One of my favorite novelists today is Max Barry, who recently wrote a fun blog entry on why it takes so long to go from a signed publishing contract to the point that your book is actually on store shelves. Because it really can be from 9 months to 2 years. (One reason among many to self publish these days, though there are still some reasons to seek a publisher as well, especially for non-fiction where publishing credibility is important.)
But right after reading that, I received this other blog entry on how e-books don't seem to be taking over printed books ... and therefore there's a good future for the printed book. This came not long after I had a conversation in Barnes & Noble about how much I still loved being surrounded by REAL books, and how reading on devices just wasn't the same.
BUT ... I don't think the story for the future of printed books is written so much by competition with e-books, but by the competition with everything else. Apps, for instance, and YouTube. And video games. And NetFlix. You name it. There's a lot of competition against the written word that just didn't exist not long ago.
What does this mean for authors? Seth Godin talks a lot about building "tribes" of followers that naturally want to follow what someone is doing, and I agree with the networking approach. But I also wonder how creative authors ought to get. Upcoming movies tend to drive book sales. How many authors ought to go the extra mile to connect their book with a movie, or an app, or a piece of music, or anything else that seems to go viral these days while books struggle to do so?
On the other hand ... we shouldn't forget that most apps, like books, lose money. Most songs, like books, lose money. It is the rare creation that makes much money for the artist. And in this case we need to remember that fiction is a thing that should be written by the author who must write it, cash be damned. In some cases, same thing for non-fiction, although many times non-fiction is used to encourage business in other forms, and the cash earned directly from the book isn't the end goal. Credibility and business sales are.
In any of these cases, it is the idea -- not the form -- that wants to spread. And the author or publisher need only make sure that the idea is in the form that people want to receive it in. This might mean that the printed book sees an ongoing decline into the future. MAYBE some day it's gone altogether. But that will only happen when price can no longer meet demand.
On Seth Godin's blog today, Seth comments that people who haven't bought from within a category yet very often aren't still choosing between their options. Instead, they don't believe they have a problem that can be solved by that product category yet.
So rather than using an "ours is better than theirs" marketing approach, he suggests that they need to look at the category in a new way so that they DO feel it solves a problem for them. Inspired by the blog entry, thought I would share a possible copywriting opener seeking to immediately connect with the reader's "I don't need that" point of view in order to put everyone on the same team right away, and then to lead the reader into the new point of view.
You know what? I didn't need a survival kit either.
In fact, I was so damn sure about it that I laughed at my friends who had them. After all, survival kits were for those who lived in hurricane and earthquake zones. Or those who thought the economy was going to collapse. It never dawned on me that ...
Last year I finished up what I thought would be my last book ghostwriting projects (as opposed to other forms of ghostwriting I do, from speeches to articles to web content, etc.) But this year I had a former client return for another book, and I've decided that I have too much experience in writing, publishing, and marketing not to offer the service for projects that are a good match.
So I've put up a new ghostwriting page on the site here. I'll always advise people that for investment purposes, the only books that make sense are related to a business. Either to promote what your business does, or to give you credibility as a speaker or consultant. Because most books will never make you money directly through sales.
On the other hand, build the right kind of following or write the next rare breakout novel or autobiography, and yes ... you could make millions. Just not something to count on.
Some people of course have plenty of money and just want to write a novel, or autobiography, or philosophical manifesto. If that's you, more power to you. I'm happy to assist.
Whatever your circumstance, my goal isn't just to write you a book. It's to talk with you about what your overall goals for the book and to find the best way to reach those goals ... within the budget you have to work with. Yep ... publishing and marketing guidance are a big part of this effort. Please get in touch with any questions!