Thursday, October 13, 2011
Are ebooks just a new "get rich quick" scheme?
My ebook poster boy, Barry Eisler, is here to help me answer the question people are always asking me lately, are ebooks just a new "get rich quick" scheme? BTW, I don't know Eisler personally, but I've read his books and they are great. He deserves every e-dime he makes. Has he gotten rich quick on ebooks? We'll talk about that after defining some terms.
Let's talk about the words "rich" and "quick" -- but not in that order.
Quick -- well, yes in a way, a writer can write a book and get it in front of a reader more quickly than before thanks to ebooks and Amazon. The long time it took to get an agent, get the agent to send your book out to publishers, get a publisher interested, get a contract signed, get an advance, get the book produced (many steps here) and get the book in bookstores -- all that is gone, so the process is decidedly faster now.
But to go back, anyone who thinks it's easy and quick to write a book has NOT written a book. And anyone who has any sense knows there is nothing quick about writing a good book well -- yes, read those words over for effect (or is it affect?) -- WRITING A GOOD BOOK WELL. (It's effect. I checked.) So let me say it's still going to take TIME (and it should) to write a good book well and after all that, it is quicker to connect with readers thanks to ebooks.
Rich -- Many good writers know that if you chose to be an author (or the universe choses for you, making you one of us word people who can't stop writing anyway) you soon learn that you will write no matter what -- no matter if you make a lot of money, a little money or no money at all. Mostly most writers make NO MONEY at all. So "rich" is a relative term.
Let's say ebooks finally let many GOOD WRITERS make SOME MONEY from writing. Ebooks let some very good writers who want to do the HARD WORK of writing a book well and the harder work of promoting their book, actually MAKE A LIVING as a writer, without having to waste time with legacy publishers. And making a living as a writer is a big thing for writers -- it would make most writers feel pretty RICH. We're not talking "Wall Street rich" here.
But people who don't write, just don't understand how "rich" writers already are. Even writers who have never made a dime with their writing are lucky bastards. Writers are rich in narrative, wealthy in words, loaded in language, pockets filled with filthy lucre, like jetsetters on the Cote d'Azur swimming along in the bright blue ocean of amazing words in their own language and others, and rich in friends who share their love of writing and reading and most importantly, richly endowed in esteemed colleagues, all the wonderful writers who have gone before them and all the writers who are living and writing as their contemporaries.
So is it a "get rich quick" scheme? If we can define "rich" as "actually make a living as a writer and maybe even hitting it big" and if we define "quick" as "faster than it used to be to get your books in front of readers" I'd say it's a "actually make a living and get paid sooner" scheme.
Now, about Mr. Eisler. He's one of these ebook heroes who can "Just Say No" to the drug of legacy publishing deals. In fact, he turned down a big paper book deal from a big paper book publisher, saying like Bartleby, "I'd prefer not to." Read this for more.
But is Eisler a "get rich quick" kinda guy? You tell me. His books are well written. I know that takes time -- a lot of time and hard work. Did you watch the video here -- he's showing the pile of books he reads for research even before he starts writing. So much for "quick" -- forget about it.
His first series of thrillers have a clearly defined intriguing character, an ex-CIA guy named John Rain. Eisler WAS in the CIA -- you want to spend time doing that so you might write books as well as he does? I don't.
I don't know the details but I'm sure he spent years trying to get published -- everyone does, even really wonderful (now famous) authors. Nothing quick about it.
And as for "rich" -- I have to assume he had many lean years before his books hit and so feel free to do the math -- average in whatever money he might be making now (I hope it's really big for all his hard work ) with YEARS of making no money.
Again, I don't know about Eisler's personal wealth, but let's play with the numbers of an author who's making "a million dollars!" If you have made $250,000 every year for the last four years (= $1M) you might be called a millionaire, but if you made roughly $0 for 21 years before that ... are you a millionaire? You're barely earning a janitor's wages -- since you averaged $40K a year. (And it's really less since I didn't account for taxes.)
So I'm here to tell you the big news. Ebooks are exciting! Ebooks are amazing! Ebooks are wonderful! And writing is hard work! Sorry, had to tell the truth.
Yes, no big news that writing is still hard work, but thanks to ebooks, writers can finally make a living writing ebooks which reach readers relatively quickly.