I was interested to read today about a book called The Future of the Internet. What interested me about this book was not the content of the book (which I am sure is excellent and I look forward to reading at a later date), but the way it was being being marketed. The book can be bought through Amazon or downloaded for free on the web through a creative commons licence.
I think that this is interesting as it shows the way in which I think publishing will be moving. The author is giving away quality content for free, presumably in the hope that it gets a wider readership and promotes his personal brand. I first came across this idea reading Wikinomics where they talked about Cory Doctorow, a writer at boing boing who gives his science fiction writing away for free. In Cory’s opinion, the problem facing writers in the internet age is not copywrite theft but obscurity. I did note when reading wikinomics that despite praising Doctorow’s stance, they charged for their work.
In the future, authors will make very little of their money from their actual books (not that many of them make much at the moment) and more from other activities which the book promote such as speaking and advertising. If done properly I think that an author can make many more money by using their book as a promotional tool, than by selling the hard back copies. Here is how many future author will market their work:
- Self publish the book through a service such as lightening source or lulu
- Sell hard copies through Amazon’s advantage program. Although I haven’t the data to prove it, I think that there is a possiblity that giving away the content online will actually boost hard copy sales.
- Give away the content for free online. This will allow the book to be promoted virally through the web and the content to be indexed by Google
- Write a blog which forms a community around the book’s topic
- Promote the book though Google Books search and Amazon search inside
An author can then make money through sales of the hardback book, advertising on the blog and in the book, speaking engagements and consultancy. Given that many books have short print runs (when I went to see a publisher he reckoned that I would sell 2000 books which would net me about £2000)
A counter arguement is of course that people only value what they pay for. That is to some extent true, however I think that the promotional benefits of widely distributing work, far outweighs any negative effects.