Gerry Boyle here. Today’s post is a continuation from something I posted yesterday on my blog over at gerryboyle.com. In that post I talked about finishing a new crime novel called THE DEAD SAMARITAN, which I wrote with my daughter, Dublin-based freelance writer Emily Westbrooks. The book (I’ve mentioned it here before) is set in Ireland, filled with lots of very bad bad guys, and probably will blow up stereotypes you might have of the Old Sod.
So we’ve gone through the ms. and felt it was ready for prime time so off to the agent it went. But exactly what prime time will that be?
Things have changed since I started in this business more than 20 years ago. I used to print out manuscripts, carefully pack them in boxes, and mail them off at the village Post Office. Priscilla, our postmistress extraordinaire, would see the carton on the counter and say, “Oh, so you have a new book. What’s this one about?”
We’d have a nice chat. Now I just attach the document and press “send.” Easier but not quite as climactic.
But in addition to the way we send off a book-to-be, the bigger change is the form that book can take. Hard, soft, e-book, conventional publisher, e-first, self-publish, publish print books on demand, even publish serially online. Lots of choices and they have serious implications for writer and reader.
For the reader it can mean choosing between $25.95 hardcover or $2.99 e-book. For the writer it’s a choice, too: Royalties can range from 15 percent of retail (or less) on that hardcover, or up to 90 percent of that e-book, if it’s self-published. For a writer, that’s a chunk of change. And speaking for myself, I love writing, I love telling stories, I love making up people and places, and I love sharing all of it with readers. But it’s not a hobby. Just like publishers, I’m looking to expand my audience and maximize profit.
So that’s where I am this week and these past few months. The nature of this business means you’re locked in to whatever publishing method you use. A book contract with a conventional publisher can mean a commitment of multiple books and several years. I’m trying to figure out where the business will be in three or four years, and trying to make sure I’m not locked out of the next opportunity.
Writers and readers, that is. Do you buy the newest mystery at your local indie bookstore (be happy if you have one)? Do you have a Kindle? Do you read on your iPad? Do you get hardcover mysteries from the library? Buy paperbacks from Amazon? How do you see yourself reading next year and the year after that? Let me know because in coming weeks I’ll be making a choice with SAMARITAN and ONCE BURNED, the new Jack McMorrow mystery. And I’m sure I’m not alone wrestling with all of this.
With your help, maybe we can take some of the mystery out of the increasingly mysterious mystery business.