Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To quote Business Insider: “A Major Revolution In The Book Industry Is Letting Novelists Make A Living .” Good grief! What a novel situation!

Self-publishing used to be associated with failure. But that stigma is going away as many authors say they're making more money through self-publishing than their counterparts doing it the traditionally more accepted way, according to NPR.

author earnings

There was a particularly interesting article on self-publishing in Business Insider on July 25. Overall, it made the point that self-publishing through Amazon (and the like) is enabling an increasing number of writers to make a living—something they could not do when published by traditional publishers.

In fact, the article was scathing about traditional publishers—by which I mainly mean the five large corporate publishers who now dominate traditional publishing. Small independent publishers are an entirely different matter. They come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns of behavior. It is the large guys who seem to have a culture of treating their authors badly.

Why do they behave this way? They have long had the power so a culture of such behavior has evolved—and greed plays no small role. In addition, there are plenty of writers waiting in line—or there were. That just might be beginning to change. If it does, traditional publishers may have to change their ways. The day that happens, I’ll go looking for flying pigs!

Here is author Barry Eisler (a terrific thriller writer, by the way) on the subject.

They generally pay us only 12.5% in digital royalties, compared to the 70% we get from Amazon. They insist on taking control of our copyright not for a reasonable term, but forever. They've done all they can to try to keep the prices of books artificially high, which hurts consumers and costs authors money. They have a record of zero innovation. And they've run the industry for decades in a way that has benefited the few while stifling new opportunities for the many.

And here is author Michael Fuchs.

" ... I have, not at all incidentally, been freed from the cartel practices, unconscionable contract terms, and not to mention soul-crushing rejection and frustration, of the Big Six publishers in London and New York, and the literary agency system," he wrote on his blog. "Now I write books for my readers, who buy them."

When he made that statement, there were, indeed, six large large publishers. A merger brought the number down to the current five. Back when I was first published in 1991, there were about 50 in this category. Mergers and acquisitions have resulted in a de facto oligopoly—unfortunately something that seems to be happening in most market sectors in the U.S. When only a handful of corporations have a lock on a market sector, competition goes out the window. We have anti-trust laws for good reason. Sadly, we rarely enforce them.

hugh howey

Author Hugh Howie—who is something of a champion for self-published authors—is quoted as follows.

A self-published (and bestselling) author named Hugh Howey has published a report backing up those claims, arguing that writers like him make more money from Amazon.com electronic books (e-books) than authors who have contracts with the five major publishing houses.

Howey published this chart as evidence, showing that as of this month self-published "indie" authors are earning 39% of all e-book royalties on the Kindle store, more than that of authors with the so-called Big Five publishing houses combined — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster — which account for 37%.

The share of royalties for self-publishing authors has risen steadily since February, when it was at 35% compared to 39% for the Big Five publishers.

Howey also estimates that 31% of total daily e-book sales are written by self-published authors, making that cohort the largest e-book publisher on Amazon when it comes to market share.

Publishing expert Mike Shatzkin has criticized a previous analysis that Howey did, contending that it neglected to include cash publishers pay authors through book advances. The analysis also underestimated print sale earnings, Shatzkin says.

Even if his data may not be perfect, it shows that self-publishing is becoming increasingly lucrative for many authors. Authors who publish the traditional way, Howey contends, are losing out on an increasing share of the profit.

As far as I am concerned, these developments are nothing but good news.

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