You see the entire place--I'm talking ALL of Texas, and it's a big dude--was burning up. Literally. In September, Bastrop County caught fire. Less than a one hour drive from my home some 34,000 acres burned, over a 77 square mile area. That's about three times the size of Manhattan Island. Well over 1,500 homes were destroyed. And that was just one (albeit the largest) of our fires last year. There were 27,000+ wild fires reported in the state in 2011. (Not a misprint, that's 27 with a K.)
Drought was to blame. It just didn't rain. None. For months and months and months. Then it got really hot. San Antonio had 57 days of 100 F or over temperatures in 2011 (I think our average is around 9 per year). The combined effect put us on the brink of becoming a burned out desert, and that's no overstatement.
Now, less than a year later, my yard is green, the bugs are out and my roses are even blooming!
Just goes to show that the world keeps plowing ahead, never looking back. Nature doesn't care what happened last year, just give it some water and you'll see.
I think Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is forcing the publishing industry to do the same.
The Harry Potter series is perhaps the most popular book franchise of all time. All told, well over 400 million copies have been sold worldwide. 8.3 million copies of the seventh (and final) book in the series were sold in the first 24 hours of its release (way back in 2007 ... yes, we're that old), making it the fastest selling book of all time. Suffice to say, they're kind of a big deal. (More details can be found here.)
Fast forward to now...
Electronic books are a big deal and getting bigger by the month. In 2011, the e-book market generated just shy of $2 billion in the U.S., and that's projected to be somewhere north of $5 billion in five years. (More here.) That's just the U.S. mind you. With little provinces like China being relatively new passengers aboard the e-book express, who knows what kind of growth we'll see globally.
It's not a slam on paper publishing, it's just the digitization of the world we live in. It has happened to medical records, music, banking and everything else under the sun. Now it's happening to books. And it has been happening for a while now.
|You can tell from our faces that Ron, Harry, Hermione and I think this is serious business.|
Trust me, if Bloomsburry/Scholastic had had the e-rights, we'd have had Kindle versions three years ago. Just too much money to be had. Instead, we waited. More than anything, it seems we had to wait for J.K. to get comfortable with the idea. (And she certainly didn't need the money right away, did she?)
No, J.K. needed to embrace the idea of e-books. You can read an interview she did in June of last year HERE where she discusses the role of e-books in her life (the beauty of taking 50 books on vacation with no extra luggage, downloading stories on the go for her children, etc.)
She also had to overcome her fear of piracy. She put on record many times that the idea of people being able to run wild with her property on the Internet was a primary objection to her books being digitized. An irony of sorts, because the Harry Potter books have been a hot item on the digital black market for years. Some have even theorized her reluctance to publish a legitimate digital copy has only exacerbated the issue.
|Lego Harry would use a forbidden curse on pirates. Don't let the smile fool you...|
But the 'why' really isn't the important part. It's more about the 'how'.
In a move straight out of the playbook titled, Oprah: Seven Ways to Dominate Everything You Touch - Billionaires Only Addition, J.K. created her own gigantic website, refused to sell her books on anything but her website, and essentially squeezed until the retail giants of the world agreed to play with her. Yes, you can go to Amazon and Barnes & Noble to purchase the Potter e-books, but they just route you around to her site.
Did I mention J.K. has the electronic rights and therefore keeps (according to estimates) 70-90% of every dime she makes? No subsidiary. No 15-30% cut for the author. No distributor cut. So when you purchase the $7.99 to $9.99 book (depending upon which book in the series you buy) through her Pottermore site, J.K.'s cash register rings to the tune of $6 - $9. Amazing!
Can you imagine going to Amazon and saying, "Hey, I want you to advertise my books, but you can't distribute them or otherwise benefit. You just get to put my name up and have a link in your book store." And then imagine Amazon begging you for the opportunity.
It's called ultimate power, and it's something very few of us will ever get to taste for ourselves outside of deciding if we want fries with our meals.
But even if we don't wield the power of the Elder Wand, this turn of events holds the potential to change life for all kinds of authors. (Even the non-billionaires types.) I'd wager digital rights conversations between agents and publishers are getting more heated by the minute.
And as I say, it doesn't just apply to the big dogs. After all, who knows what and how something becomes as popular as Harry Potter. We DO know J.K.'s rags to riches story (my thoughts). We DO know how very few people, in the beginning, thought the books would be successful, even on a small scale. Who's to say you're not next?
It's not just big news for publishers, either. This could be a moment where Amazon and other retailers are put on notice. Maybe they can't make all of the rules going forward, as so many Indie authors and traditional publishers are worried?
Perhaps this proves that if an author gets big enough, they can hang their own shingle? And make no mistake, it's the big name authors that make the business go round, so when they talk others listen. Furthermore, I'll be surprised if more publishers don't start pushing direct e-book sales as a result of Pottermore. Most of the big publishers despise Amazon anyway, so why not ride J.K.'s coattails into a new era to table turning?
And we won't even go to the, "if it succeeds" kind of talk. It's Harry Potter. It's going to generate millions PERIOD
Also, don't be quick to think that no true Indie e-book author will ever be able to pull off that level of fame without the help of a big publisher and big advertising.
There are John Locke's and Amanda Hocking's out there who've done loads more (already) on their own than anyone thought possible just a couple of years ago. I'm fairly convinced there will be many more millionaire authors who've never published traditionally as we move forward.
My questions for you: Is this a watershed moment in publishing? Or is this just an isolated case, never to be replicated by anyone else? (Mischief managed?)
Do you think publishing is pretty much the same as it has always been? If it isn't, do you think it can/will return to that point?