Digital Publishing

The Next Text seminar (at Northern Rivers Writers Centre, Byron Bay) was a little like a cyclonic wind picking up and disarranging all my previous ideas about digital publishing …


Kate Eltham, CEO at QWC and of IfBooks Australia, after a short history of the book so far explained how content is being separated from container, and all the different ways the content can now be contained – and it is the early days yet.

While books as objects (first editions, art books, limited editions, etc) are still important, Kate says, content released from the constraints imposed by print enables a much closer relationship between readers and writers. Eg blogs, websites, alternative reality games, social media.

The book as a never ending conversation – Kate’s question, will it still be long form narrative? Who knows. But it was great to have my ideas confirmed. All I have to do now is work out how to make it happen.

Things to talk about, for readers: access, ownership, new cultures. For writers: getting paid; platform, wider reach; new audiences; new forms.

Mark Coker, who began http://www.smashword.com/ an ebook publishing platform has ‘published’ (he wasn’t calling it publishing but I don’t know what instead) 21,000 books so far this year. He quoted that in the US, ebooks are now 9% of what is being published, or approx 100,000 units.

He said print publishers are reacting inappropriately. He also said that print publishing is broken. He distributes to at least nine ebook platforms, including mobile phones, more are in the pipeline.

His seven secrets to success on smashwords.com

1) Write a great book. [I'm working on that] Make sure of quality, use beta readers, edit exhaustively, get a great cover image. [Thinking about this]
2) Write another great book. Build a back list

3) Maximize distribution by getting a distributer or five, sell in as many ebook stores as possible.

4) Give (some) books away for free. EG Free by Chris Anderson on smashwords.com His own about marketing.

5) Trust your readers and partners, ie don’t practice paranoia. There’s always going to be piracy.

6) Have patience. It might take a year for your book to take off. [What’s a year, I thought, compared to the two and three years a book can be in the pipeline at publishers, without even the light of being published at the end of the tunnel?]

7) Start marketing your book yesterday. Contribute, share and support, don’t spam, give your readers tools to read your work eg, provide your book in both US and UK spelling.

IN TOTAL: Be an architect for virality, ie virus spreading, word of mouth still most important. Eliminate frictions by making your work widely available, by providing sampling and a couple more points I missed. Probably available on the website.

I’ve printed out the marketing manual and am studying that. Blogging, see here, is my first step.

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