How to Annoy Readers (Or How Not to Promote Your Book)

My guest today is Olivia Cunning, author of Backstage Pass. Combining her love for romantic fiction and rock ‘n roll, Olivia Cunning writes erotic romance centered around rock musicians. Olivia’s second novel, Rock Hard will be released in April, 2011. Olivia writes:

Since I’ve become a published author, I’ve been doing a lot of observation.  My study is in how to sell books and gain attention without annoying readers.  It’s a very fine line to tread.  I’ve gained little insight on how to get attention without being a book whore (as I like to call it), but I have definitely determined things that annoy readers.  Things that should be avoided at all costs.

So here is a brief primer on how to annoy readers and get yourself blacklisted as an author to avoid.

1. Go on the Amazon forums under a fake name (or make a friend do it) pretending to be a fan and post a topic about your book. Make sure you rave about this new book you love. Say it’s the best thing since sliced bread and insist that everyone should read it because it’s literary genius (or entertaining, or whatever your particular slant happens to be).  You can be clever and list some other people’s books while you’re at it, so it’s less obvious what you are doing.  They will still figure it out.  It’s like a school of piranhas over there.

Why this is a no-no…  Those who frequent Amazon forums are actually a rather small community of readers.  If you show up and post one post about a book, you will stick out as a newb with an agenda. They will hunt you down and out you for the book whore you are and proceed to rip you to shreds.

2. Go on the Amazon forums under your real name and post links to your book on every comment thread.  Even if you have something of use to say on the topic, as soon as you put a link to your book, you are considered a spammer and much grousing will ensue.  People will mark your comment as unhelpful and follow you around to harass you on other topic threads because they obviously have nothing better to do.

3. See number 2, except link your book in all the Amazon book reviews you’ve done.

For the record I have not done any of these things.  Was I tempted?  Hell yeah, but before I jumped in with both feet in the allure that is the Amazon forums, I observed what happened to other authors who tried any of these approaches and it always backfired.

4. Friend every person and all their relatives/kids/pets/coworkers on Facebook/MySpace/Social Network Of Choice and talk nonstop about your book.  Make sure to respond to everyone else’s status with a little tidbit about your book.  Tom writes “I’m sick of shoveling snow.” Author responds, “In my book, Dancing with Snowflakes (ISBN ########) the lead character also hates shoveling snow.”

5. Suggest to everyone on your friends list that they should “like” your author page.  I did this once.  *hangs head*  Forgive me. I was young and foolish. (It was several months ago.) I won’t do it again, I promise.  If you like me, you will find me.  I now have a little “like” button on my website.  Fans find me that way, not by me suggesting a “like”.

6. Post your blog tour links on the Wombat thread every day for a month.  GUILTY!  Sorry guys.  I know it gets annoying.

7. On Goodreads, friend random people and then post spam about your book on their status page, their blog feed, their reviews, and by all means send them an obvious form letter with links to every book you’ve ever written (got one of those today, tyvm). A hint on when to reject a friend on Goodreads (because they will spam you).  If they have 2000+ friends and 5 books (all their own) and 5 reviews (all giving themselves 5 stars) you should deny that “friend”.

8. On Gather, only write articles about your book and put links to your book (and or FCR entry) on every comment.  Dang it all, I did that too.  Sheesh!  Bad form, author.  Bad form.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things and I’ve no doubt you’ve been annoyed as a reader at some point in your life.  What are some things that authors have done to try to get you to buy their book that have annoyed you?

*prepares to take notes*

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Negative Reviews: Are They Really Negative?

I am the administrator of the Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. Our discussion this week was about negative reviews, and Marshall Karp left a comment that I wanted to pass along because I thought you’d find it as helpful as I did.

Marshall Karp, the author of Flipping Out, is an award winning former advertising executive, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a novelist. He has also written, produced, and executive produced TV shows for all the major networks. Karp says: 

Picture this: I walk into a room and 99 people applaud wildly. One guy is just mumbling “here comes that asshole.” Guess who I pay the most attention to? What is it about the negative reviews that seem to always get a writer’s attention?

For years I wrote TV commercials just because they were never reviewed. When I finally wrote a play and then moved on to TV sitcoms, I thought of my negative reviews as Public Shame. As for my great reviews — I just figured I fooled another critic.

I’ve come a long way. These days, I only take a few negative reviews seriously. They come from people I respect, and I try to learn from them. But most of my really negative reviews are downright laughable, so I refuse to take them seriously.

In fact I can now get a lot of mileage — and a lot of laughs — out of my negative reviews. I read them to my audience at book signings. One guy on Amazon gave me one star for my new book FLIPPING OUT. Reason: foul language and sexual references. I write murder mysteries — what are the cops supposed to say — oh fudge?  So I check his profile. He got my latest book free from the Amazon Vine program. Normally he reads Christian Romance and Church Insight. When I tell the story my audience is laughing and I’m quietly blessing this guy for being such a judgmental ass.

Another guy gives me 2 stars for THE RABBIT FACTORY. He too claims not to be much of a mystery reader. I check his other reviews. He gave 5 stars to a Scooby Doo Chia Pet planter, and 4 stars for a Shrek Chia Pet planter. I tell my audience I don’t understand how Scooby can get 5 stars and Shrek only gets 4, but even so, this dude still thinks the Shrek planter is twice as good as my book. All this gets a lot of laughs and a lot of empathy from my audience. And it doesn’t hurt that the reviewer called himself (or herself) Church of the Flaming Sword.

Audiences appreciate a writer who doesn’t take himself too seriously. So reading your negative reviews out loud can go a long way to making people feel good about you. One more thing — I always tell my audience that if they really like my book, don’t just tell me. Tell everyone else.  Post a glowing review on BN.com, amazon, goodreads or any one of a hundred other book sites. I tell them it helps offset the reviews I get from all those Flaming Swords and other Flaming Assholes.

Bottom line — I have learned to make the most of my negative reviews — I even work them to my advantage. It’s those damn raves that always wind up throwing me for a loop.

Thanks for a great topic. See you on Facebook.

How To Deal With Well-Meaning Friends and Readers

My guest today is Laurie Foston, author of science fiction and Christian genre as well as juvenile fiction, who also publishes under the name of Cheryl Henry Hodgetts. Laurie discusses how to deal with people who don’t understand the work involved in writing and promoting a book. Laurie says:

Here’s a comment that I borrowed from a New York Times Bestselling author, Rebecca Brandewyne. She’s the real deal in self-promotion. Anything she could join, create, or pass a test with flying colors to enter…she did!

This is her version of some well-meaning responses to your work when they find out you’re an author. I get this all the time.

“The vast majority of people think writing is easy and they, too, could be a writer – or, at least, a storyteller. In fact, put a published author in a crowded room, and invariably, almost everyone in attendance will have a story to tell that ‘would make a great novel!’

Inevitably, as well, they are ‘going to write a book someday, whenever they find the time to get around to it.’ A ‘few months – or even weeks – ought to suffice.’ But then again, upon reflection, they ‘really just don’t have the time, and in all honesty, they were never that good in English class, besides -‘

Frequently, at this point, the more enterprising of those present will actually offer to ‘let the author write it all down for them, sharing the proceeds fifty/fifty….’

Virtually every published author alive has experienced the above scenario – or some other version of it. The truth is, however, that far from being so easy that everyone could do it, writing is a highly demanding, competitive career, requiring a tremendous amount of self-discipline and solitary hard work.”

I would add here the obvious…they unwittingly want to reduce your joy to ashes…your hard work and success of the actual finished product to ” nothing-to-it.”

Knock yourself out then! Go ahead…bet ya can’t even get one page written down even if I gave you the plot.

Am I being harsh?

Before your publisher will take your submission for editing, you must read it three times. First for concept, then for plot holes, and other editing problems and then a line-by-line edit to make sure you didn’t let the word “two” get through as “too.”

As your book goes through production with your publisher, you will get the manuscript back and forth until you and the editor finally come to blows one way or another. It’s either going to be their way or yours. (So who do you think will win?) When the final proof comes, you must get someone to proof it besides yourself and YOU must read it twice.

Then you must find some way to survey it to make sure postproduction errors are corrected and sent back before too many people decide you can’t write. This takes another line-by-line editing to get the postproduction errors that people have found. (Family and friends will let them pass)

A quotation mark is backwards…there is a sentence repeat on such and such page, a run-on sentence slipped past twenty editors…and the list goes on.

This is hard work and if authors follow these steps they deserve their titles. Let no one try to steal your crown. You put up with the tattered nerves, fear, hair loss, intimidation, and struggled to stay above water while people acted as though writing were a mental disorder rather than a gift as they asked where you were while you pounded away at the keys.

Seriously, this type of reaction from people makes me rant and rave.

Forget the naysayers…..

Get online! Get online everywhere!

I hope everyone understands that only the comments in Italics were actually off Rebecca Brandewyne’s site. The other ravings are those of my own. I could add to hers so easily. If people really knew how hard it is to work with publishers and sometimes editors, they would not think so lightly of the books resting on their bookshelves. That is an amazing accomplishment. But others need to know about it.

This is not a downer but it starts out with a touch of gloom!

I was on TV the day of my first book signing. I sold two books that night and those were to the same relative. My book came out at the wrong time….December 16th and the people going through the mall never even stopped to look at me. They ran past me as fast as they could to the Harry Potter books.

My first press interview, they talked more about John Grisham’s house across the street than they did my book. Then they gave my name as Hayes and my pseudonym as Lori Foster instead of Laurie Foston. We are two different authors.

I believe in holding a foot in every corner. Network, set up signings, join everything you can on the Internet, hook up with celebrities and watch them progress from 15 to 500 friends in one month’s time. What did they do to attract? Just be themselves! Be human! Sometimes we all get riled up! After their friends add up to more than they can handle…they get themselves a webmaster. (Wouldn’t that be nice?)

I have bought most of my books from Amazon’s forum discussion board authors, Facebook authors, or people who write me from Facebook and tell me about a good book. I buy from looking at their picture. I bought a lot of Rebecca Brandewyne’s books because she boldly posed herself on the back as the Damsel in the story when she first started out. She was just s-o-o-o-o a part of the story that she had to have herself in it. I bought it hook, line and sinker. Then loved the books.

Then I get on Facebook and see some authors who look like they may have a story that I haven’t heard before. Their picture tells a lot.

Take Pat Bertram’s picture for example. Pat’s picture and the kind of blurb on the back of her book match up. Sounds weird? She’s got the look of, “Rhythm-Rhythm-arie, I see something that you don’t see!” She’s spunky and has a spark of fire in her smile! Then I go to her book title, “A Spark of Heavenly Fire” and “More Deaths Than One.”

I’m sold!

Incidentally, Pat could have used the title “You Only Die Twice” and with the knowing look in her photo, she could have sold it that way too.

What? She looks like she knows something…she does!

I go to Amazon forum to Amazon Shorts ( always sign into Amazon people…get on a thread discussion…forget the naysayers…go to a forum! Every time I jump into the middle of an argument in a religious forum, I sell a batch of books. I always speak on the defense of the Lord, of course! I never have to say I am an author. They look up my name and there it is.)

Then I see a free short story advertised. (Still on Amazon right at this point!) I read it and I’m sold on buying the novel after I read the short story and see the picture of the author. He had a look like he had been in orbit.

If you have a book and don’t want to peddle bookstores, get on as many networks as possible. AOL, Yahoo, Amazon. Amazon will still be standing when brick and mortars tumble. Does your publisher have a web site that authors get on to exchange ideas? Get on there. You’ll learn how they promote their work and it will rub off on you.

Do you want privacy from the main public and want to keep your group small? Get on a Think Tank and the only people who can access that are the people you invite. Let them coach you until you are ready to take on the industry. If you have a message in your book, you have not finished what you were destined to do. You have to tell people about the message. Otherwise, it stays in the bottle and no one finds it out there in that huge sea of books.

People who have not authored a book have no expertise on the subject of how to promote a book. Your demographic area has a lot to do with local sale. However, you can take it to the bank from authors that you DO need to network and advertise to sell it no matter how big the publisher is or how long it has been out.

One more thing. In the case of Rebecca Brandewyne, the media works for her because she has degrees in journalism and communication. Unless you have a platform already on the media you will not be able to use the media as a first time author in the same way she did. I tried the media. I have a niece who was friends with the new channel hosting the “Morning Show.” They heard about the book, called my niece, and asked her for the chance to interview me because my publisher called them first. This made them look over my name and see that I had a family member working for their news channel. Thus one thing led to another and I was on that show. Things clicked together. Still the interview on TV did not affect my sales. I had sold all of my book stock to family and friends before the books came out to the public. John Grisham sold books out of the trunk of his car and even his platform in the House of Representatives could not land him an interview on TV for his first book. Media is great! Radio is great! But you need contact with your buyers. The greater salesmen will tell you that face-to-face sells more than a billboard!

If you want to sell without the media . . .  networking is the best source. Even John Grisham has a fan club on Facebook.

Being a Successful Author — Magic or Work?

My guest blogger today is Sia McKye, a marketing/publicity expert. This is the follow-up to McKye’s article, “Getting Published: No Magic Wands or Treasure Maps.” KcKye writes:

As an author, nothing can be quite as exciting as receiving word you’ve sold your book and it’s going to be published.  You are over the moon and flying high.  Maybe even dreaming of the NYT Best Sellers List. Finally, you’re getting validation for all your work and hours of writing.  Everyone you know hears about it.  You’re discussing galleys, Arc covers, the artwork, blurbs, and author endorsements on your cover. Tossing terms around like Pub dates, Arc mailings, targeted print campaigns, web promotions and Reviews, library marketing, and author events.  Your book finally hits Barnes & Noble and you find yourself going in just to look at a book with your name on it. You take pictures.  You start being obsessed with Amazon figures on your book’s placement of the day or week.  You’ve got it made, right?

Keep in mind that just having your book in print doesn’t mean it will automatically sell-books don’t sell themselves, even if they are listed on Amazon–or on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. As a friend of mine recently reminded me:  “Over 195,000 new novels are published by traditional publishers in the U.S. every year. Of those, 70% sell fewer than 500 copies.”

Here’s another reason to aggressively market yourself and your books and the importance in building a reader base. 

Debuting authors are lucky enough to get a first print run of 10,000 for their book, depending upon the genre and your publisher’s confidence in your work (some can be as high as 20,000). You might think 10,000 is a big number until you start calculating book stores and Amazon.  It’s really a small run and it’s not going to hit the best sellers list with that number. If they sell only 500 copies or less, then the publisher eats the cost of having the other 9500 shipped back to them, at full cost, and made into pulp.  Publishers are not happy when this happens, but they have a contract with you, maybe for a three-book deal. Maybe they’ll recoup their losses on the second book?  If they don’t will they take another three books from you?  Or drop you like a hot potato?  Can you see where active promotion and publicity is vital? 

On the other hand, you’ve worked your butt off with marketing and promotion. You’ve built up name recognition on the Internet through Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and Gather, MySpace and other social networks.  You’ve worked hard at blogging and building presence and attracting your consumers-readers.  You started this long before your book was even sold.  You continued even after your book was sold. You’ve written book reviews on books similar to yours, written anything and everything related to your books and also to you as a person.  You’ve made yourself a personality, with likes, dislikes, and interests.  In other words you’ve become a real person to your readers.  They see you share the same interests as they do, you chat with them. You build characters in your books; surely it isn’t that hard to project yourself to your readers?

Because your potential readers like you and have gotten to know you somewhat, they do name-dropping about their “good friend, the author.” 

“Oh yeah, I know Anna Campbell and she just released TEMPT THE DEVIL.  Highlanders, honey, you have to look for it.”

“I just read the best suspense/thriller recently, A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE, by my friend Pat Bertram.  We’re talking danger and a story of ordinary people becoming extraordinary to survive.  You’ve got to order it.”

“My good friend Judi Fennell wrote this cool series about sexy mermen and a kingdom under the sea. The first book is called IN OVER HER HEAD, you gotta read it!”

“Toni Blake is just the nicest person evah.  She writes some real sizzlers, we’re talkin’ hot and sexy.  She has a new one coming out called ONE RECKLESS SUMMER…”

It’s that simple and any debuting or popular author’s name can be slipped in there.  Why? Because you’ve worked hard to be assessable and real to your readers. Because once you knew your release date, you started building anticipation for your book. So now, your book is released and sells through at 80%, or 8000 books.  Your publisher is very happy and is patting him or herself for their ability to find talented writers.  They decide a second print run is good business. Because you’ve built a buzz you probably will do well on the second run. Your publisher decides for your next book (for a debuting author that can be as soon as two-three months later) to start out with a first print run of 25,000 and a much larger presence on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble and more pressure for the staff to push your book.

By the way, to hit the NYT best sellers list?  The book needs a first print run of at least 35,000.  Maybe Nora Roberts or Christine Feehan may get that type of run, but look at all the time they invested in marketing and promoting themselves and their books.  As a debuting author, you’re not going to get that with a first run.

This type of marketing/promotion also works for POD authors.  True, you don’t have to deal with print runs and costly returns, but if your books are in bookstores, the return cost are still a bite and one you as the author have to foot.  It’s smart business; again it’s your business, to have these books sell through.  You want to be successful and to do that you need a solid reader base as much as, or perhaps even more than, a traditionally published author.  Collecting dust is not the image of your books you want in the bookstore management’s eyes or your own, especially if you want them to continue to carry your books.  Shelf space is not a guarantee of sales any more than having a book with your name on it is. 

Stirring up publicity and marketing of yourself as an author and promoting your book, is many times, the least favorite task for an author. The point is if you want to be a success as an author then it’s going to take hard work. A third of your time is spent in writing the story and the rest is spent in selling it to a publisher and then promoting the book and yourself as an author. Building that all important reader base. It’s a necessary part of business.   

Writing is a business. The author is the proprietor of that business. Products have to be promoted to be a success. It’s as simple as that. Once we realize that, we put ourselves in the right mindset to be a success.

There are no magic wands, treasure maps of shortcuts, or guarantees to be a successful author or being published.

Just a dream and a lot of hard work.

Books Don’t Sell Themselves

This article is posted courtesy of marketing consultant Sia McKye. McKye writes:

I need to stress to all authors that books don’t sell themselves.  If you’re tracking your sales on Amazon, you’re realizing that now. 

You’re published, and that’s a heady feeling, but now you need to be working just as hard on selling them—and yourself— as you did on the writing and editing.  You’re not done.  I realize that everyone has another life aside from your writing.  I also realize you want to use your spare time to continue writing. If you’re not putting any effort into promoting yourself, where is your market?  Your reader base?

A few questions to consider:  Do you have your websites up?  Are you blogging?  Are you utilizing many of the internet options that Pat Bertram has offered in her Book Marketing Floozy blog?  In other words, are you building an internet presence?  You also need to physically make yourself known as an author.  Are you contacting people locally?  Local bookstores, libraries, local author groups, newspapers, and radio to publicize yourself as an author and your book?  Locally, you have an ‘in’.  Use it.

Traditional publishers expect their authors to spend at least two months prior to publication and two months after publication on book promotion.  I won’t kid you, it requires a lot of time.  You need to be organized and set aside blocks of time to do this. It also means stepping out of your comfort zone to do it.  Bottom line here is this is your business, your product that is debuting.  Your books/product will only be as good as the effort after the writing to get attention for you and your book.  Keep that in mind. 

Even if you get bookstores to carry your books, what separates you from all the other authors out there?  You need name recognition and a reader base.  You have to build that with well crafted stories and advertising yourself.

Different Ways to Market Your Book Online

These days it’s fairly common knowledge among publishers and people in the book business that authors need to do a lot of their own marketing if they want their book to be a success. Sadly, this simple fact is not known by most authors, who are just happy enough to finally see their book in print. After a couple of months, and hopefully some coaching and support from the publisher – the author wakes up and realizes that getting their book published was really only part of being a professional writer. Beyond writing, marketing one’s book is also a large component of an author’s job. 

So how does an author, someone who knows writing but not much – if anything – about marketing get started? An easy way is online. Most of the marketing ventures online are either free or cost very little. In fact, some authors have become so savvy at marketing online that they have rarely if ever ventured to market their books in more traditional outlets such as bookstores. Whether you want to concentrate all of your marketing efforts on the internet, or a combination of both, is up to you (the author), but the internet gives an author a great place to start. 

There are several ways to market one’s book online. If it is listed on Amazon, there are tricks and methods for getting your book to come up in particular search queries, or to get it paired with another better selling book. There are also ways to drive traffic to your book on Amazon. Beyond Amazon (the digital bookstore), there are many other ways to market your book online. Press releases, article marketing, search engine optimization, blogging, social networks, and book listing sites are just a few of the techniques available to authors – all for free or little money. 

So don’t be scared when you find out that your publisher is relying on you to do most of the marketing for your book. A great resource for beginning to figure out how the internet works – and to begin marketing your writing online – has been put together in a series of articles and websites to help. On the Marketing Your Writing Online page you will find links – and instructional paragraphs – to over 400 websites where you can begin marketing your book. By using the sites listed on the Marketing Your Writing Online page your book will be more easily found online. After you’ve spent some time marketing your book online, you can then judge based on the results whether you need to pursue other more traditional marketing arenas. Just a warning, many authors are finding that these techniques are all they really need to be successful in their book marketing endeavors. 

### 

Peter N. Jones has published two books, had several chapters published in edited volumes, contributed over 50 entries to three different academic research encyclopedias, and has published over 30 articles in various academic and popular journals. Currently he is Director and Editor of the Bauu Institute and Press, located in Boulder, Colorado. He is also Editor of Indigenous People’s Issues Today, a publication of Bauu Press and Publisher of New Great Books and Author Interviews.

The End of the Book Business As We Know It?

The New York Magazine published an article that began: the book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world. It is a very long article, but well worth reading if you are interested in the book business. What might be bad for big publishing might be good for independent publishers. Click here to read the article.

Claire Collins, author of Images of Betrayal and Fate & Destiny, both published by newcomer Second Wind Publishing, has this to say about the article (Collins’ remarks are in bold, excerpts from the magazine are in Italics):

Great article. Very long but good. The main points I got from it are as follows: 

A new imprint mentioned on the first page says they will “Have fewer authors and sell more books.” They will be publishing 2 books a month, with 25 authors signed up. And one of the “authors” is 50 Cent? and the other is a cookbook? This is what they think people want to read? 50 Cent is already out of date and do people really care what a dirty rapper has to say? The people who do care . . . can’t read. And isn’t the market already totally full of cookbooks? Any time I want a recipe, I look online. I don’t see this as being the future of book publishing.

The article says :

The astonishing success of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain led to a bidding war for his second book, which Grove/Atlantic editor Morgan Entrekin lost with great regret to Ann Godoff at Random House’s eponymous imprint (known as Little Random). Lucky him. The price tag, more than $8 million, might well have sunk Grove, one of the few biggish independent houses left, because Frazier’s follow-up, Thirteen Moons, sold less than 500,000 copies, according to BookScan. Ann Godoff was fired not long after the deal was made. “It is possible they broke Little Random’s neck,” says one agent. “Frazier’s wife will not have the luxury to buy another racehorse.”

This is why the rest of us get rejected.

He wrote ONE book that sold . . . ONE.

And the second one was a flop

All of these publishers are thinking they’re getting the next Harry Potter series and it’s not up to them. It’s up to the buyers and the public. When they get an author who does well once, they jump all over them thinking the author can do it every time. The expectations keep rising beyond what can be achieved.

The article says:

Why weren’t publishers elated? What’s wrong with a company that returns only 10 percent of the books it buys and might eventually eliminate the cost of print production? Well, it doesn’t help that Amazon, which has been on an intense buying spree (print-on-demanders BookSurge; book networking site Shelfari), lists publishers as its competitors in SEC filings. Editors and retailers alike fear that it’s bent on building a vertical publishing business-from acquisition to your doorstep-with not a single middleman in sight. No HarperCollins, no Borders, no printing press. Amazon has begun to do end runs around bookstores with small presses. Two new bios from Lyons Press, about Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, are going straight-to-Kindle long before publication.

This means the big corporate publishers won’t survive because their overhead is too high, and it’s too high because they pay their lead staff outrageous sums just like they pay in some of their advances. You can’t survive like that. The small publishers, POD, and self-publishing will thrive. From the printer to the buyers doorstep. That’s exactly what we are doing now. Now it would really help if the cost of printing could come down.

In regards to the Kindle:

But Amazon may be offering a sweet deal now in order to undercut publishers later. If their low, low prices succeed in making e-books the dominant medium, they can pay publishers whatever they want. “The concern is they want to corner the market,” explains one books executive, and then force publishers to accept a genuine 50 percent discount. “If they took over as little as 10 to 20 percent of the market,” says an agent, “publishers simply would not be able to exist.”

 Of course they are. Amazon wants a $400 Kindle in every hand, and that price will lower over time. They want to be to the book world what Ipod is to the music world. 

What does the article say about the future of publishing?

Miller has worked out separate contracts, co-op and all, with booksellers and authors-capping advances at $100,000 and reducing returns. Their list now includes not just 50 Cent but Michael Eisner, his former boss at Hyperion; John Lithgow (a memoir); and Isabella Rossellini adapting her short-film series on bug sex. All these authors will contribute to their own pre-publication marketing.

Miller doesn’t wait for agent submissions, instead accosting writers at conferences, telling them how much more a writer can make under 50-50 profit sharing. He’s even throwing in something literary, 22 previously unpublished stories by Mark Twain, who, Miller points out, ran a profit-sharing publisher that made a killing on Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs. “If he were alive, this is exactly the deal he’d want,” Miller says brightly.

Profit sharing may very well be an option for Second Wind Publishing once it gets past the start up phase. When it gets rolling, our future can be wide open since we aren’t funding the fat wallets of stockholders and CEO’s. Just the publisher, at least for now.

Other industry folk, while supportive, note that precious few writers-except those with trust funds-would forgo advances, and that it generally works best for those who have a pre-existing fan base that will gobble up their books. As for Miller’s other key ingredients, profit-sharing is not a new concept, and online marketing is catching on everywhere.

Yet again, this is what those of us who are published by small presses do. This is the whole key that the industry doesn’t understand, and this is why they are going to fail. Writers WILL forgo advances except for when they know that the publisher paid the last author that million dollar advance. Then, they ALL want that. But if we look at how many people not only forgo advances but PAY to have their books published, then it refutes the claims of the “industry folk”. They are completely out of touch with the public. Who decided that we care what 50 Cent thinks or that we need another cookbook? The same people who think writers won’t produce good books without six figure advances.

One indie publisher has been pitching an imprint around town that would go beyond what Miller’s doing-expanding into print-on-demand, online subscriptions, maybe even a “salon” for loyal readers. He envisions a transitional period of print-on-demand, then an era in which most books will be produced electronically for next to nothing, while high-priced, creatively designed hardcovers become “the limited-edition vinyl of the future.” “I think they know it’s right,” the publisher says of the executives he’s wooing, “but they don’t want to disrupt the internal equilibrium. I’m like the guy all the girls want to be friends with but won’t hop into bed with.”

Of course the big publishers don’t want to hear what this guy is saying. They’re all on the verge of not existing and they know it’s true.

But going back in time isn’t an option. A hundred Bennett Cerfs wouldn’t save the current publishing model-not without a hundred Bob Millers puzzling out the way forward, unhampered by fear or complacency. The kind of targeted, curated lists editors would love to publish will work even better in an electronic, niche-driven world, if only the innovators can get them there. Those owners who are genuinely interested in the industry’s long-term survival would do well to hire scrappy entrepreneurs at every level, people who think like underdogs.

This is us again. We’re the underdogs. We don’t have the product placement advertising and we can’t pay to have our books dropped by the front door of Borders.

And think about how hard we are all working at writing and getting our books out there. The authors who are getting the huge advances and selling books no matter what they do aren’t working at it as hard anymore. Because people will buy their books just because of whose name is on it. But readers will only get burned so often before they do stop buying them.