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September 14, 2011
What if You Deliberately Used BitTorrent To Distribute Your Book?
That's the question being asked by new author Megan Lisa Jones. As we've discussed many times, one of the biggest problems facing new authors is getting noticed. Despite the decline of the book publishing industry thousands of new novels are published each year by established authors. First novels may receive some extra promotion and attention if the publishing house can spare it, or thinks they have a potential mega-hit on their hands, but the vast majority of first novels go by with little or no notice, piled in a virtual corner few people will take the time to browse.
Over in that other corner reside providers like Clearbits (nee LegalTorrents). These outfits are the digital equivalents of vanity presses - you pay them to publish your content not on dead trees but onto the torrent streams. So if you pluck something that might go unnoticed from the traditional publisher corner, and move it over to the self-publishing digital corner, wrap it in a Creative Commons license, and set it free in the ether, what might happen? In the case of Ms. Jones' book, it looks like something over half a million downloads.
Half a million potential readers worldwide is certainly a lot more notice than you'd get from pretty much any traditional publishing arrangement. For a new author trying to build name recognition and planning to turn a first novel into a trilogy and possibly other publications, that's good. For people like me who want to see new business models put to the test, this is very interesting.
Sadly, what's missing from the WSJ blog entry is any of the financials. What did it cost Ms. Jones to do her deal with ClearBits? How does that compare to the costs of a traditional vanity press? Has any income been received directly, or is it all in the form of indirect benefits - certainly you don't find any other new authors in the Wall Street Journal's "Small Business, Big Innovation" competition so you can point out a significant measure of success there. But I think it's too simplistic to say "a book is a business;" I still want to follow the money.
(hat-tip to Copyfight reader Jayel Aheram for the pointer.)
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