Monday, January 5, 2009

Gay books, ebooks, freebooks, and the industry

Three items crossed my desk yesterday, each of them sad enough in its own way, but when you put them together like building bricks, they're fairly catastrophic.

The publishing industry has been on its knees for quite some time now; I've blogged about this several times during the last six months. At this point, the industry is actually starting to do the face-plant that's been predicted for the last year. The nose is hitting the bitumen as I write.

Let's talk mainstream magazines for a second; a magazine in a big, opulent niche -- in fact, photography, which has always been "up there" with knitting and crochet, cooking, cars, sewing, woodworking and so forth, as one of the flag carriers of the high-end hobby niche. As an erstwhile pro photographer myself, I'm always fascinated by photographics magazines; and JPG Magazine has been the brightest new kid on the block. Till January 5th 2009.

JPG Magazine Says Goodbye:

They were brilliant, with around 200,000 photographers featured in their 19 or so issues. They had a support group that was far bigger than any small(ish) publisher could ever hope to have. And they just went belly up. It's a sad day for photographers, and for publishers.

And then, at the same moment, this:

The Gay Publishing Company opened its doors to submissions about 18 months ago at the time of this writing, and as the webpage states, if they can raise US$200,000 (AUD three hundred grand or so), they can publish their first title in six months' time. They have "received more than a dozen full-size novels, two agented manuscripts, numerous short stories, a couple of screenplays, and some memoirs," and are now looking at publishing. Frankly, I'm astonished they weren't deluged with manuscripts. They could have been sitting on several hundred books by this time --

At least, they could have if they were prepared to give firm contracts and promise royalties inside the next 12-24 months. Writers are desperate; most of them, however, are not so desperate, yet, that they'll tie down a whole novel (the work of months or even a couple of years) without any guarantee of a contract and some income.

The figure of US$200,000 might look high to the uninitiated, but in fact, it's conservative. I was involved with book distribution about fifteen years ago, and I learned from the inside how it works. This is what The Gay Publishing Company is up against: to get national distributors to deal with you, you must publish 5 or 6 titles at one time. They will have a 30-60 day "shelf life," after which time the remainders are shipped back to your warehouse, at your expense and the distributor will take your next new titles. The accounting period is six months, and you, the publisher, will get paid three months after the end of the last accounting period. In other words, you won't see a dollar for nine months; in that time, you will have published 25 or more titles, and accepted back the returns. Let's say you print 6,000 copies of each title. That's 150,000 books in print. Let's say they cost you $1 each to print (mass market, offset, bulk runs, mean low printing prices). You're down $150,000 before you see any income. Allow another twenty-five grand to pay small advances, $1,000 each; and another twenty-five grand to pay for warehousing, transportation, and all the business expenses involved with phones, computers, accounting ...

There's your two hundred thousand dollars -- and you'll know in about a year if you're going to continue in business or go belly up.

I have nothing but admiration for anyone who has the courage to enter this field, although I also believe it takes a touch of madness, too. All credit to The Gay Publishing Company. I hope they make it. But, as a writer trying to earn a crust, I have to admit -- it'd be royalties I'd be looking for, in a partnership with them, not an investment opportunity! I can only hope they find the investors they need.

The last of the three items which landed on my desk last evening is this -- a question and thread at Yahoo Answers:

The Question was this: "W[h]ere can i download free homoerotic ebooks online?
hi i'm addicted to gay ebooks from publishers like Torquere Press and Aspen, however i'm POOR and if i can get ebooks from authors like T.A Chase for free online that would be great. are there any share-filess site that i can use. thanks

And the most poignant answer was this: "Know what? Those writers are poor too. That's why they write - to try to make a little money. I know two women who write for Torquere, and they're lucky to make $3,000.00 per year for one book (which takes months to write). They work full time jobs and the money they make from writing helps pay some of the bills.Don't steal from them. If you like their work, pay for it. It doesn't cost that much."

Of course, other answers gave urls where you can get free gay ebooks ... and there are numerous places. The "best" answer was the one which gave three free gay ebook sources:

...and the fact is, I can add to this list:

(What leaves me a little amazed is that the person asking this question at Yahoo Ask couldn't figure out how to go to a search engine (pick one) and type in "free gay ebooks.")

Some time ago I recall saying that what the top-line publishers in London and NY don't realize, and haven't reckoned with, is that it's not cheap ebooks they have to contend with -- it's free online fiction. There's a growing ocean of it and, alack and alas, I'm about to start making matters worse with my own experiments:

The Fall of the Atlantean Empire will be going online in a week or so. Right now, I'm just trying to get the advertising worked out. I was thinking about using popunders, but I recently discovered two things: people hate them with a passion, and they pay waaaay too little to the publisher to make it worth the angst being passed along to the reader. So, forget the popunders. I'm looking for something else, and when I come up with an answer, we'll "go up." I'm also thinking about launching the novel with less (or no) advertising, getting the traffic going, and adding in the advertising later. Gay Blog Ads, or Gay Ad Network, that kind of thing.

The publishing world is changing. I do believe the existing top-line publishers are still living in a kind of Middle Earth, where things change with glacial slowness ... things are built to endure, and in fact they outlast their time. If Nostrakeeganus were to make a prediction: we'll see the world of publishing, writing and reading change beyond our imagination in the next 12 - 36 months. I think I see it happening now, and my guess is that as we drive into 2011, so much will be different, many of the icons of yesteryear will either be gone or busy morphing into radically new shapes in an effort to survive.

This is how evolution (read: Mother Nature) works. And everywhere save in the business community it's called A Good Thing.



Susan said...

I want to thank you for your link to my blog, Online Novels. Is your book
The Fall of the Atlantean Empire going to be available free on the internet? If so, I would very much like to list it.

Thank you.
Susan Crealock

Mel Keegan said...

Many thanks for leaving a comment on my blog -- and yes, LEGENDS: The Fall of the Atlantean Empire will be going up in segments to a specially designed blog. Free for the downloading. It's part of a grand experiment: I'm almost certain that careful advertising on the pages, multiplied by a very large number of visitors generated by the fact a professional novel is being uploaded free, will return some useful bucks. If this is so, I know other writers will be interested.

The object has always been to find ten or even twenty thousand readers, and play to a gratifyingly large audience ... and, on the other hand, to keep the bills paid and groceries on the table! I have a strong intuition, the "digital novel" will do this.

I'll email again when the novel starts to upload. I want to get a good wedge of it online before I "open" the url and do a newsletter.

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