The Austin American Stateman has an interesting story today by Omar L. Gallaga, entitled Publishing Changes in the Digital Era--interesting to me, that is, though possibly not for the reasons Mr. Gallaga intended.
"Here's a pleasant surprise," the story begins. "One of the areas where I'm seeing some of the most interesting new-media marketing is in the oldest of old media: book publishing." The story goes on to describe the publishing and promotion efforts of Tam Thompson, a writer who has just self-epublished a fitness guide for women, Busy Sexy Body. She's doing a signing at a local library, printing out color copies of the ebook's cover which she will sign for buyers (purchases can be made online right at the library). Says the article,
Thompson deals with lots of writers and says many of them are hopelessly mired in the past, waiting for a publisher's paycheck to land on their door. She thinks they should instead aggressively promote themselves using whatever technology is available.
"They are stubborn as mules. They will not come out of the 18th century," she said. "A good book with great marketing will outsell a great book with good marketing all day long. Any writer who doesn't do this in the next year or two is just going to be dead in the water."
What's surprising about this? Not much. Until you read that Thompson's 60-page ebook is priced at $29.95, and she has spent $7,000 on promoting it. No, those are not typos.
To my electronic-savvy readers, I don't need to point out that $29.95 is an insane price for an ebook (not just for an ebook, actually--many hardcover books don't cost that much). Most ebook readers feel that an ebook shouldn't cost a lot more than a mass market paperback, and the high ebook prices that so many commercial publishers insist on charging for the e-versions of their print books are a frequent source of reader gripes. Even the 3 FREE Special Bonuses you get if you order Thompson's book "right now today" don't do much to sweeten the deal.
Much of Thompson's promotional spending, according to the article, went to "an Internet consultant and Web team who helped [Thompson] set up a blog and a payment system for selling Busy Sexy Body online." (Uh...Paypal.) But $7,000? Ebooks are a niche market--only around 1% of the total book market, according to the COO of Ingram Digital. In other words, at the moment, most people don't read them. Does it make any sense to spend that kind of cash on promotion, especially if you've priced your ebook into the stratosphere?
Maybe not. In its first week of online availability, Busy Sexy Body sold one copy. New-media marketing, indeed.