Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyWily Mammals

  • Tue, 02 Jul 2013 07:15:50    Permalink

    Im no star on the lecture circuit, but a few invitations come in every year and always take them up if I can. Its good publicity for my books. And I usually get a free meal. Sometimes they even pay me.
    When Gone Boy came out I did a lot of gigs talking about gun control. 
    I talked about whaling for Demon of the Waters,
    and about Diane Arbus and issues of authentication and valuation for my book Huberts Freaks
    Over the past year, however, Ive been talking about changes in the publishing business since my first interaction with it in the 1970s. Its a fascinating topic because few established industries have changed as radically in so short a time.
    The talk starts with my first solicitation from Pyramid Publishing back in the mid-seventies. Those were the days of the three martini lunch, when editing was a craft as well as a trade, and editors were talent scouts as well as book doctors.
    Then to the publication of Gone Boy in 1999. The boozy lunch was pretty much a thing of the past, but I had a publicist and a marketing program. My book had a marketing budget which included advertising and book tours.
    A few years later, when Demon of the Waters came out, I still had a publicist, but no reading tour and very little advertising. Instead the emphasis was on using the Internet My own website and blog as well as My Space and Facebook to self publicize my book.
    By 2009 and Huberts Freaks the situation had deteriorated. I still had a wonderful editor (my books and I have been lucky in that respect) but as far as publicity went, I had a wild opening splash at Strand Books, and the rest was my responsibility. Website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
    With the publication of the Old Turks Load (thank God for yet another good editor!), marketing was pretty much my responsibility. As I say in my talk,
    Traditional trade publishing has been so whipped, so beat down, so defeated by Amazon, that they have ceded most of the job of publicizing mid-list authors to the Big A. Theyve withdrawn from the fray in a panic, I might add while they try to figure out their future role in the business, how they can keep their jobs, or how they can reinvent themselves so that jobs like theirs will even exist. Because its a brave new world now. Amazon has changed the game forever.
    I then go on to demonstrate how the Amazon business model low initial investment in the product and lower production and marketing costs - have destroyed the tradition paradigm of a high stakes upfront bet on an author (the advance), high production costs (real, rather than virtual books) and uncertain marketing (relying on real world advertising and critical response rather than Amazons self contained digital world).
    Its a pretty grim scenario. The talk ends with the tale of the recent email I got from Amazon:
    An ominous sign came a couple of weeks ago when Amazon, at the height of its algorithmic glory, sent me an email touting books that, given my past reading habits, I would enjoy and ought to purchase.
    Greg Gibson,

    Are you looking for something in our Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books department? If so, you might be interested in these items.

    At the top of the list was my own book, The Old Turks Load.

    But now, Im happy to say, I can add a new chapter to my talk.
    I just got an email from my old pal Rudy Ruckerone of the godfathers, along with William Gibson, of the Cyberpunk movement in science fiction. 
    Hed launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his latest novel, The Big Aha. Because his blog gets 3000 hits a day, and because his tweets go to 5000 followers, he made the requisite $7000 in just a few days. You can read about it here, and here
    Being a master computer programmer, hes figured out how to publish his own e-books. The design will be provided by his daughter, whos a professional designer, and the editing will be undertaken by a faithful cadre of SF colleagues.
    And guess wholl buy the book? Thats right those 3000 blog readers and 5000 twitter followers. No doubt hell list it on Amazon, and take advantage of that exposure as well.
    Obviously, Rudys cashing in on the fan base hes established over decades as a professional writer. But what about newer writers without 5000 twitter followers?
    Rudy hasnt said anything about this, but what if he were to swap his mailing list with another SF author? Suppose this swapping continued until 100 SF authors - who knew how to make Kindle compatible versions of their books - were part of it? Of course theyd all list on Amazon too, but now theyd be using Amazon to create an alternative market that, ultimately, would only strengthen their independence.
    Multiply by all the genres and interest groups out there, and you get a more encouraging result.
    A self-funded alternative publishing industry, using Amazonian techniques to bring the big A down Wiley mammals among the feet of dinosaurs.
    For a copy of the notes for my latest talk about "Used Books of the Future," just send me an email at

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