I have only a few minutes today, so I’m going to stay roughly on plan and talk about the differences between physical books and ebooks as marketing devices. They are very different, and these differences seem to me to be important to us newish writers.
The book itself (or I should say, the cover) is basically an advertisement, and its placement in a store can be a big deal. I was recently listening to a podcast that included a quote from a major SF publisher who said he considered a single book to be a 50-cent poster, and if he was allowed to he would send 20 or 50 to every bookstore and have them paper the walls with them because at that rate they are super-cheap advertising.
This is something an ebook can’t do.
Of course, us newbies don’t really care much about that, because last I checked I don’t see many of us getting huge bookstore space anyway. Still, as we move forward in our careers, it’s important to understand what’s being giving up along the way.
Cover art is most likely going to be important for ebooks, too. But most artwork for ebooks is going to be tiny, and click-throughs for new writers are likely to be impulse processes.
On the other side of the fence, an e-book goes viral a lot easier than a physical book. And a viral e-tide can be a powerful thing. However, most viral e-tides are connected to things that are free, hence, obviously, the big push for some folks to give some of their content away in order to create this tide (in hopes that it bleeds over into actual cash flow.
At the end of the day, similarities exist in that you still need to get in touch with the right people. An author needs the publisher to get his or her work in the right places in bookstores and whatnot, and if you want to advertise ebooks, it seems important to get the right sites buzzing about your work. The big deal here, of course, is that it’s far easier for new writers to network in e-space than deal with the publishing industry. It’s still a lot of work, of course (something I’ll probably talk about later), but it’s achievable. And we actually have the ability to market our own ebooks cheaply, but would generally struggle to market physical books. I mean, I could be selling ebooks from my site with probably a half-day’s work.
The question is whether that’s a great idea, and whether I want to keep up that effort … something I’ll talk about in another post or two.
I think this is a good summary of state of things, Ron, though the improvement in device technology (read: Kindle) has changed the landscape in the last couple of years. I was fortunate enough to get interested in the Cory Doctorow Creative Commons Cadre (TM) before the Kindle emerged as a viable tool.
Perhaps predictably, once people had a device, they started looking for free alternatives to for-profit services, and I saw spikes in my download traffic accordingly (without really any promotion except nice-guy recommendation pushing from Matt over at manybooks.net).
I’m not sure that’s bought me any cred, (though I do get nice e-mails from readers), and a few thousand free downloads don’t necessarily arch the eyebrows of many publishers, and I’m not sure that I’ve learned anything useful about extrapolating that “success” to future endeavors.
At this point, I’m still rather fond of the Creative Commons model, but I suspect that Doctorow was correct in his early assessments that leverage e-books and “free” are more like advertisements for other services (read: teaching, lecturing, speaking fees) rather than a marketing model unto themselves. At least for small-timers.
No automatic paragraph tagging sucks. 😉