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[GUEST POST] Michaele Jordan on The Digital Age and How Publishers Are More Important Than Ever

Michaele Jordan was born in Los Angeles, bred in the Midwest, educated in Liberal Arts at Bard College and in computers at Southern Ohio College. She has worked at a kennel and a Hebrew School and AT&T. She’s a bit odd. Now she writes. Her previous novel, Blade Light, a charming traditional fantasy, was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe and is now available as an ebook at Amazon or at iBooks. Her next novel, Mirror Maze, is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Listen to the Man-He’s Telling It Like It Is

I recently read SF Signal’s guest post by J.M. McDermott, Our Digital Future: What Is It & What Should We Do About It? and I had to comment.

My comment is: Right On! (Or Write On! if you prefer to pun your way through your opinions.) He’s absolutely correct. The digital age is already here, and it’s going to get more so, not less so.

Paper books will never disappear. But they will soon be specialized, luxury items. Most of you already know this in your hearts. This is not a bad thing-surely we of the SF/F world, of all people, should embrace technology. Yes, we love real books: the smell of the ink, the gilded bindings, the caress of quality paper. No, my laptop is not as satisfying to read as a real book. But it’s a lot easier to pack than ten (or twenty or a hundred) real books. My cousin, a former Lit teacher, is moving-and she’s getting a Kindle. It’s a big step for a senior lady, but she can’t face the packing and shipping, and most of her book collection is classic material that she can download for free from the Guttenberg Project.

I used to work at a grade school. Every child over six had a huge back pack full of textbooks. They couldn’t even use the bags with wheels, because of the stairs. (All schools have stairs.) The kids were stooped over like dwarves going into a mine. It was a cruelty; they should have had e-book readers. And if we decide to give our children e-book readers in school, can we seriously expect they will grow up to prefer bound paper?

Mr. McDermott was concerned primarily with the effect of the digital book on publishing. He believes that publishers — although forced to change — will not go away. Hallelujah! I am a little known author. Mirror Maze is my first printed book (now in stock at Amazon! Check it out) and brilliant as I think it is, it would not be around at all if a publisher (Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books) had not taken me in.

It’s not that I lack confidence. Really. I think I’m a wonderful writer. I love every word; I wouldn’t write if I didn’t. I can’t imagine how anybody else could fail to love my work. But I lack even the smallest smidgeon of sales skill. It seems that marketing is a lot like playing poker. My tactic is to lay my cards face up on the table and announce. “Here’s my hand. Do I win?” Strangely, this is not very effective. Thank goodness, there are serious professionals out there who can do better.

You probably don’t think I would really need a publishing team if I were marketing an e-book. Guess again. I have a previous novel, Blade Light, a charming, traditional quest fantasy. It was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe in 2009. Jim Baen’s Universe has since died. (It’s not my fault. The editor had a heart attack.) My aforementioned marketing skills being what they are, I have not yet persuaded a publisher to turn it into a paperback. So I put it up-cheap! – as an e-book. (Also available at Amazon). I advertised it on FaceBook and my website, and even podcast it in my eagerness to drum up interest. So far I’ve made $5.71. If the good people of Pyr can generate some e-sales for the new book, more power to them. Why on earth would I grudge them a cut?

I wouldn’t even mind about the money if I could just con myself that people were passing around illicit copies of my work for free, that my book was being read, the voices inside my head were being heard. Really. I gave up on making a living at this a long, long time ago. But a lot of younger writers really need to make some money at it.

Trust me. Books do not sell themselves. You need professional assistance. Even successful writers, the famous ones who can sell a book just by giving their names, had to start somewhere. They didn’t just throw a manuscript onto the internet, and reap in the millions. Like it or not, digital or not, if publishers vanish they will take most of literature with them. Thank you, Mr. McDermott for your honest look at the future.

8 Comments on [GUEST POST] Michaele Jordan on The Digital Age and How Publishers Are More Important Than Ever

  1. Totally unsolicited advice here, but I think I can point out some reasons that Blade Light isn’t selling.

    1) The cover. The art is gorgeous. The font, not so much. It’s unreadable in smaller sizes and looks totally unprofessional.  Getting someone to put professional-looking title and author on that lovely cover might help a lot.

    2) The blurb. What there is of it.  It even has a typo.  Plus it isn’t terribly catchy nor does it hook a reader along with giving a good solid idea of what the book is about. 

    3) You have zero reviews. Do a give-away on Goodreads and/or send out review copies.  This takes very little time and research to do.  Many book bloggers accept e-copies of books now. 

    These things might help πŸ™‚


  2. Also, how did you make 5.71? You get 2.09 per copy sold at 2.99 from Amazon. That’s about 2.7 copies.  Please report accurately. I’m sorry to harp on this, but it really does bug me when someone sticks up one badly done book (which might be an actually awesome novel, but who can tell from that cover and blurb?) and then cries “it doesn’t work!”

    Some of us manage just fine.  I have sold many short stories traditionally and also sell over 100 copies of a month of my e-published work.  All without doing marketing beyond sending out a few review copies and announcing new stuff on my blog/facebook/twitter.  Good cover. Good blurb. Good book. Reasonable prices.  Writing more work. That’s how to make money at writing.

    To make a living at writing you have to follow the money. There is money in both traditional publishing and self-publishing.  You had the right idea by exploring both paths, but it seems like one path got poked with a stick and then you gave up.  That’s the impression this gives me, anyway.

    There. Rant over. Sorry. I just feel SF Signal readers should get a fuller story.

  3. Lou Anders makes much better-looking eBooks than I do. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

  4. It is strange how much of an effect a cover has on an ebook considering that you really only see it on the sales page. The kindle even skips past the cover on the ebook and goes to the first text page. I do find myself falling into the trap of judgeing by the cover despite trying not to.

  5. Awesome book was just released by the Founder of Prehistoric Channel. Called “THE ICE GORILLA” its currently being looked at by movie producers in terms of making a movie out of the book. Whether or not its made into a movie will depend on the total number of books sold. Its available at Amazon now. It would be cool for us all to unite and help get this book made. THE ICE GORILLA concept is perfect for something like SyFy Channel.

  6. To Annie Bellet,

    Your comments are appreciated.  (Yes, the Blade Light cover is gorgeous, isn’t it? It was the original illustration from Jim Baen’s Universe, & I had to track down the artist in South Africa.  I am sorry you don’t care for the font.  I tried a more modern type face, and it didn’t look great with the content.

    As for the money.  Yes, I apologize for telescoping.  The book is also on I-Books, which I was unable to do myself (ironic, since i am a Mac user, but I don’t have a I-pad or I-Book & am maybe not as computer literate as I should be) The gentleman who put it upr for me also gets a cut, hence the unusal dollar amount.  And don’t apologize for the rant.  You have a keen eye, or you wouldn’t have noticed.


  7. Publishers are absolutely part of the future, and no doubt I’ll be buying a lot of books from the which they’ve shepherded into existence.

    But I don’t have a publisher behind me.  Yet last month I made over $200 from my self-publishing efforts.  And, in the past three days, thanks to a strong promotional tool called “the freebie”, I’ve made another $200.

    So I’ll partly agree with you.  There are a lot of books out there, and having a publisher behind you will absolutely get you more attention.  But you do not need professional assistance to gain readers.

  8. Several of these comments add up to the message that maybe I should have tried harder with e-books.  And maybe I will, further down the road. I’m not against e-books (I read plenty of them) & I applaud those authors that are managing to be successful on their own with e-books.  But, as I said above, I am one of those unfortunates that couldn’t sell water in a drought.  For now, I am deeply, fundamentally grateful to have a professional publisher, so I stand by the basic point (you know, the telescoped, abbreviated one that I can do in less than 800 words) that I agree with Mr. McDermott that publishers are not going away, and i am happy about that.

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