What an Author Can Learn from the Music Industry
11 Dec 2008
Jeff Rivera in the second of his articles giving tips to authors shows how much can be learnt from other media industries and the importance of authors becoming what he calls author-preneurs.
Although sales have declined in the music industry for quite some time, believe it or not the music industry is way ahead in terms of a survival strategy than the book industry. Right now, many of the "powers that be" in the book industry are like record executives who were stuck in the CD days when digital technology became available or worse yet 8-track or vinyl album days.
Any change in the industry, economic or otherwise, forces the industry to adapt to change and some people don't like change. In fact, they are scared. Yet, for quite some time the music industry has been making changes that you as an author can implement. These changes have been brought about by revolutionary young whipper snappers with new ideas (such as when Napster first came out) and independent bands and musicians.
First of all, music labels aren't what they used to be. Bands used to pray and wish (and some still do) that they would be snapped up and developed by some A&R rep then launched into stardom. Well, in the last 5 years things have changed dramatically. Record labels no longer have the time or interest to develop talent. What do they want? Bands and singers ready to go. Meaning, polished, with their own fan base, songs produced so all the company has to do is slap their name on a CD (or on a digital music file) pump a couple hundred thousand into the advertising and promotion (most of which advertising they've bought discounted in bulk or are part of their media conglomerate) perhaps engage in some payola with radio stations and you're on your way.
This trend has already begun to emerge in the book industry too. Like the record industry media conglomerates, publishing houses today are printing and shipping houses and that's it. Oh, sure their marketing department might put an ad of your cover on the hottest blogger for your target market (advertising space that they've bought in bulk) the publicity department might send your galleys out to their standard reviewers mailing lists but follow up with them? Bah, why? They've got to concentrate their efforts on books that are guaranteed hits like the next John Grisham or Danielle Steele novel! And you can't blame them when your neck is on the line you better make that Michael Crichton book a hit, cause if it flops and doesn't do as well as the last one ... ooh you're in hot water. And if one of the little books happens to pay dirt then great, then they'll step in and do some more.
Knowing this ahead, shouldn't anger you. No, it should empower you because now you know what you'll have to do. And there are no exception.
The book publishers have the "throw enough books at the wall and see what sticks" mentality which is the same mentality that the film industry has. And it works for the film industry (otherwise they wouldn't keep doing it) because they know that at least 1 out of 10 films are going to hit in the movie theaters and that will bank roll the other flops and because the other 9 so-called flops they can make their money back with other rights such as DVDs, television movies, etc. Publishers don't have this as a luxury. They may only have World English Publishing Rights, so they depend on the big boys like Nicholas Sparks and Sandra Brown to cover the costs of the flops and use those books as leverage to muscle their way into bookstores.
How can you as a new author use this knowledge? You can come to the table with your own fan base. First of all, hands-down a bad book is bad book and people don't respond to it. Write a great book, and another and another and another. Your mentality should be to build your fan base not necessarily to make a quick buck. So, you could in theory, do the same as many musicians have done. They allow people to download their music for free or even give away their albums for free in exchange for ... someone's email address.
You can do the same thing, allow your e book or even an audio book to be available for free in exchange for someone's email address. As you build your fan base, you will be able to walk up to an agent or even a publisher and say "Hey, not only do I have a great book" but I already have a fan base of 25,000+ fans.
I have two promises, if you walk in the door with 25,000+ fans and a great book, the sun will come up tomorrow and the second promise is, they will sign you.
Can you cheat and just go online and buy one of those million databases of email addresses ? No, you need to be able to verify this information and you really want people that have opted in to your list because you want people who like your work, like your characters, like your style of writing that would actually want to buy the print version of your book and the next and the next.
It's a lot of work to build a fan base but a lot less work than querying a billion agents and editors, mailing manuscripts and waiting for rejection letters. But if you do don't think you can do this (aka feel too lazy too, too tired, would rather watch reruns of "I Love Lucy") there are companies out there that will do this for you.
You need to start thinking of yourself as an Author-preneur, a brand.
For more information about what you can do to build your fan base visit: www.GumboWriters.com