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Part One:

Chapter 1

Revenge of the Fly-by-Knights

Traditional bookselling as we have known it is on its way out, but the underlying distribution and fee structure is unlikely to change at the same pace, as these ‘status quo’ businesses try to keep their old habits from dying out and new entrants such as digital adopt them! These ‘habits’ are their grip on business methods that keep their revenue options in place, whilst the world about them changes. And you can’t blame them but you can blame yourself if you fail to embrace publishing methods that do have the capacity for the first time in history, to now put the author of the book in full control. However this will only come about if – you – the author take control: full control of your book, its production, printing and its marketing: which these days means digital online active marketing.

Amazon have changed forever the way that people buy books, and Kindle and others are getting us to read them digitally, but these operations have not really changed the industry commensurate with any improved status or returns for authors. Authors have been and probably still are the poor relation in the book publishing world and within the emerging digital one as well! Amazon themselves assist intermediary distributors and mainstream publishers to maintain the expected middleman margins that they take for their involvement in the book publishing and distribution process. Amazon do so because the structure as it is supports their own business model and their own fee structure. A fee structure which is artificially loaded and biased against the originator of the product, the book writers: you the authors who are reading this book.

This is the book about the book: your book and how you should take control and publish it yourself; reach your readers at lower costs for them and if you decide upon such an option, whilst increasing your own profit line or at the very least breaking even. This can all be done by cutting out the middlemen, including Amazon Kindle, who are all getting the best part of the fees and earnings you generate, by producing ‘the product’ in the first place; your book.

I don’t like the overused wording - paradigm shift - but it is descriptive of what is possible and happening:  the adoption by authors of the methods in this book and the result of a shift in what is possible to probable, which will change forever the publishing world; authors going digital and doing it for themselves. Or at the very least using the methods discussed here to market your book, even if you do use Kindle, which is probably the case in reaching you right now!

Did you know that the publishers  description for the volumes of manuscripts submitted to them by authors is known as the ‘slush pile’ it just goes to show their mental set and probable ‘blind arrogance’ as most of them miss books such as Harry Potter! Their attitude may not help them in the forthcoming changes to ‘their’ world. They seem to be no better than you or me in spotting a winner, but still see themselves, probably due to their back catalogue of captive author’s material that they ‘own’ such titles and negotiate new media rights to them but entirely new material can escape their game. Why do we need publishers when technology can take an author directly to Amazon or better still to their own online publishing service!

As a group the incumbent publishers have negotiated with Apple regarding digital books on Apple’s iPad and for Kindle as a re-publishing platform, adopting a position coming close to collusion among publishers who own the rights to the majority of published and to be published books (nobody mentions authors). Such deals may sail close to the U.K. and USA  anti-competition laws.

However, in this new order of the digital book publishing world the individual author has the capacity to compete on a level playing field with these giants by using technology.

Significant changes in the book publishing world are happening. It is technology and new printing options and new era book print machines and digital download sales that are changing forever the way that books are printed and subsequently distributed. Authors can be independent publishers using the Internet and certain targeted digital marketing methods that are explained later. Also the option of paperless, fully digital books; direct from the author to the reader are still another option.

These methods and opportunities provide huge benefits for authors.  As a result of experiences related later in this book plus the know-how gained and shared, also within this book: it is recommend that authors, all authors adopt ‘publish or print on demand’ methods for their works and free themselves from the need to give away large and often unjust percentages to old world publishers. These intermediaries have already missed the digital Amazon boat when they didn’t believe in the original Amazon concept and are about to miss this next one too. At the very least you can be digitally printed on Kindle for free.

The mainstream old world publishers have had their day and will  miss these opportunities too, most of them, because they see the book business as ‘theirs’ and this superior attitude is what made them blind to the seismic changes in the 1990’s brought about by Amazon.  Many are indeed getting into PoD - Print on Demand - but are still retaining their old habits of charging way too much, when they do adopt these opportunities and packages and re-sell them to authors for book publishing. I foresee the further decline of the ‘majors’ in the publishing business, just as soon as authors wake up to the new opportunities open to them.

The future of book publishing will take two routes – fully digital i.e. the Kindle option and partially digital books produced by PoD methods that can produce a physically printed book. I believe that many readers will want physical books for many years to come. Also known as Publish on Demand; PoD is a printing option utilising the latest rapid computerised printing machinery in which books and other print materials are not printed in advance and in bulk as was the case in the past but are triggered only by a single order or a small batch order. The concept roots are based upon the ‘just in time’ management techniques of production pioneered in the automobile industry. Until fairly recently it has not been economical to print single copies as the only option was by Offset Litho printing and usually in bulk orders. Computerised PoD presses are getting cheaper and quicker and this digital technology is currently the best way for printing items for a fixed cost per copy; a single book. The unit price of each physical book printed may be higher than a large order using Offset Litho printing, juxtaposed to PoD in which the average cost is often significantly lower for very small print runs, the comparison is due because setup costs are far higher for offset printing.

Large stocks of books no longer need to be stored ‘in stock’, so greatly reducing storage, handling costs, and other associated costs, so there is no wasted goods and most importantly no unsold stock. Such advantages reduce the risks associated with publishing books and will provide increased choice for consumers. It ought to also provide better financial returns for authors too.

These options can now free authors from the strangle hold which the industry held over them for generating and selling a physical book. The old story was explaining that costs at every stage were high and that marketing, distribution and retailing the books cost them, the publishers, the major part of the investment in a book and in the past authors mostly acquiesced. However the mainstream publishers and most if not all digital PoD operators are trying to keep the old ways in place; their overheads are reduced due to technology but the rates they pay to authors don’t appear to be changing in any author positive manner. This is still the case in relative terms for digital books: Kindle. The fact is both digital and physical book publishers are now on a different tack, the physical book publishers are getting the book writers to pay up front the production costs for PoD. A similar mindset is true of the old world booksellers. And Amazon Kindle whilst publishing for free, keep a large proportion of revenues and like physical book publishers leave it to the author to promote their works; they are happy with millions of small revenues!

Bookshops have been declining over the past ten years, yet they too still demand large discounts from distributors and that means authors, and these days most books are purchased online. Traditional publishers adopting the new methods have set up their own operations and seem to believe it is their right to publish your PoD book and let you do most if not all the marketing for which they will be grateful when it reflects in their sales. However in this digital age you the author probably will know more about your book than they ever will and that knowledge and enthusiasm can assist a great deal in identifying within this digital world of the internet, who, where, when and what to do within it to promote and sell your book directly to readers. Remember that the publishers have mostly been unable to spot bestselling books, this should be their forte but they fail repeatedly. These same agents are actually in a worse position than the author when it comes to digital marketing, at the very least by the single factor of being at least one step removed from all the knowledge that the author has and can use to target opportunities on the internet to market and sell their book – themselves. In this respect the professionals are amateurs, the digital world is a flattened out playing field on which the author has the best advantage.  This knowledge that you have can also be maximised for increasing sales even if you do sell through Kindle and other digital book options. It amounts to ‘Do It Yourself SOE’ and more of this later.

The only missing factor is belief, the publishers want to convince you that you should put your belief in them, when you can put this into self-belief and with the help of the knowledge, experiences and ‘secret’ methods to assist you in this book; you can do it all for yourself.

The publishers and the distributors and the bookshops want the old methods to continue, and they have strategies that do not favour the author, only themselves, the retailer and ultimately and probably fairly for the reader. Some of the current methods would never operate in any other industry; such as setting conditions like sale or return. Physical booksellers can, within their contract terms, return books back to the author up to six months after delivery. However things are changing as these days we have fewer bookshops and just a couple of large national chains, plus the supermarkets who only keep a small ‘bestselling’ range and demand huge discounts. They all have high barriers set against small book publishers and they are freaked out by independent P0D authors, who having committed the crime of self-publishing. Thus are ‘black balled’ and labelled as ‘Fly by Knight’ enterprises, saying so, and labelling us in a derogatory manner: presumably in a rear guard action, in denial, and in the face of the inevitable; they downgrade what they fear.

Large bookshop chains will not usually stock books unless they come from existing channels (wholesalers). The retail frontline sets the customer sales price and as far as the current operation for physical books; the retailers dominate, the wholesalers distribute and the publishers discriminate, and Kindle and others download cheap titles. As more sales shift to ‘digital books’ there is no sign that this operation will be any different in regard to more author control or inclusion within the system or better returns to the author.  It’s all stacked up against the author.

This is known as a ‘closed shop’ the only way to get into these distribution channels is to pay discounts to the distributors, there may be several variable options but it all amounts to the same thing: going down such routes - the author is always the one who ultimately pays or loses out.

That is unless your book is a best seller, or you are in a position to have the publisher pursuing you for your book! Like ghost written celebrity books. Of course this leaves the rest of us – as I said, one way or another paying and of course the ‘rest of us’ are the majority.

In reality it is this majority that will make up the vast bulk of published books, from traditional and new PoD options and digital downloaded books.

Lots of online publishers are established or emerging on the internet; they describe themselves as ‘major publishing houses’ as often they are offshoots from them, so these professional digital author assistance websites, see themselves as the professionals and like to refer to others as the ‘fly-by-nights’. Their descriptive term for authors when they are not in a derogatory mood is ‘independent content creators’, so they downgrade the status of the writer, to a content creator; a description for them to use downgrading an author to a mere contributor to ‘their’ business.

It’s important - for them - to enhance such a view: that doing it yourself is unprofessional that being a ‘self-published’ author is a stigma and they are hopeful that you the author will think this way. It is a depressing fact that most authors’ mindset assists this almost ‘status-quo’ belief that real books are only produced by ‘real’ mainstream publishers.

This type of thing works also for Amazon and other direct download booksellers, as they are trying to make authors believe that the only way to reach their potential readers is through the likes of their service e.g. Kindle, E-Books and so on.

It’s a simple step to take, to remove the mindset from such a false and fabricated belief that only the old established publishers and via Amazon and its supply chain provide ‘real’ books. The digital world is superseding them and self-publishing digital and PoD authors will replace the existing operations eventually, but how much of the financial returns authors will get is another story.

Waterstones the UK’s largest bookstore chain have a new facelift for their stores; a re-branding focus upon "the books themselves" in an attempt to get people back shopping for books in the high street. However they have a simultaneous two pronged attack, hedging their bets as they also entered the Print on Demand market more vigorously themselves as ‘Authorhouse’ – see how they use names, it sounds like they want to be associated with PoD authors, it’s the ‘author’s house’ their home, a place to belong too, clever. Clever as a spider’s web is clever. So beware.

This kind of stuff reminds me of ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ by Umberto Eco, albeit not an accurate quotation from the book, in which the hero narrator (Casaubon) seeks out the secrets of the Illuminati. The publisher (Garamond Press) is selling an occult periodical and asks: “what do you think this magazine is about?” Casaubon replies; “I believe it to be about explaining occult secrets”

“No” answers the magazines owner, “it’s all about selling advertising space”.

There are many such examples; it goes to show the real meaning of things, which are not always obvious at a superficial level.

Let’s turn things around based upon Eco’s insight: ‘What is our business about’, a question that might be posed by the boss of a PoD organisation, or a service like Amazon; to a new salesperson.

They might answer: ‘we are here to assist authors to get their books printed and sold’. The boss might say, “err, yes that’s good, yes indeed, but however what we really want, in fact need, err, to survive ourselves, is to get such authors to pay us to put them in print and enough of them to make us profitable. If these authors then do sell any books it’s a by-product and we can take a good cut of that also. The short answer is that our business is all about selling to authors the idea that we can do something they can’t do for themselves, and to get them to believe that only we can do it and get them to pay us for doing so.”

And you can add to this that they know most PoD and Kindle authors will sell very few books, so what they also need is a high churn rate i.e. recruiting more and more ‘author punters’ as such a volume of authors fees paid to them for book production is their initial business aim. Its similar with self published books by digital methods – low sales, but good revenues for the agglomerated sites on the internet that operate as sell-through online bookstores: Apple, Kindle, Google and many others: multiple small sales generate huge incomes when they scale up all sales collectively.

Now this state of affairs is reminiscent of an old story retold by Idries Shah; regarding people who just sit around, often complaining about the situation they are in and in the analogy case of the story: having no shoes to wear on their feet. These people are informed that about the place they are in, there is leather and nails, a hammer and an old last just lying idly around – somewhat akin to their mental set! They have all the means to make themselves a pair of shoes, yet bemoan the fact that they have none.

This ‘story insight’ situation can readily be applied to writers who aspire to be authors but instead of using the tools to hand, and their brains and the new technology, their actual situation is worse and they are more foolish than the shoeless folk in the story, who have all the means to make shoes but don’t; authors are worse - giving their tools and their materials to enable someone else to make them and then sell the authors book and making far more from it than the originating idea owner!

Now this little story focuses the mind, and after all what is our business about as authors? Because that’s what it is, it should be if you are serious; it is a business. It’s the best way to look at it even if you really are only half serious. And if you really are only doing a book for vanity, posterity, leaving something behind, as family memoirs, publishing for all sorts of reasons, maybe in the knowledge that you don’t expect to be popular or successful, you will still benefit from spending far less money than you ought to, by adopting a ‘business approach’.

Within the ‘mindset’ of such an approach, a business approach, you realise that you are doing this work to benefit yourself and your associates even your family - all good reasons. The business is based from and upon your work which from a ‘business’ viewpoint should be maximising a good and fair return from it and covering your ‘bottom line’ – so at the very least breaking even. Why be hoodwinked into believing that you must give most of the profits to others simply because that’s always been the way of things, in the writing business.

Today’s technology and new methods derived from it are in place to free you from these past negative leaning business practices and assumptions. The digital processing methods for producing books both physical and digital are as much available to authors as they are for the publishers.

The writing is on the wall for book distributors and booksellers that are bricks and mortar stores and physical distributors: because the author - horror of horrors - for them can now choose to cut them out, right out. Should you as an author go digital and more importantly promote yourself and your sales through the internet as your own publisher you could win more than you initially thought possible.

So some old world publishers are making double bets, after seeing and realising what will overtake them if they do nothing, they are therefore continuing with current practices whilst developing new approaches as PoD facilitators themselves. However a reasonable analysis of the situation in effect shows that they are still purporting to do more for the author than such authors might be able to do for themselves. It’s a kind of arrogance that blinded them to the approach of Amazon. They see the author as their product; remember their own description of authors - ‘independent content creators’ for them!  And ‘Fly by Nights if authors do it themselves.’

It’s not only in one aspect of this new field of PoD that they have difficulties as things are simultaneously changing with alternatives to print and physical books on paper – the spectre of total author to reader complete end to end digital production and digital consumption via a new range of methods and personal equipment, which leaves them in yet another difficulty, because: full digital capacity of production capability from author to reader is here, right now. This has the possibility to cut them out of the process, entirely. It’s called Kindle.

And of course occupying these spaces step again intermediaries like Amazon, Apple and others with end user devices and methods to construct ‘e’-books to go onto such platforms, such as Kindle, iPad and Google’s Nexus 7.  You can almost feel the closed shop forming again around these emerging options. However, soon I expect a plethora of very low cost independent product imitators, when the real market size emerges and it’s going to be HUGE! One question is:  “can digital books be protected?” We all know what has happened to the music industry and digital films: illegal downloads and copying.

However the music industry is very different from book writing and publishing and an exact parallel isn’t easily drawn. Music artists may need to book recording studios, hire musicians and have a record company or independent producer to finalise their product, of course others closer to the author analogy of generating the digital book, may have the singer or musician generating their work entirely within their own resources and expertise. Government is considering laws to restrict access to the internet for home downloading pirates, after pressure mainly from the ‘music industry’ - read the big music catalogue content owners, and a few major artists. Hollywood is following and pushing for legislation.

The industries argument is that ‘new’ artists, new films all need support, finance and large scale advertising.

I can’t help thinking again about Umberto Eco’s characters and to see large industry self-interest thrashing around like a drowning man finding a potential rescuer being the government, possibly getting the bureaucrats to move thus to protect their own taxation revenues on music and DVD film sales.

Many music artists are re-discovering playing live and making revenue from the audiences. Many aspiring artists give away their music on their own independent websites to build up a following. iTunes operated by Apple sell mp3 downloads for well under a pound per song Amazon are following even allowing subscribers to upload their own music collections into the Digital Cloud. However as music stores close down and CD sales slowly fade away, the move to pay for downloads has only shifted legitimate music sales from CD to mp3. The market has not exactly expanded due to the fee paying mp3 adoption, its just shifted. Teenagers drive the pop business and they are the main illegal downloaders. The good news for authors is that most of these youngsters hardly ever read books. So book piracy will happen but never to the extent of music or films.

As for the musicians I think their best option is similar to the advice I am giving here to authors – to build a website and sell and promote through it. And cut out the major distributors and Amazon, as they also do not serve authors well nor musicians – only the large publishers, music & film copyright owners.

iTunes dominate the digital music market and some onlookers see this as a success story; however it’s only a success story for Apple as they have benefited from a conglomeration of titles via their bespoke systems and methods and have about 30% of a market that has the rest as piracy: iFilms (NetFlix) are now emerging and direct film downloads are available for monthly fees.

The good news is that digital technologies are a two edged sword; in such circumstances, digital flattens out markets, digital representation provides the same platform and methods for the smallest to the largest and thus independent digital authors can reach their readers - via three digital options:

The Book –Kit continues with background descriptions and experiences of publishing and with a huge amount of guides how too’s and links. A huge combination of everything fully researched and recommended for an author to make it through the maze of requirements for gaining Web Presence: a fundamental requirement not only for authors but also for any digital business.

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