It was a great conference with a lot of fascinating discussion about ebooks and the future of the publishing industry. Of course, as new and exciting as the digital space is, there are already tired old discussion points that feel as if we’ve been talking about them for the past 10 years.
Oh wait a minute, we HAVE been having these discussions for at least a decade now.
I’ll take that frustration with a grain of salt because, after all, the publishing industry hasn’t had a major significant change or alteration for about 500 years – so please forgive the industry if it takes a couple of decades for them to get their head around another significant change.
Given my own role within this industry (Director of Self Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo), there was one particular session that interested me a great deal, so I wanted to focus on the Doing It on Their Own: Self-Publishing Authors Find Success panel that happened on Wednesday afternoon.
Jeremy Greenfield did a great job moderating this panel which featured Tony Van Veeth from BookBaby and independent authors Bella Andre, Elle Lothlorien and Bob Mayer.
There were some interesting discussion points, facts and quotes tossed out that I thought was interesting to share.
- Bella Andre sold 400,000 copies of her books in a year and made 1 million dollars in 2011 – the largest monthly “royalty” cheque she rec’d in 2011 was $75,000
- Elle Lothlorien has gone with a philosophy of higher price points for her books and was able to quit her day job in June 2010 to focus on her writing/self-publishing career.
- Lothlorien also states that while she doesn’t subscribe to some of the popular self-published authors like JA Konrath or John Locke who have priced their work at 99 cents, she highlights the importance that you “have to hear all the sides and all the opinions” and make the choice that is right for you.
- Bob Mayer, who not only thinks outside the box but says he and his publishing company designed to help self-publish authors “don’t believe in boxes.”
- Mayer also doesn’t believe in backlist any more based on the manner by which ebooks can be discovered and consumed in this new environment. “If you have backlist you have CONTENT” he says. “That’s GOLD!”
- Mayer believes the traditional advance model has to go away, which would ultimately put less pressure on publishers and more pressure on the actual performance of a book’s sales.
- Mayer believes that nobody markets the book as well as the author “because nobody cares as much as the author.” He says that whether a book is self-published or published with a major publisher, the onus is on the author. His frustration is outlined in this statement: “You go to BEA and see Random House pushing four authors from their entire Fall catalog.”
- Andre hasn’t just seen success in the English language market in North America, but she believes strongly in the global distribution of her titles through multiple languages. She has a team of between 26 and 30 consultants working on her books in foreign languages. And a huge bonus to this author, but she ensures her teams translate not just the content of the book, but take care to translate the metadata.
- Tony Van Veeth, whose BookBaby offers authors various a la carte services ($49 to $250 cover design, for example), recognizes different authors will choose different approaches.
- Towards the end of the session, Van Veeth commented that “Bella is the most extraverted person in this room, perhaps even in this hotel” highlighting the fact that sometimes authors (particularly reclusive types) might need the support and help from either a traditional publisher or a company like his or Mayer’s
- Andre, who was at the conference specifically to build relationships (she reached out to me weeks before the conference, securing a lunch date with me – an enjoyable and fascinating chance for us to chat one on one and face to face). “My content is great,” she says, “But my relationship with my retailers is key to my success.”
- Andre offers another bit of advice to self publish authors. “Pay attention!” she declares in a loud voice. As illustration of this, she explains how she follows and pays attention to industry trends, what new markets ebooks are being expanded into, who is moving where within the industry. (Again, she was following the progress of Kobo, noticed they had posted a job for my position and knew exactly when I started in my new role)