Digitally empowered author

by Christine Kling

It is 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning and I am trying to get something written for the blog before I take off to drive across the state of Florida (in the pouring rain) to Sarasota for the one-day conference Sleuthfest of Saturday (SOS) tomorrow. I am giving a presentation entitled The Wild West of Indie Publishing, and I find it more than a little bit funny that I am the one doing this since, as my friend and blog mate Mike J. will tell you, I was dragged into this business kicking and screaming.

The title of today’s blog came from a quote I came across in one of two amazing events I’ve attended while doing my research for this presentation, although “attended” I use in a non-geographical sense because I only attended digitally. During the second event, critic and journalist, Porter Anderson said:

“What is this digitally empowered author to whom the central role in publishing has fallen?”

Central role? Since when have authors been at the center of publishing? In the traditional model, authors got paid an average of 10% of the cover price of a book and that demonstrated what value was placed on the author’s contribution to the effort.

But man, these times are a-changing and at this point, I’m sorry that I only have about an hour to speak. The audience is going to be made up of a wide spectrum of people from those who are just learning that it’s possible to self-publish an ebook to some who know way more about this business than I do. I can’t cover it all, but I’ve been doing my homework, prepping for those questions from the back of the room.

The first of these researching events was a free webcast given at the Digital Book World site titled “The Author’s View of the Industry: A Comprehensive Survey of Authors to Understand their Priorities in the Self-Publishing Era.” This hour long presentation shared some of the data that came from a survey that was co-sponsored by Digital Book World and Writers’ Digest. They surveyed 5,000 writers, half of whom had self-published. They divided the group into the categories of traditionally published, self-published and hybrid authors (those who had done both).

First of all, you know we are in a new world when the publishing world wants to know the answer to this question that appeared on the opening screen: What do authors want? The reason for the question became clear as the data was presented. For example, among the writers surveyed, the average annual incomes were $7,630 for self-published writers; $27,758 for the  traditionally published; and $38,540 for hybrid writers. This tells us that the traditionally published authors who are making a foray into the world of self-publishing are coming out ahead. As more authors learn this, more are realizing they have choices. They don’t have to stick with their publishers anymore. Hence, authors are empowered.

Recently, some self-published success story authors like Hugh Howey have made print-only deals with traditional publishers while keeping their digital rights for self-publishing. Such a deal would have been unheard of a few years ago, but when a self-pubbed author goes to the bargaining table with over a million sales already under his belt, he is certainly empowered to set down his own terms.

Another interesting statistic was that 68% of self published authors (including hybrid authors) want to publish their next book with traditional publisher while 92% of traditional authors want this. While traditional publishers remained the most desirable publishing method, it was interesting to see how much the desire to go with them dropped among those who had tasted the freedom and control that self-publishing offers.

The second special event I attended occurred on Feb. 13th and it was called Author (R)Evolution Day and it was at the start of the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference. The event was live-streamed all day for free. I’m hoping that they are going to offer videos of some of the sessions because I had to miss several in order to attend some appointments.  If you follow that link you will see how many fascinating sessions there were. It’s awesome just to read some of the bios of the people who were presenting because it will make you realize how much has changed in the last few years.

Here is just as one small example of what I learned existed that I had never known about before. There is a new business out there called Pubslush which calls itself a “crowdfunding publishing platform.” If you’ve ever heard of Kickstarter, this is a sort of Kickstarter for writers. In other words, authors will say that need X-number of dollars in order to self-publish a book to pay for editing, cover, maybe author’s time, formatting, etc. Then they will offer something to those who are willing to donate to the cause – usually a book in one form or another – and they will raise the money in advance to pay for their books. So the question is “Is crowd-funding using Kickstarter or Pubslush the new advance?”

There are so many more cool new ideas out there and I am going to start sharing more of them on my website under the tab For Writers. I already have a list of sites I use for promotion. After my presentation on Saturday, I’m going to make my notes and handout available as a download on  my website.

Now it is time to hit the road and head across Alligator Alley.

Fair winds!


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About Christine Kling

I have spent more than thirty years living on and around boats and cruising the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. I’ve written articles and stories for many boating publications including Sailing, Cruising World, Motor Boating & Sailing, and The Tiller and the Pen. When I was married, I helped my husband build a 55-foot custom sailing yacht. After launching her, we sailed through the Panama Canal to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered for over two years. While in the islands, I received my 100-ton Auxiliary Sail Captains license. It was that sailing experience that led me to set my first nautical suspense novel, SURFACE TENSION (2002), on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Florida female tug and salvage captain, Seychelle Sullivan, the first book was followed by CROSS CURRENT (2004) and BITTER END (2005). The fourth book in the series, WRECKERS’ KEY was released in February 2007. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, I took the motto of this blog to heart. I quit my day job as an English professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale (just when they offered me tenure, I said no thanks and took early retirement). I was living the dream of full-time cruising on board my 33-foot Caliber Talespinner on my very tiny pension and whatever I made from my books having parted ways with the big publishing establishment. I self-published two books on my own: a small collection of four short stories entitled SEA BITCH: Four Tales of Nautical Noir and my first stand-alone sailing thriller set in the Caribbean, CIRCLE OF BONES. In 2012 I was offered a publishing deal with Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint Thomas&Mercer and they reissued CIRCLE OF BONES. The sequel to that book, DRAGON'S TRIANGLE came out in June 2014. And as for me, I'm no longer a singlehander on my little boat. I met Wayne Hodgins in 2013 and after a whirlwind Skype courtship, I flew to meet him in Fiji and we sailed a nearly 2000 mile passage to the Marshall Islands for our "first date." We now sail together aboard LEARNATIVITY, a 52-foot motor sailor with our family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
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