I’ve been watching the e-book revolution with astonishment. Everything is changing so quickly. There’s no doubt that the times they are a’changing. In our house, most of the books we buy now are digital, and in the U.S., I’m selling more e-books than print. This is apt only to escalate.
On March 22, less than two months ago, Barry Eisler turned down half a million dollars from Minotaur Books in order to self-publish. On the same day, it was announced that Amanda Hocking did the exact opposite, turning away from the millions she’s earned self-publishing in order to be published by a big New York publisher.
“It is crazy that we live in a time that I have to justify taking a seven-figure publishing deal with St. Martin’s. Ten years ago, nobody would question this. Now everybody is.” — Amanda Hocking
I think what stirred the most were the revelations of Amanda Hocking’s “numbers”: in January of this year, self-publishing, she sold 450,000 books. In one month.
“Many of the folks who hit the pre-digital New York Times hardcover list did not have 450,000 book sales in a single year. Granted, Hocking’s books are mostly digital and they’re cheap (99 cents to $2.99), but still. These are significant game-changing numbers . . . ” —Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Beginning Writers Again—Sort Of (Changing Times Part 17)
Right now, given what has become “standard” contract terms, the publishers are doing well and the authors are not. Imagine an e-book that sells for $10 in the U.S. In current e-book practice, the publisher earns $5.25 on the sale of that book, and the author $1.75. If the author self-published the book, he or she would earn $7.00. Needless to say, this has caught the attention of the writing community.
“The stories coming out of the trenches right now are incredible. … If there are e-book failure stories floating around out there, we have yet to hear them.” —January Magazine, Authors on Self-publishing E-Books
It isn’t all about money; not everyone is in a niche that will rake in millions. It’s also about that oh-so-70s word: empowerment. Suddenly, one can publish rather easily. Suddenly, there is no such thing as OPP (out of print). Suddenly, there is no such thing as out of stock.
I’m now in the process of looking into to publishing my books as e-books in those countries where I own the copyright. It would be an investment of both time and money, and I wouldn’t expect to clear for a few years, but even so, the thought is making me giddy. Before, I felt everything was up to others; now I can do it myself.
What are your thoughts? Are you reading digitally?
Here are some links if you wish to explore this new world yourself:
E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins | Our Blog
Self-Published Author Amanda Hocking Makes Millions From eBook
This 26-Year-Old Is Making Millions Cutting Out Traditional Publishers With Amazon Kindle
I am reading digitally and thinking the same way about my previous books. I own a kobo and have so enjoyed it, that I’m looking forward to the next generation of ebooks and even thinking of going for colour.
I know, Lilian, it could be quite exciting. It think we’re only seeing the beginning. It has so much potential.
Sandra, I’m so pleased you have invited thoughts on this topic. I recently spoke to an author who has self-published 3 books so far. I asked him about what he used in terms of editing (I’m a copy editor, so I was curious). Well, I was sad to learn that his son-in-law copy edited for him. His attitude is that just about anyone can do a “search and replace” for something like “space en dash space”.
Is that how things are going to go? I’d love to see some more author comments on that.
Some editors say they have noticed differences between e-books and the print editions. Sandra, I think you may have posted about that too?
The whole thing makes me nervous, but if people are going to read more, then I’m all for it. Personally, I still read paper books and occasionally I listen to an audio book. I’m just not an early adopter of any new technology.
Deborah, this is one thing I feel quite strongly about. I am published by big publishers, and even so, I invest quite a bit of my own money hiring editors and publicists. If someone is to self-publish, they have to be willing to arrange for all the things an agent and publisher would do.
My first novel is self published as a Kindle book and I absolutely love the whole process – I love the control I have over the book itself, how I present myself and how I publicise. I also love knowing that all the credit comes to me alone. It’s also nice watching the sales figures going up every day!
My second novel is being published as an e book by a publisher – the process seems very slow and I feel anxious and cut off from the whole thing.
My third book is very near completion and thanks to my blog, I have some agents interested in reading it. However, I am seriously erring towards saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ to them and doing everything myself. There was a time when being Published With A Capital P and seeing my book on shelves was all I wanted but now, eh, I’m not sure. It’s not just about the financial aspect – it’s about having complete control over my own writing and creativity.
Very interesting! I think in my future contracts, I would want that the publisher has the book rights so long as the print editions stay in print. I would also want that their e-book editions be published at the same time as the print editions, and that there be promotion for both. Also a clause that ebook contracts be renegotiated every 3 years. Also that when a book goes OPP, the InDesign files are returned to the author. What I fear is a possibility, is a publisher phasing out the print editions, but holding onto the eternal e-book editions forever and ever. So much to be considered in the New World!
Absolutely… I am reading digitally. I too am amazed and am glad to hear that the opportunity for writers is expanding rather than contracting with the ebook revolution.
Lori, my husband and I find that we’re reading more, and that the books we are reading are more varied. It’s so easy to explore. It’s indeed a brave new world.
Yes, I’m reading digitally and considering publishing digitally. It’s amazing how much the industry has changed in the last ten years and how much of that is due to self/digital publishing.
Thanks for this post.
So true! I’d say it’s amazing how much it has changed in 6 months!
While others may find this a great way to do lots of work for little return, I think you are perfectly positioned to self-E-publish. You have done the ground-work of (a) making a name for yourself already with a solid base of fans (b) establishing great e-community portals to advertise your works and (c) recognising e-books as an expanding possibility.
However, if you start hyper-linking inside your text you may find that you get caught somewhere between writing a book and making a movie/videogame in that it will take much more time to create the “extras” than just to write in words.
Still, I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Type your reply…
Doug, that’s a clearly thought out analysis, as always. Thank you. As for the embedded movie/videogame extras … humm, could be interesting, but I’m not there yet. Basically, I’d just like to offer a quality e-book with the existing footnotes not mangled and with the illustrations that had been included in the hardcover editions. Well…maybe a few extras!
Power is a beautiful thing. It’s exciting to see so many options available to writers at every stage of the process.
So true, Erika! I find it tremendously stimulating.