I spent the bulk of last week researching; not a novel but my new entrepreneurial adventure: self-publishing the sequel to Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress. I'm hardly the only published author who has looked into self-publishing. Currently Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is in the process of publishing her chick-lit novel, The Clubhouse Diaries. Alisa has a New York Times Bestseller under her belt and yet if you read her blog it's not hard to pick up on her frustration with the publishing industry. J.A Konrth has six published books but will be publishing his seventh book with Amazon. No traditional publishing house will be involved. Another New York Times bestselling author (who wishes to remain unnamed until closer to launch date) is also turning her back on the publishing houses in order to publish ebooks for the romance genre.
It sort of feels like the beginning of a revolution.
Maybe I'm overstating things. Maybe self-published novels will never be the money makers that books which are published by New York publishing houses are. Maybe readers won't embrace ebooks and print-on-demand novels the way they embrace various HarperCollins novels. But it certainly seems to be going that way, particularly with e-books. The key with ebooks is that authors keep a HUGE percentage of their profits if they self-publish them. For instance, right now I get less than 10% of every book I sell and my agent gets 15% of that. If I self-publish a book for an e-reader like Kindle I get to keep 70% of the profits and no agent is needed to broker the deal. Of course the bestselling books on Kindle are VERY cheap. Many of them are free stories uploaded by authors who hope a free read will drive people to buy their for-profit books. But a lot of ebooks are selling for $1.99, $2.99, $3.99 and so on. Right now if you look at Kindle's top 10 bestselling books you will see only one is currently on the NY Times Bestsellers list: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo That book is a HUGELY popular right now but why aren't ANY of the other hugely popular books making it on that list? Could it be because Random House decided to sell the e-book of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for $5.50 rather than the standard $9.99? Probably. The truth is people are hurting right now. I know that we are theoretically coming out of this recession but in my state's unemployment is still at 13% and since California is the most populous state in the country...well that's a lot of people who would like to save $5.49 on their next book purchase.
More and more midlist authors are reporting making more money by self-publishing ebooks than they are publishing with a New York publishing house. I think it's fair to assume that their ebook success was facilitated by the fact that their traditional publishers already helped them build a name and a fan-base. But still, it seems to me that there's something wrong with these figures. It's not that I'm questioning the legitimacy of the claims authors are making about the amount of money they're bringing in but I am wondering how a book published in ANY format can earn an author more money when he/she is getting no marketing support than that same author was making when they had the weight of an entire professional marketing team behind them. That's a little messed up.
Of course that's the thing, there IS no marketing for mid-list authors. All those marketing and publicity dollars go to big named authors and books that the publisher thinks have a big enough concept to become an instant blockbuster. For every book that gets a marketing/publicity budget of even twenty thousand dollars there are about a thousand books that never see a cent of support. Those books are just sort of thrown out there in the hope that someone strolling through the bookstore will be attracted by the pretty font on the books spine (because you know those midlist books don't usually get faced out). Amazon on the other hand has told J.A. Konrath that, come launch time they will target market to every single person who has ever bought one of his books through their site.
It feels like Amazon is trying to lure authors over to them with high royalty percentages the same way they lured readers over to Kindle books with cheap prices. Right now the vast majority of published authors are sticking with their publishing houses but if Amazon, or any self-published author, produces a blockbuster there might be a bit of an exodus.
Maybe it won't go down like that. But it's something to watch.
Bestselling Author of:
The Sophie Katz Mystery Series
So Much For My Happy Ending
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