The Kindle Krush

Mathew Furgeson has an excellent long piece on why he thinks the Kindle will more or less kill mid-range popular/genre fiction publishers…

“None of these [ three ] writers [ dipping their toe into Amazon DTP and getting their initial chunk of sales ] have bothered submitting a manuscript to a paper publisher since they began Kindle publishing.”

He points out that heavy books buyers and the lapsed-but-returning heavy book buyers are the early adopters of the Kindle 3. They’re now meeting writers head on, via Amazon. Academics call it “dis-intermediation”. The rest of us call it “cutting out the middle-man”. Amazon calls it good business.

One of the key drivers for authors to move to this model will be avoiding the pain and cost of continual rejection by publishers. Another driver is the speed of epublishing, and the speed of direct feedback in terms of daily sales results. Proof-reading and formatting will be all the more important because of this, but those skills can be bought in quite easily over the net (eLance, etc) as long as you avoid the overseas work-mills in India that want to charge just $80 to (badly) proofread your book. Lack of rejection + speed will let through things that are of crappy quality, but will also let through stuff that publishers would never have published — but that hard cold sales will make into bestsellers. And as Mathew says, it’ll only take a few such success stories to make even the most bitterly anti-tech authors start to listen to the call of the Kindle. Publishers will for a little while longer be able to offer high-end authors high-value services such as foreign rights sales and translation, brokering of film and audio rights, superstar media coverage, etc. But niche and middle-ranking authors are unlikely to need such services.

The core marketing problem remains, though — and is exemplified by Mathew’s post. Posted 8 days ago, it’s a well-written and detailed post. Real link-bait. But it has zero tweets, zero comments. A Google link: search shows no-one linking to it. Possibly it doesn’t help that his template and sidebar links make the page look like it fell of the back of an SEO-spam lorry. But, still. We are entering a world in which quality content is simply being lost amid the tidal wave of stuff that daily washes down onto the Web. A Kindle author may have to wait as much as a year or even two years for a good title to gain traction and sales in such an environment, instead of the usual print publisher marketing-pumped route of getting the majority of the sales in the first six months after release. (But compare that to the 18 months of dead time it might take a traditional publisher to release the book). So the shape of marketing changes in this new world. It’s the steady drip-drip from the author and her friends that will wear down the stone of public ignorance/indifference, in the end. If the book is sell-able.

And yet, bizarrely, this new world of abundance doesn’t seem to value people with excellent search-skills / relevant tacit knowledge / writing skills, who can sift and curate this stuff on a daily basis. We want it done for us automatically, by an algorithm or some high-school tag-team of DIGGers and Tweeters. But two-thirds of the time an algorithm makes really dumb choices, and as for ‘the wisdom of the crowd’… it can often feel more like the puerile peer-pressure of the school-yard, and with just as short an attention-span.

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