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Lance_in_Shanghai
10-31-2006, 12:25 PM
I can write (my opinion), edit, design the cover and even locate and work with a printer to come up with 500 or 5,000 finished books. What I can't do is market the book. That takes special skill and lots of time. I want to keep my day job. What I would like to find is a new type of agent who can take a finished product in hand and get it onto book store shelves, provide the service of buying back unsold copies, get releases into the hands of the press and make the contacts to arrange signings around my schedule. Oh, I know. All of this is my job but why do we hire nannies and gardeners? Because we haven't the time to do so many jobs. A professional book-seller should represent several author's books and go around efficiently promoting them to book stores and the press. He doesn't need contacts with publishers because the writer is the publisher. Yes, a traditional agent does this now but only after the agent has agreed that your book is worth printing and a publisher has agreed to print it. This new concept says I print the book and then the agent/agency moves directly forward with promoting it. Pay the agent a commission for each book sold. Then you know exactly how many books are sold and your profit is easy to track. Does anyone else think this type of sales agant could be effective?

MacAllister
10-31-2006, 12:41 PM
Nope. Because you're reinventing the wheel. You'll have to sell a fairly huge amount of books to make this worthwhile for anyone.

Look, Lance--the reason for agents and editors and publishers is to find books that people want to read. If you essentially step outside that process, you'll end up with an awful lot of books that no one wants, because they're frankly not very good.

If, on the other hand, you do have a terrific book that people want--then the machinery is already in place to print, market, and distribute that book: Commercial publishing.

Lance_in_Shanghai
10-31-2006, 03:41 PM
Does that mean all these posts about POD and self-publishing are pipe dreams? Do you mean that no one should ever consider stepping outside of the box to self-publish?

MacAllister
10-31-2006, 03:47 PM
Not at all. Especially if you're writing to a niche audience--but then the way to get your book to 'em is to market it straight to where they already are. That might be a nonfiction book about something esoteric or eccentric, and you sell it off a table in the back of the hall where you've been invited to speak.

For fiction, though, it gets exponentially more difficult. Erotica has had some success with e-publication; but successfully self-pubbing fiction... that's a pretty tough nut to crack.

JustinThorne
10-31-2006, 04:07 PM
Doesn't matter how good you are, I would avoid a book if I knew that the author had done everything him/herself, especially the editing. This new type of agent would have a hard job to sell this type of book to stores, distribution companies and the end consumer... as hard a job as it is currently for POD publishers and smaller presses who are already trying to do many of the things you describe.

Unfortunately, 99% of self-published novels are poorly written. The publishing process (the route to getting published) is laborious and hard but it usually means that those that make it are of a certain standard and quality. Also, the publishers and agents have reputations and track records for quality and their brands rub-off on the new books they are trying to sell at each stage of the process.

I think the main reason why no new model has emerged, is because when an agent or publisher achieves a certain level of success, they then join the rest of the traditional publishing industry because it is the best way to make money from publishing. Any agent or publisher who comes along claiming to have a new model is most of the time, simply unsuccessful...

It's a cynical world and publishing is a VERY cynical business... when an author claims that they can do everything themself and that they have a great product, the perception is that the product was simply not good enough to make it through the usual channels.

Step 1. An agent thinks the work is good enough to be published. Their income depends on the work being good enough.

Step 2. A publisher thinks the work is good enough to be published. Their income depends on the work being good enough.

Step 3. The work is edited to make sure it is good enough to be published.

Step 4. It appears on the shelf.

And of course, I am being simplistic - the book may have been submitted and rejected by many agents/publishers, re-drafted, tweaked, tightened, updated, re-written and re-drafted again.

In your model, you think it is good enough to be published and you pay someone to try and get it on the shelf.

The only way an agent or publisher is likely to make money from this paradigm is if they have nothing to lose... Publish America have cornered that market already.

Lance_in_Shanghai
11-02-2006, 07:58 AM
OK, thank you to both of you for giving your opinion. And even though one of you may say you are open to the idea of POD or self-publishing, I read your words and they say "Forget it, stick with donventional publishing." And, yes, I even agree that 99 percent of self-published novels are iffy. But I don't write novels.

Publish America has not cornered the market of a personally contacted, individual sales agent who goes out on the streets and sells books to book stores and pushes the title to the press. But they are a good example to throw out at someone if you want to deter them from self-publishing since Publish America is an ineffective company that is hated by almost all of their customers.

Let's trash the idea for novel writing. No one should think of trying to self-publish a novel, waste of time and money. Now, is there anyone else who has an opinion about the viability of a commission-paid sales agent for non-fiction works?

veinglory
11-02-2006, 06:45 PM
The sellers need to have reasonable access to people who are liekly to buy (the days of door to door hawkers are long gone), and the commision would need to be pretty hefty--probably most of the authors royalties?

So if, for example, the book is about dog training and is written by an expert and you have a table at dog shows and obediance events, that might work. (Actually, it does work--but the sellers will tend to be the author and his or her family for the reason mentioned above).

Allie
11-03-2006, 02:41 AM
Okay, what about this thought?

The way the traditional publishers make books is dated, from a manufacturing perspective. They use a batch process methodology which means they incurr $20,000 in expenses to produce say 20,000 books. They need at least half of those books to sell in order to recoop their costs. If the book doesn't sell, then they take a loss, the author's work isn't seriously considered again.

The brillance about On Demand Publishing is that you only print what there is market to support. There is no extra costs involved. It takes a great deal of risk out of the equation. It's a good idea, so good in fact, it makes it possible for Toyota to produce cars in the United States when American auto makers are struggling.

What we need as authors to make on demand publishing work is a marketing service that finds and promotes those 1% of POD books that are well written.

Think about it... You could submit your work to a marketing service, like you would an agent or editor. They would see if it would stand up commercially and if it does, they could get it into the bookstores with limited quantities. The money gets put right into the hands of the author, with no agent or publishing fees. The author might only sell 1000 books, but with a royality of $4 per book, that substantial.

It could work and it would make the publishing world a bit more fair.

veinglory
11-03-2006, 03:34 AM
Wouldn't the changes of being picked up by that service be about the same as being picked up by said agent or editor, but require more prior work?

Unimportant
11-04-2006, 12:29 AM
Allie said: "What we need as authors to make on demand publishing work is a marketing service that finds and promotes those 1% of POD books that are well written. Think about it... You could submit your work to a marketing service, like you would an agent or editor. They would see if it would stand up commercially and if it does, they could get it into the bookstores with limited quantities."

Even the 1% of well written POD books still need professional editors, copy editors, and artists, to create a product that's good enough to compete in the marketplace. Very, very few people are skilled writers =and= skilled editors =and= skilled artists, capable of creating the entire package by themselves. That's where small presses come in -- they provide the editing and art, and often use POD because the books are for a niche market too small/slow to justify a large print run. Those small presses also can and do distribute the books successfully to the marketplace they're targeting. The POD books cost a lot more to produce, so they sell for a higher price, but niche readers are willing to pay it.

If a book isn't commercial fiction suitable for mainstream publishers targeting mainstream readers, and it isn't niche fiction suitable for a small press targeting readers who buy books in that subgenre, then who is supposed to buy it and read it?

Your idea of a four dollar royalty seems a bit skewed, too. If the author gets four dollars, and the marketing agent gets, say, two dollars, and the book costs five dollars to print, and the bookstore will want to sell the book for twice what they pay for it, the reader will end up paying $22 for the book -- when they can buy the latest blockbuster paperback for $7.

I agree that publishing isn't 'fair' but neither is anything else in this universe. Sadly, that's life.

Medievalist
11-04-2006, 01:07 AM
This is not a "new paradigm"; this is roughly 566 years old.

It's a stupid idea. Self-publishing is a great way to go in certain very limited circumstances:

* It's a niche title, with a specific, narrowly targeted readership
* The author has a name and a reputation and a following
* The book doesn't need to be sold/won't be sold in standard bookstores

If you want your book to be widely available to the general public, self-publishing is stupid.

LloydBrown
11-04-2006, 01:21 AM
I don't see what's "not fair" about publishing, either, but that could just be me.

greglondon
11-04-2006, 02:12 AM
The way the traditional publishers make books is dated, from a manufacturing perspective. They use a batch process methodology which means they incurr $20,000 in expenses to produce say 20,000 books. They need at least half of those books to sell in order to recoop their costs. If the book doesn't sell, then they take a loss, the author's work isn't seriously considered again.

Until the "manufacturing process" stops being gobs and gobs cheaper than the "Print on Demand" process, MP wins. If you have a big enough print run, the MP can crank out books for a buck a copy. Print On Demand will always be more expensive and never gets an advantage from large orders. If you have a large order teh manufacturing process wins.

And if you intend to have a successful book, then you intend to have a large print run, so you will be better off with the manufacturing process.

Print On Demand, I think, will become a way to allow books with small copies being sold to be financially viable.

But until POD can scale from 1 copy to 10k copies and approximate the per-copy price of a regular press, it's just a fact of economics that MP wins.

Medievalist
11-04-2006, 07:05 AM
I visited a major web press print facility a few months ago, in PA.

It prints trade and mass market paperbacks for most of the major lines. They told me a romance novel published by Avon by a major name in the field costs less than a dollar a copy to print.

ResearchGuy
11-04-2006, 08:30 AM
Does that mean all these posts about POD and self-publishing are pipe dreams? Do you mean that no one should ever consider stepping outside of the box to self-publish?
Allow me to recommend that you read one of the widely used books on self-publishing. Dan Poynter wrote one (probably that is the best known, just now coming out in a new edition), and Tom & Marilyn Ross wrote another (which has also had many editions over the years). Larger bookstores carry them, or you can get them via Amazon or other online booksellers.

--Ken

aghast
11-04-2006, 08:12 PM
what youre looking for is not an agaent but a distributor - there are distributors who work with self published or small presses and you just need to find one that wont kill you financially and who has actually has a sales force and knows a lot about marketing books - so no its not a new knd of publishing, its been done already

jamiehall
11-18-2006, 10:29 PM
Does that mean all these posts about POD and self-publishing are pipe dreams? Do you mean that no one should ever consider stepping outside of the box to self-publish?

No, self-publishing is right for some people, in some circumstances. However, self-publishing combined with POD is often a whole different animal, and it is important to understand the differences and the nuances in the self-publishing industry before putting your book and yourself on the line as a make-it-or-break-it business. I've got a few of the basics outlined here (http://www.jh-author.com/self-publish.htm), but I suggest that you spend at least three months researching the field intensively, and buy at least the top two books about self-publishing.

The "new agent" you are looking for is a combination of two separate things: a publicist and a distributor. I don't think I've ever heard of the two combined, except in the add-on services of vanity/POD presses (and these hardly count because they generally do such a poor job).

If you want to self-publish and then get people to perform the same tasks that your "new agent" would do, you're probably going to end up hiring a publicist and contracting with a distributor. However, you should know that even a good publicist often has a hard time moving a self-published book. As a self-publisher, you are in the best position to promote your own book, however much you dislike the prospect. Even if you do hire a publicist, you'll probably need to use them as a supplement to your own publicity efforts, not a substitute for your own efforts, if you want to sell very many books.

Cathy C
11-19-2006, 12:27 AM
This new concept says I print the book and then the agent/agency moves directly forward with promoting it. Pay the agent a commission for each book sold. Then you know exactly how many books are sold and your profit is easy to track. Does anyone else think this type of sales agant could be effective?

Yes, it can be effective. What you're describing ALREADY EXISTS. The "agent" concept you're nibbling around the edges of is called a distributor. While the term is bandied about like water, many authors really don't know what functions a distributor serves versus a wholesaler like Ingram's or Baker & Taylor. To further add to the confusion, Baker & Taylor has BOTH functions available to small publishers.

Here's an excellent definition of the function of a distributor, from the Publishers Marketing Association newsletter (http://www.pma-online.org/scripts/shownews.cfm?id=311).

So yes---distributors can be very useful to a self-published author because they take on the functions of a well-oiled sales team. They aren't cheap, but they're very good at what they do. Wander around the PMA website and do a search for other articles by Bob Erdmann. You'll learn everything you want to know. :)

Good luck!

Lindo
12-03-2006, 03:30 AM
I've had experience successfully selling my own books, and in marketing some self-published books by others. A big rule you need to apply here is essentially appropriateness to the market...and the means of marketing.

You don't self-publish a best-selling novel. On the other hand there are lots of types of books that can be niche-marketed. I knew a guy who wrote a guide to Spanish for restaurant workers. (Clever book, and it had two front covers...one half span to eng, the other half eng to span) He marketed it through the restaurant supply network and sold a LOT.

Another guy I knew before he suspiciously disappeared off the planet wrote a guy to prostitution in the Dominican Republic. Sold or $25 on the internet...he was making $600 a month. This is an obvious choice for narrow niche internet marketing.

I helped a friend start up a book on how to do firedancing.

One of my books, Mexican Slang 101 was created to be sold by little boys on the beach, but ended up getting wholesaled, then sold from an internet site, using ebay as the business end.

That is a great way to do it, by the way. If you know how to put up a website and promote it, then use ebay as your "store" and Paypal as your cash register, you can double your profit off the book. Modern technology makes printing cheap...a little knowledge of how that works can cut your costs a great deal. (Two of the books above are produced on Xerox, then bound, by the way...an acceptable quality level in some niche markets and requiring no big investments in printing up front.)

So i you are doing the right kind of book, there are possibilities. And it doesn't have to be a how-to or smut or clandestine stuff, either. I could see this working for a book on the Tibetan-American experience, short fiction about Lesbian love, a novel in the tradition of Quintin Tarrantino's films...anything where there is a community that can be dialed into fairly surgically on the internet. Screenwriting would be a good bet: a sexy, outrageous roman a clef about a screenwriter faking identity on the internet....

The same would hold for podcasts, though I am not experienced in that. Off the top of my head: how about downloadable files that lead cruise ship passengers on destination tours--explaining the main sites, a drop of the language perhaps. A talking guidebook they could tuck into their iPod for their trips ashore in Mazatlan or Freeport or Venice or wherever. And since there are a couple of websites that very tightly target cruise passengers...it would be worth a shot.

How about a podcast of your home city, made available at hotel newstands and concierges?

So don't fly into rapture at mention of the Brave New Pardigm, but don't let naysayers turn you off if you have something that can fit into the "receptor site" of the world market. If what you're doing fits...or if you can scheme up a way to make it fit, it's worth a shot. Most of this is about time and good thinking and doesn't require heavy financial investment up front like printing 5000 books then trying to flog them.

By the way...all of the books I mentioned are the type where fancy looks mean nothing, but low cost is extremely helpful. I actually used repeated Xeroxing to degrade the type face of Mexican Slang's first editions, so that it would look more like scruffy underground info.

Another tidbit...the Dominican Republic ho-hoppers book cost about the same as mine to produce, but sold or 5 times as much. The more pressing the need you fill, the better the rake-in.

soloset
12-03-2006, 04:48 AM
Hah, finally found it. I knew I'd read a newsletter by someone describing a similar process (http://www.holtuncensored.com/members/column208.html). I didn't bother digging around to see if this was a full-time job or just a trial run, but it was still pretty interesting.

Lindo
12-04-2006, 07:57 AM
Interesting. It's always good to get input based on actually trying something.

soloset
12-06-2006, 12:22 AM
That newsletter was published January 2001, by the way.