Future of Books–eeeeeeeeeeeeeee

An article in The New York Times on Monday, October 3, 2011, says it all. Written by Julie Bosman, the news account begins, “The Perseus Books Group has created a distribution and marketing service that will allow authors to self-publish their own e-books.” This venture is called Argo Navis Author Services and at the moment is only available to authors who are represented by an agency that has signed an agreement with Perseus. One major agency, Janklow & Nesbit Associates has signed up so far. 

The article goes onto say: “The new service will give authors an alternative to other self-publishing services and a favorable revenue split that is unusual in the industry: 70 percent to the author and 30 percent to the distributor. Traditional publishers normally provide authors a royalty of about 25 percent for e-books.”

Perseus is not alone.

Last week I heard from my own agent and agency, Trident Media Group. They, too, are launching a new e-book initiative, Trident E-Book Operations. Trident’s authors will be provided with a comprehensive suite of services–ranging from digital conversion, digital jacket design, to marketing and social media consultation.

It is a whole new ball game for writers!

At the moment e-books are distributed to retailers including Amazon, BN.com, Google, Kobo, Sony and Apple. My agent says there are about 20 such ‘distributors” and expect in another year there will be 50; think of them as ‘on-line’ bookstores.

The key (as we know) is marketing. Anyone can write and publish an e-book. But how do you sell it?

These companies Argo Navis, my agency, and other agencies will provide basic marketing services, like placing product pages on retailer Web sites.

This new ‘wave’ means that a lot of the work that writers do now with writing and ‘publishing’ their e-book(s) will be taken over by ‘others.’

Right now, as we know a writer has to do three things that require three separate skills: 1) think of a book idea; 2) write the book; 3) sell the book!

Pretty soon (perhaps) we can all get back to our typewriters (sorry, computers) and just write!

Wouldn’t that be nice?

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  • By restricting their list to agent-supplied books, Perseus is functioning as a publisher, not a distributor. Distributors are a channel without any editorial input. Publishers offer selectivity; they function as gatekeepers, which is why we strive mightily to have our books released under a publisher’s imprint rather than just heave them out onto the turgid seas of digital literature. The question then becomes: who pays the marketing costs? Does Perseus? And if not, how do they justify their 30%? Production costs for e-books are negligible, while a banner ad in the New York Times online is not. Who pays for it?

    The e-book version of my second novel, A Friend in the Police, is being published by Concord ePress, with a release date of October 15. Dick Wiley, like me, a grizzled old Korea III RPCV, has two novels currently available from Concord ePress: Commodore Perry’s Minstrel Show and Indigo. I can’t speak for Dick, but I would bet he hopes that being associated with a quality literary publisher will give his books sufficient cachet to separate them out from the ungainly plenitude of available titles. I know I do.

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