“Where can I buy the paperback of your book about Scotland?” That’s the most frequently asked question. The answer is not where, but when. It’s a nice question to be asked. I wish I had a good answer. Maybe I do.
Publishing is undergoing a revolution. That’s one reason I teach my classes in Modern Self-Publishing. (My classes have been extended into a weekend-long workshop. The next session is in January.) I’ve self-published books for ten years, and every time is different. The old industry to falling away the same way Hollywood was challenged by independent movies and the record labels were by garage bands.
The changes are happening for the authors too. There is more freedom because there is less influence of editors and agents. That can be good and bad. The barriers to entry are dropping. Publishing an e-book can be done for free, just like it was for me publishing Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland. Paperbacks can be published for free, but sometimes that is obvious. You get what you pay for. It has cost money to publish a paperback to bookstore standards. With an e-book, you’re paying for an arrangement of magnetic fields. With a paperback, you’re getting a rearranged tree. Rearranging a tree into paper is more expensive than rearranging a bunch of electrons.
And yet, I plan to have someone rearrange some trees, flatten them, selectively cover them in ink, and sell them. But first, I’ll sell the ebook.
Traditionally, authors started by publishing hardcover, then paperback, then lower-quality mass market versions. They made the most money upfront on the hardback, and tied into the volume sales at the end. It was a model that relied on people with lots of discretionary income, or a passion for books, to essentially provide the seed money for the rest of the publishing process.
In 2012, that model is turned around. Authors can start with the zero-cost option (ignoring the value of time, effort, and creativity that went into creating the book), and then step up to the paperback, and then decide to publish a hardcover edition. The ebook reaches to the connected community first at a much lower cost, and then can extend the reach into those that prefer to read on paper (which continues to be my preference, and the preference of many others), and then maybe extend to those that must have a signed, first-edition, hardcover (though which is really the first edition?).
That’s the model I am following: ebook, maybe paperback, maybe hardcover.
And maybe some traditional publishing house will offer me a marvelous contract with a profitable advance, and my model will be turned around again. How about a series? Walking Thinking Drinking Across, hmm, – England, France, New Zealand, or around Hawaii, Ireland?
Stay tuned. If I decide to publish the paperback, this will be a good place to hear about it.