So, I’ve been trying to drum up some interest in my book. I’ve sold a handful of copies to this point, which is more than I’d hoped for, but most importantly, I’ve experimented with a variety of platforms for getting content out there. The book itself looks good. I got the first copy off the presses, and I have to say that I’m thrilled with the quality. But now, it’s on to different things. First, I just converted a copy for sale through the Amazon Kindle store. I know I’ve been somewhat questioning of the Kindle, and particularly their licensing agreements with regard to creator payments, but for me, in this situation, the cut isn’t all bad, especially when you consider that I have a grand total of zero production costs.
While I was there, I stumbled onto this little feature, as well, that allows a person to sell subscriptions to the Kindle to your blog. So, to see what it was about, I listed The Watershed Chronicle there. Anyone with a Kindle who would like a subscription can go here. For a simple $1.99 a month, you can have my wit and wisdom beamed into your Kindle for your personal perusal any time you like. Do I think anyone will actually subscribe to this site? Probably not. Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free, and subscribers will get the same material anyone can get here for no cost. So why do it? I’m thinking about the future. This website may not be a perfect candidate to drum up revenue, but it is a handy one to explore exactly how to set up systems necessary to generate paying customers. And don’t think for a moment that I don’t have bunches of possibilities floating around in my head.
The more I delve into the issues that publishing as an industry are facing, the more I reach the conclusion that the advertising-based model is a dead and decaying corpse of what used to be. I’m just not convinced that it will ever return to anywhere near the levels it once was. And that means continued employment in that regard will be about perpetually cutting corners, doing much more work for less money, and bending over backwards to satisfy an ever-shrinking base of advertisers until they dry up completely. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.
So let’s look at what we have here. One, I can sell subscriptions to a blog. It may not generate anything with this one in particular, but get the right market, the right audience and the right content regularly, and it has definite possibilities. Two, I can create book-length manuscripts, have them professionally published and sell them at market prices to anyone on the planet who has a credit card and an internet connection. And on-demand magazine publishing is coming soon. Right now, the pricing doesn’t make sense, but that’s only bound to come down as technology continues to improve. Imagine, no upfront printing costs and 100% paying customers. It’s a publisher’s wet dream. And one person can do all this from his laptop without putting out a dime, perched in his home recliner while watching Sons of Anarchy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Publishers are screwed. The cost of the infrastructure they’ve developed to achieve the same thing that anyone with the skills and the software will soon be able to do at the same level will suffocate them.
But they’re still not thinking critically toward the future. The proliferation of digital readers is nothing if not a potential boon for those of us who create content. But Apple’s soon to be iPad comes with a little hitch; they don’t want to share subscriber data with the publishers. For me, I never even considered why that would be a big deal, until it dawned on me that publishers are still thinking in terms of advertising first. They want the detailed subscriber data to use to prop up ad rates and continue to play the “ad efficiency” game that internet-based ad networks have dragged them into, gutting their rates in the process. Take the ads out of the equation, and it doesn’t really matter the demographics of your subscribers, only how many of them there are and what they’ve spent on your stuff. Of course, to realize that, actual content would have to be important to these guys. They’re fight with Apple over this is a sign that, no matter how much things change, these companies still can’t see beyond what they’re used to. But remember, 99 cent downloads were a deal-breaker for the music industry, too, when the iPod came along and you see how long that position lasted.
For my money, the future doesn’t have anything to do with these juggernauts of a bygone era. The tools to publish anything you want every bit as professionally as the long-standing industry, and the capability to access the exact same marketing channels they do is now virtually available to anyone who wants it. What I don’t understand is why suffering journalists, graphic designers and the like continue to toil away under the ax of a failing industry when do-it-yourself has never been more readily available?
I read a bit recently on Alan Mutter’s website about disgruntled free-lancers trying to join together to better their circumstances and hopefully, get better rates out of publishers. While I laud their initiative, this is a fools’ quest. Publisher’s have been devaluing free-lance contributor work for as long as I’ve worked in this industry, and trust me, they are not shedding any tears from the fact that they can get more content for much less money today than they could have four or five years ago. If you don’t like the pay, don’t work for them. Someone else certainly will, but it doesn’t have to be you. With the tools available today, you don’t need them anyway. You really want to get reasonable rates out of these guys, prove that you’re worth it. Free-lancers are a dime a dozen. Established, professional writers with a following, not quite so prolific. Don’t like the way the industry’s treating you? Stop whining and do something about it. It won’t be long before they not only don’t want to pay you good rates for your work, they won’t be able to, anyway.