Pleased to report that my first effort at e-publishing is now live at Amazon. The title is Slave Labor: The New Story of American Higher Education. If you are enrolled or about to enroll in a college or university, if your kids are going to college, if you’re a graduate student who has designs on an academic career, if you’re a legislator who cares about the future of this country, if you’re a member of a board of regents, if you’re a college administrator, this book is for you.
Slave Labor describes the short- and long-term effects of replacing professors with part-timers and chronicles one adjunct’s semester in America’s largest community college district.
This is the first stage in what will be a fairly elaborate experiment — or so it’s planned. We’re told the key to making a profit at Amazon is (in addition to astute marketing) to get several titles on the market there. And we have several more titles forthcoming. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year and a half. For nonacademic clients who are writing book-length works for business marketing or for personal reasons, I believe it will be very interesting, indeed.
The cover design was done by colleague James Metcalf, a veteran of many a magazine issue and many an advertising campaign.
The physical e-book itself was created by Ken Johnson, proprietor of Your eBook Builder. Copyediting was done by my business partner at The Copyeditor’s Desk, Tina Minchella. I did the easy part: writing it.
Self-publishing, I have to allow, was never my style. As a creature of an earlier era, I was brought up to believe that only writers who weren’t good enough to persuade an acquisitions editor to buy their work self-published books, usually at great expense and to little profit. My books appeared through mainline publishers: William Morrow, Columbia University Press, Folger Shakespeare Library.
But times have changed. Among the crowded mediocrity, a fair number of decent writers are publishing on Amazon, Nook, and iBooks. Most are nonfiction writers — a salable piece of nonfiction is not very difficult to write, and occasionally you come up with an idea with some real redeeming value. Some decent fiction surfaces in those precincts, too.
More to the point, Amazon’s publishing model offers the potential to earn much more money from a moderately successful book than you could expect from a traditional publisher. You do split some of the revenue with Amazon, but it’s negligible compared to the proportion of gross sales that goes to a major publishing house. The books you see to the left here paid me 10% royalties. Today, 7% is more typical.
Amazon flips the traditional model upside-down: because of the almost nonexistent cost of production — at least to the “publisher,” Amazon itself — and because neither Amazon nor the author has to pay bookstores and distributors to get the product on retail shelves, the author collects a large share of gross sales.
As pretty as that looks, though, one can’t expect to get rich publishing squibs on Amazon. Some people do, of course, but they’re the exception. What I have been told, however, is that with consistent marketing of a number of Amazon-published books, it’s possible to earn something approaching a middle-class income. We’re told (depending on who’d doing the claiming) that the critical mass, as it were, is five to eight books.
Well. I can churn out books as easily as I can breathe. As we scribble, two more are under way — a work of speculative fiction and a diet/cookbook. I hope to get these out by the end of this year or, at latest, in Q1 2015.
And I’m nine chapters in to a second novel; a book of essays is in draft; and several other schemes lurk at the edges of the drawing board. It’s within reason to think I could put five books out by the end of 2015.
Giving this project two years should reveal whether revenues from a number of books residing on Amazon actually do cumulate to yield a living wage, given an active marketing plan. I think it will be interesting to see what happens.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to take part in the experiment, buy that book!