Scarcity and Abundance

My wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, did an article today about the old world of publishing and the scarcity model and the new world of electronic publishing under the abundance model of business.

My opinion, a must read article for anyone interested in publishing or writing. This makes so much so clear.

And for readers, it will help explain why sometimes your favorite authors could not get the next book in a series in print under the old model. And why now, series are coming back.

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7 Responses to Scarcity and Abundance

  1. Ramon Terrell says:

    You know, I was in a discussion about what is going to happen to B&N, and BAM.

    I wonder if they might save themselves if they re-created the experience? Bookshelf space will shrink, but they can replace it with more seated reading areas where people can bring in their ereaders or paper books, buy something from the coffee shop, and have a seat. Also, they can buy ebooks directly on their readers and the store would get the credit for the sale. Paper books would still be for sale, but in smaller quantity, and the POD system would be full in gear by then.

    Perhaps this is naive and not financially viable, but to me, it seems like a possibly way for them to survive and create an environment where people want to go to read.

    After all, starbucks dominates more on the atmosphere and environment they create than the product they sell.

  2. A fabulous article! Brilliant! Thank you, Kris. And Thank you, Dean, for the pointer.

    I saw a comment over there in which someone asserted that a writer would need 150 to 200 titles available for purchase in order to make a living in the new world. That was rather daunting to read, since as a newbie I have no backlist and my current writing pace looks to generate perhaps 6 or 7 titles per year. The commenter didn’t provide much in the way of facts & figures to back up up his assertion. But I’d be interested to hear your take on the issue. I trust your experience and clear thinking!

    • dwsmith says:

      J.M., the number of titles it takes to make a living depends on a ton of factors. All the way from the genre to pricing, to length of work (short stories, novels, and so on). And also how much you consider making a living is.

      For example, on pricing, if you keep stuff at 99 cents, it might take a thousand titles to make a living. And, of course, if your writing sucks and your covers suck and you have spent no time learning how to write good blurbs, it could take two thousand titles and you still wouldn’t make a living. Or you could get fantastically lucky, write a great story or two, and make a ton of money on five or six titles. So much depends on the writing.

      Here is what I have observed (all factors even), but no real data behind this except for a few dozen observations and some hard math. It will take about twenty to thirty titles under the same name to really get some decent reader feedback loops working. This is assuming your readers find a story and like it and want more. If all your work is priced out of the discount bin (meaning above 99 cents, most titles being $2.99 or up) then at twenty titles you can make some bill-paying money but not a living UNLESS you got fantastically lucky.

      Above that, the number just grows. Also, many other factors are involved. I’m doing a blog post right now about how smart indie publishers are using dozens of cash streams to make money, not just limiting themselves to the big three (Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords). Stay tuned for that post coming shortly and that will answer far more questions.

  3. B. S. Simon says:

    “And for readers, it will help explain why sometimes your favorite authors could not get the next book in a series in print under the old model. And why now, series are coming back.”

    This is absolutely true. I love the Starship Troupers series by Christopher Stasheff (yes the spelling is correct), but the target audience is pretty niche, SciFi and theater people, so the series got dropped unfinished. Stasheff has said he intends to finish it now that he has an independent distribution channel.


  4. Abby says:

    I found it somewhere else yesterday and it was certainly an interesting read. It’s good to get insights into the mindsets like she provides.

    It’s the sort of thing a lot of people understand but it helps to have the words to pin down what’s going on.

  5. Dean, thanks for the answer. I know you are crazy busy now; I almost felt guilty posing the question. Really appreciate you taking the time. It’s easy to get muddled when I read enough posts/comments coming from different viewpoints. And . . . perhaps oddly, comments with fewer facts can muddle me faster than those with facts. Your experience and perspective clarify the water beautifully. Really appreciate it!

    (I am staying out of the bargain bin. Find it interesting that raising the price on my novelette from $.99 to $2.99 is garnering more page views. Too early to see if there are more sales.)

    I’m looking forward to your post on cash streams.

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