A Bookstore in Your Pocket, a World in our Hands

- by Elaine Isaak

The Novelists, Inc annual conference is coming to a close–alas!– with a great talk by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, a platform for creating and distributing e-books.  One of the difficulties of traditional publishing he pointed out is the limited distribution rights often controlled under various contracts, leading, as he points out, to frustrations like an Australian author not being able to buy his own book in his own country.  In many countries, people have no access to bricks-and-mortar bookstores AT ALL, never mind ones that have a comprehensive selection of popular fiction titles.  As he points out, trad publishing creates a global demand for the books that we write, but does not have the ability to satisfy that demand.

But this is another area that the advent of e-publishing is revolutionizing.  Most of those folks don’t have i-pads or Kindles, either.  But they do have cell-phones.  Even in rural areas of so-called “third world” nations, people are increasingly using their cellphones not only for day to day needs and business, but as a portal into the vast realms of entertainment on-line.  And that means us.  As Coker put it, “Imagine billions of literate people around the world, with a bookstore in their pocket.”There are a couple of great things about this conference.  A large part of our enthusiasm for the event centers on the information.  We invite dozens of industry professionals to come and share openly of their wisdom, experience, and data–in the form of pie charts, graphs, spreadsheets, screen shots.  In the panels and workshops, they share their ideas and answer our questions, in particular, about how to face the changing world of publishing.   All of us here at Ninc are living the dream:  we are published novelists.  We can hold in our hands, the books that at one time were only in our minds.  It is a little frightening to think of that dream collapsing before our eyes.  No books??

Everyone agrees it will be a long time, if ever, until bound books disappear.  However, our customers are increasingly e-.  And it’s the e-store that can feed their demand, on a mountaintop in Peru, or in the steppes of Mongolia.  We love our books, both as authors and as readers, and we are now ready to embrace their evolution.

And this is the other great thing about the Beachninc conference:  it is opening the eyes of authors to new possibilities.  New markets, new promotional tactics, new approaches to customers.  Yes, it’s sometimes mind-boggling. It  can be hard to take in so much change.  But our speakers are helping us to feel more excited than worried, and the success stories being shared by authors who have stepped boldly into this new territory are encouraging more and more of us to feel confident about our own future.   A while back, I was on a panel at Balticon about the future of publishing, where I expressed some concern about how authors would continue to get paid, how those of us less established would be discovered in this new world, how our books would reach the hands of the readers who would love them.  And this conference is laying those worries to rest.  Thank you, BeachNinc!!

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