Monday, October 31, 2011

The Changing Model of Publishing

I was reading an article by  on Friday and thought some of his comments were interesting, but with that said, I think he, like many others out there writing about this topic, might be missing a few points.

Ingram notes that there is a huge chance that the "middlemen" (agents and editors specifically) may be out of a job soon when more and more opportunities show up for the writers to self-publish their books. Yes, these opportunities are there and yes, these might be avenues that many authors need to take to see their book in print. I 100% agree with this. However, Ingram misses the point when he notes the authors that are taking this option.

What readers should note in cases like Ingram as well as other authors who write on this, is that the authors they mention already have huge readerships. For these authors, the readers will already go out and buy those books because they know who they are. They got their start in the traditional system and for many, this move is just an extension into another marketing avenue.

We also need to note that for many of the authors, they are using this option to release "backlists" to their readers. I personally think using the self-publishing model is a great avenue for the backlist issue. We have to remember, however, that dealing with backlists is completely different than new releases. In other words, we cannot (for the most part) extend the same analysis to both types of books.

He also notes that publishers need to find a way to "make it easier to get to the readers." I don't think the self-publishing model is really doing anything different here. Traditional publishers are already providing print and e-book options for their authors. In many cases, when a book is released, it is also coming out in various e-book formats. The books are also being distributed directly to those book stores that receive standing orders from the publishers. If we talk about those moving into the self-publishing arena, readers have to go in search of the books. That distribution model isn't exactly there and it is often up to the author to make those direct connections to the book stores, online or traditional.

I do agree that the e-book market that many of these self-publishers are using does get the books out there quicker. No problem with that. I also agree that many of these options do give the author a higher cut of the profits. But, again we have to remember that for an unknown author, regardless of how high that percentage might be, it all comes down to sales. If your readers don't already know who you are as an author, those sales simply won't be there. Again, this goes back to that first idea I mentioned that the authors we see doing this ALREADY have a readership.

Are we seeing some trends in publishing changing? Yes. But I think it is always important to remember that when it comes to readership, there is still a huge percentage ( I think I read once 2/3 of the readers) that are not moving to an e-books which is, in reality, where many of the self-publishers are placing their books.

Just some things to consider.



  1. Amanda Hocking didn't have a huge, pre-existing readership. Yes, she was an outlier—but I know many other self-published authors who are doing well despite not having a pre-existing audience.

    The question here is "What is 'doing well'?"

    I've heard the rule of thumb for small businesses is "profit within 5 years", but the (non-writer) entrepreneurs I know personally actually start earning profit in 2-3 years for each venture.

    That's why, in my book, selling 100 copies a month of a single title at $2.99 or higher counts as "doing well"; it would enable most self-publishers to start earning a net profit within a year.

    And it's not hard to find "no-name" self-publishers who sell 100 or more per title per month, if you bother to look.

    Lower that threshold to 10 copies, and a self-publisher who releases 3 $2.99+ titles a year can still be netting a profit within 3 years. So that's still successful, for an good entrepreneur.

    And if someone can only release 1 title a year, within 5 years of averaging 10 sales per title per month at the $4.95 price point, they'll be netting a profit.

    Now, it's not hard to find folks who are selling perhaps a handful of copies per title, per month. That's where I am, as I type this—though I'm also still within my first year of self-publishing, and I'm not marketing myself right now.

    But it's also not hard to find folks who are netting profit after an unusually short time in their small business.

  2. As with all sales, marketing is key. Whether self-published, agented or with an epublisher, the author has to understand the power of commuication via marketing. It means WORKING at promoting your book, in addition to all the other things writers do, like drafting, writing, editing, querying, etc. Gone are the days when a writer could just sit in a corner and write, and not be involved in the marketing and promotion of the finished product. That's why they call it book SALES! :)