This article, posted just a few hours ago by Mark Coker in the Huffington Post, says it all about the state of book publishing today. Not a day goes by when I don’t speak with an author who’s self-publishing — not because they can’t find a publisher, but because there’s very little benefit to going through a traditional publisher.
Many authors have figured out that if their book turns out to be a success (and most authors are pretty confident that it will), they can make a lot more money if they go the self-publishing route. Authors have to put up a little more money to get started in self-publishing, but the payoff can be huge.
It also used to be that publishers did most of the marketing for their authors’ books. That’s no longer so. Unless you’re already a best-selling author, you’re probably going to have to market your books on your own regardless of how it’s published.
Here are a few quotes from the article that back up what I’ve been hearing from authors for a long time now:
More and more talented writers – including authors previously published by the Big 6 – are losing faith in the old system of publishing.
- Advances are declining
- Publishers reluctant to take chances on authors without established platforms
- Most print books forced out of print before they’ve had a chance to reach readers
- Authors expected to shoulder most post-publication marketing on their own dime
- Lost and mismanaged rights
- Brick and mortar retail distribution disappearing
- Publishers value books through myopic prism of perceived commercial potential (publisher death panels)
- Publishers acquire today what was hot yesterday so they can publish it 12-18 months from tomorrow
- Publishers over-price and under-distribute author works
- Publisher ebook royalties 17% list (25% net) vs 60-70% list (85-100% net) for self-publishing
Big Publishing, although it employs thousands of talented and well-intentioned professionals, is built upon a broken business model.
Two questions and their answers are driving the author uprising against Big Publishing:
- What can a publisher do for me that I (the author) cannot do for myself?
- Might a big publisher actually harm my prospects as an author?
Do authors still need publishers in this new world order? I think it all goes back to my first question. To survive and thrive, publishers big and small must do for authors what authors cannot or will not do for themselves.
The next chapter of this revolution may very well be written by progressive literary agents. Literary agents, responsible for protecting the best interests of their author clients, are encouraging the very best authors to consider the potential of self-publishing. 60-70% royalty, or 5-17%? The math is not difficult when ebooks rule the roost.
Mark, I couldn’t agree more!