Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why I love Kindle

I began writing seriously about twelve years ago, and all I've heard from publishers is gloom and doom--and the threat of the e-book. Maybe, from their perspective, they're right. The main reason for publishers these day, as far as I can tell, is distribution. And trying to get fiction published these days is near to impossible. Fiction comprises a mere 15% of what is published--and writers must compete against dead people (not just classics, but writers like Louis L'Amour whose books continue to appear, apparently from his grave), and name brands like Patterson. That leaves a very slim slice for the rest of us.

That's why I love Kindle.

Kindle has allowed me to publish my stories and get them out to readers for a reasonable price. I may bring out my next book as a trade paperback as well--if I can get the unit price per book for something reasonable. Otherwise, I will go all Kindle again.

I think hardcopy books will always be around, but not to the degree that they are now. E-books are changing the whole face of publishing.

Here's that article I mentioned in my last blog, from the Durango Herald:

As a talented yet aspiring writer, Suzanne Tyrpak wanted to put her experience as a divorcée entering the Durango dating scene into words. But finding a publisher willing to put nine short stories into print was more than challenging: it was impossible. "As a writer to just keep writing and not get published, it's incomplete - if you have a painting at least you can stick it up so people will see it," Tyrpak said.

The alternately hilarious and heartbreaking result of her efforts is Dating My Vibrator and Other True Fiction, a collection of short stories that begins with a first date at Purgatory when Tyrpak was told by her companion, "You're gonna freeze your hooters off." It's well-conceived and well-written, but you won't find it on any bookshelf or in any book; Dating My Vibrator is one of hundreds of thousands of titles available only through cyberspace on's revolutionary Kindle e-reader.

Tyrpak's foray into online publishing is local evidence of an explosion in the e-book industry. Thousands of writers thwarted by the large publishing houses are finding a growing audience through Kindle and similar services, although's version is clearly the industry standard. Kindle boasts 670,000 titles, including 109 of 112 New York Times best-sellers.

Tyrpak's been writing for about 12 years and has penned a few historical fiction novels but couldn't get a publisher to bite. But another local author in her writers' group, novelist Blake Crouch, shared his Kindle success stories with Tyrpak, which inspired her to follow suit.

For his part, Crouch is enjoying the best of both worlds. He's got four novels in print through St. Martin's Press and will be switching to a yet-unannounced new publisher for his next novel, which is due out sometime in 2011 or 2012. But it's his short fiction and novellas that have found widespread and loyal audiences on Kindle. The shorter works - up to about 12,000 words each versus the 70,000 of a typical novel - seem a perfect fit for the ever-shortening attention spans of readers.

"Kindle is perfect for that weird length. Everything I've written is on there, and it boggles my mind that more writers aren't doing it," Crouch said.

Some of Crouch's most successful Kindle efforts were done in collaboration with Jon Konrath, a Chicago-based writer and blogger who champions the merits of Kindle on a daily basis and is one of its most vocal proponents. Their best-selling joint venture was Serial, a 36,000-word novella that hit No. 1 on the Kindle short fiction charts and stayed in the Top 100 for almost a year.

On his blog, Konrath compares Kindle's future growth to devices such as the iPod, cell phones and DVDs, which were initially met with skepticism but exploded in a few short years to multi-billion dollar sellers. He cites sales statistics for e-books that are changing weekly and even daily, with publishing houses such as Random House reporting a 300 percent increase in e-books last year and's predictions that Kindle versions soon will outsell their printed counterparts.

Crouch said for novels, he still prefers traditional publishing methods and the national exposure and distribution offered by the big houses. But once a writer has established a name for himself or herself in the real world, virtual sales soon are to follow. Kindle's Top 50 list this week nearly mirrored similar hardcover best-seller lists with titles by Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen and Kathryn Stockett comfortably entrenched near the top.

Ken Wright, another multi-published local author who also owns his own publishing company, Raven's Eye Press, hasn't gotten on board the Kindle bandwagon yet. It's not because of any resistance to technology but rather for demographic reasons. He and his stable of writers pen primarily outdoor and environmental nonfiction, which has yet to catch on with the Kindle crowd. The Kindle Top 50 list includes only four nonfiction titles, and two of those are biographies of Tony Blair and Andre Agassi.

"That is not my audience. Yet this new generation raised reading on devices - and further improvements in functionality of those devices - will spread the demand for digital books further," Wright said.

None of the writers interviewed, including Konrath, who is earning as much as $12,000 monthly through Kindle sales, believe that Kindle will be the death of the printed word; book-lovers love books, after all, not just the words therein. But there's no question that times are changing.

"Printed books will always be around. But they won't be the preferred way people read books," Konrath said.

"I've sold 80,000 e-books in a little over a year, and the boom has only just begun."

And for Tyrpak, who is just beginning to reap the fruits of her labor, that's great news.

"It's a heyday for independent writers. Everyone's getting on, and people are making more money. People are hungry for writing, and when they see what's out there on Kindle, it's going to revolutionize publishing for readers and writers," she said.

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