Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, gave an interview to The Publishing Point, apparently via webcast. She’s not worried about ebooks, self-publishing, ebook royalties or Amazon. Vast expanses of cloudless blue sky stretch in every direction.
Passive Guy usually doesn’t make editorial comments in the middle of excerpts, but he’s going to break his rule for Simon & Schuster.
These are excerpts from notes, apparently taken while watching the webcast, and are not necessarily direct quotes from Ms. Reidy. Notes courtesy of Teleread:
Ebooks are now 15 – 20 % of units – hard to say so early in year and B&N had some reporting problems. Don’t have the percentage in dollars. Expects that sales will about 20% and in 5 years will be 50% and could be higher. In first weeks of any book sales are almost always 50% ebooks. Used to be that fiction was always higher than non-fiction and now fiction has less of a lead. In first weeks sometimes reach 60% ebook in first weeks if book has a lot of reviews.
[PG Comment: Ebooks at 20% of 2011 unit sales is higher than I’ve seen any big publisher reveal so far. Even more significant is the revelation that in the first weeks following release of a book, ebook sales are 50-60% of unit sales. This is giant. This narrow time period is when publishers and bookstores rely on serious hardback sales to primo customers for big profits. The note is unclear, but it seems to say that S&S is seeing the same ebook sales profile for both fiction and nonfiction titles.]
. . . .
Believe that will be more than one internet bookseller – Amazon doesn’t have an exclusive on ebooks any more. Will be a lot more competition on line – niche online booksellers, for example. Their job is to find these sellers, develop these sellers. Consumers don’t go away, but need to find out how to reach them through other channels.
[PG Comment: Wishing and Hoping and Dreaming. Amazon doesn’t have an exclusive on ebooks, but the idea that niche online booksellers are going to be serious competitors is denial to the max. Indie bookstores can work in meatspace, but in cyberspace, if I see a writeup about an interesting book at a “niche online bookseller,” Amazon lowest prices/free shipping are only a click away. Nobody is going to displace Amazon as the 800 pound bluebird in ebook sales soon enough to save S&S from falling through a wormhole into a whole new reality. The folks in Seattle are pushing Kindle prices lower and lower and indie authors on Amazon are pushing ebook prices lower and lower.]
Biggest challenge is for publishers to prove they have a value to authors. Publishers have always done: editing to make the book the best it can be; marketing and finding the readers, this has been the major thing they do for authors; all the back end stuff; give them an advance so they can live while they write.
[PG Comment: “Biggest challenge is for publishers to prove they have a value to authors.” Carolyn, sweetie, real gatekeepers don’t have to prove their value. Their value is obvious and authoritarian – deal with us or don’t deal at all. If you’re having to prove your value, then authors are realizing that the walls are coming down and the gatekeepers are losing their power. The future for the gatekeeping business? Toast with no jam. I’m amazed she admitted this.]
Think that a lot of big authors have not gone to self-publishing because they want to write and not do all that other stuff. . . . . Many big authors just don’t want to deal with all the stuff that is a pain in the neck to do. All that stuff still has to be done and if not done by the publisher is done by the author.
[PG Comment: “a lot of big authors have not gone to self-publishing because they want to write and not do all that other stuff.” Let’s reword that to “a lot of big authors have not gone to self-publishing yet. . . ”
[“if not done by the publisher is done by the author.” Carolyn, do you know what a big author can afford to do? Hire people to do all that other stuff – book covers, editing, POD, offline marketing, online marketing (Why online? Because that’s the best place to connect with ebook buyers. And ebooks have the fattest margins, even at 99 cents.) A big author could even hire a person to hire all those other people.
[Carolyn, do you know something else? People cost an author way less than publishers do. A big author (or a small author) doesn’t have to pay 90% of the gross revenues a book generates forever to hire people to do that “other stuff.” 90% is how much S&S charges when it pays an author a 10% royalty (blending hardcover, paperback and ebook royalties). 90% only works if you’re a gatekeeper collecting tolls.]
. . . .
Biggest change for me is trying to figure out, as ebook world grows, what to do with the balance with ebook and pbook, especially as physical sales decline. What does this mean financially, from the publishing standpoint (how many e and how many p should be published and what is the mix).
. . . .
Don’t generally talk about royalty rates in public, but authors don’t generally make less money on ebooks when look across all formats. Physical book has a definite life and ebook doesn’t and this has to be taken into account. International sales is a huge upside for publishers and authors because can move them all over the world. As this market evolves their royalty rates will have to change as well.
[PG Comment: Carolyn’s dancin’ and jivin’ like James Brown about ebook royalties. Everybody knows ebook royalties are too low and need to move up a lot. That part about an ebook having an infinite shelf life at no additional cost to S&S is a ginormous reason why the royalties need to go way up. Or, as an alternative, an author can self-pub and move the royalties up to 100%, which is even nicer during that infinite shelf life of an ebook.]
Link to the rest at Teleread
Link to The Publishing Point