Borders and the Digital Revolution: Where Do New and Aspiring Authors Fit?

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For those of you who missed Monday’s blog, I’m running a 4-book urban fantasy giveaway through the end of this week. See the post here and enter to win! Smile

Today I’m talking about something on a lot of people’s minds: Borders and what the bankruptcy means for the future of books.

This past Friday I attended a webinar put on by Writer’s Digest University entitled “The Borders Dilemma: What the New World Order of Bookselling Means for Writers”. Needless to say, this was a great, well-timed seminar. So what did I learn?

Some of the foreseeable consequences of the shrinking bookseller market:

  • Borders is still buying (or trying to buy) books, but not all publishers are shipping to them. So the number of physical books sold is going down.
  • The overall number of bookstores will be shrinking, which means print runs will shrink. Therefore there well be less overall royalties and lower advances.
  • Purchasing committees will be that much more difficult. Publishers will be focused on the following questions: How marketable is the author? Do they already have an audience?
  • Establishing online presence is more important now than ever, since marketability is a part of the publisher’s decision in whether or not to purchase the book. This is especially so with non-fiction authors who are pretty much required to have a platform nowadays.
  • Published authors will now, more than ever, need to work with their publisher’s marketing department to come up with a solid marketing plan.
  • E-books should make up some of the revenue lost with the decrease in print books.
  • It will be harder for new or lower-list authors to sell books, since publishers can’t afford to take as much of a chance on them as they used to.

Given the tight market, what can new or aspiring authors do?

  • E-books are increasing in popularity. Sales of e-books are climbing drastically. If you’ve been holding off for that NY contract, you might wish to at least consider an e-publisher.
  • Big-six publishers are currently only giving 25% royalty rates for e-books versus the 40% rate (give or take a few) that e-publishers give. While this is not such a huge deal now that most of the books sold are still in print, people foresee the tide turning. Many think that within just a few years more e-books will be sold than print. Authors need to start considering whether indefinitely giving away rights to a book at only 25%  royalty (almost half of e-pubs) is worth it.
  • Self-publishing might be a good option for you, especially if you can generate a lot of interest in your book. Publishers are starting to look at more self-published books as possibilities for traditional publishing deals.
  • Become a self-promoter. Get involved in social media. It’s pretty much a necessity given this landscape.
  • Realize that what it means to be an author is changing. If you want to have staying power, you must be prepared to change too.

So what do you think? Is any of this news surprising? Depressing, or perhaps exciting? Have your ideas about the publishing industry or your career changed over the last few months?

Like many writers, I have a dream of becoming a print-published author with a big NY publisher. I can’t say that the dream has died, but I’m trying to take into consideration the drastically changing landscape. With the advent of the NYT Bestseller List for e-books and all the advances in technology, digital sales will only continue to rise.

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16 thoughts on “Borders and the Digital Revolution: Where Do New and Aspiring Authors Fit?

    kayspringsteen said:
    March 2, 2011 at 8:23 am

    There are so many opportunities for e-publishing currently. For new authors this is an excellent way to get their names out there. I recommend they pay strict attention to who is doing what among e-publishers, and be discerning regarding with whom they sign that contract. But with all the opportunities, the question really isn’t why do it…it’s why not do it?

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

      With all the references sources out there (Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write), there’s no reason for authors not to do their research before making a decision. Certain things should be factored in, like how long the publisher has been around.

        kayspringsteen said:
        March 2, 2011 at 8:35 am

        I actually went with a new publisher for my first release because there was less competition for publishing and I need to build a name for myself, but even the editor working with me said I should be seeking an agent and a place in a bigger house. Then she said she would take anything I wrote lol.

    ciara knight said:
    March 2, 2011 at 8:53 am

    No surprises to me. I think you pretty much summed it up. I’ve been told the same thing, kayspringsteen. Yet, I let my agent go a couple months ago and I’m looking at small press for a specific book. Self-publishing may be in my future. Who knows? That was something I wouldn’t even consider until some of my frineds have been producing great numbers. They are making money!

    Kim Bowman said:
    March 2, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I think it’s sad for Borders, but B & N, Amazon, and epubs will pick up the slack and Borders will just dwindle away. I agree it will make seeking a bigger pub house and agent harder for us, but most of us like the idea of having more say with the epubs and self-publishing anyway.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

      I am a huge, huge Borders fan so I’m really sad to see my local store go. But things are changing…we have to change too.

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    March 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Yes, the landscape is changing dramatically and rapidly. It’s going to take a while for things to shake out and settle down. Don’t we all want that big NY publishing contract? It’s (for the most part) a pipe dream.
    NY pubs have less and less money to spend on unknowns. They are hoping promising new authors will accept very little in the way of an advance in order to get that envied contract.
    For the moment, I’m sticking with e-pubbing and looking at self-pubbing options – which is a topic in itself. At this point, based upon my reading sample, many of the self-pubbed books are flat out awful. That too, will shake out…eventually.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 2, 2011 at 10:52 am

      You know Julia, I’ve looked at self-publishing but the thought of sending something out in the world unedited terrifies me. I would personally never do it unless I could have the manuscript professionally edited first. But a lot of self-pubbed authors don’t share that same opinion.

        J. Gunnar Grey said:
        March 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

        It seems critique partners and freelance editors and proofreaders will become more important. Right now, I’m looking for a freelance subsidiary and foreign rights agent. If you find one, lemme know, okay?

        Rosalie Lario responded:
        March 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm

        You are so right! Crit partners are more important than ever now.

        Any freelance agents out there? Anybody? Anybody? 🙂

        skpandemic said:
        March 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm

        When I first launched my novel into the Kindle world, I have to admit that I must have suffered from some sort of delusional grammar disorder during the last few months of self-editing.

        I got crushed by a few friends who loved the book, but provided me with a list of errors that I had “miraculously” missed. And I received one harsh review via Amazon, in which the writer loved the story, but was disgusted by the “absence of proper editing.” He still gave me 3 stars, which in retrospect, was very nice of him…because he was dead right.

        Self editing is nearly impossible for me…others may have no problem with it. I recommend giving the manuscript to as many friends as will take it, and ask for feedback. Eventually you’ll get what you need, and it will give you a solid idea whether you can successfully edit with the help of friends, or if you need to enlist some outside help. I shudder at the idea of paying an editor…but I wasted a lot of time that could have been spent on my next book, my family or marketing the book.

        Best of luck!

    laradunning said:
    March 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I have heard and read many of the things you remarked on. It is a little intimidating for a aspiring author like me, but I think it also opens up alot of alternatives as well. I think publishers are in a gray area, which has created alot of uncertainty for their direction. There are so many great writers out there and while publishing is ultimately about a money game, it appears that some great stories are being passed over. On the other hand this is good for e-publishers and self-publishing as this has opened up the door to become more accepted and valued.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      I think the bottom line is that we don’t know how things will shake out. Us writers need to keep writing and, if we want to get published, need to keep submitting. It’s a judgment call which medium we choose to submit to. But there will be publishers as long as there are stories to be published, whether they are digital or print publishers.

    skpandemic said:
    March 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I finished my first novel last fall, and decided to take both routes. I uploaded my book into Kindle form (and Pubit) and designed a physical copy using Amazon’s CreateSpace. I did this mainly to make the story available to friends, family and anyone that could provide some desperately desired critique and feedback. I also wanted the ability to mail a copy to local reviewers, and possibly place some copies in local independent bookstores.

    At the same time, I have submitted at least two dozen queries, which have all been returned with the same result…I’ll let you guess what they said.

    Three months into the launch, Kindle sales have exceeded all expectations (30-40 copies a day), though I am nowhere close to entertaining the idea of quitting my day job.

    With even a marginal marketing effort (believe me…I don’t profess to have executed a genius strategy, far from it) I think it is possible to generate the type of momentum or attention necessary to compete for an agent or publisher’s attention, especially at the dawn of the new publishing age that you have described.

    Thanks for the great post.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing your personal experience with self-publishing. It no longer has the stigma it once did, and I think it’s a great tool for getting your work out there. Times they are a’changing, and those who can change with them and find ways to reach a big audience will benefit.

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