The story is the product. Writers produce story. The reader consumes the product, which is story.
That sounds so basic yet it’s a concept that publishing has a hard time wrapping its brain around. For centuries, the product has been the book. Printed words on a page. Even the Bible is called The Book, in capitals. Yet aren’t the concepts and stories more important than the physical object?
Note that in that first paragraph, publishers, agents, bookstores, etc. are not mentioned? That’s because they are between the creators of the product and the consumers of the product. It’s normal in business to have middlemen. Often those in the middle add some value, such as packaging, shipping, sales, advertising, distribution, etc. etc.
With the digital age, however, the distance between the writer and the reader is simply the Internet. At Thrillerfest a week ago, I participated in a digital booksigning sponsored by Audible and Fanado. I interacted directly with fans and were able to send them a digital signature and free audio downloads.
We currently sell a “very nice deal” in eBooks and audiobooks every month and have been doing so for a while. And am looking to expand, as Cool Gus’s COO Jen Talty just went to Canada to visit Kobo’s headquarters.
To change a large business model is very difficult. I participated in a fundamental business model change in one of the largest organizations in the world: the United States Army. In 1984, I went right from my Infantry battalion at Fort Hood, Texas to the Special Forces Qualification Course at Ft. Bragg. I was flat out told by my commanding officer that I was destroying my career. At the time, Special Forces were red-headed bastard step-children of the Army. There was no Special Forces branch, so any assignment in the an SF unit took you off the traditional career path to “success” according to most people’s definition of success.
I went to 10th Special Forces Group and commanded an A-Team. At the time we were realizing we had to modernize the training for Green Berets. Also, there was a strong push among some visionaries in the Army for Special Operations to become something separate from the regular army because the training, deployment, and operational parameters were so different. To expect a soldier to maintain both a regular army career pattern and still do tours of duty in Special Operations was foolish. So they made Special Forces a branch. I took off my crossed rifles of the Infantry and pinned on my crossed arrows of Special Forces; while attending the Infantry Officers Advanced Course at Ft. Benning. That went over well.
I was on the task force that completely revamped the Special Forces Qualification Course into the intensive program it is today.
I believe this experience prepared me in 2010 to make the switch from traditional publishing to digital/indie publishing. I took a successful 20 year career and completely changed directions into a new and exciting opportunity.
We sold three eBooks our first month. Not exactly inspiring.
Since that time we’ve grown and grown. We’ve detailed how we did it in The ShelfLess Book: The Complete Digital Reader. Here are some keys to success as I reflect upon my digital eye:
- Being willing to stop doing things that are harmful, stupid, or habits just because they’re habits.
- Willing to admit I’m wrong, when I’m wrong. See my blog at The Newbies Guide to Publishing reference this.
- Constant re-evaluation of our business plan at Cool Gus. We’re in the process of once more doing this.
- Trying different things. Some work. Some don’t. But we take chances. If you’re not willing to risk things, you won’t succeed.
- Always remember it’s about content. The story rules.
- Social media doesn’t sell books. It builds community and is great for networking.
- Networking is absolutely critical. Like every business, it’s a people business.
- Part of networking is helping others. Our philosophy when approaching others who we are working with are to approach by first giving them something that makes their job better or easier, before asking for help with our job.
- It’s a business. Take the emotion out of it. Put the emotion in the writing, but when making business decisions, don’t do it because you are espousing a cause; do it because you’re running a business.
- Break rules with my three rules of rule breaking from Write It Forward:
- Know the rule
- Have a good reason for breaking the rule
- Take responsibility for breaking the rule