Independent authors and their fans in an expanding ebook market

ebooks have been around since the beginning of personal computers. Part of the reason people are now reading ebooks is because of devices available to read them on like Amazon’s Kindle. (If you’re interested in a short history regarding this, check out my Tumblr post). But there are now more devices specifically for ebook reading: the Nook from Barnes & Noble, Kobo Reader, iPad with its iBookstore, and Google Books on Android devices and tablets like the Nexus 7. The ebook market is expanding. How can indie authors continue to adapt? And what happens to fans of their work with all the devices available?

One way to handle the different platforms is to use a distribution service like where they send your ebook to many different online retailers. This seems like a good way to go, but because of the middle man, the royalty rate for the author gets cut to as much as 50% or less. It’s also questionable if it’s even worth distributing to any other retailers besides Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple which you could just do on your own. By going to select retailers on your own, you have more control over how you market for certain audiences and spend time focusing on the ones that you’re really getting sales on.

Trying to keep up with all the devices and retailers also creates fragmentation of your work, making it hard to develop a fanbase. Which is why I think the best approach is to make yourself the source for your fans. You can offer your fans a hub to get your work directly from you and give them options of alternative retailers they may prefer. But by becoming the source, you develop a connection with your fans, allowing them to come back to you instead of the retailer or device.

Neil Gaiman recently gave an address to the University of the Arts graduating class of 2012. If you haven’t seen it yet, be prepared to be inspired like never before.

We’re in a transitional world right now. If you’re in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing. The models by which creators got their work out into the world and got to keep a roof over their heads and bought sandwiches while they did that. They’re all changing. I’ve talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing and book selling and music and all those areas and no one knows what the landscape will look like two years from now. Let alone a decade away.

The distribution channels that people have built over the last century or so are in flux. For print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds. Which is on the one hand intimidating and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we’re-supposed-to’s of how you get your work seen and what you do then, they’re breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen.

YouTube and the web, and whatever comes after YouTube and the web, can give you more people watching than all television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.”

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