A large portion of my time in 2013 has been spent browsing through ebook stores and app stores and finding the good books & apps out of the endless lists.
A few similarities stand out -
- It’s shocking how bad the search engines and discovery engines are. Apple and Google and Amazon almost seem to be trying to make it hard to find ‘the next great read’ or ‘the next great app’. It’s particularly puzzling in the case of Google. They make their money from search. Surely, they could come up with an app search engine that at least pretends to work.
- There’s a race to zero. People keep getting upset when this is mentioned – that doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening. Apps are all free or $1 or $3. The only app companies making non-trivial amounts of money are ones that either sell a service or product OUTSIDE of the App Stores (think Netflix) or the ones that sell people purple cows and rainbow candies for $1 each (Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Zynga, etc.). With books we are seeing more and more authors offer free books. Book prices are going down steadily. The stores are trying various things to prevent this, but the race to the bottom can’t be stopped. The stores are just delaying the inevitable – at which point all their investment into hardware and infrastructure is going to look like Genius. NOT!
- There’s an unlimited supply of both apps and books. There are millions of ebooks available and hundreds of thousands of apps available. Given that it takes at least a few minutes to try out a book sample or an app, you could literally spend your entire life trying out books and/or apps and never run out of choices. You wouldn’t even have to actually read a full book. Just a few minutes per book and you’d never run out of books. Authors are writing books and publishing them faster than anyone can read books.
However, there is one area in which ebook stores and app stores differ very, very widely -
- There are a very small number of really good apps. For any given users’ needs, out of the hundreds of thousands of apps available, only a few thousand would classify as ‘good’ and just a few hundred would classify as ‘very good’. In fact, if you wanted to be picky you could make a reasonable claim that there are just 5 to 25 very good apps in each app category. The rest are all basically worthless.
- There are a very, very, very large number of very good books. In each and every genre, there are hundreds of really good books. The problem is finding them.
Note: In some ways this is an unfair comparison. With books we have thousands of years of work, while with apps we have just 4-6 years of work on apps. The point remains – there are a very, very, very large number of readable books.
Why are there so many more ‘very good books’?
To write a good book you need just three ingredients -
- A life that provides enough experience and memories to write a good story. Let’s call this the ‘inspiration’ for the book.
- The ability to put the story down in words. Let’s call this the ‘writing skills’ part.
- A platform to publish your work.
If you consider that 73% of people want to write a book, and that perhaps 5% to 10% of them have enough of the above two ingredients, we end up with a shockingly high number of ‘very good’ books.
The third part, a platform, is now freely available. Kindle Store. Nook Store. Kobo Store. iBooks Store. All of them accept books from ANYONE. No gilded wings or silver spoon required.
Please Note: By ‘very good’ we don’t mean ‘the best book ever written’. We mean a book that a reader enjoys reading. That’s it – a very good read.
Making a very good app is much tougher because -
- Firstly, you need the coordination of a lot of different skills OR the combination of a group of people with different skills. The first is nearly impossible and the second is really hard to manage.
- Secondly, apps cost a LOT more to make.
- Thirdly, in apps there are lots and lots of places you can go wrong – design, coding, testing, etc.
- Fourthly, the approval process for apps is painful. There are a thousand reasons an app might get rejected. Much of the credit for this goes to the ‘Closed Ecosystems’ that use ‘quality’ as an excuse to filter according to their personal biases and their own motives.
Basically, writing a good book just needs someone who can write well and who has enough inspiration and motivation. For an app you need a team of people and all/most of them have to have time and skills and inspiration and life experience.
You write a good book and every store will take it. With an app each store has its own requirements and review processes.
The second big factor is that a LOT more people can write a book than can code or program an app.
While lots of people might WANT to make an app, a ridiculously small percentage of them can actually code or design or test. On the other hand, a huge percentage of people can write and are quite capable of writing a book. Interestingly, more people want to write a book (73% in the US) than read a book (13% to 20%, depending on what statistics company you check with).
This brings us to the topic of this post.
There are an infinite number of very good authors
By infinite we mean – so many that, for the average reader, you are NEVER going to run out of good books to read written by these authors.
The reason we still struggle to find good books to read is that
A) Lots of these authors haven’t been given a shot.
B) The Discovery process is completely broken. By design. The stores want lots of books to be able to say ‘We have 2.45 million books’ but then turn around and show only the books they want to sell. It’s a different sort of gatekeeping.
Most of these ‘very good’ authors haven’t been given a shot to even publish. That’s why you aren’t getting enough books you love at prices you love. That’s the key thing that’s going to change in the next 5 to 15 years -
- We’ll see tens of millions of talented and inspired and ‘capable of writing very good books’ authors get a chance to publish their books.
- We’ll see systems come into place to bring these ‘very good books’ to readers. Very good discovery engines and ‘what to read next’ engines and serendipity engines and search engines.
When that happens, we’ll see -
- An infinite number of very good authors rise up.
- An infinite number of very good books become available.
Try an experiment and see this for yourself.
Your Experiment: Seeing for yourself that Sales Rank isn’t indicative of Writing Talent or Book Quality
Pick your favorite Genre of Books. Go to any store (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Sony) -
- Pick out a few of the best-selling books.
- Pick out a few of the books just out of the Top 100 lists.
- Find and pick out some of the books that have very low sales ranks.
It’s important to pick out books that seem interesting to you. Basically, pick the books you’re drawn to. Just make sure to pick them from different sales rank ranges.
You’ll notice a few interesting things -
- There will be almost no difference between the books qualitatively. What I mean is – the books will, for the most part, be roughly as good as each other.
- There will be a LOT of very good books that don’t see many sales. It’s absolutely stunning how many super good books are lost in the lists and piles.
- There will be some rather poor books that will see lots of sales.
Where it gets really interesting is that you’ll see the EXACT SAME PATTERN if you pick books in -
- The Top 100.
- The Top 1,000.
- The Top 10,000.
- The Top 100,000.
While there will be a higher percentage of good books in the Top 100, there will still be lots of very good books outside the Top 100,000.
The first time you realize there are books with sales rank 125,785 that are really well written – It’s a huge shock.
Why are really good books not selling? Why does no one know about a really good book that even has great reviews? Why does no one know about the tens of thousands of such books that are adrift in the ‘No Visibility outside the Top 100′ sea?
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Online book stores have just a few shelves – Top 100, Movers & Shakers, Store Chosen Books
What did we get with the traditional model?
- Publishers chose just a few thousand authors each year. We had a total of perhaps a few hundred thousand authors.
- Bookstores chose to display 5,000 to 10,000 books. All of these books got shelf space and visibility.
What do we get with the new model?
- Absolutely anyone can publish. We’re rapidly approaching a stage where we’ll have (if we don’t already) millions of authors.
- Online stores are stuck displaying the Top 100 and perhaps a few hundred other books. So, instead of 5,000 to 10,000 books getting visibility in each store, and the books varying across the different stores, we get just 100 to 500 books highlighted in online stores and most stores having little variance in books shown.
We’ve gone from a few hundred thousand authors to a few million (we will be there soon). But the number of books getting visibility has gone from tens of thousands to a few hundred.
It’s IMPOSSIBLE for 95% of very good authors and very good books to get ANY visibility
Why? Well, for several reasons -
- The above mentioned aspect of only a few hundred books getting visibility in online stores.
- Stores wanting to highlight books they can sell for $10 or more and make money from. That leaves out nearly all authors trying to compete on price.
- Stores wanting to highlight books they publish themselves and/or books they get paid to promote.
- Most ‘very good’ authors having ‘no clue’ how to market.
- There being a huge scarcity of marketing opportunities for ebooks. Where could you get visibility when the stores are the only channels?
Why talk about all of this? Because this is hiding a New Key Reality in Books.
There are an infinite number of very good authors now
By infinite we mean ‘so many that you’ll never run out of very good authors to read’.
What you’re seeing now are just a few of the Publisher built-up authors and a few of the Indie authors who understood how to thrive in the new world of Publishing and/or got picked by the stores.
They are just 3% to 5% of the very good authors.
Most very good authors are failing in making themselves seen and read. There are a LOT of authors who are writing books good enough to be bestsellers but aren’t able to get even a few dozen people to read their books and see for themselves.
The system is failing them.
And by failing these ‘very good authors’, the system is failing readers.
There are an infinite number of very good books
Most authors write more than one book.
Sometimes, even not-so-good authors produce a gem.
Quite a few very good authors produce more than one ‘very good book’.
That means that -
- Only 3% to 5% of the very good authors have been discovered.
- Only 1% to 2% of the very good books have been discovered.
You can see this happen every single day.
There’ll be a book with 1 review or 2 reviews. It gets mentioned somewhere. In a few weeks it has 50 good reviews.
There are books that had no reviews in 2011 that now have hundreds or even thousands of 5 star reviews.
While this happens all the time in books (with new books, and sometimes with old books), it’s happening at a MUCH faster rate with ebooks.
Because more and more very good authors are jumping into publishing their books (often themselves). Because more and more very good books are being published.
On the Cusp of Infinite Very Good Books
In Summary, we’re on the cusp of a Publishing World where the both the number of very good authors and very good books is going to be infinite.
All three statements are worth thinking about -
- There are an infinite number of very good authors.
- There are an even larger number of very good books.
- We’re soon going to be in a world where readers can easily find ALL/Most of these authors and books.
This is what scares the Old Publishers and the New Publishers. This is what they are fighting against. All the moves you see, are the last attempts of the Gatekeepers to keep readers and authors detached from each other and from Reality.