Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Costs of Creation

Crystal Ball Gazing…

In one of the Futures workshops, part of an assignment was to look into their crystal balls and tell me which publishing trends they might be watching for the future. And what might develop in the future.

Fun exercise and I have done it here a few times over the years.

— A large number of the writers doing the assignment said they were watching AI audio. I agreed with that. Why?

Because right now the costs of audio are too high. The cost of creation, in other words. And often that cost is in time rather than money. But to me time is by far my most precious thing. So I keep looking at audio and thinking it’s great to have a story or a book in audio, but the costs of doing so means that it will be years, if not a decade, if not ever, to recoup the cost.

So that is not a great business decision to do many audio books at the moment. Especially when it comes to time. But if AI voices keep improving, and maybe can even mimic parts of your voice in some fashion in the future, then the costs of creation of an audio book would drop to reasonable. Or maybe almost nothing at all, as in electronic books.

— From that choice, there was no clear second place choice. Gift Cards, which I have talked about, are now gaining even more traction. In fact, Nate Hoffelder at the Digital Reader has put together a resource guide for doing them. He says he is seeing them more and more and conferences.

Link to that is…  Worth the read.

— A number of people agreed with me about the use of phones for reading (as all Indie and China) and possibly apps of some sort as a feed system. (As the top publisher in India is doing.)

— Numbers of writers were looking at new ways of serialization.

— Numbers of writers liked the idea of VR stories. I know VR delivery to homes is here, but the production levels needed to turn a story into a VR story at the moment make audio look cheap. But I thought the same thing about electronic books in 1995, so maybe in 25 years who knows.

It’s always fun crystal ball gazing in this ever-changing industry. And that was a really fun assignment for me to read the answers.

But I think one of the most important phrases I got from the assignment answers was the three words: Cost of Creation.

I realized I measured almost everything in the publishing world by “cost of creation.” Time, energy, money spent. All critical elements to costs for any project.

This indie world came about because of a three things happening almost at the same moment.

— Kindle for electronic made delivery easy and sparked imitators.

— Print on demand made paper books easy and economical.

— Royalty free art sites helped us find professional cover art reasonably priced.

Suddenly writers could be publishers with very little “cost of creation” and high percentage monetary return. The 8% for all rights New York publishers offered suddenly looked pretty damned sickly compared to the 70% authors got indie while keeping control of their own work and keeping it in print.

So when gazing into my very foggy crystal ball, I always look at the new ideas, then run them through the “cost of creation” filter. A lot of really great ideas get stuck in that filter at the moment.

But one thing about publishing you can trust. Things do change.






  • James Palmer

    Another big AI trend in publishing will be AI translation. No longer will authors–or foreign language publishers–have to pay to get books translated into other languages. Joanna Penn talks about this a lot on her podcast.

  • Edward M. Grant

    VR is an interesting one. I’ve been using the tech on and off for the best part of thirty years, and there are some pretty good VR short movies out there, but they require a fair amount of effort to keep you looking in the right direction when things are happening; it’s hard to follow the story if you’re looking the other way and miss something important.

    And some of the VR comics are pretty neat, where they still show you the story as individual ‘frames’, but they’re 3D scenes you can look around rather than flat images. But it may be better as a gimmick than a long-term form of story-telling, as looking at the details tends to take you out of the story.

    I’m not sure how well VR would work for a novel adaption, because I’d probably get fed up with inability to control the story. Shorts work a lot better, because you’re watching the characters for a few minutes, then it’s over.

    But I do think that AI is going to increasingly take over from human actors over the next twenty years, so by then it may well be possible to just feed a book into some software, specify a few details about the characters and setting, and have it generate a VR movie from that text.

    Either way, yeah, you’re right: cost of creation is where most of these brilliant new ideas fall down. The obvious one is the perpetual talk about ‘enhanced ebooks’ with music and videos and all that other stuff in there, which is OK if it’s the next Harry Potter novel, but few indie writers could afford to include even five minutes of high-quality video in their ebook.