Well, no one ever really considered our family or anyone in it as cutting-edge … although it might be fairly argued that we were mosying so slowly along behind everyone else in our practices and preferences that the cutting-edge, tres-up to the minute actually came around full circle in the last half-decade and caught up to us at last. Home-made everything, home vegetable garden, chores for children, no television, tidy small houses and abstention from debt of every sort, from student to credit-card … an enthusiasm for all such things are now apparently trendy and forward-thinking.
I think about the only time that any of us got ahead of the zeitgeist in any way – and it was only for a brief time – was when I got into blogging and indy-publishing. Even then I wasn’t an early-early-Dark-Ages of Blogging adapter, only more of the first flush of the Renaissance, where practically all of us whose sites were honored by being on the Insty blog-roll knew each other – in the on-line sense of commenting on each other’s blogs and being free with personal emails. Fortunately for my family standing, that all passed about the time that comment-spam became a plague upon the earth and various formerly wide-open websites began requiring registration to comment, or at least acquiring some heavy-duty spam-prevention plug-ins. A blog? Now, everybody had a blog.
Indy publishing – now, when I went ahead and did my first book, cobbled together out of various posts on the Brief – I went with a POD publisher recommended by one of the commenters, and from there I went wandering off into the wilds of independent publishing. Now, there was new territory and relatively un-trodden, being that eBooks were still some years in the future. Self-publishing was, in the eyes of the mainstream media and publishing establishments, a mere half-a step away from vanity publishing, wherein a talentless hack with delusions of adequacy and fairly deep pockets overpaid for a print run of their book, and settled down to a lifetime of giving away copies out of the boxes of them in the garage. But the POD houses had a new twist; only printing as many as were required, and distributing through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the other on-line vendors … and only costing the author a relative pittance: a couple of hundred dollars instead of a couple of thousands. So, there I was, happily embroiled in writing and marketing my books, moving from my first publisher to a partnership with a local San Antonio boutique publisher, ensuring that my print books would be available here, there, and everywhere.
Within the last year or so, a couple of things became pretty obvious: even at the required discount and with returnability, local bookstores still preferred that I supply the books for consignment sales … and the hassle of that just became too much. I laid out my own funds to purchase the books in the first place, got repeatedly stalled on payments, had information lost by the bookstore and was paid with bouncing checks. Borders closed – the one big box bookstore that did happily stock my books at their San Antonio outlets. Exasperated, I made the unilateral decision: I’d either do direct sales at special events, especially around the holidays, or refer interested purchasers to Amazon, etc. I was tired of playing games with local vendors – if they wanted to stock my books in-house, they could go through their distributor to get them.
So – sales of print books trickle along at a pretty steady rate, with an uptick at Christmas. As long as their various Amazon rankings are low-number six figures or less – I’m happy. But digital sales – that’s another kettle of fish. In the last week in May, I got a mention of my books on Instapundit, and a link to my Amazon author page – and sales of Kindle versions of all six books soared. No kidding – total sales quadrupled almost overnight for the month of May, and so far for June are about twice what I normally expect. Print sales remained fairly consistent through the last of May and the first of June, which demonstrates to me that I really ought to focus more on marketing the eBook editions. Last month was a wake-up call … and the call said ‘Make Facebook pages for your books!’ ‘Do more with Smashwords and coupons!’ and ‘Plug the Kindle and Nook versions!’
I should have expected this, really. More and more people that we know have e-readers of some kind or another, even older citizens who are normally resistant to any newfangled electronic toys – being able to change the font size, and instantly acquire any new book that takes their fancy probably has a lot to do with this. I suspect that e-readers will become as ubiquitous as cell-phones and iPods over the next couple of years – just about everyone will have one, no matter how wrecked our economy might become. Like cellphones, the e-readers will become cheaper. The trend is for indy authors to charge far less for their books than the establishment publishers do for theirs, which can only work to the advantage of indy authors.
Yeah, I know that some of the other indy authors I know have been harping on this for a year or two already … but I never claimed to be out in front of trends.