Association of American Publishers for August as compared to last year, with every physical division experiencing declining sales, while the digital segments (ebooks and downloaded audio) both grew by significant amounts. This has become the norm rather than the exception for the past few years.
And this got me to wondering just where eBooks stood as a percentage of that market. For 2010 the general estimate was that eBooks made up somewhere between 12-15% of total book sales for the year (the numbers are always a bit dodgy, since a lot of figures aren't reported, such as self-pubbed books and those from smaller independent publishers). Doing some quick math you'll see that eBooks' $88.8 million take for August comprises 17.6% of the pie. Discounting audio and comparing digital to print alone brings eBooks' slice to 18.3% for August.
For the Year-To-Date the figures are even more impressive (or depressing, depending on your take), with eBooks' $649.2 million accounting for 18.3% of total sales and 19.04% of non-audio sales, creeping very near that 20% mark. But as I've said before, these are only numbers; since eBooks are priced on the whole far lower than print across the board (often very much lower), the comparison of units sold would tell an even more astounding tale: with eBooks priced on average half or less than their equivalent print edition, those numbers are very likely closer to a 40/60 split between print and digital, if not higher.
The good news for everyone in all this is that people are reading more than ever, despite an overall loss of 3.7% of sales. The AAP's recent survey showed that some 36% of e-reader users now read more than they did before they purchased their device (it's certainly true for me, and I've always read a lot). That's due partly to lower prices per book, allowing them to purchase more titles for their dollar, as well as having an ever-ready source of new material always at their fingertips - no need to make a special trip in to the bookstore for a new read, just click and go. The prevalence of $2.99 or lower titles removes much of the resistance to making that impulse buy. And having invested a hundred or more bucks into that device it behooves the owner to use it and justify the purchase. I find there's also a bit of pride involved for most owners of any new technology, and showing it off is half the fun of having it. eBook readers are no different.
The good news for print aficionados is that physical books still account for 77.9% of all books sold. That's a lot of print books being sold. Just don't expect to ever see that percent again.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Just back from a day of panel discussions and talks at the Idaho Book Extravaganza, downtown at the Center on the Grove where the Saturday Market was also in full swing on this brisk October morning. The general theme of the presentations I attended was the rapid domination of digital in a rapidly changing industry, something I've been openly vocal about here on this blog.
This was also a key motivation in my attendance today, as I was hoping to gain some insight into the latest developments and speculation with regards to digital formatting advances specifically, and ebook marketing in general. Sadly, no one seemed to know any more than I, and most far less when it comes to formatting illustrated ebooks. The general consensus seemed to be that I was ahead of the game and exploring more or less uncharted territory. One trade representative stated flat out that I should wait a few years for technology to catch up (advice I have no intention of taking, nor believe is true). Of the three ebook conversion companies present, only one seemed capable of tackling the project, while another was game to give it a try. Neither had any prior experience to base it on.
The most insightful and informative discussion was given by Stonehouse Ink CEO and best-selling author Aaron Patterson, on the eBook Revolution. His wit and vast amount of practical experience in the field made it a perfect opener for the day, outlining in realistic terms the situation as it really is, regardless of what traditional publishing pundits and digital distribution channels will tell you. Basically, ebooks are the way to go, and Amazon is king of the hill in that regard. And he had the numbers to prove it. but in the end, it's up to the author to sell the book, as most of us already know, and Aaron laid out what has worked best for himself and a number of his peers, much of which I've discussed here. Social media is where my skills are lacking, so the insights there were particularly useful.
On that note, I had intended to sit in on another lecture on just that subject, titled Advanced Social Media Traffic Tips and Campaigns. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked chatting with Aaron in the trade show room and missed the beginning. Realizing I was late, I hustled down the hall into what I thought was the right room, only to find out after a slightly confusing few minutes that I was listening to a talk on Writing Successful Blogs for Authors. Not wanting to disrupt the proceedings further by getting up and leaving, and being interested in the subject anyway, I chose to stay. This turned out to be a complete waste of time as far as I was concerned, as the discussion really rambled and didn't cover anything I didn't know already. On the positive side, all the talks were being recorded for later listening as podcasts on the IBE website (not up yet, but I'll let you know when they are), so I'll still be able to hear the lecture I was actually interested in.
The final entry of the day was on Converting Your Current Titles into eBooks, given by the guy who was really game to give my project a go. But again, while it was an incredibly informative presentation, covering everything from properly formatting your manuscript to conversion and fine-tuning via Calibre and Sigil, this was all familiar territory for me. I did pick up a few tricks and tidbits that might prove useful at some point, but nothing earth-shattering. What I really wanted to know was what advancements ePub3 will bring, and how to implement them, as well as what's in store for Kindle Fire formatting. But no one's really up on that right now, and Amazon has been less than forthcoming on the subject thus far. So as usual, I guess I'll just have to figure it out for myself.
Monday, October 24, 2011
As for the formats, the PDF is an exact replica of the final print format, in high resolution quality, so I recommend it above the others, although it's a fairly hefty 47 megabyte file. I've also included both ePub and Mobi files for those who want a smaller file size or to use with a particular eReader/app, but be forewarned that both will have white borders around the edges, whereas the PDF does not. However, that being said, if you open the PDF in iBooks it will revert to that reader's default margin settings, adding white space around the edges that is not in the actual file. I will be creating a fixed layout ePub edition for iBooks at some point which will do away with this, but I haven't got that far just yet.
Also unfortunate is that the new Adobe Reader app for iPad only allows you to view a single page at a time, rather than the preferred two page spread, so that is not ideal either. Of course, on the NookColor and similar 7" screens you can only view one page at a time anyway, and I've designed the page layouts with that in mind. But if you view the PDF on your computer screen you'll be able to see it as it was ideally intended with both pages joined together at the spine to create a complete image. You can also, of course, view the online version of the book on the Fantasy Castle Books webpage.
Feel free to download and share these files with anyone you want. Just be aware that it is copyright material, and you are not allowed to sell it or use any part of it for commercial purposes without my permission, as per the copyright page. If you have a blog of your own, you are welcome to offer these free ebook files to your readers as well.
As an incentive (or a bonus, if you will), for anyone who sends in a review, comments, or critique of this section I will send you an autographed, limited edition print chapbook, as seen in the image on the right. These are hand-produced by myself, color laser printed on high quality paper stock and hand cut and stapled. The book measures 5" x 8" and runs 22 pages long, as you know if you've been following along.
I plan to do this for each of the five sections of this first book (and possibly the rest, depending on how this one goes), and anyone who reviews all five sections will receive an autographed copy of the complete finished print edition, as well as their choice of final ebook format.
In order for this offer to be valid there are, of course, a few stipulations involved. Foremost, reviews must be a minimum of one full page of single-spaced typed text (roughly 700 words or so, but more is always better), and cover at least some of the following criteria:
- Overall presentation: i.e. visual aesthetics and appeal, general impressions
- Readability: are the text and font style clearly legible and easy to read?
- Story Content: general issues of plot, pacing, and character development
- Writing Style: comments on the use of semi-archaic narrative style are welcome
- Grammar: as always, please point out any stray errors you might find!
- Art Layout: overall composition and balance of the graphic and text elements
- Color Balance: are the colors vivid enough, or overly so? Too dark? Too light?
- Characters: are the four main characters appealing and visually interesting?
- Setting: do you get a good sense of the story world from the elements presented?
- Do you want to read more after finishing this section?
- Is this a book you might buy if you saw it on the bookstore shelves?
Send your reviews to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to give me your name and address so I know where to send your chapbook. Also let me know what format and reading device you used, and how that experience was, bearing in mind the caveats given above.
Thanks in advance, and I hope you all enjoy the book.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Saturday, October 15, 2011
For this page sequence I feel I've really put my writing skills to the test, having to create and resolve a culminating crisis moment in a matter of just a few short paragraphs. This is one thing I've been struggling with throughout the process, with somewhat mixed results. One thing I've realized is that in focusing so heavily on the creation of the artwork I haven't put as much emphasis on the text, letting my rough draft stand in many cases with little or no revision. In the back of my mind I've been planning on a last minute revision of the entire text once all the art is finalized, so that my main task at this point is to simply narrate the basic plot points of each scene in the space provided, leaving the final phrasing for later editing. Here I feel I've done a fairly good job of it from the start, since it really all comes down to this moment, and Alberich's motivation is critical to understand his actions, so I've put a lot more thought into it, but in other places there is still a lot of work to do.
I have to say that writing to a confined space is something entirely new to me. I've always written what I felt needed to be said, in however many pages that required. The first draft of The Saga of Beowulf came in at well over 800 pages, and the screenplay nearly 200. Here I have a total of 400 pages to tell the entire four-volume story, roughly half of which will be taken up with art, making it a 200 page novel start to finish. That means that each volume can contain no more than fifty pages worth of text. This makes it more like writing poetry than prose, and since it's based on Old Norse poetry and Wagner's score librettos it seems only fitting.
As for the art, I've left the usual notes and whatnot on the Fantasy Castle Books site, which you can now access from the tab at the top of this cool new blog template. This blog has been wanting a revamping for awhile now, but I just haven't had the time to mess with it. This week Blogger sort of forced me into it, so I took the opportunity to tweak the site design a bit. Let me know what you think.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
The good news is that while doing my detailed page outline (very detailed outline), I built in a certain amount of leeway which allows me to add up to roughly fifteen pages without going over my maximum limit. The bad news is that I've now used up half of that amount in less than a quarter of the story. For the digital editions this makes little difference, aside from issues of pacing and narrative detail. But for the print editions every page adds to the production cost and eats into my profits. My goal is to keep each of the four volumes under ten bucks, which means a limit of right around a hundred pages each. Every new page spread will cost me ten cents off the top, and/or reduce the discount I can offer to book stores.
For the record, a 100 page full color edition in the 5.5" x8.5" size will run $6 to print through Lightning Source. That means at a retail price of $10 and a 20% discount to online retailers, I'm left with two bucks each. Or $1.90 for 102 pages... or $1.80 for 104 pages... you get the picture. And that's with just a 20% discount. If I give book shops 40% I'm making nothing. To get it into Barnes & Noble and the like, who require 50% or better, I'd have to raise the SRP to more than $12 to break even. Now, that's not excessive for a full color graphic novel, but each dollar reduces the number of copies that will likely sell, and adds to the overall cost of the four volume set, so you can see why I hesitate to add additional pages.
Still, the story must be told in whatever space it takes. For this opening sequence I felt it was important to establish the setup fairly clearly, even though only Alberich remains a prominent figure throughout the book. The central figure, of course, is the Rhinegold itself, about which this sequence turns, so it's elemental nature is imperative to understand. To that end, I've added some explanatory dialogue of my own which introduce some important concepts for both the story and the mythology behind it. Ultimately, though, some of the page spreads that you're seeing may be cut from the final print edition, which means excising some text, and/or rearranging some of the graphics. That's not an easy task, and it's one I'd like to avoid if I can.
Fantasy Castle Books page for this spread, mostly on the creation of this background plate. Every background uses different elements, and they all come together differently as a consequence, but the general working method is the same, and I lay it out in detail for this one. It's not exactly a tutorial, but from the notes you can get the general sense of how it's done and see each piece of the puzzle separately. Click the pic here to see a bigger version. And as always, you can click through the finished image above to read the page online in higher resolution.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
|Standard touch-screen tap zones|
|The new Kindle Touch screen tap zones|
|What I like to call "Smart Zones" (graphic by me)|
P.S. If anyone affiliated with Amazon reads this, please pass it along to your R&D department for future reference, with my regards!