Tag Archive | publishers

Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing – Which Is Better?

I’m kind of fascinated by the debate over traditional publishing vs self publishing. Some authors are saying that traditional publishers aren’t offering enough marketing help anymore, and that they end up having to do a lot of marketing themselves. If they were to self publish, they’d have to do all of the marketing but they’d make much more money on each sale. But I have to wonder if this is just coming from authors who haven’t been able to get a book accepted by one of the big publishers.

I also keep reading about authors who self-published and became extremely popular and made a ton of money. But real examples of this seem hard to find. It’s usually just “I heard about …” rather than actual examples. When Fifty Shades of Grey first became popular, I thought that it was book only available on Kindle, but it turns out that author was published by an imprint of Random House, one of the “big six”.

For example, in this recent article on the Huffington Post:

It used to be enough to be published by one of the big six publishers to sell your book. Now, a published author has to be an online marketing machine, just like self-published authors. And traditionally published authors are turning to self-published authors for tips to reach readers.

As Pittis wound down with her workshop, a woman turned to me. “I just met two women who self-published, and they are each making $40,000 a month,” she told me in a whisper. “Debut authors,” she added.

This is a good moment to explain that most romance authors — traditionally published or not — don’t make a lot of money. Many multi-published romance authors have day jobs and hope for the moment they can make a living with their books.

The same article then continues:

As we shuttled out of the luncheon on our way to more workshops, a woman got my attention. “Screw the Big Six!” she said to me.

“I’m published by the Big Six,” I said, sheepishly. … What was wrong with me, I worried. Was I stupid not to self-publish?

The woman’s mouth dropped open, and her eyes grew large. “Really?” she asked. “That’s fantastic. How did you do that? I’ve been trying for ages.”

I think this is probably a pretty universal thing. The feeling of acceptance an author gets from being traditionally published is a pretty large pull, whether or not that author still has to do some marketing on her own.

But what is an author to do? The standard advice has been to have a website, a blog, and be really active on social media. But now there are articles coming out saying that this might not be the answer. I found this article at The Guardian interesting. It’s kind of long, but this is the part that really stood out for me:

Self-styled eSpecialists such as Penn often invoke the 80/20 rule which advises that, as a sales person (in this case an author), you should spend 20% of your time writing and 80% of your time networking through social media. In tune with this, self-epublishing author Louise Voss recently informed me that the success of her ebooks came about as a result of spending about 80% of her time marketing.

And if that seems like a limitation on your creative time, consider the case of San Diego-based “book publicity and promotions expert” Paula Margulies, who is taking the 80/20 rule even further. She claims that when tweeting and Facebooking you should spend “80% of your time posting about things other than your book, and 20% selling. That’s right – 80% of what you post should not be a sales pitch.” Why does she recommend this? “Because readers are human beings, who long to make connections with others … They join social networking sites not to receive non-stop reminders to buy, but to develop relationships.” Margulies advocates that authors blog and tweet about hobbies and personal activities: things you like, and which you think will draw other people to you. Essentially, 80% of your tweeting should be about cats, food, sport, what’s happening outside your window – all the things that millions of non-writers tweet about. This theory is backed up by many other self-appointed social media specialists.

Let’s look at the stats. If we take Margulies and Penn seriously, how much time does this leave for actually writing? Most self-epublished authors hold down a day job, so let’s give them three hours a day, after work, for author activities. That’s 1,095 hours a year. Reduce this to 20% (since you have to spend 80% of your time covertly self-promoting online), and you get 219 writing hours a year, which works out as 18 12-hour days to write a book.

So … if you have to promote your book yourself it will be a HUGE job that won’t leave you enough time to actually write a book in the first place. If this is true, then my feeling is that being traditionally published is a better bet, in terms of marketing, at least, because your book will be on your publisher’s website, maybe even in some bookstores, and they will do some marketing for it.

On the other hand, if you just can’t get a publisher to buy your book, ebooks are now popular enough that self publishing isn’t a totally terrible idea. If you do sell any copies you will make more money because you don’t have to give a cut to a publisher, and maybe if you gain even a small amount of popularity a big publisher will take notice.

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Small Update on the Price Fixing Lawsuit

It kind of seems like this whole thing with the lawsuit over price-fixing of ebooks has just been blowing about in the ether lately. I found a small update today, though. From this post at the Guardian:

Apple and five major book publishers have failed to persuade a US judge to throw out a lawsuit by consumers accusing them of conspiring to raise electronic book prices two years ago. …

HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette reached settlements, while Apple and two of the publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, said in court last month they want to go to trial to defend themselves against the government charges.

Publishers Sued Over eBook PricingSo the only real update I’ve heard so far is that they won’t be throwing the case out. It sounds like HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette must have had to pay a fine, while Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin want to go to trial. The end result of that trial will be fairly important for the publishing industry. This article on The Atlantic does a good job of explaining the whole thing: Confused By the eBook Lawsuit? So Is Everyone Else

On one hand, it appears that the publishers who were involved with this alleged price fixing were breaking the law insofar as that you’re not supposed to team up with your competitors to decide on industry-wide prices. On the other hand, they were attempting to prevent Amazon from becoming an ebook monopoly. I’m no lawyer and I don’t really understand all of the technical details of this stuff, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens in this trial.

I think that if I were running a big publishing company, I would just try to sell my books at the same price at each store, and then let the customer decide which store and ebook platform they wanted to use. That kind of thing shouldn’t be so difficult, and I hope that in the end things will be simpler for the consumer.

Major Publishers Being Sued Over the Agency Model

The United States Department of Justice is suing Apple along with publishers Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, for conspiring to raise the prices of ebooks. This article at PC World does a pretty good job of explaining the basics of the situation. Here’s the core of it:

At issue is Apple’s use of the “agency” model of e-book pricing, which lets publishers set their own prices. Apple takes a 30 percent cut of sales, but requires that e-books are sold for no cheaper elsewhere. That approach came into conflict with the “wholesale” model used by Amazon, where the bookseller pays roughly half the recommended cover price, then sets its own pricing.

With the wholesale model, Amazon could offer cut-rate prices on e-books — often $10 for bestsellers — in order to build up its Kindle service. When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, publishers flocked to the agency model, fearing that the wholesale model would lead to a race to the bottom in pricing. Amazon was forced to adopt the agency model, and today, a $10 bestseller is much harder to find. New books tend to sell for around $13 to $15 instead.

Apple and publishers may argue that the agency model leveled the playing field for booksellers, forcing them to compete on hardware and software features instead of pricing. And as Bloomberg points out, e-book sales rose 117 percent in 2011, so it’s hard to argue that higher prices ruined the digital book industry. source

Publishers Sued Over eBook PricingOpinions on this could go either way, but if there really was a conspiracy by the big publishers to raise prices, that would be against the law. This is a big enough story that they even talked about it on the Nightly News with Brian Williams tonight. From my position as someone who works in this industry, it’s all kind of surreal because for the longest time ebooks were overlooked and not taken seriously. Now they’ve become popular and mainstream enough that there are serious legal issues being considered. I also know that the agency model created major headaches for independent ebook sellers, so for that reason it would be kind of nice if it was deemed illegal. However, I can also understand that from a publisher’s point of view, Amazon’s price cutting is very scary for them.

I wonder what actually happened. I remember that Amazon offered most Kindle ebooks for $9.99 in the beginning, and that suddenly stopped once Apple started requiring that publishers couldn’t sell their ebooks for a lower price than the price they set for iBooks downloads. But was that the only thing? Was it solely Apple’s decision, or was there some kind of secret meeting between publishing executives where they sat in a dark room around a table and agreed to raise ebook prices? The truth is probably something in between. It’ll be very interesting to see what comes of this and how it affects ebook prices and publishing in the future.

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