I went on line late this afternoon and was bombarded by the swirl of news and commentary about Dorchester Publishing’s decision to switch to an e-book/POD approach to publishing. At first I simply felt a wave of sympathy for those authors who found their familiar world swept away, particularly those authors who had books that were supposed to come out this fall and were in the middle of marketing campaigns designed around traditional trade paperbacks and brick and mortar stores. See for example the discussion on the Smart Bitches website.
Next I thought about what advice I would give these authors from my experience this past year as an indie author whose book, Maids of Misfortune, is in both ebook and POD formats. Like many of the commentators on the Smart Bitches site, I would suggest that once they know for sure where and when their books will be available they take advantage of their social networks (facebook, myspace, twitter) and their author websites and blogs to get the word out.
If they haven’t yet developed those social networking tools or they don’t have their own website or blog-it was high time they did so anyway, so this will provide a powerful motivator for them to do something they had probably been saying to themselves (and to their agents) they should be doing for some time.
But then, I suddenly thought, wait a minute! Many of the Dorchester authors have something that most indie authors would love to have, a backlist. As I scrolled down and looked at the long list of books that some of these authors had, I couldn’t help but notice how many of them were listed as “out of stock,” and I thought, OMG, these authors need to run–not walk to J.A Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, and read every one of his posts for the past year. Because what Konrath has done for authors is show how they can turn their backlists and their previously unpublished works into a decent living.
First of all, it seems to me there should be no excuse from now on for Dorchester not to start making these out of stock books available in POD and/or ebook format, and if they don’t, the authors should be negotiating to get those rights back.
Second, if they do have the rights to any of their past books, once they have converted those books to electronic form (and there are lots of guidebooks and real people out there anxious to help authors do this for relatively modest prices), they can start to use those books if priced correctly (or offered for free) to drive a new audience to their published books with Dorchester.
Third, if they have any short stories, novellas, or books that they love but were never able to sell, these also can be offered for free or at low prices as a way to boost sales for their published books. I can’t stress too much how important reading Konrath is to understanding the effectiveness of this sort of strategy.
For example, even as a complete novice, who self-published her first historical mystery eight months ago, I have already gotten to the point where I am selling about 300 books a month, making about $2 a book (my ebooks sells for $2.99). Imagine what I could be doing if I had a more books to sell and an already established fan base?
So my advice to Dorchester authors is to begin to imagine this future where today might just be the day when they took control of their destinies and ended up making more money from their writing than they had ever hoped to do. I wish them all the luck in the world.