The Book That Can’t Wait – Good idea or marketing ploy that will quickly fade?

I’m not sure how I feel about this idea.  Here’s a quick description I lifted from Yahoo!

Buenos Aires-based bookshop and publisher Eterna Cadencia has released El Libro que No Puede Esperar – which translates as ‘The Book that Cannot Wait’ – an anthology of new  fiction from Latin American authors printed in ink that disappears after two months of opening the book.

The video at the end of this post explains their reasoning for publishing a book with a short shelf life, but the quick pitch is they believe their authors will be more successful if readers change their reading habits and devour a book as soon as they buy it instead of taking their time to read it.

Take it from me, publishing is a tough, tough business.  How tough?  I wrote The Takers in 2004.  Eight years later I’m still getting requests from publishers to read it, rewrite it, and resubmit it.  That’s eight years trying to get one book published by traditional publishers.  If not for my agent, I would have given up years ago.  At this point it’s turned into a weird social experiment.  I’m just curious how much interest and rejection one manuscript can collect in my lifetime… I’m assuming my agent will stop submitting it for consideration once I’m dead.  Hell, maybe he’ll have me killed so he won’t feel obligated to keep shopping it around.

I should insert a note here about my agency.  They haven’t been with me the whole eight years.  They picked me up about four years ago.  I have no complaints.  They’ve been friggin’ champs in this process.  They’ve never earned a dime off of me, but they’ve spent a whole lot of time and money trying to make good on a promise they made to me a long time ago.  “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get you a publishing deal.”  Kudos to them for going the extra mile.

So, that being said, I cheer for new authors when they get published because I know what they went through.  I want them to succeed, but industry numbers reveal that year in and year out, 70% of books published by traditional publisher fail to earn back the advance money paid to the authors, and we’re not talking about huge advances either. Those get all the press, but they are few and far between.  Most advances are in the $5,000 – $10,000 range.

When an author can’t generate sales, he or she rarely gets a second chance.  That’s why I’m intrigued by the Book That Can’t Wait. I like the premise that it may help the authors included in the anthology get a second opportunity to publish and earn money, but at the same time, it prevents people from sharing the book.  Sharing is a huge benefit for authors.  True, it doesn’t help sales numbers in the short run, but it greatly bolsters the sales numbers in the long run.  Word-of-mouth was, is, and always will be the greatest marketing tool for authors. When one of my readers shares one of my books with a friend or family member, another person is added to my word-of-mouth army.

Is the answer here really to bully readers into reading faster?  I know this is primarily a marketing ploy that will fade almost as quickly as the ink they use, but I find it interesting that they’re trying to change the habits of the reading public instead of adopting a strategy that will maybe alter their own paradigm.  For instance: they may want to reconsider putting their resources into publishing anthologies in the first place.  They just don’t do that well, and the authors involved don’t make a lot of money.  And, as a consequence, they don’t get a lot of exposure.  They may also think about a marketing strategy that does less to build brand awareness for the publisher and spend some of those marketing dollars to actually promote the authors.  People don’t buy publishers.  They buy authors.

I applaud them for trying something new, but in the end, I just don’t see this being of much use to either readers or authors.

3 thoughts on “The Book That Can’t Wait – Good idea or marketing ploy that will quickly fade?

  1. Amen, Brother! Preach it! You are DEAD ON about spending more money to market the author and the book instead of the publisher. I don’t give a whim-wham about who published what…it means nothing to me – penguin vs Random House…I don’t notice the publisher on a book, I notice the author and if I like him, I buy more and I tell my friends.
    As for this book idea. I would NOT buy that book BECAUSE of the disappearing ink. I like to be able to re-read a book, over and over. Especially if it’s good. Now, I read my books regularly, so I’d probably be ok getting thru the book, but I want to be able to pick it back up in a year and read it again if it’s good…if it’s a book I hold in hand (vs eBook), I wanna be able to pass it along to a friend. If it’s an eBook, I pass along where they can get it for a good price. I won’t pay more than $7.99 for an eBook – for crying out loud, there is no paper, printing or storage to be paid for!! So, yeah…I wouldn’t buy a book that disappears. You can’t open the book in the bookstore and leaf thru it? Unh uh…ain’t gonna happen.

  2. I agree with Laura – I buy books I plan to reread, otherwise I get them from the library. So I’m assuming this book will not be available for libraries? Also, what would you do with it once the ink fades? Throw it away? Recycle it?

    And you’re dead on – I could care less who publishes a book, I buy because I like the author.

    As for anthologies….well, I find them to be hit and miss. I’ll get one because an author I like contributed. I’ll usually start the other stories and either keep reading then find out more about that author, or give it a few pages and stop reading and go out of my way to avoid that author. I’m sure I’ve missed out on great authors because of a less than stellar short story, but I’ve also discovered good ones that way. Not to mention, most of the anthologies I read contain stories that go with series – so especially with those I’d want to be able to go back and reread them when I’m reading that specific series.

    But, all that being said, it’s a novelty, and people will buy it. Once.

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