Posts Tagged With: indie authors

Self-Publishing vs. Legacy Publishing

Author Brian Godawa discusses the pros and cons of self-publishing:

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Book Price Wars: 2015’s Publishing Battleground?

There’s concern that the price wars started by indie writers may come back to haunt them. Here’s the scoop: Indie authors are able to sell their books for at a much lower price than traditional publishing. You’re basically buying right from the source with minimal overhead. The issue is that if traditional publishers lower prices, more competition for indies. Maybe not.

For one, there is always competition, traditional or otherwise. Just walk into a bookstore or browse Amazon. Millions. It’s about — regardless of how you publish — connecting with audiences with a strong, quality product. Two, I’ve seen many of these “low” prices jump back up. Perhaps not as high as retail, but still up. Holiday pricing, perhaps? The idea of having a sale seems to be a new thing for some publishers. How low can traditional publishers really go? Sure, on a super runaway bestseller they can afford some sales or lower prices. Or they can say, “This is a bestseller, people are going to buy it regardless.” And, of course, the lower the traditional publishers go with pricing, the less their authors get.

That’s why indie authors still have an advantage when it comes to revenue (not that writing books is a get-rich scheme). There are other factors at work here, but ultimately I think indies, e-books and technology will continue to transform the industry. Where the equilibrium will occur, I’m not sure. There’s room for all publishing models, but we are seeing a settling of which is good for whom.

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Indie Authors Continue to Change Publishing

This time it is publishers of Christian fiction taking notice. Indie authors are here forcing “the industry to adapt,” going beyond the “typical guidelines used to frame the culture’s concept of Christian fiction” and not limited by “genre restrictions.”  In other words, giving readers more choices.

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Amazon a “Market Disruption” for Publishers

The war between Amazon (who has led the wholesale changes seen in publishing in recent years) and traditional publishers (currently Hachette Book Group) has come to a head over e-book pricing. Hachette’s position is that they have the author’s best interests at heart, but indie writers argue otherwise. One of them, Robert Bidinotto, explains that there is more to the story:

…even though publishing contract terms (including advances, royalties, and rights) are simply awful for 99% of authors, a relative handful of Big Name Authors do in fact benefit disproportionately from their alliances with Big Publishing. These “one-percenters” (to borrow a term from current political parlance) get extravagant advances from the publishing houses — advances so large that they don’t care much about other contractual terms, such as royalties and subsidiary rights, which other authors must endure. They have a huge vested interest in keeping the publishing industry frozen in amber, exactly as it is. As marquee figures in the industry, these Big Name Authors also dominate prominent writers groups, such as the Authors Guild. So, when such individuals and groups issue statements, purporting to speak for authors generally, you can be sure that they are really only representing their own narrower interests.

You can read the complete post at his site and the petition that supports the Amazon side. Bidinotto also writes, “Look, I have no problem, in principle, with publishers. If they really did what they promise to do — take the burdens of editing and publication off writers, compensate them reasonably, and market them creatively and intelligently — I think many more authors would be happier than they are now. A number of small presses still do this.”

And that is truly what is at the heart of the debate. It isn’t that Big Publishing is evil or that no authors ever succeed with them or that no one but bad authors indie publish. Once writers had another path to publish their works, they were free to question the system that usually left them with the least return. If big deals come along, that’s great, but most writers would be happy to pay the bills and make a living. And most don’t.

The industry is changing. The death of many bookstores has shown us that. If traditional publishers don’t change, will they follow the same path?

P.S. For an example of how some in traditional publishing are adapting, see the October issue of Writer’s Digest in which “The Evolving Agent” details how agents are joining the digital era.

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50% of Book Sales from Indie and Small Press Authors

Says this report. Robert Bidinotto gives the break down here.

Publishing has changed in a very short time and there’s no turning back. Technology has seen to that. Companies like Amazon publish and sell from all sources (and Amazon has its own imprints and indie services). But what is to become of the traditional publishing houses? Take a clue from retail and restaurants: Many are beginning to abandon the giant-warehouse model or overbuilt-shopping areas for indie-ish stores and smaller markets. Perhaps big publishers will be looking to similarly reinvent?

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Changing Face of Publishing

Self-publishing was once considered the bottom of the barrel for authors not too long ago. Bookstores and distributors didn’t sell your books. Getting them out to readers was a challenge. The internet changed that to a large extent. It was a perfect avenue for promotion. Print-on-demand meant authors didn’t have to stockpile their books in their attic. Then something else changed. One small thing.

Ebooks.

The simple ability to have books instantly was enough of a perception shift to change an industry. Think about it. I can click a button and buy a book or download an e-book. Not a real big difference on that end. On the consumer’s end, anyone with a device capable of reading ebooks (which is anyone with a computer or e-reader), had the convenience factor of reading jump considerably. Economically, prices for ebooks are usually much less than print counterparts. Instant, affordable access to books for readers. Instant, direct access to those readers by authors. No middlemen or gatekeepers. In an industry where financial success is more fleeting than often perceived by outsiders, more than a few authors are now paying their bills being indie writers.

And this is why publishing is changing.

Tired of being given little chance to find their audience and small returns for their work, going independent has now become a viable publishing path. Not that publishers don’t have a place in this new world. When Hugh Howey’s ebooks took off, he passed up lucrative deals with traditional publishers until one came along where he could keep the ebook rights. Why should authors be expected to give up so much control to their works? Now they don’t have to. Technology is forcing traditional publishers to change up the rules. There are benefits and downsides to any publishing model. In the past, however, traditional was the only way to go.

Does indie/self-publishing guarantee success? No. Does it mean lower quality works like critics claim? No. Traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee great returns or quality either. The indie route does guarantee two things: A direct route to readers and the chance for the author to retain greater control over his works.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here on the changes in publishing. I’ll leave the details to these articles, kindly gathered by
Robert Bidinotto on his site: “Self-Publishing Is the Future — and Great for Writers“, “Hugh Howey’s Advice for Aspiring Writers” and Robert’s own “Tales of Woe from Traditionally Published Authors.”

Will these changes peak or permanently change publishing? Time will tell, but it is certain that both authors and readers are winners in this changing landscape.

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Publishing in A Brave New World: Indie or Traditional?

Nearly ten years ago I published my first book through what was then a relatively new and emerging market of internet-based publishers. Better known as self-publishers. While simplifying the publishing process, and getting one’s book “out there” beyond boxes in the basement, one would still get the raised eyebrow and asked, “Is this self-published?” Historically, if a book didn’t have a name-brand publisher on it, it wasn’t worth reading. Or so the reigning perception went.

Much has changed in ten years.

Self-publisher imprints have exploded. The internet allowed them to transform a market (self-publishing) once seen as having no profit potential and driven by vanity. Then something else came along: ebooks. Now a author didn’t even need a self-publishing house. Yes, from the beginning, the on-line self-publishers could get your book in distribution networks and virtual bookstores like Amazon. Getting them into physical stores wasn’t happening. Ebooks changed this by putting books into the hands of people faster and cheaper. Sure, clicking on a button to order a physical paper book or ebook takes the same expenditure of energy. However, ebook readers (i.e. Kindle) made it so convenient for people to read and find new books, independent writers could get equal footing with major publishers.

Even as traditional publishers fight to regain market share against Amazon and ebooks, there is still people on both sides espousing the benefits of one publishing model over the other. Yes, one can still secure success in traditional publishing. But just as happened with music and film, publishers are taking notice because indie authors have proved they can succeed. Of course, there is much opposition to it, which is understandable. Whenever an institution that has existed for decades suddenly finds itself challenged, it wants to defend itself.

There has been plenty of success and failure on both sides. Walk through a bookstore and find many books you have never heard of and may never seen again. Just like blockbuster movies, only a few get prime time success. Nor is being billed as a blockbuster the same as being one. How many have bombed? High costs of production mean studios have had to diversify, with many creating indie labels. Will publishers also change?

The movie world really isn’t that different from the publishing world. Bookstores are full of different quality books. There are many truly good and many truly bad out there. Many good or excellent books get lost in that sea where only the big ships get the big send-offs. What is different is that publishers have been slower to embrace the indie field than their music and film counterparts. Also, while indie movies still benefit from big studio distribution, indie authors are bypassing the traditional publisher architecture altogether. Small press publishers are popping up left and right, basing their models on self-publishing. Can legacy publishers change?

They are, slowly. They are buying the works of indie authors. They are reworking deals to be more author-centered. Why? The prime argument of indie authors is that they keep the majority of control of the rights to, and revenue of, their work. Many readers are surprised how little authors often make. It is rarely a get-rich-quick scheme. It is common knowledge that it takes a number of published books before most authors quit their “day job.” I predict change will quicken. The shock of the collapse of Borders and Amazon selling more ebooks than paper has blown the clouds away.

There is a lot more to be said on this changing landscape, and others have: “10 Reasons You Should Skip the Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks,” “Publishing is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing” and “The New Vanity Publishing: Traditional Publishing,” among others.

The traditional market does work for some people. Most publishers and agents don’t wake up wondering which author they can hose next. Will a traditional approach work for my next project? I don’t know. My point here is that publishing is changing, whether some like it or not. It is changing fast and the next year or so will see even more reinvention. If publishers make the changes that match what makes indie publishing attractive, will this indie revolution die down? Maybe. Until the next revolution.

In any case, the authors win.

P.S. In my own early experience, I had hoped to use the self-publishing model to promote my book to other publishers. Part of the problem was the youth of the early self-published, indie market. Also, I don’t think my book was quite ready for print. I’ve since updated it (through another “self-publisher” through which it is currently available) and will soon re-release it (after some final refinements) into new ebook world (though, personally, I still rather read paper). I will then largely leave the world of nonfiction and focus on fiction. What model of publishing, or new hybrid of, will I pursue this time? Time will tell.

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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