Disruption and the business of writing
A recent article claimed that “60% of Fortune 1000 companies will be out of business in just next 10 years“. I’ve been following up some of the points its author makes. Here’s an excerpt.
We are witnessing more disruption in human history over next 10-20 years than what we have seen in the last 20,000 years. [The] prediction is that 60% of Fortune 1000 companies will be out of business in just next 10 years.
. . .
KEY actionable and insights for every business are:
1. Organisations built for the 20th Century are destined for failure. Organisations built for efficiency and predictability will fail. They are unable to think and grow exponentially but are predicated on linear growth models. We all come from scarcity mindsets where as the world is moving rapidly to abundance. Ability to rapidly iterate, learn and execute will be required. Today’s 18 year old has the ability to approach the same problem very differently and successfully.
2. People from completely outside the business will end up disrupting these businesses (Zerodha, Alipay did it to broking businesses without any background). Exponential is when you can deliver price-performance which is 10x better – not 20-50% better. There are several areas and technologies where price-performance is doubling every 12-18 months (Moore’s law from Intel days).
3. Everything which is information based will priced at or move quickly to ZERO. They call this “democratisation” of information … Entrepreneurs will have to work on alternative revenue streams. Huge implications for all businesses … Move towards building platforms rather than products. (Google, Apple are platforms whereas Blackberry, Yahoo etc were products).
4. Everything is moving to a Service/Subscription model from a Sales model. Rolls Royce has moved to this model for their aircraft engines! They no longer sell engines. They charge for hourly use and provide analytics on actual usage to optimise for their clients. (My monthly subscription for various services just continue to add up.)
4. Large organisations cannot change and do not have the time to change. (if you are working for these organisations then this is your warning, get out).
There’s more at the link. Thought-provoking reading.
This has many implications for independent authors. We can see the truth of the article’s observations in the state of the publishing industry. For example, look at what’s happening to library sales:
- Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test
- Penguin Random House Changes Library E-book Lending Terms
Those changes aren’t happening because publishers want to offer libraries a better deal. No: they’re happening because publishers are trying desperately to shut off all lower-revenue avenues, and find new ways to increase their revenues. They’ve identified libraries as a financial liability, rather than an asset, and are moving to change that, whether the libraries want it or not – fine words to the contrary notwithstanding. They aren’t in the charity business. They want money, and they’re going to extract it by any and every means possible. They want to change library sales from being a loss leader (from their perspective) to a revenue stream.
We also see this in the impact of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription lending library service on the revenue streams of small presses. (See point 4 above.) More and more of the latter are withdrawing their books from KU, because they can’t afford the relatively low revenues earned from “borrows” compared to the greater amount they earn from sales. Some are trying to “go wide”, selling their books on as many platforms as possible to make up the shortfall. Others are setting up their own distribution facilities, urging their established reader base to buy directly from their own Web site. I know this is succeeding in a few cases, but in others it seems to be riding for a fall. We’ll have to wait and see how it turns out in the longer term. Basically, success or failure of a “subscription model” offering will depend on how many subscribers (i.e. fans) one has. If one doesn’t have enough, the return on sales will be too small to support one’s “writing habit”.
In essence, we have to stop looking at each book as an income generator, and start thinking about multiple income streams. Very few authors, indie or otherwise, make a living out of their writing. Most of us have to have a “day job” as well. I think we need to look at our writing as a series of small “day jobs”. Writing a book alone won’t be sufficient; we need to leverage that fan base into more income opportunities. Some are already common. Others will have to become so. Examples:
- Open some sort of support account (e.g. Patreon, etc.) where your serious fans can support you over and above buying your books. It may be a small, slow start, but it’s something on which one can build.
- Consider podcasting. It’s a growing trend, and it can be a money-maker if it’s handled correctly.
- A tip jar on your blog or social media account can be a useful way for fans to offer support.
- Consider offering appearances in your work to your fans. They can have their names used for a character, and pay for the privilege (anything from a few dollars for a very minor character, appearing once, to a higher price for a major character with more “face time”). This will probably only work if you’re an established writer, of course – it needs that sort of fan base.
- Try to widen the circle of your output. Write articles for online publications (yes, Mad Genius Club qualifies!); offer to write articles for professional journals in your field(s) of expertise; consider collaborating with others to produce seminars or discussion panels; participate in conventions and other gatherings of fans, and offer to speak at them; and generally increase your visibility to current and potential fans. The more who know about you, the more likely they are to think about buying your books.
- Use your non-writing talents to boost your writing. Can you paint or draw? How about producing book covers, or fan art, or something like that? Are you a good editor? If so, why not offer editing services to other independent authors? Are you familiar with any particular aspect of self-publishing? Then why not offer your (paid) services to novices wanting to get into that field? You may not make much, but every penny helps – and it’s another revenue stream.
- Above all, think outside the box. Don’t just go for conventional solutions to the marketing problem. Read and re-read the article with which I began this piece. Find new ways to market yourself and your writing. Read as widely as you can about those who are successfully doing so, and emulate them. Become part of information sharing networks like Mad Genius Club, The Passive Voice, KBoards, and so on.
Those who can’t adapt, won’t survive. Don’t be among them!