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Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 3 NYC - Conference Day 1

After resting up a bit from our tour, I went to the Conference while Debbie roamed the surrounding area on foot.

The first session I attended was The Future of Publishing: Don't Give Up on Books by Richard Curtis. Curtis gave us a brief history of the book publishing industry and then gave his vision of what the future will hold for publishing.

He said "the e-book revolution is here" but "there is plenty of fuel left for print through POD."

One of the biggest problems of traditional publishing is the return rate. Publishers don't know how many will be sold, so they print more than needed. This is expensive. Currently, the return rate is 50-70%, not a good business model. The return rate on POD is 0%.

POD is print on demand. Machines, currently called Expresso Machines, churn out books one at a time as customers order them. You see cover image and a blurb of the book. When you click "buy," you send a signal to Amazon. But, in actuality, you're clicking on a book that doesn't exist. The click sends a signal from Amazon to lighting source - a POD press. They have the file in their database. As soon as they get the signal, the pages and cover are printed. It is then bound and dried and packaged. Your address is added and then the book is mailed to you.

These machines are getting smaller and smaller, so Curtis envisions a day when you'll walk into your local Starbucks, order a book at the Expresso Machine, get a cup of coffee, and your book will be printed by time you get back!

He went on to talk about self publishing. He "thinks he could make a lot of money in self-publishing and has stopped scoffing at it as he once did." Many traditionally-published authors are now going this route as they get their rights back from publishers.

Custis said that those of you who can't get published through traditional means could make a lot of money going this route. The main problem will be getting the word out about your book. But if it's good, Word of Mouth will sell your book. It may even be equivalent to what you might have made traditionally. He relates it to the music industry in 1960s.

He said that part of the pardignm shift is the shift of responsibility and financing from the publisher to the author. It's now the author's responsibility to spend money for advertising and marketing. They have to spend time on social media and website marketing. Publishers are even beginning to ask for subsidies - that is require the author to buy a thousand or more books and give them away for promotion. This is happening even to well-known writers, not just the unknown.

Publishers, agents, etc are all scrambling to make themselves relevant to authors in this paradigm shift. "What do the self-publishers need them for?" There is resentment there that he can appreciate.

He discussed how an agent can help in this process. "A literary agent is an intermediary in a world that is disintermediating." You can now go directly to buyer or seller and cut out the middle man. "Anyone in position of being an intermediary must find a way to add value to his services." That could be in the way of connections, knowledge, clout, and client list. Agents can help you with your social media and marketing as a new service.

He then discussed the problem of illegal downloads. "Kids believe information should be free. This is draining the e-book busineess." He believes that this problem will bring about government regulations and big fines for pirates just as in music industry.

He ended with a discussion of gate keepers. He believes there is going to emerge a new kind of gatekeeper: Crowd Source. People will vote with their mouse, like on YouTube. He's a big fan of Amazon reviews. When they are done right, they are very helpful. A time will come when you see name reviewers who become gatekeepers.

I found the session extremely interesting and validated much of my own thinking and experience! As as self-published author, I have experienced more success than some of my traditional author friends. I believe this is because I cut out the middle man. I got my work out there and did the marketing myself. It's harder, but it can be done. The downside is that it takes time away from writing. My author friends get more writing accomplished than I do. Thereis a trade off, so I agree with Curtis that agents who reposition themselves to help the self-published authors will continue to be successful.

As a book reviewer, I found his take on reviewers being gatekeepers interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way, but it is true. If marketing is not happening on your book through your publisher, reviewers are a good way to get the word out.

I enjoyed this session - 5 STARS!

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