I can’t stop preaching about the new revolutions happening in the book publishing world. Traditional publishers are falling by the wayside, slowly but surely, and independent authors are taking their place.
Don’t get me wrong, the major publishing houses are still the dominant players and if you want your book in the brick and mortar stores your best bet is still to shop your script around and hope for the best. But the future is certainly in the hands of those who don’t follow conventional wisdom right now.
Can you believe that digital downloads are more popular than either hardbacks or paperbacks?
This summer, ebook sales outpaced hard covers on Amazon. The ratio is now 3 to 1 in favor of digital downloads. And as of February the digital books have overtaken paperbacks. Digital downloads now sell more copies than either paperbacks or hard covers, and selling more than both categories combined is right around the corner. The book world is changing, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Why this dramatic change is happening
The drivers for this epic change are price and availability. Since the books are offered digitally, available for download to Kindle or similar device, the price can be much lower. Correction, the price for independent authors can be much lower. Traditional publishers must cover non-digital costs within the digital pricing structure, and therefore they must raise the price considerably. This offers the brand new Kindle owner an interesting choice.
A new way of pricing books
Kindle owners download the new James Patterson, of course, and maybe the new Grisham paying $9.99 each. The question is does that reader want to keep paying $7-10 per digital book? Maybe, if he or she is fanatical about bestselling authors. The more likely scenario is that the Kindle owner will look at the best seller lists and see 20 or 30 books priced at just $.99. What?!? A whole book for only $.99? So they will download a sample of the cheap book, read it, and at that moment their brains have to decide if James Patterson’s writing is 10x’s better than the book they just previewed. Lately, and increasingly, people have decided that the expensive books are not as worth it. If you have the chance to buy an ok to pretty good book for $.99 you are much less likely to pay $9.99 for a good book. You might buy one down the road, but not as often as you buy the less expensive novels and books.
Infinite space and the spread of digital readers
Availability plays a role as well, in two parts. One is the shear amount of product available to purchase. Since writers and authors now can go direct to the consumer, many of them are publishing them. Granted, this leads to some very questionable writing hitting the digital shelves. But I am confident that companies like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the like will set up the systems so that the cream rises to the top. In fact, their recommendation systems, based on customer purchasing behavior, has already catapulted several independent authors into the Kindle stratosphere. The second part of availability is the Kindle itself and it’s rapid growth. Quality hand held book readers are vital to this change, and widespread adoption of eReaders will be the driving force behind the demise of book store as we know them. They will join the ranks of the video rental store, the record store, and the pager store. Relegated to the specialty and sometimes novelty collector, popular book consumption will see the wide spread adoption and increased consumption. Just not in physical form.
How do Authors make money?
Financially, the benefits are amazing. Where as an author may receive 14-17% on their digital downloads when going through traditional publishers, Amazon offers royalties of 35-70%. Even when you take into consideration any advances given (which I hear are shrinking every year for new authors), the amount of money you can make during the life of the book far outweighs any advance. And make no mistake, it is the life of the book. That’s the beauty of the digital landscape. There are no overstocks of product, no dusty bookshelves, only bit and bytes when you want them.
Almost more importantly this gives authors the means to control their products. Each author now determines the future of his or her creation, either how successful or unsuccessful it becomes. This has not always been the case. When traditional publishers buy your book, they purchase it’s soul, and they can rip it’s heart out if they choose to. Now an author can work on a novel till it’s done to their satisfaction, create a cover they think is best, there only a one step approval process.
The future is so bright for authors
Any serious author looking to make a living with their writing now has the opportunity. The culture is shifting and the economics make sense, the only thing that doesn’t make sense is not writing and publishing for all to see. For a great blog about the shift taking place in the publishing world this is your best resource. It links to an article about JOhn Locke, an author currently (March 2011) in the#1 and #4 slots on the Amazon Bestsellers lists. he sold 350,000 books this year and he only began publishing last spring.