Friday, July 01, 2011

Pirates, E-Books, Publishers, and You

The publishing world continues to change at breakneck speed.  Just this evening, in a matter of minutes, I've run across articles that address various trends in the industry.  Take a look at these:

Book industry balance continues to tilt towards the author

Matthew Ingram contends that the balance of power is rapidly shifting from the Publisher to the Author and that writers with the smarts to market themselves are going to outsell those who still depend on the old fashioned author-publisher model of the past.  Ingram uses John Green (more on him later) and Amanda Hocking (whom I've previously spoken of) as examples of young authors who are cashing via all the new tools available to them.

Those willing to do "the hard work" that publishers seem reluctant to take on these days, have a legitimate chance to find readers for their work.  Admittedly, creating a bestseller this way is a bit like winning the lottery - but the tools are out there.

Tweeting from a La-Z-Boy, An Unfinished Book Hits No. 1

This Wall Street Journal piece highlights YA writer John Green who has the latest number one seller on both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.  What makes Green's breakthrough so newsworthy is that he is still working on the book from his Indianapolis home.

It probably does help that the same John Green has 1.1 million followers on Twitter.  Do you think?

Plenty of E-Book Shoppers Buy Directly from Author or Publisher

The Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites might still be the source for the bulk of e-books being sold today, but authors and publishers are doing pretty well by bypassing those outlets when they can.  According to a poll taken by scifi author Stephen Hunt (on his website, Facebook, and Twitter) something like 39% of e-book purchasers buy directly from the publisher and 25% buy directly from the author.

The bad news: 19% of e-book readers responded that they got their books from illegal sources.  That can't be good...or can it?  (See below)

Piracy - A Two Edged Sword

Some authors have tried giving their books away in e-book form, hoping to build a name for themselves with the buzz created.  Some, like Neil Gaiman even report increased sales for hardcopies of books they have made available for free.

I suspect there are special cases in which this will be true, but giving e-books away is not a longterm business plan for anyone, be they new or veteran writer.

What is a new writer to do?


  1. You could give away ebooks that contain ads and make money that way. Or give away a book for four weeks then begin charging once buzz generates. Or give away volume one and charge a small fee for volume two and three.

    Once people are fans they know they have to pay something for the writer to make a living and keep on writing more ebooks.

    One of several things that worries me is that eventaully you end up with a world full of self-published books. From the few self-published ARCs I accepted before I knew any better, this is not a rosy future. Editors are very useful people. Once everyone is by-passing the publishing industry, we'll find out jus how useful they were.


  2. As far as I know, I've only read 3 self-published books. I say "as far as I know", because some self-published books come out looking so polished that it can be hard to tell the difference between them and the more traditionally published books.

    One of the three was an e-novella. Nice, polished, no typos or formatting problems, and only 99 cents. Apparently, it is doing fabulously well right now, probably due to a few factors, including that the author was traditionally published prior to self-publishing the novella, so she already had a fan base, and the novella was raved about as several well-known and trusted book blogs. Later, Amazon caught wind of the novella and mentioned it in one of their marketing emails, so she did well at their store after that, too.

    The other two self-published books weren't quite so lucky. I think the big, basic difference between those books and the novella I just mentioned is that they were overall not nearly as good. One of the works was basically an e-novella, with nice cover art, no formatting problems, but the work itself made me hate all its characters with a passion, and I think a couple of them were supposed to be sympathetic. The third work was a full novel, but I don't think the author really sat down and thought about who her audience was going to be. The way it looked, it seemed perfect for the Twilight-loving crowd, but her book wasn't really appropriate for that kind of audience. Plus, it was a bit of a mess. Both of these books were free, but they didn't inspire me to pay for anything else by the authors.

    I imagine that the publishing world is probably incredibly frustrating for new authors right now. They see self-published authors who are making it big, and it's not always easy to figure out what combination of things is causing that to happen. I do think that, at the very least, an author needs to have told a good story...but "good story" is very relative. I've seen rave reviews of at least one of the self-published works I hated, so apparently it worked for someone, just not me.

  3. I have to agree with you, C.B. In a world where everyone can publish at will, it is easy to waste a lot of valuable reading time on unworthy projects. At the same time, a few gems are bound to show up that would have otherwise never seen the light of day. It's a fine that places much of the burden (unfairly ?) on the reader.

  4. My experience with self-published works has been much the same as yours, Library Girl...but I've read dozens of them now, as opposed to the ones you mentioned. My success rate has been at about 50% as far as finding good reads that way...but I do a lot of culling on the front end and that helps. Even with that though, I've suffered through some poorly (if at all) edited books.

    I do love the whole concept of independents having a way to reach the marketplace. I suspect that the market will ultimately shake the winners from the losers and things will get back a bit closer to how we've seen it in the past.

    Reading self-published books is exciting, on the one hand, but frustrating, on the other, because of the number of books one goes through to find the good stuf that way. But...I've found it, and know it's out there.

  5. library girl, I think all of us have run into the same problems that you have.
    But I do believe that the self-publishing model will be the major model going forward. With consumers looking for cheaper prices because they know the books are cheaper to produce regular book, consumers just are willing to pay paperback book prices any longer.
    In my opinion authors are going to have to go the self-publishing route just to get consumers to give them a chance anymore. That is unless you're already a famous author like Stephen King or Dean Koontz.
    Unlike the rest of the commenters here my experience with self published works has been pretty good. In the process of creating the free e-books section of my blog I came across some pretty good places to get free e-books that are of high quality. So far this year I've read approximately 35 different books. 30 of those have been self published ebooks put out to read for free, the other five were library ebooks.

  6. Thanks for your input, Hellager. Sounds like you're doing pretty well with books from indies. My success rate is somewhat lower, but I have certainly found some worthy books that way. Two of my favorites of 2011 are independently published e-books, and I admire both authors greatly.