Thursday, July 26, 2012

In the News and Indie Publishing

We live in exciting times! Not only are more and more self-published authors making quite a bit of money from eBook sales, but hundreds of traditionally published authors are successfully leaving their publishers to go on their own. Why are they leaving? Because they recognize two important things: self-publishing offers a lot of freedom, and traditional publishers are actually hurting their careers.

This morning, Smashwords put up a really eye-opening blog post, the title of which will generate a lot of buzz: How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career.

In the article, Mark Coker, founder and owner of Smashwords, lays out current market trends, along with the statistics behind his bold statement in the title. After talking stats, he discusses Penguin's action to purchase Author Solutions, a well-known self-publishing company.

Go ahead and read the article, then come back. In fact, don't continue until you've read it, since I'll only touch upon it here and there throughout this post.

About Book Reviews
I've come across many reviews in the last year where the reader automatically assumed a book was self-published because it was "subpar." Unfortunately for many of those readers, they didn't do their homework, and the reviews I read were of traditionally published books (many under imprints of the "Big 6" publishers).

I don't blame those people - a lot of Indie authors are making bad names for themselves (and Indie publishing) by putting up unedited material that simply isn't ready for the public. (Unedited means NOT READY. Just to emphasise my point. :-))

However, having a traditional publisher's name behind a book doesn't guarantee a worth-while read, and there are many stories that shouldn't ever have been accepted by publishers. My husband's favorite example is a book titled Planet X, which is a crossover between Star Trek and X Men. As he says, "That should never have happened." Ha ha!

An avid reader will openly admit to having read quite a few TP books that were awful. Just because it's traditionally published, doesn't mean it'll be good. Experienced Indie authors are carefully preparing their ideas and making sure books are as professional as possible before uploading. And they're making a lot of money doing this.

Joe Konrath recently posted about success in self-publishing. After mentioning the fact that there are millions of YouTube videos available (comparing to how many eBooks there are), he says, "Sure, some YouTube videos won't be watched, just like some ebooks won't be read. But quality does seem to eventually find an audience. Maybe not to smashing success, but authors don't need smashing success. They need 100 sales a day at $2.99 to live very well."

He then goes on to help authors understand what they need to do to have those sales. It involves putting up quality material (including editing and professional covers/descriptions), finding a good price to put on said material, and then experimenting with promotions. Then he says what not to do, which includes marketing. If interested in learning more, go read his post (you'll find the above info toward the bottom of it), then come back.

Let's do the math here.

70% of 2.99 is roughly $2.09. An Indie author selling 100 eBooks a day is making $209. Times that by 365 and that author is earning $76,285 a year. (Before tax.)

Compare to traditionally published authors. If they're with one of the "Big 6," they're making about 17.5% per eBook (after agent fees). Traditional publishers frequently price a book at $9.99 or more.

17.5% of $10 is $1.75. A TP author selling 100 eBooks a day is making $175. Times that by 365 and that author is earning $63,875 a year. (Before taxes.)

And, as we already know, you have to work a heck of a lot harder to sell 100 eBooks a day when they're priced at $9.99. Sadly, several of my traditionally published friends are only given 10% per eBook.

Then there's the fact that publishers don't always pay for actual sales. A lot of them use stats to track royalties. They say, "For every print book, five eBooks are sold." And a year or so later, they pay the author according to how many print books are sold. They never give exact sales numbers, because that would require exact math. Underpaying authors happens a lot, but you can bet they'd never overpay.

Coming back to square one, it's easy to see why being with a traditional publisher will hurt an author's career. Not only are traditional authors getting paid $12,410 less a year (if daily selling 100 eBooks), but readers are offered many more options, and don't have to pay $9.99 if they don't want to. If it's Stephen King they're craving, and they can't cough up the money for his eBooks, there are several authors who are just as good who sell for $2.99.

Now then. Here are a few articles that have been in the news over the last couple of weeks that really caught my attention:

David Farland takes charge of publication process with thriller
- "Farland took a long look at the rapidly evolving world of publishing. As publishers rush to catch up to readers' burgeoning attachment to various electronic gadgets, ink-and-paper books are increasingly being pushed aside.
"I love my publishers," Farland said. "I just looked at it and thought, 'Ten or 15 years down the line, do I want to be stuck with a traditional contract?' "

Self-Published Slavery Novel Scores World-Wide Book Deals
- "Marlen Suyapa Bodden had faith that her first book, “The Wedding Gift,” a historical novel about American slavery that she self-published in 2009, would find an audience, but she never dreamed she would land four separate six-figure deals with major publishers who plan to launch the book next year in U.S. and international markets."

Atria Books acquires self-published romance hit
- "NEW YORK (AP) — A self-published romance novel that has sold hundreds of thousands of copies has been acquired by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Atria Books announced Tuesday that it had signed up Jamie McGuire’s ‘‘Beautiful Disaster,’’ to be released immediately as an e-book. A paperback will follow in August."

Scholarly publishing is broken: Is it time to consider guerrilla self-publishing?
- Aimee Morrison has been congratulated and gained professional credit for ‘publishing’ her article in a high profile journal. Except, her work will not be printed for another two years. She writes that commercial publishers are exploiting academics’ desire for reputation against a true public good. 'Scholarly publishing is broken–and I don’t want to be complicit in this brokenness anymore, just because it serves some of my purposes, some of the time.'"

Back to Andrea. :-) You hear a lot about successful self-published authors who get huge advances when they sign with big publishers. What's even more cool are the thousands upon thousands of authors who are earning a very comfortable living by self-publishing. Most of them will never be best sellers, but do they care? Not one bit.


  1. NetGalley just sent out an email today announcing the book Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire as a free read now galley for the next month. They also call it a NYT bestseller. They want people to read and review it in the next month to boost those internet sales. All smart moves on the publisher's part.

  2. Thanks for this. It's giving me a lot to think about now that I'm seriously considering self publishing through either Smashwords or Amazon, I've got research to do... oh and I have to finish one of my books... BACK TO WORK for me that is.

  3. Andrea, this is a great article. Thanks so much for the numbers. If I didn't want to be a Storymaker, I wouldn't even consider traditional publishing.

    1. And being a Storymaker is a good goal. Luckily, you can do both! You've got the push to do it, and your friends will applaud you along the way. Go get 'em! :-)

  4. Great info. The publishing world is changing SO fast.

  5. Ah, well, right now, I'd be happy with 100 copies a month. Or even 10 copies a month.
    But it's good info and goes along with what I've been saying for quite a while now about traditional publishing.

    1. Yeah - it doesn't happen over night. Things start out really slowly, especially for the first year or two for newbie authors.