Evolution of the Novel – Part 7 – The Future of the Novel

This is my final chapter in my series on the evolution of the novel. So what does the future hold for traditional novel? Well, for starters, maybe not being so traditional. I wrote this blog as a series for a reason. The series seems to be very much in vogue once again. From the usual television shows that have always utilized the series format, albeit now with a ton more outlets such as Netflix, Amazon, Crackle, Hulu and more. Also one of the most popular series format was always the Comic Book.

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The extreme popularity of Comic Book movies, especially from some of the these Marvel characters, has made the Comics themselves a hot commodity again. That popularity, in combination with the popularity of smartphones and tablets, have given a second life to the serial novel. In this fast paced society that we live in, serial novels may be the next big thing when it comes to authors telling their stories. Amazon has recently launched Kindle Serials that give authors an awesome place to create something new and different for readers to consume, one small chunk at a time.

Another old time format that may be making a comeback because of the digital evolution is the short story. Amazon’s Kindle Singles is a cheap and popular way for authors to tell their stories in a short form format. Many bestselling authors such as David Baldacci, Lee Child, and Nelson DeMille have used this single story format to give readers a little taste of their legendary characters in short stories between their full length releases. Baldacci even used this format as a way to combine characters from his Camel Club series with his Will Robie series. As a big fan of both, let me say that it was pretty awesome!

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Of course the biggest element of the future of novels is happening today. The move to the digital format has, and will continue to change the way we consume our novels. The graphic above is from an article in The New York Times that shows new ways that publishers are trying to take advantage of new technologies when it comes to E-Books, while also preserving the things we like best about traditional books.

Now if they can just digitize that fresh print smell.

 

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Evolution of the Novel – Part 6 – Lost in the Shuffle

BandN

 

Have you ever been inside a huge store like this and felt like overwhelmed by the selection? It’s one thing if you know exactly what you’re looking for, but if you just want to browse for something new? The selection is both the power and the drawback of the superstore. Inside this large Barnes and Noble is roughly 150,00 titles. Pretty massive right? Pretty easy to get lost in all those books. Now chew on this.

Amazon has roughly 3.2 million books on its website.

Let that sink in for a minute. I must admit, as an aspiring author that is a pretty daunting number. How in the heck am I supposed to get my work noticed in a virtual sea of titles, many from authors with a large following? Well since I asked, here is an article that gives some good ideas.

The good thing for authors is that publishing your work yourself has never been easier, the bad thing is that means the quality of stuff being published has the chance to be suspect. So how do you navigate through all of this selection and make what your reading is on par with traditionally published authors?

emily giffin amazon review cap_

The best way of course is by getting good reader reviews. Hopefully better than the one I used for the picture above! Also important for writers is to make sure they are not contributing to a lower quality of book being sold. There are no short cuts to being a successful writer. Pay an editor a get a proofreader or two. Make sure if you’re going to put your name on it that it looks no different than the book you just bought from a perennial bestseller.

Lastly, another good way to stand out from the crowd is to know where the trends are heading. Being progressive can make your work stand out and help you build a name for yourself. Ask yourself, what does the future of the novel look like?

More on that next time.

 

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Evolution of the Novel – Part 5 – Publishing Dilemma

Jobs-and-Pubs

 

The past four posts looking at the evolution of the novel have been mostly geared towards the reader’s perspective. Now I want to look at these changes from the perspective of the author, especially those aspiring to become authors. In the picture above the late Steve Jobs is giving a presentation discussing Apple’s ibook format. On the screen are the five companies that make up what is referred to as the Big 5 publishers. Those five companies, and the rumor is it could become four with Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster merging, are what’s left of the major publishing companies.

I wanted to highlight these companies because before the digital age these were basically the only real way to make money as an author and get recognized for your work. The Internet has changed all of the that. Today authors have a few different options to consider when deciding how to publish their work.

The first is to of course attempt to get one of the Big 5 publishers to do so. That will require and agent, because none of these companies accept unsolicited manuscripts, and of course a whole lot of luck. Another is to go with an independent publisher, most of whom have some kind of more narrow specialty and focus solely on that genre. Then of course there is self-publishing, which because of companies like Amazon and Apple has become a far more appealing and realistic option than it ever used to be. Self-publishing used to consist of paying out of pocket for copies of your book to be printed and then selling them to local bookstores or out of the trunk of your car.

So which option is the best you ask?

This is where a lot of research will come in handy. It’s not an easy choice at all and it depends on each individual situation, but I will try to provide a little breakdown for the two most popular choices. Traditional vs. self-publishing.

Traditional:

Books

Want to see your book on a shelf like this someday? If so, then traditional publishing may be the best thing for you, but writer beware, only the lucky few will ever end up with a massive stack at your local Barnes and Noble or Costco, and even fewer will ever see their name on a New York Times bestseller list. The competition is stiff and you will need to catch lighting in a bottle to get your books flying off the shelves. Here are a few of the benefits and drawbacks of traditional publishing.

Benefits: 

  • Massive distribution channels with all major retailers and digital retailers.
  • Connections to the media for press and promotional opportunities.
  • Potential cash advance deals that give author guaranteed income.
  • Tons of expert editors, copy-editors, cover designers, etc.
  • Years of experience promoting successful authors.

Drawbacks: 

  • Relinquish rights to your work.
  • Small percentage of sales revenue for commission.
  • Time consuming process to get published.
  • Loss of creative control, including title, back cover, etc.

Self-publishing:

Apple-vs-Amazon-vs-Google

 

In the digital age self-publishing has become a much easier endeavor. When I say easier I mean far less expensive with a much greater chance at success. Please don’t confuse that with it being easy, because it’s not. The difference with self-publishing today is that it costs far less, usually around $2000 or so to get a cover designed, the book edited and formatted to be ready to upload. Also by self-publishing in E-book form you have the potential to sell your books globally for very little additional cost.

One major question here becomes, who do you self-publish with? For now it seems that Google, Barnes and Noble and others are lagging behind the two major tech behemoths, Apple and Amazon. Here is an article that breaks down some of the differences between the two.  Amazon is still the biggest and most dominate force in the arena. Here are some benefits and drawbacks to self-publishing.

Benefits:

  • Easy access to millions of readers with little upfront cost.
  • Much higher earnings per book sold. (Between 35 to 70 percent)
  • Ability to be part of programs like Kindle Unlimited.
  • Immediate publishing with no limit to how much work you can sell.
  • Total creative control and some or all price control.
  • You keep the rights to your work.

Drawbacks:

  • You have to do all the work. Editing, marketing, etc.
  • Some limits on who you can sell through.
  • No access to traditional retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Costco, etc.
  • No assistance from professionals unless you pay for it.

So what’s a new author to do? I am asking myself that very same question. I am writing my first novel and am very curious to what direction I should go. I learned a ton from reading this article called the 7K Report, it really broke down some staggering information on the amount of money out there to be earned by authors. Take a look at this diagram.

The_Data_-_A_Look_at_Author_Earnings_pages3

This is just one graph that shows how the self-published author has the potential to make far more money going this route than traditional. Which brings me back to my own situation. Even with all of this data, I think I will try to go the traditional route first, before deciding if I should self-publish. Why would I do that you ask? The main reason for me is because I write mainstream thrillers. I have been influenced by authors like Tom Clancy and David Baldacci, so for me the chance to become the next bestseller and have my books piled up at a Costco near you is still the dream.

I will have no problem self-publishing if that dream does not become reality. My advice is that if you are writing in any genre that is unique or a bit of niche market, then self-publishing is probably a better way to get started. After all, if your work takes off online, the traditional publishers will find you, but many times they are only looking for something they can mass market.

The good news in all this? Never before have so many authors had the opportunity to get paid, and even make a living doing what they love to do; telling stories.

 

 

 

 

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Evolution of the Novel – Part 4 – The Amazon Effect

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For those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the past twenty years, Amazon is a massive Internet company that started out as a small online bookstore. Since it debuted in 1994, Amazon has grown into one of the largest companies in the world with annual revenues of almost $90 billion a year.

Even though Amazon has become a mass seller of just about anything you can think of, they are still a major player, some would say THE PLAYER, in the business they started out in. Selling books was Amazon’s original business and its one that they have completely flipped on its head ever since.

Originally Amazon changed the book business by quickly becoming the world’s largest bookseller. This has had a profound effect on those that sell books. According to this column in Forbes, Amazon combined with the expansion of superstore chains like Barnes and Noble and the recently closed Borders have cut down the number of independent book stores in half, from 4,000 to around 2,000. Of course it was also a big factor in the demise of the aforementioned Borders.

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Of course the biggest impact Amazon has had on the book world was the creation of the device pictured above. When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007, it forever changed the book industry. For readers, for writers, and for publishers too. The digital revolution has come to the book world and it was Amazon who ushered it in.

Amazon has also become a force in the publishing world. In 2009 they started Amazon Publishing that publishes through at least six different imprints in both print and digital formats. The biggest impact they have made on the publishing world though is through their Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing imprint. This is where they have completely changed the world of self-publishing.

KDPIf you are an aspiring writer, you need to know about this option. This Forbes article tells a great story of an author who struck out in the traditional publishing world and now makes more than $450,000 a year publishing his own works through Amazon KDP. I’ll get more into this when I break down the publishing options for new writers, but suffice it to say Amazon has changed the way we buy, read and write our novels.

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The Evolution of the Novel – Part 3 – How do YOU Like to Read?

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In the first two posts in my series on the evolution of the novel, I took a look at the different ways we have and can buy our books, and also what the future holds for the option of buying books in print. So now I want to know, how do YOU like to read?

Do you prefer the feeling of a crisp hardcover in your hands, the new book smell still coming from each turn of the page? Are you more of a paperback in one hand type? Or are you among the millions of readers who dropped a couple hundred bucks on the latest Kindle Fire or Nook? Heck, maybe you just downloaded the kindle App to your smart phone and love to read on the go? All these options are available to us for just about any kind of book we could ever want to read. So let’s take a look at why one person chooses one way and someone else may choose another.

In a recent Bookmasters article the staff broke down a few reasons why people prefer one format or the other. The highlights for print include having something tangible to show for your money or to build a collection, the feeling of accomplishment from completing something and seeing the progress until the last page turn, and once again, the smell. For digital the benefits were having the ability to store an entire collection in a cloud server accessible at any time, the ease and increased options to purchase, and of course the fact that digital books are often cheaper than their print counterparts.

Personally I have struggled with this decision myself, and continue to do so. I have always preferred the feeling of a book in my hands. I also am like many others that like the idea of having a collection of books on a shelf to display. However, I have also enjoyed the luxury of being able to pull out my phone and read while waiting in line or during a lunch break. Then there is the cost and practicality factors.

I abandoned my budding movie collection years ago after realizing that the addition of children in my life meant less disposable income to spend on movies and even more important, less time to watch them. Gone were the days of breaking out a Star Wars or Die Hard marathon on a whim or because it was actually cloudy outside for once. While I still find time to read as much as possible, I’m a fiction writer so it’s kind of important to read what you write, the cost of building my collection has started to add up. I have gone the Goodwill or Ebay when buying back editions, but for new releases I usually hit up Costco for about $15 to $16 a piece. Now I can get the Kindle edition usually for $10 or $11. It’s a tough call for me and it usually comes down to which author it is.

My last book purchase was The Stranger by Harlan Coben. After days of debating before the release, I decided to have my wife grab me the hardcover from Costco. Score one for print.

 
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The Evolution of the Novel – Part 2 – Will Print Survive?

Reading-Books

 

For most of us, the act of sitting down and reading a book is something we can remember doing as a child. For some it may bring good memories, maybe of getting read to as a child by a parent or teacher, or possibly the first time you discovered a love of reading that would stay with you for the rest of your life. It could also bring back dreaded memories of being forced to read in school. The question is, will this be something that future generations ever get to experience?

The last decade has brought about some radical changes to the way we enjoy our entertainment and get our information. The digital takeover began with the newspaper, magazine, and music industries. The one thing all three had in common? None of them were prepared for the conversion and all of them have paid a price for it. For magazines and newspapers it meant laying off staff, altering business models or just plain closing up shop. For the music industry it meant losing money, lots of it, before adjusting to the downloading craze. Now it just means mostly bad music.

Now that the novels we love have made the transition to the digital age, what does that mean for the good ole fashion, hold in your hands, book? Will traditional books follow the CD into obscurity? Maybe not.

old-books-bible-candleWould you believe that according to a report by The Washington Post, millenials actually prefer reading books as opposed to digital? Among the reasons listed that young digital natives prefer print include the feeling of holding it in their hands, the lack of distractions, and yes, even the smell of it. This goes for not only leisure reading, but also textbooks. That’s right, some kids would prefer to lug around those heavy things rather than read it on a screen.

Well now we know that the younger generations still likes print, what about the mature reader like myself? Are we still buying in print, or have we all sold our bookshelves on Craigslist and downloaded the latest Kindle App?

According to GeekWire, print may be making a comeback. In this article from January of 2015, Frank Catalano explains that print books were up 2.4% in 2014, the highest rate since the E-book explosion of 2010. Textbooks are also on the rise in print format. Digital sales on the other hand have started to plateau.

So for now it looks like reading a book may just become cool again. That’s good news for any of us who actually prefer the feel of a book in our hands and like the idea of having a bunch of books collecting dust on the shelf.

 

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The Evolution of The Novel – Part 1 – How We Buy Our Books

 

 

Book Display

I am sure everyone has seen a display like this one before, a bunch of books piled on and around a display shelf right in the front of a store designed to lure the shopper over to the vast selection, in this case of Halloween themed books. This kind of display is designed to feed our impulses, to attract our eyes to the multitudes of colors, styles and shapes. It is designed, of course, to make us buy more books!

Books have been around for centuries and the way we buy our books continues to evolve. For the last several decades we have mostly bought our books from displays like the one pictured above. This used to mean going to an independently owned store, or mom and pop bookstore. Ah, the good ole days. Then came the birth of the superstore. What started out with grocery stores, electronics chains and department stores eventually found its way to the bookstore, and that’s when selling books went corporate.

BNStore

 

Barnes and Noble has been around since the late 1800’s, but in the 1970’s it expanded nationally and began growing the larger versions of their stores like you see above. They also purchased mall book chain B. Dalton and had some steady competition from rival chain Borders, that is until Borders closed its doors for good recently. The growth of these national chains forced the majority of independent booksellers to close their doors. After all, how could the average mom and pop store compete with these massive stores that had rows and rows of books from every different genre? It was Disneyland for book lovers or the book equivalent of a Tower Records Mega-store, but just like music, there was a massive shift coming.

The Internet.

The end of the 90’s began a dramatic shift in the way the majority of Americans and people all over the world got their entertainment. It was only a matter of time before this technology would effect the world of literature. In 1994, a small online bookseller named Amazon debuted in the marketplace and things would never be the same. Before long Amazon was the largest bookseller in the world. In 2004, the first digital E-reader debuted. The Sony machine was short lived. but in 2007 Amazon launched the Kindle, to be followed two years later by the Nook from Barnes and Noble. Suddenly there was a completely new way to read your favorite novels.

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The Kindle vs. the Nook: This was a battle that most people knew Amazon would eventually win and they pretty much have. However, the E-reader has already evolved beyond proprietary devices such as Nook and Kindle. Both options are available as Apps for more popular tablets like the Apple Ipad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as just about any smart phone. For the first five years of their existence it looked like the ability to take your entire literary library with you in the palm of your hand would spell the end of the traditional printed book.

Then again, maybe not.

Up next – part two of my series on the evolution of the novel – Will Print Survive?

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