If you’ve been following my contribution to the indie-publishing debate and my thoughts on the brave new world of the ebook and what it means for writers, that debate took a quantum leap with the news yesterday that JK Rowling has chosen to go indie and will be self-publishing her franchise as interactive ebooks through her own website/channel.
She announced this on her new Pottermore.com website and it’s fair to say it has sounded the death knell for the traditional author/publisher relationship across the world.
Here is a writer taking control of her own content and creating a channel for its consumption, from which she takes the lion’s share of profit and pays a very small percentage to her US publisher, Scholastic, for ‘marketing and promotion support’ (presumably a non-competition clause pay off).
What’s so important about this move is that it’s now impossible for anyone to argue that authors who independently publish are ‘vanity’ publishing, or that ebooks are a fad and will never replace paper books, or that no serious author will ever give up the traditional publishing deal.
Mid-list authors have led the way to true independence and the big hitters are now following just as soon as they can get out of their contracts.
Rowling’s move also means that millions more ebook readers are going to be sold this Christmas and that means an even bigger surge in ebook sales. Because once people buy an ebook reader for a specific book, like the Harry Potter series, they then start to look around for other books to read on it. And if I were an indie-published author with a few Young Adult/fantasy titles to my name, I’d probably be very excited right now (I do have the first book of a teenage time travel series coming out in August, but I don’t think that’s quite the same audience as Rowling’s).
All well and good for novelists, but does this have any relevance for screenwriters?
I think it does.
For ages now I’ve been banging on about how writers should be taking control of their content, viewing themselves more as producers/showrunners, and hiring in other film talent to get their films made under their terms. And then selling that content directly to the consumer through VOD or sponsored streaming.
That’s the future of content consumption,
And just an interesting side note on the ebook thing. I’m presuming most screenwriters write prose as well as screenplays, so it’s a viable secondary income stream. I am currently novelising quite a few stories I’ve developed over the years as screenplays (there is an argument that not every screen story can work as a novel, and I’m aware of that, but many do, and I think it’s a great way to get your story out there, creating an audience for the script that you’re trying to fund).
But I’m also thinking the ebook novel can be a useful marketing tool for one’s film. If I were putting out an indie feature today, I would certainly be releasing the novel of the film simultaneously, so that book and film can promote each other.
Publishing your novels independently on Amazon and Smashwords is no different to making your indie feature film and distributing it on Hulu, Netflix and iTunes. You are creating your content with complete control and selling it direct to the consumer, cutting out the dinosaur middle men ‘gatekeepers’ who have conned us into believing we are peripheral to the creative process.
It’s a brave new world of content provision, and writers are now the most important players in the game.
On the subject of VOD and releasing your film direct to the consumer, Shooting People flagged up this Twitter chat on the subject yesterday. The entire transcript is now available here.
Yes, it’s all in tweets, but you get the gist of it and there’s some very interesting pointers there.