Thursday, June 03, 2010

Self-Publishing Picks Up Speed (But For Whom?)

My favorite Wall Street Journal writer Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg has an article today titled "'Vanity' Press Goes Digital." In the story Trachtenberg reports "digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that's threatening the traditional industry ... by circumventing the establishment."

Indie publisher Richard Nash says something I've been harping on for the last couple of years: "It's a threat to publishers' control over authors ... It shows best-selling authors that there are alternatives--they can hire their own publicist, their own online marketing specialist, a freelance editor, and a distribution service."

Trachtenberg says Amazon has now upped the ante by raising the royalty rates they are offering authors. For an e-book priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon's royalty rate is doubling, from 35% to 70%. That means for an e-book selling on Amazon's Kindle for $9.99, the self-pubbed author will earn $6.99.

Last week, Apple announced a self-publishing program for its iPad, which will match Amazon's 70% royalty rate.

If an author already has a brand and a following, that 70% rate will be tempting. As Mr. Nash says in the article: "If they already have a loyal fan base, will they want 70% of $100,000 [for an e-book] or 15% of $200,000 for a hardcover?" Trachtenberg says Amazon has already struck deals with Stephen King and Stephen Covey.

Of course, the catch is that phrase "already have a loyal fan base." Trachtenberg says, "Today, the Kindle store accounts for about 70% of the U.S. market for e-books." Getting YOUR e-book noticed among all those offerings is tough. Unless you have a platform, selling an e-book on Amazon is unlikely to be any more successful than selling a p-book through one of the vanity presses like Author Solutions. I would not recommend it for a novice author.

My favorite "doesn't have a clue" line from the article was this:
The industry says that most authors will stay with their print publishers. More than 90% of sales still come from physical books.
In January, the New York Times had an article about companies that go out of business when new technology comes along:
"Businesses do die, even big ones. Leslie Hannah, a visiting professor of economic history at the London School of Economics, studied the 100 largest industrial companies in the world between 1912 and 1995. Almost half of them disappeared, 'and more than a quarter experienced bankruptcy or a similar close shave with it' ...”
Get a clue, New York.

Go here to read the Wall Street Journal article.

Go here to read the New York Times article.

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