We live in an age of disintermediation.
An age where middlemen are cut from equations like fat off the bone.
In book publishing the web is increasingly demonstrating how little need there is for some intermediaries to exist. Like the buggy whip before it these once useful utilities to various processes are being replaced by something else.
Call it an evolutionary step.
Authors, musicians, photographers, florists, tattoo parlours, film makers and people operating in almost every other endeavor under the sun are turning to the web for greater efficiencies and opportunities to engage directly with their audiences and customers.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Bookcamp Model that emerged in 2009 pointed toward some of the realities and developments that we are seeing manifest themselves today.
Barry Eisler, an established writer, turns down $500,000 advance from a traditional publisher to self-publish and maintain creative control – and control of production and marketing – of his own work.
Amanda Hocking, an independent internet writer whose books and blog have been super popular and who sells a lot of digital files via Amazon, goes the other way with a huge deal with a traditional publisher.
So we live in a time where nothing makes sense. No is yes and sometimes is always.
One writer gained his audience by writing good books within the traditional publishing model and had earned the right to refuse a half million dollar advance in order to have a more direct relationship with his fans.
The other writer has spent years building her audience online. She has direct, personal relationships with her fans via Kindle message boards and her blog. This has translated into a relationship where her stories are valued by her fans. They happily pay to support her work. It isn’t hard for publishers to recognize the potential in that.
There’s opportunities everywhere. Established models are rusting into the sands and authors have the power to go to all kinds of different places to find and satisfy their audiences. And make some money.
Enter Megan Lisa Jones.
In this example – my personal favorite so far – Jones, a self-published author who uses Amazon, Barnes and Noble, YouTube and her own blog to propel awareness, unleashed her work via the peer to peer networks using Clearbits.net.
A torrent tracking site. You may recognize the names of other sites that function exactly like clearbits.net: Pirate Bay, Isohunt, Bit Torrent.
That’s right. Those ruthless pirate networks are being brought to heel not by injunctions drafted by earnest lawyers and bleeding heart legislation created by shrewd politicians but by content creators.
By creators who understand – or at least are willing to experiment with – what instantaneous global dissemination can do for their work.
* Side note: this is why DRM fails and why legislation to protect ‘locked content’ will fail. It will be a strictly economic problem for publishers with locked content. The P2P networks will be full of content that is willfully given away by creators and publishers who understand it’s power and reach. They will sell directly to a global audience based on a new set of fluctuating terms. Locked content will collect the digital equivalent of dust. Irrelevance. Traditional publishers who think that locked content is the way of the future (not to mention the present) are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
But back to Megan Lisa Jones and her book, Captive.
As MediaBistro reported today, Debut Novel Exceeds 400,00 Downloads Through Bit Torrent.
I have commented on this in various places already today but here’s the comment that I left on Mike Shatzkin’s blog. This is a part of the comment thread that’s attached to his piece on eBook pricing (It’s Hard to Figure Out Pricing For Ebooks Based on Anecdotal Evidence).
In a previous comment Mike had described my model of ‘ebooks are worth something or nothing depending on relationships*’ as “anarchy”, also claiming that writers won’t make any money in a world where consumers have practically unlimited choice.
He may be right on both counts.
I’m sure that you’ve already seen this and are cogitating on its significance but here’s a practical example of my ‘anarchy model’ above.
As noted by MediaBistro this morning: Debut Novel Exceeds 400,000 Downloads Through Bit Torrent.
The books is called Captive and it’s written by Megan Lisa Jones.
I downloaded the pdf via Bit Torrent client from about 60 peers in about 3 minutes. The torrent contained a txt file, a pdf of the novel and a quicktime video (also available via author’s YouTube channel) of the author introducing the book.
Paperback is available via Amazon for $11.00. Kindle Edition is available for $4.99. Bot Torrent Edition is free.
Price dropped this morning on Kindle Edition from $9.99 to $4.99 due to ‘success’ of Bit Torrent promotion.
Price drop because of success of free content. Anarchy or does this landscape require a different POV to see the opportunities?
Lots of information here to think about. Lots of opportunities to investigate.
One way to look at this is that Megan Lisa Jones has started to plant the seeds for the success of her future work using tools that are already ubiquitous access points for consumers looking for new content.
The issue isn’t monetizing every single download – or selling 400,000 copies of her book.
The issue is connecting to that audience. Growing those relationships over time, listening to the audience and adapting.
If she keeps it up and cares about her craft and has an ear to her audience she’ll make a lot of people happy and probably a lot of money.
Why would a publisher lock up their content in the face of this kind of opportunity?
One this is for sure, creators aren’t going to wait around for an answer.
The next fives years are going to be about these direct relationships. The next five years are going to about how well a brand can actually change the relationship from one that looks at how many people are in their database to who these individuals are and how the brand can make the connections and loyalty stronger…we have the technology. We have the data. We have the new media channels and platforms. We have the opportunity to publish whatever we want – in text, images, audio and video – instantly (and for free) to the world. What we do with this moment will be telling.