It came to me Wednesday night, on the long ride home from Mississippi that most of us writers talk about writing, publishing and marketing like it was all one thing, and it isn’t. Let’s rethink the whole thing for a moment and come up with some definitions.
To have a business, there must be a product or a service to sell. In the book business, there is a single product. That product is a book, or books.
Every product/service has a manufacturer or, in the case of services, a producer. Thinking of the book business in that light, writers are manufacturers.
Manufacturers must have a method of distribution in order to sell their products. In the past, books were primarily sold in book stores. The contact between books stores and manufacturers were publishers. In those days, manufacturers (writers) had to sell publishers, not bookstores. However, the process wasn’t that simple. Publishers had so many products offered to them they inserted a buffer between themselves and writers – that buffer was agents. The process, from the writer/manufacturers perspective was:
Write a book > “Sell” the book to an agent > Agent sells the book to a publisher > Publisher sells the book to bookstores.
To get a book in front of a customer, three individuals were required – writer + agent + publisher
This was the model for the book business from the invention of the printing press in 1440 until four years ago. There were many inequities in the system, from the manufacturer, or writers, point of view – major among them (after writing a good book) was the task of finding an agent. It is understood that the agent must find and sell a publisher, and the publisher must sell a sufficient number of bookstores on the idea of carrying the book to make the effort of writing it profitable. I should note here, that a writer’s success in this equation depends not only on everything happening as noted, but also on the terms of the agreements reached with the agent and the publisher.
There are so many unknowns and variables in that system that it’s a wonder any author turned writing into a profitable pursuit. The fact that some did, makes me to wonder how many didn’t – but since there is no way to know, I won’t go any further down that path.
Now, let’s talk about the state of the business today. Before I do let me state absolutely – the old book business model, the one I just outlined, is dead. I don’t mean it’s wounded, and it’s going to revive itself and make a comeback – I mean, it is in the ditch dead! No matter how many indie writers sign with legacy publishers, no matter how much you love large bookstores, no matter anything – the old way of doing the book business is history. Paper books will continue to exist but only in limited and print on demand copies. You can still buy a horse and wagon but if want transportation, you go to an auto dealer for your personal transportation – if you want a cassette tape, or even an eight track, you can find one on e-bay, but if you want music you go to iTunes or some other seller of MP3s – that principle applies to books, and there is no way to roll back the clock.
What does that mean for book manufacturers – writers? It means the book business model has changed. Instead of this:
Writer writes a book > Writers “sells” the book to an agent > Agent sells the book to a publisher > Publisher sells the book to bookstores.
WE NOW HAVE THIS
Writer writes a book > Writer Publishes a book> Writer Sells Book
The good news about the new model is –
- We’ve cut two people out of the deal – no more agents, no more publishers
- We make more money on each book sold
The not so good news is – No one, and I mean no writer, knows how to sell eBooks. I didn’t say there aren’t writers selling a lot of eBooks – there are, and you know them as well as I do. Not only are they selling a lot of eBooks, a number of them have sold a lot books telling other writers how they sold their books.
Therein lies the not so good news. What they did last year, or six months ago, or even last month, probably won’t work today – at the very least it won’t work the way it did for them, at the point in time they did it. What will work? I have the answer – we have to sell one book at a time. That’s the way I sold my first, self-published book, and it’s the way I’m going sell every book that I write.
When I published that book, Remember – An Encounter With Jesus Christ, I was a professional speaker. An hour or so into every speaking engagement I called for a break, and before the break began, I held up a copy of the book, told a bit about it, and explained that it was available in the room near the coffee and soft drink table.
Now days I’m no longer on the speaker’s circuit, so I can’t hold up the book in front of a live audience, but, I can hold it up. I can hold it up on Facebook, twitter, my blog, my website, and in email. There is a key to holding up a book and offering it for sale to a prospective reader. The key is – don’t hold up the book until your audience knows who you are. By that I mean, don’t direct message new twitter followers with – “Buy my book at *****” or tweet your book ten thousand times a day.
Introduce yourself before you hold up your book. If you are someone that your audience likes, they will buy your book… one book at a time.
So click here to go to my Amazon Author’s Page – that’s where you’ll find me holding up three books (number four is almost there)