"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Writers, Adapt to Change!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writers, Adapt to Change!

I see Hollywood, in its ever deepening penchant for plundering the past, is making a movie version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a TV spy show from the 1960s. Robyn doesn't remember it - and even I was a baby when I caught reruns in the UK.

Bradley Cooper is tipped to star in the lead role of Napoleon Solo, with no-one yet set up for his side-kick or boss - or the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agents for that matter.

I had to look up Bradley Cooper on IMDB - not being exactly sure who he was when my Film News Briefs newsletter told me he was the next big hot property in Hollywood. Of course I recognized him immediately - the Nip and Tuck guy who was also in another remake: Stephen J Cannell's, The A Team.

Seeing a new star on the rise made me think about the nature of stardom, fame and success - and how some people seem to rise to the top while the rest of us just get on with our lives...

...and I wondered, is there really anything we can do - we as in you and I - to create fame for ourselves, assuming that's what we want?

I remember a long time ago I asked a life coach: What happens if you do all this success stuff and you don't get rich and famous - eh? Doesn't that prove that everything you say is crap? (I was young and arrogant - and more argumentative at the time!)

No, she said, smiling. It just proves you didn't want it enough.


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Writers, Adapt to Change

Rob Parnell

According to the latest sales figures for books, the sale of digital books is increasing by around 300% a year - while the sales of real books - hardbacks and paperbacks - is dropping by around 5% a year.

You'll notice that I didn't call them e-books - mainly because I know many writers have a knee jerk reaction to the word and just close down - and say, that's not for me and dismiss the whole idea of being published in anything other than paper form.

Fact is, the publishers you aspire to impress are beginning to feel the pinch because they too have had the same 'jerk' reaction to digital content. They really don't know what to do about the e-book...

Trouble is, the new players in publishing like Amazon and Apple - and the thousands of digital publishers already on line - know exactly what to do about it!

Do you remember about ten years ago people were saying that hand-held book readers would never catch on? That the paper book was some sacred object that could never be replaced?

Well, that's still true.

But now iPads, Kindles and Androids are here - and guess what? they're just new names for hand-held book readers.

I suspect the same will happen with e-books. They will change their credibility factor by simply changing their name...

No idea what to at this stage.

Something more sexy sounding than e-books, to be sure.

One of the more interesting findings that a recent survey uncovered is that the average person already has around three times more digital books on their computer hard drives than they have real books on their bookshelves at home.

And who said e-books would never catch on?

Are you missing something here?

Here's an example of a writer who's not missing the boat on this one:


J A Konrath, a crime and horror writer tired of being rejected by NY publishers, even though he's been very successful offline, released his entire back catalog of books and short stories through Kindle - available only as digital downloads.

Last year he made nearly $48,000 in royalties on just those books - yes, forty eight thousand $US, even though his e-books sold for less than, on average, $2 each.

Konrath is the first to say he doesn't know if he's unique in this regard, only that he has no faith in traditional publishers to make the correct commercial decisions for his work anymore.

The big problem I am seeing everywhere is that authors - good authors, great writers - are being serially rejected by publishers. Trouble is, they're taking this rejection to heart and thinking it's somehow their fault - when clearly it's not.

It's the fault of a traditional publishing industry that is losing its grip on how to sell books to readers.

Digital publishing is fast and cheap.

The big publishing houses take, on average, two years to get a book from submission to publication - mainly because their internal structures are massively inefficient and cumbersome to the point of silliness.

Plus, they lack confidence in the market for books... they must do.

They're currently rejecting 99.9999% of all new manuscripts arriving on their desks because they already have all the books they can handle and can't sell - plus leviathan lists of hopefuls lined up for years to come (that they probably can't sell either).

Now, publishing works on the principle that one bestselling book pays for another one hundred not so successful books on a publisher's list. It's always been that way. It's a good business model.

But how can you know what the bestsellers are going to be?

Well, you can't - which is why releasing new books - and often - is so necessary to compete. And releasing new books often is exactly what digital publishing is all about.

The money side is different for digital.

Gone are the big advances - unless you get a movie option. But also gone is the long wait to get royalties.

Digital books might not make you as much money - but you get it sooner - which means you can 'keep writing' while other would be authors have to work their day jobs in the faint hope of a real book contract.

The times are changing.

It's not a case of thinking that e-books won't catch on...

They already have!

Inventions like the iPad have made digital downloading and reading of books commonplace. And only those trade publishers with blinkers on don't see that their days are numbered - unless they all want to become boutique niche suppliers to an ever dwindling marketplace.

I remember back in the 1980s someone said to me (Herman, his name was - I loved him dearly until he attacked me with an ax - a long story), "Rob," he said, "the future is digital."

I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. But this was just before CDs took over from vinyl records.

And to think, most musicians in those days thought that CDs and barcodes marked the end of civilization - in much the same way that many modern writers still refuse to embrace digital books - the future in other words.

Have I convinced you yet?

Do you still have your head buried in the sand over this?

I hope not.

Robyn and I are living proof you can get rich and successful as writers using a combination of book distribution networks - online digital and offline with real paper books - and not relying exclusively on any old-world publishers to help you.

Because, to be honest now, I really don't think most trade publishers know what they're doing anymore. They're shrinking and floundering on a seashore they can't come to terms with - because they missed the boat while they were wondering what to do about the Internet...

Having said all the above, we're very excited this week because we've just acquired nationwide distribution for our own 'real' books in Australia and NZ, through our own new publishing company, R&R.

Well, you know what they say. If you can't join them, beat them!

Keep Writing.

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write


"I get the solid shape, as it were, inside my head…I identify myself with the center of its gravity, its mass, its weight… imagine it any size I like and really am in control almost like God creating something." Henry Moore

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "Motivation and Writing"
Writer's Quote by Mary McGrory

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