Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Previously Successful Authors Find Success In The Digital Market

As I said yesterday, I was reading an article about how the big publishers were just not signing some of those authors who had made them a lot of money in the past. The author of this article was really trying hard to show that the publishers were making some big mistakes but that these big name authors really didn't need the publishers anyway. As I read the article, I started to realize that this author was missing some big points.

One point that the article made was that these big name people were really finding big success in the digital market. I am not going to deny that. But we have to examine a couple of other avenues though and not just look at this one piece of data. First of all, these authors already have a following. If you get on Amazon or Barnes and Noble looking for a digital book to download, how many of you take the time to see how that established author, the one you already love , published that book. The odds are you don't. You went to that author because you knew who that author was. You had read their works. So why is it the James Patterson's of the world find that success. Because we know James Patterson. It isn't because of the technology.

The second aspect is to really examine what books are these authors putting out there digitally? In many cases, they are re-releasing their back lists. Many authors do this. After a book has run out of steam, the authors get their rights back from the publisher and then move the book on in another format. Some go digital. Some produce it as print. Some do both. In other words, these are not new books. The thing to remember though is that these authors, again, had a following

There is also a third angle that is missing, but something that the traditional publishers figured out with the rise of the e-publishing industry. They produced those books in multiple formats. Look, James Patterson is not stopping publishing his books in print format. When we look at sales figures for authors, we often see the gross sales. We see a combination of BOTH print and digital. Sure, when we look at royalty statements, we break those down, but in many cases, that breakdown doesn't always make it out to the outside world.

Now let's look at why the big publishers are "cutting" those big name people. This author seems to be implying that it is again the digital market that is making the publishers re-think who they sign. They bring it all back to money. There is a part of this that is true. The article does mention how the publishers really cut the mid-list authors. Prior to the recession, publishers took the chances. They can't anymore. But why cut the prior big money earners? There could be other variables.

The first has to do with agents like me. We push for bigger advances for our authors who have worked their butts off for the publishers. Each contract, we want to push for more money for our authors. We want to see them get the raises. But there is a tipping point though. At some point. if the advance is larger than the payout, the publishers simply will not go any further. If the author and the agent feel that they just are not getting what they want, they leave? They turn to digital publishing or self-publishing with less over-head (or so it seems) and they make up the money that way. In other words the publisher didn't necessarily cut the author... the author decided to leave.

The last variable is one that authors simply don't want to admit to. The quality of the book is simply not there anymore. They were hot at one time, but now the books are outdated, repetitive and show no advancement with the times. It is unfortunate, but I see this too often. The spark we saw early in a career for an author is just not there. The writing is just not strong. This, unfortunately will lead to less exciting reviews and that, in turn, leads to lower sales. So, why did the publisher not sign the author to a new contract? The writing is just not that strong.

So, what is the point of all this? It is something I am constantly pounding with people. We are living in a data driven world. The numbers tell us what we should be doing. But we have to remember that those numbers, may have more variables than we are considering. While this article I read sparked some interesting points, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

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