Now that we’re winding down 2014, it’s time to talk about 2015. Several trends have been hitting the publishing business since July of this year and, to be frank, they’re not good. And only going to get worse in the new year.
Just remember, independent publishing—ebooks, in particular—hit the publishing business like a tsunami a mere four and a half years ago, in 2010. As a traditionally published author with a backlist that the Big Publisher just wouldn’t keep in print—like 90 or 95 percent of other traditionally published authors including some big names—the ebook revolution presented a huge opportunity to get worthy titles available again to long-time readers and new readers.
Further, with the huge contractions and distortions in Traditional Big Publishing, the ebook further provided the opportunity to introduce new works without the interference and parasitism of literary agents and the Big Publishers themselves.
I’ve explored at length the clear strength of the numbers and the flow of income for an individual ebook, comparing independent publishing versus traditional publishing. Please see my earlier blogs on this site, “Crunching the Publishing Numbers, Parts 1 through 4.”
Independent publishing of a print book presents a much gloomier picture. My research has shown a huge disconnect between independently published ebooks and the print books (even for a goodly number of ebooks sold, print books lag behind by orders of magnitude), whereas traditionally published print and ebooks tend to skew in just the opposite direction (eight times the number of print books sold for every ebook).
Further, except in the case of independent ebooks/print books with large amounts of capital to fund promotion and marketing ($100,000 in the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, according to some reports), most independent publishers and authors cannot begin to match the marketing power of Traditional Publishers.
So what happened in July, 2014 to make matters worse for independent authors?
Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: I really appreciate Amazon.com. They were in the forefront of making ebook publishing effective and easy for independent authors. They went the mile (as has Smashwords) with explaining what you needed to do to upload your book. They’ve vastly improved their uploading system, cover uploading system, and reporting of revenues.
That said, in July Amazon.com launched Kindle Unlimited, automatically converting all Kindle Select “free” books to the Unlimited program. This placed close to 50,000 “free” books for readers to choose from.
I say “free” because, behind the scenes, Amazon offers authors a royalty or stipend for each borrowed book, with the amount paid out of a “fund.”
I’m not going to explain how Select and Unlimited work here, since all that information is on Amazon.
But here’s what happened, and I’m seeing reports all over the Internet, beginning with Smashword’s most recent blog by founder Mark Coker.
Authors who opt into Select/Unlimited must remove their books from any other retailer and list exclusively with Amazon. Since those authors must take whatever Amazon decides to pay out to them (contrasting sharply with your ability to specify your sales price outside of the Select/Unlimited program) and since such a huge number of authors decided to opt into the system (thus reducing the per-unit share of the “fund”), I’ve seen authors reporting a 75% decline in revenues since July, 2014.
And what about authors like me who have opted to retain control of their books, the markets where they list them, and their prices? We, too, have seen a reduction in revenues, in many cases by 50—70%. Why? Because of the glut of free ebooks.
But just remember, “free” doesn’t equal “quality.” Will readers start to realize the distinction after getting an eyeful of “free” ebooks?
We can only hope. But as the “Fifty Shades” phenom taught everyone, readers like what they like sometimes regardless of conventionally regarded standards of quality.
So there you have it, my friends. If you thought independent publishing as an amateur writer or even as a dedicated, well-educated professional writer of something other than fiction, be advised: publishing is not (and never has been) a get-rich-quick scheme. It will take some real ingenuity to make your publishing endeavors work in 2015.
I have some ideas about that. Stay tuned.
From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Australia..
The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,” on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo;
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo;
My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.
Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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