Friday, August 3, 2012

The Future of Ebook Publishing at RWA 2012

I'm smitten with romance, and not just because Smashwords romance authors are ripping up all the bestseller charts.  For years, romance readers and their authors were treated as the oddball stepchildren of the book industry.  Now they're having their day like never before.

Pay attention to romance.  Study it.  Read it.  No other genre does a better job of getting inside the heads of readers, especially female readers.  Even if you write thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy or even horror, your books will probably get better if you study romance.  Romance writers are among some of the finest storytellers of interpersonal relationships.  If you want your readers to care what happens next to your characters, study the masters.

Romance readers are voracious book consumers.  This is where you'll find the book-a-day crowd.  Romance authors were among the first to embrace ebooks, and were some of the first authors to adopt ebook publishing best practices such a series writing, free series starters, low prices, unified and compelling cover design, author branding and reverted-rights publishing.

So it was with great appreciation that I accepted the invitation to speak at the annual Romance Writers of America (RWA) 2012 conference in Anaheim last week.  They invited me to give two presentations.  The first presentation was before their Published Authors Network group, and the topic was The Future of Book Publishing.  I've embedded the presentation at the bottom of this post.  The second presentation focused on ebook publishing best practices.

After my first talk, I met Smashwords author Diane Farr, pictured at top and left, the recipient a surprise peck on the cheek by yours truly.  What can I say?  I was overcome.  My wonderful wife wasn't terribly pleased to see this picture on Facebook.  I shared the story with my buddy, bestselling romance author Rebecca Forster, and like a good romance writer she advised me, "tell your wife no worries. You came home to her!"

I met with multiple authors at RWA, and it was cool to see so many of them are already using Smashwords to publish and distribute their books.

My talks would have been considered blasphemy just a couple years ago.  Now things are different.

During one of the luncheons, the keynote speaker spoke about how ebook self-publishing is creating exciting new opportunities for authors.  Sitting beside me was Delle Jacobs, another romance bestseller, long-time RWA member, and Smashwords author for over two years (view Delle's author page here).  Delle was near-giddy with excitement that such pro-indie sentiment was now front and center at RWA.

The hallways were abuzz with the same excited talk about the opportunities presented by ebook self-publishing.  Later I met with Smashwords author Bella Andre (view Bella's author page here), who had just learned several of her titles would would appear in this upcoming week's August 5 edition of the New York Times bestseller list.  If you've ever spent time with Bella, you know her love of romance novels, romance readers and romance e-publishing is infectious.  What you may not know is that she, like many successful romance authors, is a smart business woman.  She graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics.  She studies romance with the analytic precision of a neuroscientist.  If you knew how much she's going to earn this year self-publishing romance ebooks, it would probably blow your mind.  Bella is not alone in her success.

The incoming president-elect of RWA is the incomparable Sylvia Day.  Her Bared to You, published and distributed by Penguin, has been on the New York Times fiction ebook bestseller list for 11 weeks.  Sylvia has also been publishing at Smashwords for over two years (view her Sylvia's author page here). Sylvia is one of a growing number of professional authors who realize the opportunity to operate in both worlds of indie and traditional. 

These worlds are complementary to each other.  Success in one world feeds success in the other.  Authors who participate in both worlds will become more valuable to publishers, but also more expensive to sign.  That's good for authors.

If you think these successful romance authors are random flukes, or the beneficiaries of a passing fad, you're underestimating them.  These authors are the future.  Learn from them.

The indie movement has gone mainstream with romance authors, and it's transforming the lives of writers for the better.  I left the conference with firm conviction that the future of book publishing is brighter than ever for those authors who place themselves on the right side of history.  Authors who delay their embrace of indie publishing will find themselves sidelined by those who have already seen the light.

Click "Share" on the presentation above to embed this presentation at your blog or website.


Ben Campbell Novels said...

Fantastic. I can only think of one recipe better than publishing both ways; a delicious hamburger with fries.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

I just found another account of the RWA conference written by Elise Sax over at the Huffington Post. I LOVE some of the anecdotes she shares about the self-pub vibe at RWA. The Battle Cry of the Romance Authors

Vern at said...

I wrote a book about a vigilante that finds a pedophile network in Thailand and goes about systematically destroying it. Not one publisher would touch it - despite "liking the story". The subject was completely taboo among publishers. I gave up for over a year. Then I thought - publish through Smashwords and Amazon and see what happens...

Over 9,000 books sold since then.

Forget about traditional publishing!

Mike Fook
Thailand's Sickest

Charles E. Wells said...

Great presentation Mark and one thing you've convinced me about I want to mention. I have a 9 book Suspense/Paranormal series with you and you mentioned that offering book one for FREE is the way to go you think. I'm going with that advice. I lowered the price at Amazon to .99 cent and hope it will be "price matched" when reported as being free at SW and network. Thanks for that advice too. Good luck to us all.
Chas Wells
Georgia USA

adan said...

very interesting post, glad i got to it this morning, gonna check out the additional link in mark's comment above too

what i hope will also turn up interesting, is the emergence of more male romance writers, either solo or in teams with a female -

and, doing so under their own real name

interesting times indeed ;-) thanks mark

Dovetail Public Relations said...

@Charles, yes, with a nine book series, I'd definitely make the first in the series free

@adan, There are a few male romance writers, but not many. At these romance conferences, most of the men you'll see are speakers or service staff. I see this as an opportunity for romance conference producers. They could do tracks to help male writers (of other genres) spice up their books with better romance. Cross pollination is a good thing.

Unknown said...

Fantastic post. The romance genre definitely deserves its 'day' and companies like Smashwords have enabled writers to reach readers with a rich variety of just about every type of romance one can think of.

I wasn't at RWA but I did attend your panels at the Romantic Times Booklovers' Convention this year Mark, and enjoyed them.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

Fantastic presentation! Being in Ireland we'd never have gotten a chance to see it, so thank you for sharing it here! It's all very exciting!

Jami Gold said...

Hi Mark,

Great presentation! I was at RWA but I'm not a member of PAN, so thank you so much for posting your slides.

I had a blog post scheduled for today about how publishers need to add value to justify their involvement in the chain between author and reader. I'd based the article off Stephanie Laurens's Keynote Speech at the Thursday lunch, but your presentation tied into the same concepts. Great minds and all. :)

I've embedded and linked to your presentation at my post here:

Thanks again for sharing!

Science Fiction Blog said...

Excellent post!

I always thought that romance was a fantastic genre, and now you confirmed it. What better than sci-fi and romance together? Check out Cosmic Multiverse @OnlineBookStores like Smashwords!!!

Anonymous said...

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