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The world is about to explode—and I mean that in the best possible way. A major change is happening right now in international reading and book-buying. For most people, this is occurring under the radar, but it’s big.
A friend in the computer gaming industry sees the same thing from her perspective: Tablet and smartphone games/apps are already booming in the US, Europe, and Asia—but those devices are just starting to catch on internationally. The market hasn’t reached its peak yet, not by a long shot. In fact, international smartphone and tablet use is where the US market was several years ago.
Think way back to, say, 2010 and consider how the US market has boomed in such a short time: Droids, iPads, iPhones, Galaxy Tablets, Slates, Nexus, and countless clones are ubiquitous. One-third of American adults have tablets and over half own a smartphone.
And the potential market in Asia could be even larger. According to my insider friend, the gaming industry is holding its breath, waiting for the Asian market to reach a critical mass when everyone has a smartphone or tablet—and therefore become potential customers for games and apps. It’s going to happen soon, and then sales will explode.
You see where I’m going with this?
A Slow Start
EBook sales in the US burbled along for years, even decades, barely a blip on anyone’s tracking sheets. High-tech prophets talked about the coming revolution, how electronic text would take the place of words printed on paper. Eventually, we stopped listening because people simply didn’t want to read books on their computer screen.
In 2002, Tor Books released the electronic version of my novel with Brian Herbert, Dune: The Butlerian Jihad. Their electronic-rights person called me one afternoon, extremely excited to tell me that The Butlerian Jihad was the #1 bestselling eBook title in the nation, and it had held that position for the entire month! That sounded like great news—until I asked him how many we had sold. His voice held an undertone of awe: “Three hundred copies total!”
Well, that novel ended up selling over 140,000 copies in hardcover, and many more than that in paperback. From that point, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to electronic books.
But when portable reading devices finally became inexpensive enough, usable enough, and (let’s admit it) cool enough—that’s when eBooks took off. And it happened with astonishing speed, taking many in the publishing industry by surprise, even though they had been thinking about electronic books for a long time.
Suddenly, everybody wanted a Kindle, a Kobo, a Nook, a Sony e-reader or similar device for Christmas or a birthday. And as soon as the proud new owners had their own little toys, they loaded up their libraries, often with public-domain classics of literature (which they never actually read) or grabbing the complete works of their favorite writers.
Indie authors, fed up with traditional publishers or too impatient to wait for a deal to appear after years of submissions, decided to put up their own titles, charging 99¢ for the novel they had slaved over for years.
Authors like myself, with a substantial backlist of out-of-print titles that no traditional publisher wanted to reissue, released eBook versions . . . and stared amazed at the sales figures that rolled in. And no wonder—for years, my established fan base had no way of reading my older books except to hunt them down in a used bookstore, and now they suddenly had access to dozens of novels they had heard of but could never find. All for five bucks or less.
Enter the next phase: Today, it’s no longer even necessary to own a dedicated Kobo, Nook, Sony e-Reader, or Kindle device. If you have a tablet or smartphone for other uses, all you need is an app. You have an iPhone? You have an eReader. iPad? EReader.
The “Sleeping Giant” eBook Market
Great Britain, Australia, Europe, and Asia lagged well behind in eBook readership, but publishers started to pay attention. They could see what was coming. The British publisher of our “Prelude to Dune” trilogy realized that they had not included electronic rights in their contracts from the mid-1990s; nobody was thinking about it then. To correct the oversight, they wrote a polite letter offering us $300 per book to secure the electronic rights, plus 25% of the royalties that came in thereafter (they would keep 75% of the royalties).
Brian Herbert and I discussed the offer and declined it. Instead, we put up those books ourselves in the UK and Australia, kept 100% of the royalties, and we’ve made many, many times more than the amount we were offered. And the sales continue to increase as eReaders become more ubiquitous in the British Commonwealth.
Today, the eReader (device or app) market in England and Europe is growing substantially. The market in Asia is about to explode.
And there’s one more thing to keep in mind, especially for writers with backlist titles. No matter how old those backlist titles are, they are new to most of the world.
Many of my 120 published novels appeared in the US and UK, but never received widespread international distribution, appearing only in occasional import bookshops. I’m talking about the English editions, not translated versions. (Translations are a different problem entirely, because finding and paying a translator is a significant expense, often not considered worthwhile in small markets.)
My international fan club has members from 52 different countries around the world. Imagine the fan in Andorra or East Timor who reads my email newsletters, learns about all the novels I’ve written, but can never obtain copies (unless they special order overseas and pay shipping costs far higher than the books themselves). My fans in Ecuador, Morocco, Czech Republic, or Pakistan have never had a chance to read Resurrection, Inc. or Blindfold, or Assemblers of Infinity. Where would they find a copy?
And I know many of them read English—after all, they’re reading my newsletters.
When Rebecca and I were guests at the Sharjah Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates, we met an Indian schoolteacher who brought her class from Dubai to meet the American authors. The teacher told me she had read some, but not all, of my Saga of Seven Suns series in India, in English. Near her home there was a bookstore that catered to expatriates and carried imported British editions, but the selection was random and unpredictable. Whenever she saw one of my books, she would buy it; she kept going back to the store, hoping to complete her collection of the Saga, but it was no certain thing.
Now imagine this: Thanks to eBooks, ALL of my old novels—the titles that were never actually distributed around the world—are suddenly available to anyone, in any country, with a smartphone and an eReader app.
And sales of smartphones and tablets are booming all around the world. Without me doing anything, my readership is growing by leaps and bounds.
Dozens of my titles never appeared outside the US/Canada or UK: Resurrection, Inc., Blindfold, Ill Wind, Ignition, Virtual Destruction, Gamearth, Assemblers of Infinity, The Trinity Paradox, Climbing Olympus, Fallout, Lethal Exposure, and many more. Our own WordFire Press has released a host of other titles, including long out-of-print Frank Herbert classics and three never-before-published novels, as well as works by Doug Beason, Brian Herbert, Bill Ransom, Brad R. Torgersen and others.
Once we upload the files to the vendor, any English-speaking reader in Bulgaria, or Turkey, or Fiji, or Viet Nam can go onto their preferred eBook site, whether Amazon, or Kobo, or any other supplier, and download our books that have never before been available—and it costs them only about $5 in their local currency.
Accustomed to paying extremely high import fees, many foreign readers are flabbergasted by that price. A few years ago at the Supanova Convention in Australia, I handed out cards to fans explaining how they could download my titles for $5. One reader insisted it had to be a scam because books couldn’t possibly be sold for five dollars. Australians are used to paying $15 for a simple mass-market paperback, $40 for a large format trade paperback, and up to $50 for a hardcover.
But an eBook is really only an email. A text file, as easily delivered to my friends in Christchurch, New Zealand as to one of my local fans in Colorado Springs. I don’t have to pay printing, shipping, and warehousing costs. There aren’t import fees and customs.
Once we load up the electronic files and choose the option of worldwide distribution, any international reader can push a button and get a personal copy of the book file on their preferred eReader device or app, while WordFire Press sits back and receives $3.50 for each sale from Amazon or Kobo (70% of the $5).
(Why do I keep specifying Amazon and Kobo? Because they are the only ones who currently allow me to separate out the US/Canada market from the rest of the world. For many of my titles, such as the Dan Shamble Zombie PI series, a traditional publisher controls the US and Canada distribution rights, while I retain the international rights. Therefore, when WordFire Press puts up an international edition, I have to respect the territories where the other publisher is allowed to sell the book. Barnes & Noble (Nook), Smashwords, and other vendors don’t allow me to carve out a specific territory. Get with it, guys!)
Each year, each quarter, more and more international English-speaking readers have access to their own eReader devices. As the next wave kicks in, when tablets and smartphones with eReader apps take off, it’s going to be even more amazing.
I am ready for it. The world is about to explode, and I can’t wait to sit back and watch the fireworks.
We haven’t missed a DragonCon in many years, and we’re looking forward to coming back. We hope to see many of you this weekend. Here’s where you can find me and Rebecca.
Most of the time we will be at our table in the Dealer’s Room, autographing books, meeting fans. Come and pick up books to have them signed. WE ARE AT TABLES 202 AND 203.
Also, if you can make it, you will want to come to my reading at 5:30 PM on Sunday—I’ll be reading the first section of THE DRAGON BUSINESS as well as the first two chapters in THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS, first novel in a new trilogy set in the Saga of Seven Suns universe.
Here’s the detailed schedule for our panels and appearances:
11:00 AM Jody Lynn Nye Writer’s Workshop (Kevin & Rebecca)
1:00 PM Ten Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me (Kevin & Rebecca)
7:00 PM Your Favorite SW Authors (Kevin, with Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Bryan Young)
11:30 AM Mighty Men of Urban Fantasy (Kevin, with Jim Butcher)
1:00 PM Fighting For Writing (Kevin)
5:30 PM New York Times Best Selling Authors (Kevin, with Gene Wolfe, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laurell K. Hamilton, Nancy Knight, Katherine Kurtz)
7:00 PM Dragon*Con Guest of Honor Awards Banquet
10:00 AM Autographing, Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta
1:00 PM Blood Light: The Use of Humor in Urban Fantasy (Kevin)
5:30 PM Reading—Kevin J. Anderson
5:30 PM Welcome to My World (Rebecca)
11:00 AM Autographing, Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (at The Missing Volume booth in the Dealer’s room)
The 2013 Superstars Writing Seminar, held in May in Colorado Springs, was a tremendous success—our fourth one, and I think we had the tightest-knit, most dedicated group of students ever. Speakers included Kevin J. Anderson, Eric Flint, Rebecca Moesta, James Artimus Owen, Tracy Hickman, Joan Johnston, Jim Minz (Baen Books), Mark Leslie Lefebvre (Kobo), and attorney M. Scott Boone.
From now on, we have decided that the Superstars Writing Seminars will have a permanent home in Colorado Springs, at the wonderful facilities of the Antlers Hotel, at the base of spectacular Pikes Peak. Our fifth Superstars will take place February 6-8 (Thursday through Saturday) 2014. We’ve locked in a very reasonable hotel room rate ($99/night with free parking and free internet access). Confirmed primary speakers will be Kevin J. Anderson, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, James Artimus Owen, and Eric Flint. So far, we’ve already lined up some great guest speakers, Diana Gill (Executive Editor for HarperCollins) and Mark Leslie Lefebvre from Kobo and a couple more in the works.
EARLY BIRD RATES end September 1.
Please check out our revamped Superstars website for further details.
Being a writer, I don’t often have “typical” days. And that’s been typical lately.
On Saturday, we went to see Vertical Horizon in concert in the SkySox stadium in Colorado Springs. I first met Matt Scannell, the front man for Vertical Horizon, last November backstage at the Rush “Clockwork Angels” concert in Anaheim, through our mutual friend Neil Peart. Neil has been talking about Matt to me for a long time, and apparently he’s been talking to Matt about me. It was great to meet him in person, and we hit it off immediately. A few months later, Rebecca and I met up with Matt for a Vertical Horizon concert at the Grizzly Rock club in Denver. And we planned ahead for this Colorado Springs event.
I had hoped for some extra time to show off the natural wonders of the area to Matt, but he flew in at 10:30 AM and had sound check at 11:30 (a sound check that met numerous difficulties and lasted for many hours; I was receiving more and more depressed-sounding texts from Matt as they tried to set up in time for the concert.) Rebecca and I drove into Colorado Springs to visit our good friend Alan Lickiss in the hospital, then met son and daughter-in-law Jonathan and Jessica for a sushi dinner before the concert. Jessica was a Vertical Horizon fan from her high school days, and Jonathan did his best curmudgeon impression. I got tickets for us all, and they even brought our grandsons Harrison and Xavier. We hung out backstage before the concert, then went out to our seats as the sun set and the stage was prepped.
This was Harrison and Xavier’s first concert, and we did our grandparently duties by getting a stadium Dippin Dots ice cream for Harrison to make a mess out of (and attempt to share with his baby brother). There was just enough room for Harrison to run around and burn off energy. When the music started, I took 1-yr-old Xavier on my lap—and amazingly he completely relaxed to the songs and soon conked out completely. Then by half time, Jessica took Xavier back, and I bounced Harrison on my lap; he seemed to enjoy the clapping and pounding and dancing, the more enthusiastic the better.
After the concert was over, the kids stayed in the stadium to watch the fireworks show, while Rebecca and I went back to talk with Matt more. This was the last show of a very long and gruelling concert tour (even before their new album comes out in October), and he was very much looking forward to going home.
Sunday was a busy day wrapping up the final manuscript of THE DRAGON BUSINESS, then Monday I wrote two chapters in HELLHOLE INFERNO and caught up with a lot of busy work, preparing for a hike and mountain climb I had planned for Tuesday.
Mount Volz, in a mountain range between the towns of Como and Breckenridge, on the fabled Boreas Pass Road (a lovely rugged road, with a high pass named after the god of the winds). Mount Volz was only 12,589 ft high, well above treeline, and without a trail, but the guidebook didn’t list it as particularly strenuous (these things are *relative* for all you couch potatoes out there!) I took my notes for HELLHOLE INFERNO, my recorder, my backpack, a nice lunch, and left early…just in time to reach stopped traffic for road construction and then stopped traffic from an accident. I got to the trailhead almost two hours later than planned, but the projected afternoon thunderstorms did not seem imminent, so I set off across the open hills, following the general directions in the book.
This was a much different hike from the ultra-crowded Fourteener climb of Mt Bierstadt I did last week! Solitude, scenery, and good inspiration. The trail was steep enough that I got only half a chapter written on the way up, but I enjoyed the hike immensely. I had the summit all to myself, ate my lunch, called home to report that I had made it (at least half way) safely. Then headed down to finish the chapter.
I got back to the car just as the first sprinkles started to fall, then drove down the rugged Boreas Pass Road to the highway and headed back to Denver. In total, I wrote three new chapters in HELLHOLE INFERNO. The story is really starting to fire up now.
I made a brief side trip to the Golden City Brewery and picked up a growler of one of my favorite IPAs, then stopped at the Cheesecake Factory to get salads for Rebecca and me for dinner. On the way home, I had a very nice conversation with our dear friend (and fan club president) Deb Ray.
I have another nice mountain climb planned for Saturday. I have to get my wilderness fix in before diving into the crowds of Dragoncon and then Salt Lake City Comic Con!