Editor Vows George R. R. Martin Has Finished ‘A Dance With Dragons. A Publishin Industry analysis

martes, 24 de mayo de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 2:16

(This is an analysis for Master in Digital Business I´m enrolled in. Its quite long, so take it easy)

On April the 27th, and after more than 5 years of delay, George R.R. Martin, author of the lately famous A Song of Ice and Fire novels, announced that he had finished the writing of his fith novel based on the Seven Kingdoms, A Dance with Dragons. Moreover, his editor told that the book is wil be released in July the 12th. Martin used a more visual image to express it.

ASIF saga, has been around for awhile, with the first book released in 1996. However, even if it has been around for many years, only recently started to gain the mass attention.
The reason, of course, it´s HBO announcing last year their plan to release a ASIF TV Show, based on the first book, A Game of Thrones. Suddenly, a novel mainly known by Fantasy novels fans is now in everyone´s mouth.

As a personal comment,I recommend everyone to read the book before watching the show. The other way round does not work normally.Two days ago I had to explain to my father the first episode, and who was who. I felt really connected to him, like if finally we were sharing some of the “geek” stuff i had been doing for the past 15 years.

Of course, the added value of HBO content is that the sales of the book boomed, as people started to know it.
boo, stands for book btw.

I have no data to support this boost in GOT sales, but regarding my experience, ASIF is a saga marketed by word of mouth. I started to read because a friends told me it was amazing, and he lent it to me. And then i asked him for the other three books. Not only that, since then (i think it was 2003), I recommended it ti every friend i knew that liked this kind of novel.

I will now explain how the publishing industry works. Basically, you have the writer, the publisher, and the retailer. The talent, the “talent”, and the guy who sells it, in other words. More in depth:
-The writer is the one who has the idea, creates the content, and develop it to tell an story. Hopefully an interesting story, that people will pay to read.
-The publisher does all the post production, which turns the story into a book. The editor will get the writter in touch with experts on the field, will recommend the writer what works and what not, regarding his experience, market the product, choose the book format that fits the best with the book,print it, and negotiate with distributors /wholesalers for the best price. Normally they offer money in advance to the writer, so he can focus on writing, instead of other things, like paying the bills.
-Wholesalers/retailers (let`s call them distributors), basically move the product closer to the final customers, and keep them safe meanwhile.

About the revenue sharing model, as an example, for a book sold at 10$, retail will get 5$, 2$ goes for the publisher overheads, 1.5$ go to the author´s royalties, 1$ goes to paper and printing, and 50 cents is profit.

About the talent, as a writer comments, “Publishers aren´t doing it for the love of books”. This is business. So when a writer wants to sell a book to a publisher, first he has to think about who is going to buy it and why. So or either you are a famous author (or simply famous) and people want to read your next publication, or either you are writing about something that works, that already worked. Think about how many books synopsis start with “A secret society, has been keeping a secret for hundreds of years, but now, a doctor/detective/nerd discovered it, so they have to kill
him”. All of these similar books came out after Da Vinci Code was popular, and open a new trend (crappy fake-history books on this case). In this industry, “original” means “new”, and “new” means “risky. Specially if you have to print the copies before you know if the public will like the book.

As I told before, ASIF wasn´t known in its early years, even if it was honoured with many awards. It was Peter Jackson, and the Lord of The Rings movies, that made fantasy fiction mainstream. Many people that thought before fantasy was for nerds were now reading LOTR, Narnia Chronicles and so on.

About the value a publisher provides, it depends on who you are. If you are an unknown writer, to get the publisher´s support will help you a lot, with advice, contacts, and a good way to promote yourself and make you the next bestseller on the shelf. All for a piece of the pie of course (ranging 30% to 80% of the final price).
Self publishing is another option. By working with online publishers or printing the copies himself, the author can make as much as three times the benefit for the first 10,000 copies.
So for George R.R. Martin, as a famous writer he is nowadays, I see self publishing as an interesting option to consider. Readers will love to buy the next book in the Saga. Of course, there could be a problem, with Random House, the biggest English publisher and ASIF publisher going against George, trying to force the retailers to not have A Dance with Dragons on their shelves. But on this market, distributors have the final word, with Barnes & Noble making about 5 billion $ in sales every year, and Random House doing 2 billion $ (2007 data).

So RH is a big player, but publishing is a fragmented market, and RH  only has 18 % of the book market.
Apple and Amazon together are 70% of the ebook market. I guess they could survive with 20% of the books the sell.
And in this industry, electronic books are the only future. So George gets three times less as he could earn by self publishing himself. And as an experienced, bestseller writer, what is he obtaining now in return?. Not the writing advicing service, as I am sure that George will know better that his editor what fans like about his novels. Fans write him everyday, through email or his blog. Not the Public relations, because George does that on his own blog online everyday. About the agreements with retailers, that just a matter of numbers. Even if George sold his book in electronic format on his website, it would be a success, because people is actively looking for it. An smaller success for sure, but much more profitable for him.