There is one thing that can be said for certain about the state of the publishing industry in the 21st century: no one knows what the hell is going on. No one.
Let me say that again a different way: No matter the years of experience, or inexperience; whether traditional publishing such as the huge publishing conglomerates, or independent self-published authors; millions of books published or just two in a three part series; time spent hobnobbing with literature’s elite or time spent nursing a whiskey by themselves at the con bar; no one has an idea of where publishing is going or where it is going to end up; no one knows what makes a smash hit or what makes a flop; no one knows how much marketing to put in or how many interviews to do.
No one has a clue.
There are plenty of theories though. But, just like assholes, everyone has got one. I won’t expand on the metaphor. (he he he…expand)
So, here is mine. Uh, my theory, that is.
Theory: the only entities in the world that have a clue as to what makes a book sell/work/popular are the readers! Why? Because they tell us each and every day with their dollars. Their cash. Their mullah, deniro, cha-ching. It may be subconscious (or conscious) on their part, but the results don’t lie. Follow the money.
But, even with all of this said, publishers large and small still try to predict the next blockbuster. They have meetings and focus groups. Editors labor over a manuscript choice only to have it rejected by the marketing department. They throw money at the next big thing only to have copies used to hold up the wobbly corners of cardboard bins of Hanes sweatshirts at Sam’s Club. Plane tickets are purchased, interviews on the morning talk shows booked, a month of hotel food eaten, all so a book can do as well as it would have done if the author had stayed home and started a flame war with TrollGoblin339 on the Care Bears Forever forum.
Why waste all that time and money? Why gamble like that? Why not ask the folks that do know? Why not go directly to the source of success? Why not involve from the beginning the actual people that make any difference whatsoever in the entire publishing game?
Why not just ask the reader?
And that is what I plan to do.
I hate to throw out words like “revolutionary” and “game changer”. Or words like “visionary” or “ground breaking”. I will say “genius” and “why hasn’t anyone else thought of this before?”. I also like “Lord Prince of All That I Can See”, but I have to put the cape and crown on before I use that one. And I’m busy writing and the cape is upstairs in the closet.
So, I’ll just say this word: “Duh.” Then smack myself on the forehead.
This is how it is going to go:
Step One- I post a list of novel pitches. The same type of pitches I would send my agent or a publisher- quick, enticing descriptions of a novel idea. I have a lot of these.
Step Two- I ask my fans and readers to have a looksee at the pitches. Take a week or so to really go over them. Talk about them on the Facebook and the Twitter. Discuss amongst themselves over coffee and a cruller.
Step Three- I then ask readers and fans to vote on which novels they would like me to write next. Yep, I put the decision in the hands of the people that matter based on the pitches I give.
Step Four- I take the top three novels that receive the most votes and (now here is the “Lord Prince of All That I Can See” part. I, uh, mean the “revolutionary” part) I then ask my readers and fans to narrow it down to one. Then fund that puppy by offering pre-orders!
Step Five- PROFIT!
Step Six- Realize that profit comes way, way, way down the line. I was living a pipe dream in Step Five because that pre-order money just goes towards hiring an editor, proofreader, cover designer, formatter, and the printing of the novels, the creation of the ebook, and the recording/editing/producing of the audiobook.
Step Seven- Stop explaining things in steps and get to the nitty gritty of how it all works.
The Nitty Gritty:
Here it is, folks. The simple fact is that all a publisher does is act as a gatekeeper to what gets published and what doesn’t. They do not hold the reins on “quality” or on “commercial”. Just see my first couple of paragraphs above as proof of this. Because, you know, my opening paragraphs of a post are considered hard facts in several courts of the world. I’m pretty sure my use of semi-colons can mean life or death in Luxembourg.
All jest aside, all publishers do is make books. They don’t see into the future, they don’t predict winners like some Rain Man savant, they don’t put out bestseller after bestseller. They make books and wait and hope that the books sell. And only a small percentage do.
Guess what? I make books and wait and hope they sell! I just don’t want to do the waiting and hoping part anymore. That wastes everyone’s time and money.
Ok, I’ve gotten away from the Nitty Gritty.
The Nitty Gritty (part deux):
By asking my readers and fans to pre-order the novels I am taking the gatekeeper mantel away from publishers, including self-publishers such as Lord Prince of All That I Can See (that’s me), and giving it to the rightful owners, which is really where it’s been all along except that publishers/writers/society have bamboozled fans into thinking otherwise. The gate isn’t at the beginning of the process it is at the end, right at the fingertips of the reader.
Damn, I have added more Nitty and not enough Gritty.
The Nitty Gritty (part C):
Of the top three novels that are voted on, one will be Supreme. That one will be declared Supreme because it will come out on top of a second round of voting. Then the funding starts! Once the Supreme Novel (and thus it shall be called) hits $1800 (Arbitrary number! Arbitrary number! Not the exact amount needed to publish a novel! Real math will be done later! But close enough for hand grenades and horseshoes…) then I start writing. And the voting begins again for the other novels to decide what Supreme Novel, The Second will be. This means that before the first novel is distributed to giddy, panty-throwing fans, the process starts all over with pitches and votes. Kinda keeps the happy, fun, game show of a way to publish going!
What do the readers get for their troubles?
They get this:
- A signed and numbered Limited Edition Hardcover of the novel only available to pre-orders. Trade Paperbacks will be available to everyone else later.
- A signed copy of the ebook in ePub and mobi format.
- The full audiobook of the novel. Yep, I will record and produce the audiobook. This is also only available to those that pre-order. At least in the beginning.
All for the low, low cost of $50 per novel ($65 for international because of those crazy shipping costs)!
How does that sound? Would you, Mighty Reader, be willing to shell out $50-$65 for a signed and numbered hardcover, the signed ebook, and the audiobook? Would you be willing to use your dollars upfront to decide what gets published and when? Is this worth it to you?
Many, many questions. Before you decide, though, how about some fine print without all the hyperbole?
Fine Print (sans hyperbole):
I put out about ten pitches for novels I’d like to write.
I take the top three and have a second round of voting.
The novel with the most votes becomes Supreme Novel and I start the funding campaign (with Mighty Reader help!).
Once El Supremo de Novelo (not accurate Spanish!) is funded then I start writing it.
And the voting process begins for El Supremo de Novelo, Dos.
There will need to be a minimum of 75 readers to back each novel (that’s the minimum amount needed for a hardcover print run). Once the novel hits 75 pre-orders (and is written/edited/formatted/covered/blessed by the blood of a million stink bugs) then it goes to print. I will not limit it to 75 only, but once it hits 75 there will be a short, extended window to pre-order. If it hits 75 pre-orders and I’m still writing the bloody thing then there will be plenty of time to get those orders in. The race is on!
Readers that pre-order receive their limited edition hardcovers, ebooks, and audiobooks.
As long as novels make their funding and minimum print run goals then there should be at least one novel every six months written, published and distributed. Could be more, but one each six months is safe and doable.
Readers are empowered, writer isn’t going bankrupt, novels are released to the world.
Win. Win. Win.
Now for my reasoning and analysis of the “why” I am doing things this way. Feel free to skip this if you are already in. Or keep reading if you like my word stains you see on your screen.
What prompted this idea? To be honest it was the fact that I have so many novel ideas that I want to write, but a need for efficiency bordering on obsessive compulsive, that I didn’t want to put in months and months of work, and hundreds and hundreds of dollars, for a novel to just putz along. I have a couple of pen names where I can take those risks. With my Jake Bible stuff I want to only put out what the fans want, in the order they want it.
Why not Kickstarter this? Well, let me ask you this: why waste the money? The issue with Kickstarter, and other crowd funding services, is they take a chunk of that change that backers want to go to the author. And it is a healthy chunk of change. Makes more sense for me to do it on my own. That’s why there’s PayPal, y’all. Plus, I don’t want to deal with a thirty day campaign. Why limit it? Sure, you can do more than thirty days, but those projects seem to get scoffed at. Doing it myself means I get to control the pace and timing. Or the readers get to control the pace and timing. Not another gatekeeper like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
Do you think this is possible? Yes, I do. If the Veronica Mars movie can hit $2 million in a day then I think I can hit $1800 in a couple of months or couple of weeks or couple of days (Come on couple of days!). I have a large enough fan base to support desire for pre-ordered, pre-funded projects. Think of it. The readers get what they want in three formats. I don’t know of any other author or publisher that is willing to put the direction of their work in the hands of readers. Balls out, baby! Balls out!
Are you slamming the publishing industry or self-publishers for the way they do it now? No, not at all! I have a literary agent and she is busy shopping manuscripts right now. I plan on continuing down that route. I will also be writing other novels that I won’t try to fund before I publish (see next section). In this crazy publishing world I think it’s best to cover all bases. I just happened to think up a new base and am covering it on my own! If anyone takes offense to this project then they aren’t seeing it for what it is: a fun way to involve fans and readers in a basic part of the creative process.
Will these be the only novels or projects I write? Hells to the no! I have plans to do the DEAD MECH graphic novel. That one will get Kickstarted and have the audiobook version of Metal and Ash as a reward. And I have more Little Dead Man books in my head. Plus, I have a ton of short stories I want to write, drabbles that will get compiled and published, and a few other possible projects.
What if I don’t pre-order? Can I get the audiobook? Maybe. Since I’m not giving it away for free then I could put it up on Audible or one of those sites. But I know for sure people that don’t pre-order won’t get the Limited Edition Hardcover. They can buy the TPB (trade paperback), or the ebook, just like the rest of my novels, but no fancy, schmancy hardy covered delight.
What if this idea fails? SHUT UP! Don’t jinx it! I am closing my eyes and plugging my ears! LA LA LA LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU! But, seriously, I really hope it doesn’t. If it does fail then I’ll be right back where I started and nothing is lost.
So, stay tuned, Mighty Readers! There will be pitches and voting and pre-orders galore! And maybe we will change the way novels are written and published. Maybe this post will start that revolution and give the keys to the gate to those that truly deserve them: the readers!
March 29th- Pitches posted, April 8th- Voting begins, April 15th- Last round of voting, April 22nd- Funding starts!