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Traditional Publishing Is Dead

21 April 2012

From author Mark Terry:

Well, okay. It’s sick. For me, personally, as a writer, traditional fiction publishing is dead.

Will it rise up like Lazarus in the future? Could happen. I’ll cross that particular crosswalk if and when the need arises.

What brings me to lurch out of my blogging lethargy to make this claim?

I got an email from my former agent yesterday indicating that she had received my most recent royalty statement and check from my former publisher. That would be for both The Fallen and The Valley of Shadows. I haven’t seen either, but I believe it covers the time period from about June 2011 to December 31, 2011. Or not. It doesn’t matter for the discussion at hand. What was pertinent to me was that the check she received was in the amount of $249.99. She’ll take her 15% of this magnificent sum of money and send me the remaining $212.49, give or take. Then I’ll automatically take 24% out for the federal government and 4% out for the state government. That’ll give me about $153 give or take, to play around with, pay bills, or sob over.

. . . .

In comparison, in March I received a royalty check (direct deposit, actually) from Amazon (alone) for $1013. That reflects, I believe, either the month of January’s ebook sales or December’s. I’d have to think that through. I think it’s January.

Please note. I ain’t getting rich here. I read posts by Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, Lee Goldberg and many others about the thousands and thousands of dollars they’re making epublishing and I want to pound my head on my desk. But such is life. I am not making my living writing fiction. I am, however, having a hell of a lot more fun with a lot fewer headaches. And I’m paying my Visa bill fairly regularly with the royalty money. Once I get that driven down, maybe I’ll have even more fun.

But there are two factors here. One, having a bunch of ebooks for sale can be reasonably cumulative, whereas having two hardcovers for sale, not so much. So, the more books you have for sale, well, the more money you make. Two, my royalties on my ebooks are actually higher both in terms of percentage (about 8% on hardcovers for my legacy publishers and 70% on ebooks myself) and in hard dollar numbers (calculating hardcover royalties after discounts, etc., is a nightmare, but let’s be optimistic and say 8% on $25, which is $2. My Kindle royalties on a $2.99 ebook comes to $2.04 per copy downloaded).

Link to the rest at Mark Terry and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.

Royalties, Self-Publishing

14 Comments to “Traditional Publishing Is Dead”

  1. When can we attend the funeral? I’m still going to wear a red dress and dance on their grave. I’m thinking about dangly earrings too or do you think that’s over the top.

    • Barabara, I’ve always been partial to hoop earrings but dangly earrings are a close second.

    • What’s sad is that so many authors still don’t realize this. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be self publishing.

    • Get earrings to match your necklace. I vote for diamonds (or reasonably attractive paste diamonds), and dangling. (Though if the earrings don’t sit firmly, such as some hook-style ones don’t, get some little earring backers to put onto the backs.)

      Also? Rings. Big flashy ones. And possibly castanets or a tambourine.

    • If wearing a red dress and dancing on their grave will get rid of the Big Six publishers, heck, I’ll do it myself. I’m just not sure I have any right to inflict on other people the pain of seeing me in a dress.

      • Just get the right style, and shave your legs if you’re going to wear hose. (If you don’t shave your legs, and wear hose, the hose tends to pull each individual hair backwards, with the sort of discomfort you’d expect from that.)

  2. Thanks for writing about the reality of publishing now. The more writers that realise the potential of self-publishing, the better. The ones that are intent on doing it the traditional way are flogging a dead horse

  3. Even after hearing from other authors, it still surprises me and probably even more so with Mark Terry because I’ve read the first two books, entirely by chance, and his writing is excellent. I don’t know Mark Terry, but he should have had a marketing push like Patrick Lee received. (and to be fair, maybe he did and I just don’t know it.)

    I read Lee’s book around the same time, and both his and Terry’s were in the same class. As soon as I finished Terry’s first book, I bought the second. Well, actually, I read them out of order. Oops! I still loved them. If PG doesn’t mind, here is a link to one of them, http://amzn.to/devilspitchfork

    If he keeps writing like that, I have no doubt he’ll be one of the top Kindle authors.

  4. I prefer a quote from Kathryn Kristyn Rusch’s recent blog:

    “Publishing is a button”.

  5. Not to dispute the values of self-publishing in today’s climate over traditional publishing, as people may know, I’ve decidedly not chosen to seek out traditional publishers because I think there is simply too much risk there compared to either self-publishing or a small press. And I think in many circumstances, as Mark points out here, self-publishing can be more rewarding financially and more within the control of the author to reach. So much in traditional publishing relies upon luck and timing.

    That said, I think the statement that traditional publishing is dead is going overboard. One, as Dean says, they’ll adapt and some of them will come out shining. Some will fall away. But they will be there. And even now, physical books are still the majority of sales. While I think there is still room for ebook sales to rise, at some point it will even out. Print books won’t go totally away for quite a while. Much like for many years, stores sold CDs and cassettes of music albums side-by-side. And before that, cassettes, eight-tracks, and records. And while ebooks have several advantages that books don’t have, there are still advantages a book has that an ereader doesn’t. Like no need for a power source, and when someone sits on it, unlike my unusable Kindle on my desk, it doesn’t mess up the “screen” so you can no longer use it to read. Even if a book gets wet you can often still read it.

    Also, Mark isn’t comparing apples to oranges. The same rules he applies to self-published book sales would also apply to traditionally published book sales. That is, multiple titles out will earn you a whole lot more. Writers prior to self-publishing did that with multiple by-lines so they could publish several books a year instead of the one or two at the most their publisher allowed under one name for fear of “devaluing” the market with too many titles (silly thinking).

    It appears from what Mark has said here that he is comparing a number of self-published titles against two titles from a traditional publisher, which have earned out their advances or he wouldn’t be getting royalty checks. So, let’s just say, if he has 10 self-published titles out and earning that much, it is unfair to compare that earnings with two traditionally published books. It would be more telling if two of his titles were compared to the traditionally published books instead. He never mentions how many self-published titles he has up, at least not in these excerpts. (I’ve not gone to the original article.)

    • The two models are so completely different, that it’s really comparing apples to tennis balls. So much so that you can’t even extrapolate the “two of each type” comparison you mention above.

      Many authors won’t get even *close* to ten books in the NY publishing model – they will be dropped after one or two books, or be told to change their name or write in a ‘more popular’ genre. They will be constantly working to reinvent themselves in order to just stay viable in trad publishing. Yes there are a lucky few exceptions – but the vast majority of authors will not have a ‘golden’ experience.

      Hooray for Mark for being able to paddle out on the new wave of publishing. In his blog, he says he’s still not making a living from writing, but he’s able to pay more bills and he’s having more fun. Pretty soon he’ll be up on that board and catching some rides, I just know it. 🙂

      • Well, the ones who make a living at it do get way past ten books. That’s the main way midlist authors in traditional publishing have made a living at it, by having multiple by-lines with multiple titles out.

        But you’re right on the point that he’s also comparing hard back books being primarily sold at bookstores to probably who knows how many ebooks. But at least comparing the same number of books would be a more accurate comparison.

        Anywho, in either case, it really isn’t a good indicator of anything, especially to come to the conclusion that traditional publishing is dying, based on that info alone. His comparison of the difference in money means little, really.

        Like I said, I overall agree with the idea that more and more authors are going indie, but there will always be authors who don’t want to do it themselves. It was only a few weeks ago that I posted on a blog, where an author who worked for ten years to get a traditional publishing contract, and being praised for her persistence (which was certainly an accomplishment in that arena) and the blog owner when I made the point that some intentionally chose not to go the traditionally published route, admitted that thought didn’t even cross his mind. For him, it was a given that every author wanted a traditional publisher contract.

        There will be plenty of those types of authors out there for some time, I think. And publishers who will be there to help them. But no doubt tough times are ahead for publishers, especially after losing the battle with Amazon on pricing (though we have not reached the final round). Amazon has been the main driving force for ebook adoption and self-publishing, which is why they have such a huge target on their backs by publishers.

    • I think it would be accurate to say “It’s the end of traditional publishing as we know it. And I feel fine.” 🙂

  6. Omg! This is funny! That really is the difference between trad and indie!

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