Gatekeepers No More

A fascinating article on WSJ.com about “Wool,” which launches in print today after already having made the author a millionaire on digital sales alone:

Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott.

And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.

The publishing industry is in danger of losing control of the digital market as more and more tools are being put in the hands of authors to allow them to make and sell their books directly to readers. This piece is fascinating in detailing how this author knew he had the publishers under his power and not vice versa.

He’s even able to set his own pricing, which ends up with the digital, Kindle version of the first five books retailing for $6 and the paperback of the same retailing for $15, which resembles realistic and non-gougy pricing. Plus, when dealing with Amazon, he gets 70%, while with a traditional publisher he would get only 15% or less. The economy of this thing is a no-brainer.

Authors can now create their own books, package them, and sell them on globally-available marketplaces with minimal cost and with profit shares much larger than they can by going through the traditional publishers. They can also use blogs and social services to do all their own marketing nearly free of charge.

You can say how you wish things weren’t being controlled by DRM-laden marketplaces like the Kindle Store or iBooks, but the ease of access to the tools and methods or creation and distribution is eroding the traditional publishing market’s authority over the medium.

William L. McKnight, chairman of 3M, in …

William L. McKnight, chairman of 3M, in 1948(!):

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.

Last week’s read was William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which I heartily recommend as it exposed to me several shortcomings in my own writing processes. This week, I’m reading through Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation, which is a work full of truths that, deep down, everyone knows but finds hard to accept.

The Myths of Innovation led me to track down and watch this YouTube video of a Google Tech Talk from Berkun, which in turn led to my discovery of the above quote.

O’Reilly is publishing a book entitled …

O’Reilly is publishing a book entitled Best iPhone Apps:

Best iPhone Apps is a reliable guide to the best, most useful, and most entertaining iPhone apps, concisely cataloged and described. This colorful catalog gives you the quick lowdown on each app, with brief tips on how to use it. This is the guide for discriminating downloaders.

Very rarely have I seen an idea for a book that will be as out-of-date as soon as it is published. I like O’Reilly, but this is a weird idea.

This must be for an audience that isn’t me.

Let’s Watch Where This Goes

Barnes and Noble just opened a digital audiobook store. From Publisher’s Weekly:

Barnes & Noble has taken another step in deepening its role in the digital marketplace, launching its Audiobook MP3 Store on Barnes & Noble.com. The store will feature spokenword audiobook MP3s available for download and transfer to iPods, iPhones, MP3 players and other portable devices. The site is launching with more than 10,000 titles across all genres, priced between $10 and $20 per download.

“As the use of MP3 players, iPods, iPhones and other digital devices continues to increase, it is important for Barnes & Noble to continue to expand our audio selections,” said Tom Burke, executive v-p, E-Commerce Barnes & Noble. Overdrive is managing the distribution of titles through the BN.com site. Later this year, B&N is expected to launch an e-bookstore, following its acquisition earlier this year of Fictionwise.

And it’s all DRM-free.

I wonder what that new e-bookstore is going to look like.