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Independent Authors Are Starting To Outsell The Big Five

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14 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:


Trad-pub'd authors have the benefit of professional guidance they don't have to pay for, and can put out a better product. They think long-term, and not just for the present project. 
 

An agent might work for free for a year or two, before getting paid a nickel for his work. No one will enter the profession, if they can't see the pot of gold at the end. And no one will stay in the profession for long, if the gold doesn't show up consistently.

Do you want to be a flash-in-the-pan author with one hit book, or do you want to build a career? I vote the latter. This is where the real payoff comes, in ANY industry or profession.

 

That's nice, but it didn't answer my question.

 

Earlier you said:

 

9 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

In this market, a thousand wildly successful writers doesn't mean diddly-squat. A thousand out of a million represents 1/10 of 1%. 

 

Okay, fuzzy math aside (because self-pub authors typically publish more than one book), how does this compare to the odds that traditionally published authors face? Or those authors who pursue the traditional route but end up on a slush pile?

 

 

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6 hours ago, Accord64 said:

I think that places like Amazon need to raise the bar on quality and start rejecting poorly written books.


Agreed, but it won't happen. This is because KDP is not a publisher. They're a cloud storage service and print shop.

The genius of the KDP business model (and others like them) is that they have absolutely ZERO investment in your product. They have NO skin in the game with you, and take no risk. You do all of the work, and they lease you a few bytes on their super-sized server. They don't print a book until someone orders it (and pays), so they have no up-front costs for anything. This is why they are able to pay those huge royalties.


If KDP (and their type) introduced any kind of quality control, it would drive up their costs big-time. At that point, their royalty rates would come closer to the realm of the trads. Automation can, at best, detect typos and bad grammar. But it won't save a bad story.

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9 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

That's nice, but it didn't answer my question.

 


Sure it did. A writer who attracts multiple investors and professional guidance, puts out a better product. Better products go the distance and do better over time.
 

 

15 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

Or those authors who pursue the traditional route but end up on a slush pile?


If you have an agent, then by definition you won't be in the slush. 
.

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Guest Steven Hutson
On 1/5/2019 at 2:45 PM, EBraten said:

But I feel encouraged to know what is possible


The recent success of self-pub was always possible. Bezos reports specifically of his company, but the breakout hits have been with us for centuries.

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On 1/6/2019 at 8:21 AM, Accord64 said:

there are small self-published segments/categories that traditional publishers wouldn't take on. 


My recent submissions have included:

Haiku in the Basque language. (How many Americans can read Basque?)

A 200,000-word volume of poetry by an unknown author. (Books by KNOWN poets don't sell much these days.)

A book of prophecy, which explains how President Trump fulfills all biblical requirements for the next Messiah. (Really?)

There are good reasons why trad-pubs (and agents) won't go anywhere near such books. Either the market exists, or it doesn't. 
.

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On 1/6/2019 at 10:20 AM, Accord64 said:

I think that places like Amazon need to raise the bar on quality and start rejecting poorly written books. It really shouldn't be hard. A simple automated analysis of typos/simple grammar should catch many of these before they hit the market


Another thought here. (Sorry, my mind is racing with thoughts today):

I have experimented with editing software. To date, my favorite is Grammarly. But the best they can do, is to point out problems and suggest remedies. You'll need a human to make those choices, or even disregard the suggestions. Automation might be able to speed the process, but it only gets you so far.

In the future, someone might invent an AI machine to do deeper analysis of plots and characters, or whatever. But until then, only humans possess this kind of wisdom.

So again, I remain convinced that if these vendors introduced any kind of quality control at all, it would drive up their costs significantly. And reduce the level of royalties they can pay. (Translation: no more 70% on ebooks, which to date has been one of the greatest attractions of the Kindle model.) 

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12 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

My recent submissions have included:

Haiku in the Basque language. (How many Americans can read Basque?)

A 200,000-word volume of poetry by an unknown author. (Books by KNOWN poets don't sell much these days.)

A book of prophecy, which explains how President Trump fulfills all biblical requirements for the next Messiah. (Really?)

There are good reasons why trad-pubs (and agents) won't go anywhere near such books. Either the market exists, or it doesn't. 

 

And by this time next month they will all be on Amazon.  😦  The downside of the self-publishing boom.

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Just now, Accord64 said:

And by this time next month they will all be on Amazon.


I don't doubt it at all. But is this opportunity truly a blessing for such?
.

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15 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

I have experimented with editing software. To date, my favorite is Grammarly. But the best they can do, is to point out problems and suggest remedies. You'll need a human to make those choices, or even disregard the suggestions. Automation might be able to speed the process, but it only gets you so far.

 

Amazon (KDP) currently runs your manuscript through a spell check after you upload it, but all they do is alert you to typos. They don't make you fix them. I suppose forcing a fix could be problematic as some flagged typos may be intentional. Acronyms would also be an issue.

 

20 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

In the future, someone might invent an AI machine to do deeper analysis of plots and characters, or whatever. But until then, only humans possess this kind of wisdom.

 

I wound't count Amazon out. They've already done some amazing AI automation, even though it sometimes falters, and it can drive us batty because they use it for customer service.

 

23 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

So again, I remain convinced that if these vendors introduced any kind of quality control at all, it would drive up their costs significantly. And reduce the level of royalties they can pay. (Translation: no more 70% on ebooks, which to date has been one of the greatest attractions of the Kindle model.) 

 

Maybe, but I still think if it's properly implemented, a retailer could distinguish itself as a better place to shop. Less dreck for readers to sort through in search results.     

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

I wound't count Amazon out. They've already done some amazing AI automation,


Which, I suppose, would still require some amount of human oversight. Or do we just allow the machine to rewrite the books? As an author, I would have a problem with that. 

Or do you send the ms back to the author, to correct the mistakes? At that point, you'll be acting more like a trad-pub. And adding to your costs. Which will unavoidably require a big reduction in royalties, and a loss of market advantage.
 

23 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

Less dreck for readers to sort through in search results.   


As both a consumer and an agent, I have no problem with that. I eagerly welcome that day.

But it would also mean a huge dropoff in the Amazon self-pub business. 
.

Edited by Steven Hutson

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On 1/7/2019 at 12:14 PM, Accord64 said:

I wound't count Amazon out. They've already done some amazing AI automation, even though it sometimes falters, and it can drive us batty because they use it for customer service.


Reviewing a book contract today, so this caught my eye. (Every book contract sets limits on the publisher's authority to change the book.)

Trying to wrap my mind around how this process might work:

You send in the ms
Their robo-editor edits the book, and maybe rewrites it.

What comes next?

A) Do they print the robo-corrected version? Or...
B) Do they send it back to the author for rewrite?

If A, it's a serious violation of the author's creative freedom. (Problem.) No writer wants that action.

If B, you'll surely get arguments from the authors. And seeing as most are novices with little experience or knowledge, this could get complicated and unpleasant. Eventually you'll need to get a humanoid involved to help work it out. 

Which will certainly upend the Kindle business model, because it's based on near-zero payroll. No way they can continue paying them generous royalties. Which will send those writers away to other vendors.
.

Edited by Steven Hutson

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55 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

What comes next?

A) Do they print the robo-corrected version? Or...
B) Do they send it back to the author for rewrite?

 

If I were Amazon, I'd send it back to the author for a rewrite (fix). But it would only flag those manuscripts with numerous typos.

 

55 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

If B, you'll surely get arguments from the authors. And seeing as most are novices with little experience or knowledge, this could get complicated and unpleasant.

 

True, but if I'm Amazon, I don't care. I (Amazon) already have 80% of the eBook market and I care most about the customer experience, not the author experience. If the authors don't like that they've been asked to fix their manuscript, then they're free to find other places that would sell it. I suspect that most of those authors would find a way to make the fixes. It might even make better writers out of them.

 

55 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

Eventually you'll need to get a humanoid involved to help work it out. 

 

That's pretty much how Amazon currently works.  You deal with bots until the problem is solved, you give up, or you persist to the point where they connect you to a human.

 

55 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

No way they can continue paying them generous royalties. When will send those writers away to other vendors.

 

Again, Amazon is the 800-ton gorilla in the business. I doubt they'd lose too many authors that way.    

Edited by Accord64

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1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

But it would only flag those manuscripts with numerous typos


Which is likely to be most of them, tens of thousands per year.

Then what do you do if the next draft is no better? And the next? I see this all the time.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

If the authors don't like that they've been asked to fix their manuscript, then they're free to find other places that would sell it.


Again, a huge shift in the business model that has worked so well. As it stands, the appeal is that you're the boss and can do anything you want. If Kindle now starts making rules, you can expect a mass migration to Smash or Lulu or whoever.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

It might even make better writers out of them.


 I doubt it. Most writers I meet, aren't open to this kind of training. They will take their marbles and go home.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

persist to the point where they connect you to a human.


Which will happen a LOT more than now. Expect a hiring spree at the call centers.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

I doubt they'd lose too many authors that way.    


Something has to give. HIgher payroll, lower royalties, more complaints, more defections. If Amazon turns away the lousy writers, someone else will gladly accept their refugees.

Occasionally when I decline a project (after I've offered tons advice and suggest a rewrite), I get a taunting email a couple of months later from the author telling me that they self-pub'd their book on Amazon or Spark or whichever. And I will surely kick myself when their book sells a million copies. When this happens, I immediately go online to buy a copy. 

They didn't change a thing. They learned nothing.
.

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21 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

Which is likely to be most of them, tens of thousands per year.

 

Maybe. I usually don't waste my time reading the "look inside" sample if the cover and blurb already give off a half-baked effort. I suspect most readers do the same.

 

21 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

Then what do you do if the next draft is no better? And the next? I see this all the time.

 

Three strikes and you're out. Someone has to give these a hard "no" if it goes that far.

 

21 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

As it stands, the appeal is that you're the boss and can do anything you want. If Kindle now starts making rules, you can expect a mass migration to Smash or Lulu or whoever.

 

They can migrate all they want, but I think Amazon would still get plenty of good material to satisfy their customers. Didn't we agree a while back that there were way too many new books coming into the market (while the number of readers hasn't grown)?

 

21 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

Occasionally when I decline a project (after I've offered tons advice and suggest a rewrite), I get a taunting email a couple of months later from the author telling me that they self-pub'd their book on Amazon or Spark or whichever. And I will surely kick myself when their book sells a million copies. When this happens, I immediately go online to buy a copy. 

They didn't change a thing. They learned nothing.

 

A totally unprofessional attitude on their part. I don't think I would've bothered to buy their book - just check their sales ranking.   

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1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

Maybe. I usually don't waste my time reading the "look inside" sample


But many will.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

Three strikes and you're out.


That's a huge commitment. I don't think any pub, anywhere, extends so much grace.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

Didn't we agree a while back that there were way too many new books coming into the market (while the number of readers hasn't grown)?


Absolutely. But this won't deter the ambitious. They will just move on to Plan B (Lulu, Smash, Spark, etc.)

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

A totally unprofessional attitude on their part.


Yup. Happens all the time.

 

1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

I don't think I would've bothered to buy their book - just check their sales ranking.   


I haven't spent a ton of money on this, and don't plan to. But I do want to form my own opinion on whether the published version was any better than the previous. (To date, the answer has been no.)
.

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Guest Steven Hutson
2 hours ago, Accord64 said:

Amazon would still get plenty of good material to satisfy their customers.


Certainly. Pretty much all of the books from those other vendors, will appear on Amazon.

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