I learned about crime since I was a toddler and from 1990 to 2006 I researched and wrote a crime prevention book manuscript as a work-in-progress and distributed it to attendees of my hundreds of classes and lectures: countless children’s groups' parents, college students, civic groups, corporations, rape survivors, and veteran cops at police academies.
Along the way, a literary agent took me on and taught me the basics of preparing a book proposal before he retired. Then I was able to get a top-level agent who helped greatly improve my book proposal and finally convinced me to spill my guts in my Bio because “readers need to really know you.”
Then many unpleasant realities surprised me. The standard $10,000 “advance against royalties” is likely the only money the author will ever see. The book must sell beyond that advance before any additional royalties are generated. Most books never do.
A publisher gets to name your baby. Supposedly they’re the experts, but I’ve seen most books in my genre get saddled with clunky titles. A publisher gets to dictate what goes into your book. Again, supposedly they’re the experts, but most books in my genre are simply clones of one another. And then the publisher owns all rights forevermore to your brainchild, makes all decisions as to its future, forces the author to do (and pay for) almost all promotion, and then gives you a mere 15 percent royalty. I could go on and on, but essentially, the typical author has to jump through hoops galore - all for little more than the “prestige” of being a published author. Once again, supposedly they’re the experts, yet most books – in all genres – flop!
That’s right, 3 of 4 books never sell out the standard first printing of 10,000 copies. How can they? Just a handful of copies are sent to each US bookstore where they’re hidden away on a back shelf with only their spines showing. Prime display areas are reserved for celebrity authors – and with more than 100,000 titles in a superstore – the other books are simply lost in the crowd. Despite the fact that I track and address crime in 54 countries, only US bookstores would briefly house my many years of blood, sweat, and tears, then it’s goodbye forever.
After a few months the poor sellers (most books) are moved to the discount sale bins for a short time then get shredded/crushed into pulp for newspaper stock. That’s it! On average, publishers recoup their investment even without selling out the 1st printing (they write the contract and run the show); the author gets bragging rights of being “published” (or fill in the verb of your choice). The only chance I’d have to truly reach my target audience is freakish luck – like trying to win the lottery. Historically, that’s been the only option for authors.
In contrast, I’ve come to do most of my research on the Internet where knowledge is free (but the author's work is protected by copyright). It began dawning on me that a website reaches the entire world and can live on forever. Most importantly, unlike a book that is carved in stone once it’s published, I can update my website instantly. And my free newsletter reaches subscribers with little cost to me other than my time spent writing it.
A book manuscript on a website far surpasses the old-fashioned book. I can cross-reference my pages with hyperlinks to give you instant access – and you can return to your starting page instantly. No muss, no fuss. You might misplace a book or lend it out and never see it again, but a website is always there. You can “lend” it out to as many friends as you like. You can contact me and just might spur an update to my website. And you can also use a smartphone to access any website from anywhere on the planet that has cell phone service. The Internet renders old-style book publishing obsolete.
What about unscrupulous wannabe rivals more easily plagiarizing my life’s work? Well, they can plagiarize a traditional book anyway. Besides, beyond traditional legal remedies, the Internet has effective programs for finding and shutting down plagiarists’ websites.
So now, instead of briefly languishing on the back shelves, barely exposed to the dwindling number of US bookstore browsers, I control my life’s work and can reach people worldwide looking for crime prevention know-how on the Internet. Just look at the numbers in the US alone:
• In 2006, US residents experienced approximately 24 million crimes, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. 77% were property crimes, 22% were crimes of violence [5.28 million], and 1% were personal thefts. US Department of Justice – 13 September 2007
• "An estimated 10 million Americans have endured the murder of a
family member or close friend. There are hundreds of passionately
supportive groups nationwide." The Atlantic Monthly
• "As of October 2001, the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies is now
offering a first-of-its-kind insurance coverage for victims of a home
invasion, child abduction, car jacking or stalking threat. They quoted
US Department of Justice statistics that nearly 7.3 million cases of
forcible or unlawful entry of residences, 4.4 million stalkings, 150,000
carjackings, and between 50,000 and 60,000 non-family-related child
abductions occur yearly. Furthermore, a recent nationwide survey
concludes that families feel that home invasion, child abduction, car
jacking and stalking represent considerable threats. Nearly two-thirds
of Americans (62 percent) worry that their child may be abducted, 58
percent are concerned about car jacking and 46 percent fear that they
may be stalked. Chicago Business Wire
• About 2 million older people each year become crime victims. They are more likely to be attacked by strangers, and are more often attacked at their homes. The National Institute on Aging – 07 July 2002
• Some 1.9 million women are physically assaulted annually in the United States, and 15 to 25 percent of American women report a sexual assault or rape at some time in their lives, according to studies by the Justice Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since most sexual assaults go unreported, the numbers may represent only a fraction of the violent crimes against women.
14,505 violent crimes daily in the US alone come to 5.2 million annually. Add 2.9 million burglaries for an annual total of 8.1 million crimes (that were reported). The annual total of crime victims worldwide multiplies that number. Add in the friends and family of the victims for a very conservative estimate of 20 million people worldwide annually who suddenly want instant state-of-the-art advice on protecting their loved ones and themselves.
How many of those people might happen to be in the back aisles of US bookstores during the brief period my book would have been there? Why make it so difficult? Why not instead make it as easy as possible? Why not give it away for free with just a quick Internet search?
Since 2006 I’ve been providing it to the public for free and relying on lecture fees and product vendor's commissions to pay my bills. Books are dinosaurs, a dying breed – albeit warm and fuzzy old friends – and publishers know it. The Internet is the future – and here we are on the cutting edge.