2012 SXSW: The Future Of Publishing?




2012 SXSW may have been the central focus for the music and interactive industries, but the span of expertise covers all corners of the business stratosphere.

My outlook on things is this: an expert is a valuable source and you should look to listen whenever you can. With a little out of the box thinking you can soon relate examples and aspects to things relevant to you. When I sat in talks where music was the focus, I soon began to think about my own writing and the publishing industry as a whole.

The outcome was interesting and I soon began to imagine where we might go, and that is exactly what this Blog Post is about.

2012 SXSW was a crazy ride and I’ve come back with loads of ideas. So how did a talk on ‘Setting Your Content Free’ get me thinking about the future of publishing?

I soon began to see similarities between the music and book business. Some were obvious (such as the issue with piracy, the change to virtual content, etc), and some less so (the idea of collaboration, DIY thinking, etc), but my mind began to note down a whole bunch of ideas, including this thought:

We Will Avoid Amazon

Now, when I say Amazon I mean 3rd party sites in general…and when I say avoid, I only mean partially.

Distancing ourselves totally from these sites would be suicide, but I honestly feel authors will begin to sell more books on their own sites in the coming years. After all, 70% in royalties is good, but 100% is brilliant!

This may sound risky, and for the aspiring author impossible, but certain methods can assure a certain amount of success.

The examples I offer are the same as the ‘Set Content Free Talk’, with both Radiohead and Louis CK (not quite pay what you want, but as good as) making top dollar by setting their content free…literally.

These may be established acts, but the point here isn’t the number of fans, but instead the power of transparency. In the business world content has become king, why, because people are now going online to search for things, and they are looking for answers from respectful and trustful companies.

The same holds true for books, with more authors than ever trying to get us to buy their product. The price of books has gone way down (due to the uprising of the e-book), but people remain wary about what they buy and who to trust.

Think about the last few books you bought, and why you bought them. Chances are it was because a friend recommended it, or because someone you follow online released a new book. We look for trust, and setting your content free offers this.

I believe the future could see authors offering their work in return for a donation. This may sound crazy, but this kind of trust generally brings the best out of people. Some will download it for free, but others will pay twice as much as they would have done if it were on Amazon.

Even those who take it for free will ultimately become your fan (because you now have their details, something selling on Amazon doesn’t give you), and in time this could create a huge lifetime income.

As writers we should NOT be looking to give our product away for FREE because this creates only one thing… a devalued piece of art. A donation method isn’t here to devalue things, rather offer an olive branch and ask your readers to be honest and true.

I don’t see this being the only channel in the future, rather an add-on. Any author releasing a book should be looking to build a tribe of thousands, so let’s, for example, say I have a subscription list of 1,000 emails by the time I release my first book.

Instead of putting my book on Amazon, I offer it to my readers via a donation service. These are my fans, people who read my content daily. Some may take it for free, but others may give me £10.

Be transparent and open, offer a story of your journey, and see what people are willing to give back in return. Set a deadline, and when it passes you take your book down and place it on Amazon and join the rest of the ten million authors in e-book land.

You eventually still get all the benefits of being on Amazon (aka traffic and exposure), but also have a group of fans who you know, have connected with, and who you’ve recouped all revenue from.

Overall this isn’t only a new way to make more money, but to connect with your fans in an up front and honest manner (plus you at very least get their data, which is very valuable indeed). The process to do this would be fairly cheap and easy to create (a small e-shop, paypal, and several formats of e-books), and as long as you make sure your site is secure and safe the barriers should be minimal.

Will this be the future of Publishing?

One day, will Amazon be as avoidable as publishers are now?

Or are these just thoughts of a crazed madman?

Leave your thoughts below…

2012 SXSW brought some great things my way, but it was the ideas spinning around my head as I listened to talks and spoke to strangers that really made it a week to remember. In my next post I’ll focus on crowdsourcing, a subject I find fascinating, and something I feel could become a staple part of the future author diet. Please join my Mailing List HERE and see what other ideas I got from 2012 SXSW.

Turndog Millionaire – @turndog_million

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