It’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing and a lot has happened. I mean A LOT. Borders filed for bankruptcy, Amanda Hocking made the USA Today bestseller list, and Barry Eisler turned down half a million dollars to self-publish. So what does all of this mean? A few things really and I’m going to look at each on individually.
First, let’s talk about Borders. To the average consumer, this mainly means that they’ll have one less place to find books. It also means that local stores can try to fill the gap and pick up the slack. However, Borders made up thirty percent of book distribution in the U.S., and they’re not paying publishers for the 4th quarter of 2010. Most publishing companies will take the hit, they’ll move on. A few might go under, especially some of the smaller ones which is sad, but inevitable. Unfortunately, for the authors that go through those publishing companies, it’s bad news. They’re going to be losing paychecks and a good amount of income. Some may give up. But there is hope, I promise and I’ll get to that.
Now, a lot of folks are blaming the loss of Borders on e-books. Stop it. You quit that right now. Borders saw the electronic revolution coming. They signed on with Kobo and got their library up and moving. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was, pure and simple, bad management for a long, long time. You see, bankruptcies like Borders’ don’t happen over night. They take time and effort, or a lack there of. Borders got bought out by K-mart in the early 90s and we all saw what happened to them. For a better explanation, go to Joshua Bilmes’ blog here.
So what does this mean for other brick and mortar stores like Barnes and Noble? Not really sure, actually. The old B&N seems to be chugging a long just fine. The Nook is exploding and their e-sales seem to be doing just fine. We might see a few close down, but I think they’ll adapt. Of course, I may be eating those words in a year or two. I hope not. I like Barnes and Noble. It’s my happy place.
So now we go to the second item. Amanda Hocking made the USA Today Bestseller List. Six of her nine titles were in the top 100. How? Well, she sold 450,000 copies of her books in January. Yes, in one month. Well how did she do that? Beats the heck out of me. People like her books, ’nuff said. But she is by no means, the example. Not everyone is going to break out and sell a million copies of their book in the first year. Gosh, that’d be nice, but it doesn’t happen. Not everyone is going to be Amanda Hocking, or J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. They stand as an ideal, what we all want to happen. But what this does tell us is that e-publishing and self-publishing is no longer an impediment. USA Today acknowledges Hocking’s success (even though the New York Times will not post numbers by self-published authors or consider them for their bestseller list). USA Today gets it. E-publishing is in and it’s going to be around for a while.
Which brings me to Barry Eisler. He just turned down 500,000 dollars from a traditional publishing company in favor of e-publishing. Let me say that again. He turned down a cool half a million dollars so he can self-publish. Because he thinks he can make more money and he’s probably right. J.A. Konrath says it better than I do, but here’s the break down:
With traditional publishing, you get your advance and contractual percentage of paper and e-sales. For the sake of argument, we’ll say 10% for your paper sales and 25% of your e-sales. Oh, and subtract the 15-20% your agent is going to take. Oh, and that 25%? That’s actually 25% of net, not gross, so it’s actually closer to 14.9%. Again, this is Konraths’ break down. Of course, those percentages are assuming you even earn back your advance, which most books don’t.
With self-publishing, you earn anywhere from 35-70% of your sales depending on how you priced it. You don’t have to sell as many copies to make the same amount you would through a traditional publisher. Granted, the traditional publisher has more marketing power than you do so they do have that benefit.
However, those numbers are causing a lot of authors to look at tradtional publishing and ask why? Why should I license my book to your company for x-number of years and wait years to even see it on the shelf when I can put it up myself tomorrow and start earning right away and probably more than you can give me? That’s why Barry Eisler’s move is big. He’s not the first and he probably won’t be the last.
Now I’m not saying stay away from traditional publishing. Some people want the marketing and the professional structure. They want the exposure. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s another type of author, the pull yourself up by the bootstraps author that’s going to forge ahead and do their own thing. And there are more of them every day.