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June 16, 2008
How the book publishing industry should reinvent itself
On the Harvard Business Publishing blog, Dave lays out an alternative to the current antiquated system:
- Authors package books on their own.
- Authors distribute digital copies of books for free to attract readers and identify markets. They use self-distribution tools to sell as many books as they can.
- Publishers find authors based on strong word of mouth of digital distribution, then pay a licensing fee for distribution rights for serving an initial marketplace of buyers (note: potential business model for a plucky entrepreneur: track the ‘response’ of free book downloads as a data set for publishers to review opportunities).
- Publishers tweak the final manuscript as necessary, print books and distribute them.
- In this scenario, authors prove their ability to deliver a good book and an audience before a publisher invests. Publishers reduce up-front production costs and the risk of betting on authors that can’t produce, and increase the odds they will get results.
Dave eats his own dog food by self-publishing his new new book, "The Word of Mouth Manual, Volume II," in both digital and analog (paperback) formats. A few things you should know about the book:
- It's on Amazon here
- Read it for free here
- There is no "Word of Mouth Manual, Volume I"
- There is a monkey on the cover
- The cover is also entirely water resistant and sized to be used as a rainhat
- Warning: there are many mentions of BzzAgent*
- It's 117 pages of entertainment from a guy who's passionate about word of mouth
We're giving away four copies of the paperback version to people who join the discussion on SWOM about Dave's book. Join us by 5 pm CDT Friday, June 20 to be eligible to win one of the copies, which will be given away randomly.
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google or wikipedia could reinvent them a bit.. what actually could lead to decreasing margins. they could create a huge library online where there would be everything that is already OUT of distribution. lets say in english and in national language and the same base of movies with subtitles just in english (interneuts would finish that job)..
i would also love to have a everything including bookstore like amazon with all titles in the world+ ondemand printing
Although we are a bit biased- they should not forget about the growing audiobook audience. Right now- most audiobook versions are only created when a print copy of a book does well.
We may do it backwards- but we listen to the audiobook first...and when we find one of real value- we'll buy the printed copy to use as reference.
An audiobook version of a new book could be turned into a podcast to peak interest of more readers. This might really be effective for a self-published author. There are numerous narrators looking for an opportunity. In non-fiction categories (such as Business & Self-Help) audiobooks are very effective when read by the author- even if the author isn't a good public speaker. The cost of creating audiobooks does not have to be a profit killer. It could be a boost to hard copy sales.
I think the idea of audiobooks first is fantastic! With today's technology built-in to most PCs, it would be astonishingly simple to self-publish audiobooks, read by the author. There are free beta programs available for editing, you need a good mic, a working knowledge of your computer & its software and a quiet room. Okay, maybe I'm over-simplifying it, but it's certainly more cost-effective than conventional methods...
As a BzzAgent and a fan of WOM, I'm looking forward to reading Dave's book, which I've downloaded this afternoon. It seems to me that many people are very hard on WOM, as a concept, so please bear with my while I try to offer another perspective. When shopping for a new vehicle (or considering any other product), I don't rely on manufacturers to give me the ugly truth and, of course, any customer testimonials they offer will be filtered. That said, I actually look for opportunities to ask people who have experience with a given product. A couple things I always factor in:
1- is it worth the market price TO ME
2- does the person I'm asking have similar priorities in their life
The reason for the latter is simple. If the metrosexual guy in the $3000 suit and matching $1000 shoes, wearing a $25000 watch tells me that the Escalade he's driving (which I don't realize at the time is a company vehicle) is a piece of crap, then I'm going to consider the source: this guy probably drives a top-of-the-line BMW, Mercedes or Italian sports car, which are well and good, but none of the above would suit my family's needs AT ALL. I need a good, sturdy SUV that can handle baseball, football, softball, Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, cheerleading and road trips! His priorities are different than mine, therefore, our opinions on such things probably don't match up.
Whether my opinion matches up with another doesn't change the fact that I consider this "organic WOM". He doesn't pay to drive that vehicle, insure it or even put gas in it, but he does, in fact, drive it on a daily basis and therefore, has an opinion of it. His opinion is just as valid as that of my uncle-in-law who LOVES his Escalade.
As long as somebody's "opinion" isn't being influenced by what they're PAID TO SAY, then it is, essentially, organic WOM...ya dig?
I think that the best part of this publishing plan is that it has the potential for publishers to add real value to the industry. With the lowering costs of self-publishing for free online, there is likely going to be flood of new authors. Some will be good, some will be subpar.
The publishers that track the buzz/success of the online authors can then filter the massive supply and distill it for the general public. And then people might respect a niche publisher for their stable of authors on a subject.
Like Marci, I too am a BzzAgent and totally get the WOM approach. Give the product out and seek feedback to improve your product and advertising. To take it to a book approach is really reaching for input...Will it be worse that an editor, likely, but how many typos and grammatical errors can you find in books. Clean it up, seek feedback, and deliver a truly superior product/message. I am looking forward to the read.
My preliminary question (as a Buzzagent) is how much will it cost a budding author to package a book initially and will that limit the WOM opportunities to those who have the means to do that first step?
Great post Jackie.
I've been thinking the same things for awhile about the publishing industry. As an SEO and social media marketer who consequently was stuck in the English department at a liberal arts college for the last four years, the way that publishing and academia conduct themselves is ready to be destroyed by new business models.
I wrote my senior thesis on just this topic (to yawns and indifference from my profs). It's online at tuckermaxthesis.blogspot.com.
No matter how raunchy and juvenile Max's stories seem (if you haven't read them, go to tuckermax.com and prepare yourself), he really is the first author to take advantage of the business model you outline here.
Drew and Emily,
I too am a BUZZ agent and in my small part of the US (Wyoming) WOM is a very important aspect of life. Many times you will stumble upon a conversation that has 10-15 people sitting around a table or fire and there is one or two looking to buy a certain prodcut. What does everyone do, they give their two cents. And many times it is that two cents that counts in the final decision of the buyer. Not only are you giving out a product for a test run but you are asking for input to improve it like Drew says. And Drew, I have learned and I am sure so have others that even editors need editors! While you don't want useless suggestions overflowing your in box per say you might find something very useful in there that would make the difference between a best seller and a flop.
I would also like ot know what the cost would be as I am a writer myself this seems to be right along my line... get the product out there for review!
just read the book, and am finding it quite interesting! i am fairly new to bzz agents, but am learning all the time! heres to a good read!
I am a volunteer BzzAgent. Most BzzAgent's are completely transparent and we are proud of it! I loved the manual. I wouldn't have purchased it but I loved every word. Anything that people talk about is considered word of mouth, whether it's good, bad, or indifferent. The world would be a totally different place without Word of Mouth.
And I certainly agree with this! However, the ebook needs to be of value however small it is and should be somewhat or completely exclusive instead of an aggregator of content from around the web.This you can find with the book First lady president which is a story of how such a figure might emerge as the first ever serious female candidate in a U.S. presidential election and How would her opponents challenge her in their election speeches, media interviews, and TV debates.
Harper Collins is shaking things up a bit. Check out Authonomy: http://authonomy.com/
One of the largest traditional publishers is Simon and Shuster. In the past only well known mega-authors had seroius chances of being published by them and the subject of books published had to meet strict criteria. However, Simon and Shuster have broadened their horizons and now publish a wider variety of subject matter. They are able to do this by the avenue of their new imprint which is Atria Book Publishing. Atria Book Publishing is a new mover and shaker on the block and is well recommended for serious professional writers looking for a well respected traditional publisher.
Very interesting and spot on post.
As someone self published I found the article very interesting indeed!!