understand what it means to be human.
Distributed solely through Kindle, Fallout 101 is a serial novel that is updated in weekly instalments. Comprised of chapters leading up to a full length novel and short stories that experiment with a variety of genres and writing styles, Fallout 101 provides a healthy amount of literary content for those who enjoy science fiction and in-depth character studies. In addition, author’s journals offer insight into the writing process and content of the website.
Another book exclusively on the Kindle is Signalman Publishing’s The Goat of God.
Early Release on the Kindle
This is again beta testing a book, and can be used to decide how many copies to publish, make changes, and get early feedback before a non-changeable physical edition is out. It really is a dream situation – Being able to get feedback and see the market demand whilst incurring super low costs (no books to print or ship). Here’s one for you although at a very non-kindle price –
Bestselling author Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, What On Earth Have I Done?) has announced the exclusive Amazon.com release of the English language version of Third Wish. While the print edition will not be available until February 1st, you can download it on Kindle today.
The Rise of Self-Publishing
Here’s a story that illustrates the power of self-publishing – Craig Murray had a book deal on a book exposing the leader of an international mercenary firm. When this mercenary leader threatened to sue, the publisher backed out. Craig Murray decided to go ahead and self publish and to also give it away for free online. Here’s a site where you can find the free Congo book. If you’d like to support the author and buy a physical copy you can click on the link in the quote below.
Author Craig Murray is self-publishing his new book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known, covering his years as a diplomat in Africa. He did have a publisher, Mainstream, but the firm bowed out after Tim Spicer (founder of the mercenary firm Aegis) threatened legal action over references to him in the book.
The Vacuum in the Self-Published Market
There’s no starting point for finding a good self published book. There’s no search engine like Google, no user ranked listings like at YouTube and even Amazon is not doing anything to create a Self Published Author store. There are three categories of suspects with a chance to do something if they have the inclination –
- Amazon and other big established online companies.
- The physical bookstore companies.
- Document sharing sites like Scribd.
The other suspect is of course a start-up that comes out of nowhere. The downturn makes it a little unlikely though. It is one thing I’m considering – however, in a downturn this is a bit of a risk to take. I’ll update here if I decide to do something.
Rise of the Threat of Obscurity
With the recent free Charlie Huston books, you’re seeing something else – Authors and Publishers are so scared of obscurity they’re willing to give away the first book in a series and/or past books by the author for free to create demand and capture mindshare. You’ll see a lot more of this – a move to the Software Shareware model – get the 1st book for free, and if you like it, buy the next 2 in the series. This is a model with longevity – As opposed to the give away the books for free model (which doesn’t account for Kindle owners who rarely buy physical books). People will drum up the value of reciprocation and such – however, the only reason that authors who’re giving away their books for free online still get a lot of sales is because reading on non-ereader screens really sucks. You cannot give away all your books for free once the number of kindle and Sony reader owners becomes significantly large.
I’m just talking about books here – I’ll write about newspapers later – their fundamental problem is not creating revenue streams but instead to cut expenses. The internet is creating the age of small, flexible companies, and newspapers no longer need or can sustain huge staffs. Coming back to book publishing, the most interesting trend for me is the vacuum in the self-published market. Now, more than ever there’s a need for online publishers and marketers that will help self-published authors carve out a market for themselves. That’s going to be the biggest possible advance in publishing in the next few years. And here’s a beautiful online map of where publishing is headed – http://libros.soybits.com/images/422.gif.
Filed under: free books, publishing | Tagged: free books, kindle publishing | 2 Comments »