Saturday, October 16, 2010

A revolution in publishing

We've talked a lot about printing and the print culture this semester, and how the digital revolution is changing the way we consume and share the printed word.  I found this story to be a fascinating look at what happens when writers embrace the digital world and step outside the bounds of the traditional publisher model.

Four authors collaborated to write a book and publish it exclusively through Amazon's e-book service.  They followed two core principles of digital citizenship that we have discussed -- release early, and release for free using the freemium model.  The authors released free teaser material when they had only written a few chapters.

A few key points:
  • The book will sell for only $2.99, much below typical hardcopy and e-book formats.
  • The book will have no DRM, so anyone will be able to copy it, but if you can own an official version for so little money, there won't be a large incentive to steal.
  • The authors hired their own artist and e-book formatter, doing their own editing.  This enables them to earn 70% royalties on each book sold, rather than the 17.5% they would get through a traditional publisher.
  • They will earn slightly less per copy than a standard paperback, but at a price point of $2.99, they may earn a lot more overall.
  • The authors are relying on non-traditional review outlets -- Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, and their own newsletters.
  • The 80,000 word book will include 80,000 words of additional material, including deleted scenes, alternate endings, short stories, brainstorming emails between the writers, and more.  None of this would be possible in the traditional print world.
  • They will control the rights to their published work forever.
This last point is really key.  As they say in the article:
Forever is a very long time. Authors need to decide if they want to keep forever to themselves, or share forever with a publisher who takes over half the cover price.
 Will more authors go this route, cutting out the traditional publishing industry?  Or perhaps cutting deals that allow them to maintain digital rights while the publisher maintains paper rights?  It's hard not to see how many advantages there are for both writers and readers in the digital world.