Too much static

Too much static

The 500-year-old publishing model is based on two fundamental needs:

  1. printing a lot of books at once is much cheaper than printing a few at a time.
  2. bookstores are the backbone of the industry, and all issues of timing, pricing and promotion should serve their needs.

Of course, neither of these is true any more.

So, why publish a book all at once, all or nothing, with a static price and static distribution?

Two weeks ago, Amazon made a significant mistake with Cat Hoke’s new book, A Second Chance.

The book has a pub date of February 26, 2018. In the industry a pub date is sacrosanct. Every store puts the books out on the same day, allowing publishers time to fill the warehouses, prime the pump, do the PR, organize everything, then –boom–.

Well, Amazon, our only retail storefront, screwed up and began shipping pre-orders in January, a month early. They sent hundreds of people an email confirmation, changed the book page, opened the site to reviews, the whole thing.

Long before the Defy team was ready.

We scrambled, and Amazon said it was a glitch and that they’d fix it. That no books would ship. Pub date would be saved.

But of course, they didn’t. And so hundreds of books went out, a couple of great reviews got posted and then finally, Amazon turned it back off.

You know what?

It was a good thing.

It was a good thing that at no expense to the author, hundreds of fans and supporters now have a copy of the book. A copy that, especially since no one else can get one, people are happy to talk about. It was a good thing that the reviews are there, making it more compelling to visit the book’s page on Amazon.

On balance, if we could do it again, we’d insist on it!

That got me thinking about all the ways a book launch could become something other than an all or nothing moment with a pub date, a nationwide ‘lay down’ and all the drama that comes with that.

For example: Books could launch in digital format and then, if certain numbers got hit, the paper version would become available. Or the price could change according to volume schedule set by the publisher. Or there could be windows when limited editions of a book were available, and then, automatically, the format could change. Perhaps the Kindle edition could have multiple variations, an abridged one that’s shorter, that one could upgrade to the full one. Or one with notes from early readers included, as edited by the author, etc. Or perhaps Kickstarter could have a way to hook up to the Amazon API and deliver Kindle books automatically when levels are reached.

There are 450 other ideas, some better, many worse. But we won’t know as long as the format and the timing and variables aren’t even being discussed. Just about every other form of media has been morphed and revolutionized by the digital transformation, but all that’s happened in the book world is the loss of the bookstore and the rise of the long tail.  (Special shoutout to sites like Wattpad who are trying to take new approaches.)

We can do better than a single book, at a single price, all launched on the same day, particularly if the platforms are built to support it.