As I already wrote, I have failed in not following Mark Coker’s blog. I don’t use Smashwords, it’s a pain, but Coker is a smart guy and I love to see his take on the industry. What’s he said last week was that he sees a time coming where Indies will own 50% of the market for books. Coker obviously has a reason to tout this line of reasoning, but then again, there really isn’t anyone talking about this who doesn’t have their own agenda one way or another. It’s a good argument, but Russel Blake has a very compelling argument for why it won’t happen.
His is just as compelling, but I find myself with Coker on this, though maybe not by his timeline. Blake is certainly correct that a large part of Traditional Publishing’s success is that large part of the market who buys a book a month from the Big Name Authors. Here’s the thing, that’s dying. Not just print, but those authors themselves. In ten, twenty, thirty years, the big name authors that own the bestseller’s lists and racks at the airport will, frankly, be dead. The industry will have to have grown authors to fit into those spots, which is becoming harder and harder to do for them as those authors look for better deals. Sure, King and Patterson make tens of millions of dollars a year with big publishers, but that is list with two digits max, and it’s a low two digits. As those authors leave the stage, big publishing will not have anything to fill that slot.
He then followed up with a just as intriguing post about author earnings.
While all that was going on, Mike Shatzkin, who is a lot better with the numbers than I am, weighed in. As usual, he has a thoughtful analysis but I think he’s missing the point here. He talks about what amount the market is putting toward indie authors, but the real point is that more of that money is going toward the author themselves. I also think his statement about the average price of indie books is dragged down by one book wonders and ignores the fact that the more successful authors have higher prices work, usually led in by their free or .99 stuff. It also ignores those that just slapped their work up at bargain rates. Shatzkin followed up on some of these arguments, correcting some of his errors, but coming to the same conclusion.
I think it all comes down to the assumption that New York will be able to retain its authors. Their biggest arguments are marketing and advances, which they are losing ground on. If they lose 10% of the market, as Mike himself theorizes they could (this is total dollars spent on books), that would have a huge effect on their margins. The more they shrink, the lower the advances they’ll offer, the harder they’ff find it to fill the void left by their Big Names. It could be a vicious cycle, one that would see Indies with a larger pie not because they’re competing with traditional published authors, but because traditionally published authors will see attrition through retirement, death, and publishing their work themselves.
Wow, so that could have been a post all by itself. It was a lot of fun to write, but there was a lot of other news this week, the first being a small controversy that erupted toward the beginning of the week.
Apparently some people think self published authors don’t have the right to be called authors. We’ve seen this type of talk before, I remember one particularly nasty piece by an author who was angry that other didn’t have to jump through the same hoops they had, hadn’t had to get an agent (and lose 15%), get rejected a hundred times, etc. Luckily, this is a minority opinion these days, and there are those who will (sometimes surprisingly) call them on this particular brand of bullshit
Frankly, I considered myself an author when someone paid to read the stuff I’d put to paper, especially once I found myself in the black. That was a fun moment, and it happened about halfway through the second month. All expenses had been recouped and everything else was profit. I haven’t made much, and I really, really need to get some stuff out to continue what growth I’ve seen, but it’s a lot more than biggy sizing my fries. It’s more than a couple bills. I’m proud of that, I’m proud of the story I wrote, I know there are thousands of people out there who’ve had more success, who’ve written better stuff, that would consider themselves authors as well.
We then saw a few posts about why authors are avoiding New York altogether.
H.M. Ward discusses why the grass is not greener with traditional publishing. It’s a fantastic post. She points out just about every “advantage” the industry touts and flays it open. One might be tempted to say that’s fine for her, since she’s sold millions of books, but doesn’t apply to indie authors just starting out. I’d be willing to say, it applies to us even more. They’re courting her because she’s a Big Name with Big Money but she knows better. The ones that don’t are the ones who are in more danger. All the disadvantages she notes, they”ll apply to a midlist or a newbie just as much and if you find success, it will be in spite of them, not because.
Indies Unlimited discusses agents and their impact on your perception of being legit. Agents are one of the the weakest links in New York’s publishing model. They simply aren’t required anymore and in many cases, would harm the author. They’re starting to see the gaps in their role, leading to some of the ridiculous things IU discusses.
David Gaughran, right up there with Writer Beware as far as his watchdog skills go, has a great article about the LA Times Festival of Books. There was something about them becoming an affiliate for Amazon that pissed everyone off, his piece is about all the things in our industry that piss no one off yet are much, much worse. Remember, Author Solutions is owned by Penguin Random House, the largest traditional publisher in the world.
The rest of the news this week was minor but still insightful. There were some great posts on marketing and discoverability, as well as some excellent business advice.
It’s not often that I disagree with Hugh Howey, but this might just be one of those times. I think as we see better storytelling in other media (and hopefully this will rip through movies sometime soon) that will bring people looking for good storytelling to other mediums.
The Passive Voice has a post along the same vein of thought.
David Farland discusses the promises authors make, whether explicit or not, to their readers.
Apple may be heading towards their damages payment without a trial, TeleRead reports. The Government is also arguing that there should be no change in venue as the trial has, ya know, already happened.
Konrath discusses identity in our industry. Identity is one of the most cherished things we can possess. There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of ways we choose to identify ourselves. We do it with what we read, what we watch, what we drink and eat, what we like to do on the weekend, how we decompress after work, where we work, how we make our money, how we spend it, with every choice we make. What you are seeing with the change in the publishing industry is one group of people finding a new identity, while another group loses theirs.
In last week’s Sharing the Wealth, I showed how to get your book on the New York Time’s Bestseller’s list. Publishing Perspectives has their own post, this time on a marketing firm who took $200,000 from a pastor/author to make his book a bestseller. This is fraud. Straight up fraud. This isn’t advertising, this is hiring thousands of people to go across the country and buy your book. Not only that, it is paying for the processing of thousands of online orders, all to fool the New York Times into believing your book is seeing a flurry of sales.
IU also has a great post about advertising. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve known this rule for years and yet still was of this mindset. I’ve had several professors tell me that advertising is about saturation, about making it unavoidable for a reader to miss your work. It’s all about awareness, and that’s why it works. It’s also why so many ad campaigns authors use are minimilistic results. Believe me when I say, this has refreshed my thinking.
One day, I’m going to sit down and read Kristine Katherine’s Rusch’s entire Discoverability series. It’s chocked full of valuable marketing and business information for finding readers. Her latest focuses on short stories, something I myself am trying to focus on, so it really rang true with me.
TeleRead has an insightful post on why Amazon probably won’t raise its prices and drop its royalties as they increase their dominance. I’m on the fence about this. One the one hand, Amazon truly honors its customers. They’ve always treated them well and, as TeleRead points out, there are always new competitors. On the other, I always like to expect a curveball. Because Amazon is so good at what they do, because they have insights we don’t, if they tried to do this it would be in a way we never saw coming. We wouldn’t know we’d been struck out until we heard the sound of the ball hitting the glove.
What if Amazon bought Barnes and Noble? I could feast on the anguish and outrage of the industry for months, years even!
With that, calling it for the week. Have a great weekend everyone!