Okay, peeps, listen up. Radical suggestion approaching at speed. Brace yourselves. I’m about to suggest something subversive. Something momentous. Something over-the-rainbow imaginative.
For a moment, I want you to consider the world without Amazon. No, darling, not the river. We really need that. Just imagine a world where authors (not publishers or technological third parties such as Amazon, Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo et al) sold direct to their readers. You, the author, make the sale, you send your lovingly crafted ebook, you keep the buyer’s email address, physical address and any other information they give you.
That means you have a ready-made mailing list of readers to market your next book to. For the moment, let’s not worry about storage for print-on-demand books, or trips to the post office. I’m talking about ebooks and how technology can help writers. And how corporations who own that technology – well, don’t help writers as much as they could. Some ebusinesses seem to see creative people as much less important than the technology that makes money out of them. They see us as troublemakers, like intelligent monkeys that should be kept in their place. Preferably in a subservient position, scribbling, painting, making music… for others to sell at a nice profit. Remember coal mines? Without miners, they were just dangerous holes in the ground. Technology doesn’t create anything. People do.
You are important. And that mailing list of buyers for your work is important too. You need it. Every author needs to build an audience either to sell direct to, or to prove to prospective publishers that there is a market for their novel. Assuming you want to keep writing – and selling – your books, a mailing list is a top marketing tool. Without it, you’ll be lost. You’d have to keep going back to… oh look, you’ve guessed it. If you sell your book through Amazon you won’t get that list of buyers. You pay them a percentage to sell on their site and they keep the email addresses you generate and use them for their own marketing – tempting people to buy other books similar to yours. Clever, aren’t they. Penelope Trunk discusses this in Why Smart Authors Are Cutting Out Amazon.
I’m not seriously suggesting we do away with Amazon altogether – or any of the other significant ebook players. I think it’s great that readers have choice. It keeps us all on our toes. Besides, it’s another place to sell books. Also, you need to know what to do with the mailing lists in order to maximise sales, and many authors don’t want that hassle. They want to get on with important stuff, like writing. I agree with all that. Again, it’s about choice. And control. JK Rowling has already made her choice, with Pottermore. She keeps the profit her books generate; she keeps her fanbase mailing lists. Of course, we don’t all have the resources JK has. But I believe the underlying paradigm shift created by this kind of author-to-reader direct service is seismic and is a glimpse into the future (trust JK to give us that J!) As more writers with well-edited and professionally proofread books take control by setting up their own websites, then selling ebooks direct to the reader is only a technological leap away, as is reclaiming our marketing lists. Which would be good for writers, good for readers and good for the ebook economy. That way we all stay on our toes. Not on our knees.
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