Guest Post by Dee Mason.
Book publishers must be sitting uneasily right about now. With the recent launch of four new kindle editions (including one that’s bound to take some market share from the iPad), it’s for certain that Amazon is betting on e-publishing as the wave of the future. In this year alone, we’ve seen e-book sales surpass those of paper books and a Kindle publisher who’s racked up sales figures in the millions. Independent authors worldwide are beginning to bypass the usual routes instead of going it alone, so what’s a poor publisher to do?
An Author’s Eye View
Let’s look at it from the viewpoint of the author for a minute. After months or years spent writing, a prospective first time author has to spend almost as long shopping around for an agent or publisher. Each has its own requirements. Some want you to send a query letter only; others want you to include a synopsis; still others want to see the first five pages or first three chapters – and that’s only so they will consider taking a look at it.
When you pass that hurdle, you have to wait months for someone to read your masterpiece, and to get it through the various approval rings before there’s any possibility of a deal. And unless you’re the next J.K. Rowling, don’t expect that your publishing deal will bring you enough to retire on. Advances are small and, when you get to publication, royalties aren’t that great either. Everyone wants to recoup their investment, so you will be lucky to net 8 cents on the dollar for every book you publish. It doesn’t seem like a lot for all your effort, does it?
In contrast, when you become an independent publisher or self-publisher, there’s a lot to be gained. All you have to do is finish your book and publish it. Now, it’s not totally straightforward because you have to decide among the many self-publishing options. Do you go with CreateSpace so you can have print and Kindle options? Do you check out Smashwords so you can publish your book for the iPad? Or do you just create a PDF and see what the take-up is before going further?
Once that decision is made, publishing your book is as simple as following the formatting guidelines for the route you have taken and making it available. Instead of a year or more to market, as is the case with traditional publishing, you can have your eBook in the hands of readers within weeks of completing it.
And there’s another big bonus – a financial one that will soon allow you to take your pick of the best bank accounts to store your money. As an independent author and publisher, you get to keep most of the profits. To give an example, as a Kindle publisher, depending on the price of the eBook, you can keep either 35% or 70% of the profits from eBook sales. That compares well with the percentage you would get in the traditional publishing route. This is a big attraction for many authors and is perhaps the reason why so many are going the indie route. Combined with a reading public that is sensitized to the convenience of eBooks and you can see why traditional publishing may be less vibrant.
The Publishing House Advantage
Let’s not write off major publishing houses just yet, though, because there’s one major advantage this route has over the DIY approach. Marketing. If you’ve ever tried to market your book as an independent author, you’ve had to set up social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook at least) and promotional websites (an author website and a book sales page). Then you’ve had to build interest and momentum via blog book tours, Twitter chats, giveaways, blog posts and more. And you’ve had to leverage all your contacts to give your book promotion some added legs. It can be exhausting!
That’s where publishing houses still have something to offer. They know how to get a book to sell from cover design and blurb writing to setting up promotional tours. Their marketing machine is simply awesome, honed by decades – and in a few cases centuries – of experience. Maybe that’s where the future lies for them – using their marketing experience to promote eBooks. What do you think?
10 Comments Add yours
There are publishing options aspiring authors can choose from. The way I see it, it boils down to what works best for you basically. What suits your preferences.
Exactly right, Jose. That’s basically what my book lays out. It gives all the options and the pros/cons for each, and an author’s decision will be based on timeline, budget, goals, and many other things.
Very good article. The main thing that gets misunderstood is the accessibility to Amazon, which is what everybody wants. An author does not need to print their book with CreateSpace to get their book on Amazon. Through the Amazon Advantage program, which is free, any self-published author can get their book on Amazon regardless of where it was printed. Many of the Vanity Presses and POD’s pray on the Amazon relationship and make it seem like there is only 1 way to get your book there. Sad really
They can through Amazon Advantage, and I’ve used that in the past for DVD distribution, but it’s a PITA. Their request for stock is frustrating. I would get an order for one DVD on day, and then two days later, would get a request for 2 more. Etc. Ad nauseum. I was screwing around with shipping so much, it’s just not worth it for me.
There are many avenues to getting your books available through Amazin. CreateSpace is one. Lightning Source is another. Advantage and Seller Central are two others as well.
And I totally agree with that too. In the beginning it is fun because orders are coming in and you are happy to do so. If you only sell 100 books total, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Many people that sell tons of books on Amazon hire someone to do the fulfilment for them and just receive checks in the mail. My philosophy is to sell through your own website because you receive 100% of the profit. If you are sending people to Amazon to buy your book, you could just as easily send them to your website. But then again yes, you do need to handle the shipping. Interesting article though and one of the most interesting questions that self-publishers are faced with.
Selling through Amazon allows readers to stumble upon your book while browsing. I’ve sold WAY more books through Amazon by people just stumbling upon it or seeing it in a best-selling list than I ever do on my website. The only place I sell more books is at in-person events.
EPublishing does seem the most attractive route now. I have tried both and struggle with the patience to go along the traditional publisher route. That is not to say I won’t continue trying but in the meantime Ebooks are helping me find my readership and giving instant feedback which is wonderful!
Yes! eBooks have helped me find my readership as well. That and blogging.
Eh, I think publisher marketing is nearly worthless in the modern era. Most publishers want you to do all the marketing yourself anyway. (and give them 90 percent of the gross).
That’s so very true. That’s why I either recommend to go straight to NY publisher or self-publish. NY can offer distribution and print runs (and usually advances), so that’s what they’re giving for their 90%. Capital. Payment. Visibility. Accessibility. Most indie publishers don’t have extensive distribution. Some will even ask for their authors to buy books at a 50% cover discount to help with print runs (which are only about 25% or less of cover price per book), so what are they risking? Nothing! Yet they’re still taking 80-90%. So BIG BOY or self-publish. That’s my advice.