Granted, most of them are ebooks, but with the self published authors cut at 70%, that still means real money for indie author Amanda Hocking. While I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to the back story, Ms Hocking had a little more than help from social network friends in self promoting her nine books.
There’s a big lesson both publishers and authors here. The price of an average book will fall to the $1 to $3 range no matter what you do to prevent it. For writers, being a good storyteller will not be enough going forward. If an author can’t self promote, then he or she will need to give a cut to a promoter, making the profession less lucrative. Publishers who survive will need to evolve into service bureaus working for writers rather than the other way around. Life is going to get tough for anyone who cannot adapt and thrive in the new ecosystem.
For the masses of wannabees, the opportunity to make a living as a writer has never been better. That opportunity comes at a price. You’ll not only need to produce a good product. You need get it ready for market an promote it. To be very successful you’ll need passionate fans who will not only love your work, but tell others about it. If you’re up to the task, your time has come.
As big publishing houses reluctantly move from dead trees to digital, they are stubbornly repeating the same misguided practices that big music used to self destruct.
First, some publishers have apparently decided to price ebooks higher than hardcover books. Customer are protesting (and giving the books one-star reviews on Amazon), but the publishers don’t seem concerned. Meanwhile, publishers are still insisting on ineffective and annoying DRM which only serves to harm legitimate buyers, without doing anything to prevent unauthorized copies from proliferating. We’ve seen this story before… How is it that folks at these publishers haven’t been paying attention? Or do they really think “but, with us, it’s different”? (Techdirt)
Big music had a much bigger time window to adjust to marketplace changes. When it made the the errors of crippling content with DRM, illogical pricing and criminalizing its customers self production was still complex and expensive. Free and cheap tools now make it possible for anyone to produce great recordings with a computer and $1000 worth of audio gear. While labor intensive, self production, promotion and distribution can be done with no capital investment. The tools for self publishing books are already fairly mature and even more accessible. Print on demand and access to virtual shelf space in stores like Amazon are available to anyone with no capital investment.
With publishers poor treatment of fans and readers along with taking the lions share of inflated prices, I have to wonder why any author would continue to work with them. I think we’ll see big publishing continue to follow big music into a permanently declining business of monetizing a back catalog of copyrights. Very few new works will be entrusted to them in the very near future.
Not only was the Kindle Amazon’s most popular gift of all time, that gifting caused digital books to outsell the dead tree versions on Christmas day this year. Barnes and Noble way underestimated demand for its new reader, and even Sony unloaded a boatload of its pricey reader that has an equally pricey and limited library.
As the ebook evolves rapidly, we will see that battle between device makers intensify with the big players struggling to hand onto proprietary platforms and DRM. In fact, I fully expect Apple’s new tablet to be joined at the hip to ebooks drawn exclusively from Apple’s own store. Besides a very high price for the one trick pony readers, that growing collection of closed, proprietary platforms, with draconian DRM will keep most consumers sidelined. I would think that publishers and book sellers would have learned from the errors of big music.
The platform battle may be dwarfed by the battle brewing between publishers, authors and retailers. With electronic distribution, the deep pockets of the publisher become less important to enterprising authors. Most never get big advances, or benefit from publishing house promotion. Retailers like Amazon are developing platforms that allow them to interact directly with authors to distribute product. This is not making life easy for publishers, who remain relevant largely because of new copyright laws that keep them in control of the bulk of material created in the last century. The battle brewing within the industry could be the nastiest we’ve seen in the copyrighted works arena so far. The risk for publishers is that they could end up without a business to run if the don’t make peace with the other parties soon.
Readers want books that are plentiful and cheap, publishers want to preserve their profit, and authors want a larger share of revenue. The conflict has created a strident internecine battle inside the publishing industry. At issue are the price and timing of e-books, and who owns the rights to backlist titles. While publishers, agents and Amazon.com bicker, there is little time for conceiving new content that satisfies customer demand. If the book business doesn’t tune in to that demand, it could wind up as a transitional source for the e-readers. (Washington Post)