A Seismic Shift

I’ve been asked by a handful of friends if they’ll eventually see copies of EYEWALL on the shelves of their favorite bookstores.

The honest answer is, “Probably not.” Well, they may find a few copies at the Barnes & Noble close to where I live in Atlanta, and perhaps in bookstores around St. Simons Island, Georgia–which is featured in the novel–but that’s about it.

Let me explain my response. The nature of book publishing is changing. Dramatically. It’s not that the industry is in trouble, it’s that the mechanism for delivering books is undergoing a seismic shift.

Predictions are that within five years there will be more ebooks sold than traditional paper-and-cloth publications. Popular author James Patterson has already sold over a million copies of his books in e-format. Best-selling novelist Steve Berry opines that within a few years, because of the rapid trend toward e-publication, that you won’t recognize your favorite B&N or Borders as they exist today.

So where does all this leave Eyewall? BelleBooks will release Eyewall in ebook and trade paperback formats. Trade paperbacks are the larger size paperbacks that retail for about $15 or $16. (Ebooks go for $10 or less.) By the way, while every author dreams of seeing his or her efforts in hardcover, that’s probably a death wish for first-time, unknown novelists.

The bottom line is, I love the idea of Eyewall in trade paperback. If you’re anything like me, you’re resistant to shelling out $25 or $27 for a new hardcover. You’re much more likely to spring for a paperback, especially one by an unfamiliar author.

Let’s be frank, if a casual reader has a choice of a hardcover by John Grisham or Buzz Bernard (who in the hell is he?), who do you think wins? Not me. A debut novelist is up against the wall. I’m reminded of that every time a walk into my local B&N and am overwhelmed (intimidated?) by the thousands of books in the store. And those books represent just a tiny fraction of the over half million new titles published every year (550,000 in 2008).

So how can Eyewall compete? First, my publisher will focus on the e-market: Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.) by promoting the novel with book trailers (videos) and on-line excerpts and by delivering advance copies to friendly reviewers. Second, costs of producing the paperback will be held down by something called POD (Print On Demand). Instead of cranking out a predetermined number of books, some of which may never be sold and thus lose money for the publisher, copies will be printed only as orders are received.

Thus, with few exceptions, such as at book signings or in the bookstores referenced in the second paragraph above, readers who want a touchy-feely book will have to order Eyewall from Amazon or B&N, or directly from BelleBooks. Once the order is received and processed, the novel is printed “on demand.” It all makes economic sense to me.

Like I said, the nature of publishing is undergoing a seismic shift.

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