What can you get for $.99? An excellent, yet independently-published Kindle book called “Uncubicled.”
This is important, so pay attention.
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when budding authors, musicians, and filmmakers were all hobbled by a common burden: Publishers. As a creative individual, finding a publisher was your only choice for distribution if you wanted to share your creations with the rest of the world (and, possibly, be paid for it). Having a quality product might seem like it would be enough, but it often was not. As an unknown, just getting your foot in the door of a publisher was an enormous feat. Often it was a matter of “knowing the right people.” If you didn’t know the right people, you’d have to hire them. Agents, managers, and many other people looking to take a cut of your hard-earned payday IF that payday ever comes.
Most would not get published, destined to return to anonymity and give up their dreams, their wallets considerably lighter for the effort.
Some would succeed, however, but few actually end up making a profit. Most would get a very weak record, book, or movie deal, thanks to their non-existent negotiating power. If your product happened to beat the odds and become very successful, the publisher and agents and other paper-pushers would make a great deal of money. The struggling artist, however, would still be working at their day job, hoping that their current success could be carried over into a more favorable deal next time they are at the negotiating table.
This all happens for a good reason, of course. Creating and distributing massive quantities of physical media (books, CDs, DVDs) costs a great deal of money. Publishers are taking a risk on every item they publish and many of them don’t pan out, so the ones that do succeed need to pay big to make up for the failures.
Fine, that’s capitalism, but it hardly fosters new and exciting media. Very few publishers would take a big risk, so an unbelieveable amount of marketable books, music, and films ended up in the trash, never to be seen again. Talented artists gave up their dreams and returned to the daily grind, their spirits crushed by the system.
As we all know, a system like this is hard to even fathom in the age of the internet. MP3s have rocked the RIAA to its very knees (not just because of piracy) and sites like YouTube allow filmmakers to test out their craft on a world-wide audience (and build a fan base) before attempting to sell a larger production to a movie or television studio.
But where does this leave the authors? Sure, they can try to sell a .pdf of their Great American Novel on the web, but how will they get eyeballs on the website? And who even buys a PDF of a novel? Not many people are willing to stare at a computer screen for hours and hours reading a PDF. Well, I guess I would if I didn’t have a Kindle, but it isn’t preferable.
MP3s hit the scene in a big way around 1996 but didn’t really evolve into a major force until two things happened:
a) portable players (I had an original Rio PMP300 in 1999…32MB of storage)
b) digital distribution (iTunes, amazon.com)
This all means that anybody with a decent recording of their music (and a relatively small upfront investment) can get their tracks on iTunes or amazon.com or some other digital music store where people will find it and possibly buy it. The system is far from perfect (and still involves “labels” to some extent), but it certainly is an improvement. For more information on digital music publishing, check out this excellent blog post: Can A Musician Sell Their Music Online?
So, once again, where does this leave authors? This finally brings me to:
The Point Of This Entire Rambling Blog Post
If we look at the success of the MP3 model and compare it to books, we now have the two building blocks for success:
a) portable devices (the Kindle)
b) digital distribution (amazon.com, some other sources)
Ideally, we would not be dealing with only one company here (for the most part), but this is really just the beginning. Yes, I know there are other e-book readers (the Sony, etc). Yes, I know there are other places to purchase e-books. However, the Kindle + the amazon.com Kindle store make the first real Joe Consumer-friendly combination that really gets it right. The “Whispernet” wireless shopping and distribution method on the Kindle is the real deal-breaker, in my opinion, and sets the Kindle miles ahead of any other device or distro method.
Amazon has made it incredibly easy to self-publish a book via the Kindle store. Using their Digital Text Platform, anybody with an amazon.com account can upload a manuscript (in .doc format, for instance), set a price, and have their book available for purchase in the Kindle store almost immediately with ZERO dollars up front. They take a nice cut of your earnings, of course, but that’s the price you pay for having your material in front of a zillion eyeballs. You don’t even need to pony up for an ISBN, which is nice, since selling digital music still requires you to pay for a unique UPC (what a load of crap).
Let me clarify this just to make sure everybody is clear: I could take this blog post, upload it to amazon, set a price, and it would be available to be purchased for the Kindle (either via the web or via the Kindle itself) by tomorrow. If (hypothetically) it started selling, I’d start to get checks from amazon.com. It is that simple. Maybe you’ll sell 1 copy (to your mom) or maybe you’ll sell a million copies. Either way, it didn’t cost you a dime to see if all that hard work really did produce something that people would enjoy reading. If it IS successful, I’m sure the book publishers will come knocking on YOUR door to acquire publishing rights to your current and future work.
As you may have guessed, I own a Kindle (the Kindle 2, to be precise). I think it is the greatest thing since my first MP3 player and I’m not sure what I would do without it. I’ve been reading materials by some established authors, but I’ve also stumbled across some interesting work that I never would have found in a Barnes and Noble. The book I’m most impressed by, and the very reason for this blog post, is called Uncubicled.
Uncubicled was written by Josh McMains. McMains is an electrical engineer by trade and, like many of us, thought “I have an idea for an interesting novel and I think I could write it.” UNlike many of us, he actually sat down and did it. Not just the first chapter, the entire book. As a first-time author with no connections to the industry, what does he do with the fruits of his labor? Does he walk into the HQ of a major book publisher with his hat in hand? No, he publishes his book himself. Although there are other ways to purchase the book, the keystone of his publishing strategy appears to be the amazon Kindle store.
Presently, you can purchase Uncubicled for the Kindle for only $.99. Yes, 99 cents. You spend that much on a single crappy song from iTunes. A pack of Tic Tacs. Clearly a bargain. But is the book any good?
You bet it is.
The Kindle version on amazon has 22 customer reviews with a 4.5 star average. I haven’t yet posted my own review, but I will after I finish this blog post (I’ll give you a hint, it will be 5 stars). Besides, for $.99, you can afford to find out for yourself. McMains has done an excellent job of marketing the book via twitter, facebook, and a website. I found him on twitter, actually (or HE found ME, I should say, after I mentioned my Kindle in a twitter post). This is a business model that I believe is very important to the future of digital publishing and, as such, needs to succeed. If you have a Kindle (or know somebody who does), you owe it to yourself to check out this book.
What’s that? You don’t have a Kindle yet? Well, there’s no time like the present.
One last thing: if you have read this book, please review it on amazon! The quantity and quality of reviews has a direct effect on the visibility of the book to amazon.com users. If he could get over 50 reviews, it would really help him out.