Publishing’s Paradigm Shift-An Introduction

(Over the next several days, I’m going to share a presentation here on my website that I gave at a recent writers retreat on changes the publishing industry is currently experiencing. I am no expert. Far from it. However, I have done a lot of reading and researching and have pulled together a lot of information useful to writers as we look into the future of a business very much in flux.)

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution, in which he popularized the concept of “paradigm shift.”

What is a paradigm shift? Kuhn described it as a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions,” wherein “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” It’s usually driven by agents of change. Think of the advent of Agriculture (the plow), the Copernican system (telescope), Newtonian physics (discovery of the law of gravity), the Reformation and Education (printing press)Then think of all that has come into being since the advent of the Internet.

In our own generation, we have witnessed (or are witnessing) three big paradigm shifts in terms of the arts–first with movies, then with records, and now with books.

Hollywood started out with big movie studios like Warner Brothers and Metro Goldwyn Mayer, many of which have devolved into many smaller independent producers, but the really big change for the industry came with TV. At first, they worried that television would mean the end of the movies, but the studios got smart and aligned themselves with TV and cable networks so that, by the time everything went digital, they were still in control, reaping the benefits of TV and producing feature films as well as DVDs of those films. Producers and studios are still in control, but the more movie-making becomes computerized and digitized, the closer movie makers will come to dealing directly with their fans through the Web and bypassing studios altogether. Think YouTube and beyond. Video stores are already no longer necessary. The movie business is undergoing a paradigm shift.

In the recording industry, for years we had records, and artists needed to be signed with major recording labels to get published, so to speak. The cassette tape only provided another way to package those recordings, but the real change came as music became digitized and Napster and then Apple (think iPod and iTunes) made it possible for artists to bypass the big record labels once they had their audience, marketing directly to their fans. There are no more record stores. The music industry has experienced a paradigm shift.

As with film and music, books are being similarly affected. The distance between the creator (i.e., the author) and his/her audience is shrinking through digitization. Bookstores are closing across the country. The publishing industry is undergoing a paradigm shift as we speak and all aspects of the business are being affected.

As Jason Epstein put it in a March 11, 2010 article entitled, “Publishing: The Revolutionary Future,”

“The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends.”

Everyone who reads will be affected, but those whose jobs are most on the line are:

  • Publishers (both traditional and non-traditional) and their employees
  • Agents
  • Booksellers (independents, chains, and online) and their employees
  • Authors (both traditionally published and self-published)

What has proved to be the agent of change for publishing? I would argue that while Amazon.com has been to publishing what TV was to the movies, the real agent of change is the e-book.

More about the e-book and e-readers in my next posting.

Originally posted 2010-10-20 11:16:06.

I’m no Sally Field, but…

I don’t know how many of you were even watching the Oscars back in 1984 when Sally Field, upon winning her second statuette, couldn’t help herself and blurted out “…you like me, right now you like me…”

It was a moment that either touched you or made you squirm, depending on your reading of 1) her sincerity or 2) her “uncoolness.” I mean, it’s not cool to draw attention to yourself, is it?

But that’s what we’re asked to do today as authors. Writers (with the exceptions of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal) are usually shy, retiring types, content to hide behind the written word. (I know I am, anyway.) They want their writing to be discovered, not themselves. But these days we have to get out there and meet and greet people, introduce ourselves online, in bookstores, libraries, even at the local Costco or Walmart.

We can no longer hide behind our characters or make do with an interview here or there. We have to share our souls, as well as our faces, on our websites, blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, our Amazon Author Page, you name it. It seems as if ten new online sites spring up every week, trying to convince you that if you don’t register with them, you’ll be left behind in cyberspace.

And after going through the initiation into Google Friend Connect, may I just say that now I fully understand the sentiment Ms. Field tried to convey years ago. Thank you to all those who joined my site.

I tried to look up Google Friend Connect etiquette, wondering if I was supposed to respond individually to each of you whose faces now share that little box with mine. I couldn’t find anything about it. (However, I did come across a goldmine of a post regarding the etiquette of socializing on Twitter…Heard of socialoomph.com? More about that tomorrow.)

So, if I’ve messed up somehow by not separately contacting each of you, please let me know (email would be a lot less humiliating than a comment below) and I will. But, for now, thank you all. Everybody wants to have friends, to be liked. Sally Field understood that. And I do, too.

Originally posted 2010-05-18 14:57:28.

I’m Ready for Review (I Think)

Once you add Google Friend Connect to your website, you feel absolutely naked online. It’s as if you’re alone in a vast wilderness. Hello? Can anyone hear me?

I decided tonight that I would throw all caution to the wind and invite all 600+ Facebook friends to check out the new website, leave some comments, and…hopefully…keep me company in that bare area of white space under “Followers” in the side bar.

Of course, I realize that most of my acquaintances aren’t checking out Facebook right now. After all, it’s FHE night. So all you ACS alumni–now’s the time to show some support, okay? I’m hoping that by tomorrow morning I’ll get a few hits and a few Google Friends. (I guess I’d better send out a few emails as insurance.)

Anyway, I’m still working on getting my book trailer embedded on the home page, as well as a few other images. But please feel free to tell me what works and what doesn’t. The Bio’s too long, isn’t it? And I know I need to post a couple of sample chapters from The Reckoning and my newly finished manuscript, Laps. I have a ton of links that still need to be added, plus some poetry. But I’d welcome comments on the Baghdad photos in the meantime. Should I add photos of Greece or Lebanon?

This is still very much a work in progress, so put your two cents in now.

Originally posted 2010-05-17 20:52:43.

My Foray Into Audiobooks – Pt. 3

First, I owe you all an apology and an explanation. I know I’ve been neglecting my blog and kept you waiting for months on this next segment of my audiobook experience. In short, life got a bit overwhelming what with producing and marketing four different audiobooks, trying to keep up with my WIP (a novel set partly in Puritan times), and dealing with the failing health and eventual passing of my mother.

Mom with lily

After dealing with a bit of depression over her loss, I came to acknowledge she’s in a much better place and much happier being reunited with my dad. And I felt ready to move on in this new venture that was inspired, in the first place, by my mother. She always read to me both as a child and as an adult (she’d read aloud to anyone who would listen…she loved an audience) and so it feels only natural and right to read books aloud to others.

shutterstock_59484871

At the close of Part 2, I promised in this posting to focus on ACX and how it works with both authors and narrators. In fact, the first lesson I had as part of that Master Class dealt with how best to use ACX to produce audiobooks. Since I’m both an author and a narrator, let me approach this topic from each side successively.

 

AS AN AUTHOR

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) was created to be a market maker between rights holders (authors, publishers, trusts administering the rights of deceased authors, and aggregators of products not in the public domain) and talent (narrators and producers). Owned by Audible, which is, in turn, owned by Amazon, ACX helps rights holders find the perfect voice(s) for their books.

Unlike other sites used to link rights holders and talent together, it’s free for you authors to use. Not only will you find the talent you need there, but ACX enables the project every step of the way from providing a contract and messaging system between you and your narrator…to uploading, approving, and preparing the finished project for Audible…to helping market the audiobook by providing free promo codes to both you and your narrator for free review copies. AND they take care of all money earned by depositing royalties, etc. directly into your bank account (or by check if you prefer).

You can either distribute through them exclusively (meaning your audiobook will be available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes) at a higher royalty rate (40% split equally between you and the talent), or go the non-exclusive route for a lower rate. (But I think you’d be nuts not to go exclusive since, after all, Audible controls 99% of the marketplace and it’s the exclusive provider to both Amazon and iTunes.)

ACX will even provide a “bounty” payment of $50.00 (split evenly between you and the talent) each time your audiobook is the first book bought by a brand new member of Audible. (I earned an extra $150 that way for my novel, THE RECKONING.) Why would they do this? Because they recognize that the average value of a new subscriber to Audible is $200 and your book has brought them a new subscriber.

It’s true that ACX determines the price of your audiobook (the longer the recording, the higher the price…a 5-10 hour book will cost around $10), but on Audible, where membership is around $15 per month, most books cost a credit and members automatically get a credit per month. So price is not usually an issue.

The only real decisions authors have to make are:

  • Whether to narrate and produce their audiobooks themselves
  • Which few pages of their manuscript to use for an audition
  • Which talent to choose if they’re not going to do it themselves
  • Whether to pay the narrator a fixed sum per finished hour ($0-1,000, depending on the talent), or pay nothing upfront and instead share royalties (50-50), or arrange a stipend deal with the narrator (if ACX itself doesn’t list your book as a stipend book…it sometimes will for books it thinks will do well; in that case, you split royalties, but ACX also pays your narrator a stipend of $150 per finished hour)

Once you’ve entered into a contract with your talent, all you will need to do is provide a copy of the manuscript (preferably in PDF format), listen to each uploaded chapter as it’s finished to catch mistakes or “pick-ups” so the narrator can re-do them, approve the final production, and upload a square cover image for the audiobook.

The Reckoning-2

So how do you get started?

  1. Go to www.ACX.com and click “SIGN UP NOW”
  2. Sign in with your Amazon account
  3. Enter your Personal Information (at bottom of page, select “I Am Author,” etc.)
  4. Enter your Payment Information
  5. Read The Fine Print
  6. Check “I have read and accept the terms set forth above.”
  7. Now when you log in you can click on a link that says “Assert more titles” in the “Open for Auditions” box and a list of your books will come up. You can choose which to make into an audiobook. Just follow the directions in the upper right hand corner

 

studio microphone isolated on a dark  background

studio microphone isolated on a dark background

AS A NARRATOR/PRODUCER

Again, ACX is completely free to use. There are no hidden fees for registration, premium placement, being listed as talent, or auditioning for a job. And you don’t have to pay a commission when you get a narrating job.

ACX is also “union friendly,” meaning any book listed on the site can be voiced by either union or non-union talent.

Unlike other voiceover job websites, ACX handles all the invoicing and payments, so you don’t have to stress out over getting rights holders to pay you.

You can choose to charge per finished hour (PFH) or share royalties…or do both by offering a hybrid stipend. (The author pays you a basic $150 PFH rate upfront and you share royalties.)

In addition, ACX helps promote you on their site by:

  • Displaying your customer profile(s)
  • Displaying your portfolio of demos
  • Highlighting if you’re an Audible Approved Producer

You narrators follow the same procedure as authors in getting started on the ACX site (except you select “I Am Narrator” and check “Narrate audiobooks” under “And I do the following”). In addition, before looking for projects for which to audition, you should:

  1. Create your ACX Profile (simple and to the point is best) using your Professional Name…if you do it well, authors may invite you to audition.
  2. Select your geographic location
  3. Indicate your gender
  4. Add your voiceover website (no personal website, LinkedIn profile, or FB page)
  5. Add Samples of your work
  6. Indicate how you want to be paid

One more thing…and this applies to both authors and narrators:

ACX is always very helpful if you’ve got a problem with the project or you’re confused in any way. Just email your question or concern to support@acx.com and they’ll get back to you within a few days. Believe me, they will!

Next week, in Part 4, I’ll share the good and bad of my experience producing my first four audiobooks, including my retail samples.