Writing in the Digital Age: It’s All About the Platform

A couple of weeks ago, crime writer Seth Harwood wrote a very popular piece here - How I Sold My Book by Giving It Away. Now he's back and telling us about the new challenge of writing in the digital age. Take it away Seth (and check out his new book JACK WAKES UP )...

The number of ebook readers and reading devices is growing rather than shrinking these days. We’re entering a world where individual readers will decide not only what books they want to read, but how they want to read them. And here there’s something to think about for authors: As readers choose the reading platform they like best, they’ll see a certain set of books in that space. Different books show up at Wal-Mart than at your local independent bookseller. On the Kindle there are different books—with different prices—than on the iTunes App store. And even within the iTunes store, you'll find different books in the Audiobooks section (owned by Audible.com), the Podcasts>>Arts>>Literature section (where many of the titles are free), and in the App store.

As an author, I want to be wherever a reader can look. On every platform and every new platform, I want my book to be available. My novel JACK WAKES UP started out as a podcast (via iTunesRSS Feed, & MP3). People liked it. It got to print on demand, and Amazon sold it in print and Kindle formats. Guess what? It did pretty well. Now, it’s out from Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, and readers can find it at all the online outlets, as well as brick and mortar bookstores nationwide—both big box and indy. But that’s still missing part of the market: soon more and more people will be buying their books on their iPhones as Apps—both audio and text—or on Kindle, Scribd, eReader and who knows where else. All I can do is work toward making JACK WAKES UP available in as many places and ways as possible.

At the Publishing 3.0 panel session during April’s LA Times Festival of Books, the experts spoke about the problem of publishing in the 20th century being demand—how do you generate the interest in your book and get people to buy it—and that the new problem in the 21st century is supply. With so many books published, many will fail. There’s literally just too much, a glut of books that no one has a good idea how to fix.

The other supply-side issue is platform. As the publishing game steams quickly toward different platforms, virtually unlimited choices for readers, different pricing models, reading experiences, and preferences, my duty as an author now involves making sure my work is offered on as many platforms as possible to ensure my book is an option for the greatest number of readers.


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  • alex lee says:

    I appreciate your efforts to make your work available via as many channels as possible, but do you have any thoughts on how it’s available for such different prices. I can pay $13 on Diesel Books, or get it for free on Manybooks.net. Shouldn’t a product be consistently priced? Won’t readers feel ripped off if they find out they’ve paid more than they needed to. Free ebooks have proved to drive physical product sales so I’m just wondering why you haven’t taken that option.

  • Seth Harwood says:

    Alex,

    I’ve seen the reports on free ebooks driving physical sales and I believed in it 100% before I saw them. Last year, I gave away free PDF’s of my entire novel across the net to the tune of 80,000 downloads. I was happy to do it. This year I’m not because my publisher won’t let me. They don’t believe it yet.

    Funny! I actually forgot all about the Manybooks.net version of the PDF. I should take it down now, that’s what my publisher would have me do. Hmmm…

    I was making the point tonight at an event that you’re basically advertising with good will by giving away a free PDF. A small number of people will read all the way through a PDF of the first three chapters of a book OR a free PDF of the whole book, but across the board, the people who got the whole book free will feel better about you and about your book. This definitely leads to sales.

    The problem in publishing in some sense is that people are happier spending money to advertise than they are with giving something away for free to advertise. This will have to change eventually, especially as budgets tighten, and it is: my book is still available as a free audio podcast, but it will also take time.

    Seth

  • Seth Harwood says:

    On different prices being out there, you can also buy it for $9.99 on Amazon’s Kindle. Other than this Manybooks anomaly, you’re probably always going to find the cheapest ebook on Amazon. As I’ll discuss in an upcoming post, they’ve got a ton of power in the marketplace. Perhaps too much.

    On the other hand, the Kindle seems prohibitively expensive to many people.

  • As an author/illustrator I’m frustrated by the lack of information or availability of publishing illustrated books in the new digital formats. any news/ideas of this becoming a possibility?

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