Home » Author Earnings/Vanity Presses, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing » New Report States the Obvious: Indie Authors a Threat to Legacy Publishers

New Report States the Obvious: Indie Authors a Threat to Legacy Publishers

2 June 2016

From The Digital Reader:

Indie authors, as well as outside pundits like Data Guy, have been saying for years now that self-published authors are a threat to the livelihood of the legacy publishing industry.

The Bookseller has a story this morning on a new report from Enders Analysis which basically repeats some of the facts uncovered by the Author Earnings Report over the past few years.

To date, self-publishing has become a fairly large presence in the e-book sector, but the impact on the publishing industry as a whole has been more limited. Self-publishing represents a significant but separate books market, with low prices, focused on series within genre categories. Readers are more sensitive to price than reputation and read in high volumes. In March, we analysed the 100 top-selling e-books on Amazon US, and found that 40 were self-published. These had an average sales price of $2.41, compared to $6.23 for all other books (and $9.10 for e-books from the “Big Five” publishers). Sixty-five per cent of the self-published titles we examined were romance or erotica, with a further 22% falling under sci-fi or fantasy, usually with a strong romance theme as well.

. . . .

The report then goes on to say that self-pub would be a serious threat to legacy publishers if it could break out of the ebook market and conquer print, and that’s mostly true. Print is still the majority of the trade market and it’s dominated by legacy publishers.

But the report’s conclusion is also wrong. Authors are finding that they can make more money even trapped in the ebook market than they could if they signed with a legacy publisher.

And almost as importantly, there’s also the perception that authors can make more on their own. That buzz, whether it’s true or not, is keeping authors from signing with publishers.

And that’s the real threat, the one which Enders Analysis doesn’t see coming. It doesn’t matter if there’s more money in print if legacy publishers can’t recruit the authors to write the books to sell in the print market.

And from what Data Guy told me at DBW 2016, legacy publishers aren’t signing authors like they used. He said that the Big Five are still getting on the best-seller lists, but they’re not adding new names to that list nearly as fast as the indie part of the market.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Fiona and others for the tip.

Author Earnings/Vanity Presses, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing

9 Comments to “New Report States the Obvious: Indie Authors a Threat to Legacy Publishers”

  1. Felix J. Torres

    The BPHs are becoming primarily publishers of legacy authors and legacy (backlist) titles. That will keep them alive a long time.

    But remaining relevant to non-legacy authors? A different story…

  2. I doubt there is any lack of people submitting to the big publishers: the newbies all want the big publishing contract. It is still impossible to get an agent. And more people than ever are writing. Million dollar deals are touted in the NYT.

    It takes time for the new writers to hear about self-publishing, especially those who read the older books on writing. Bloggers giving advice on writing query letters are alive and well.

    It isn’t until a writer is caught in one of the new contracts and can’t publish anything else that he or she realizes there is something wrong. I still meet people who write or want to write – and let some company handle the rest, preferably for an advance and royalties, but often for several thousands of their own dollars.

    The force of the publishing system is still very much in evidence. I know many writers trapped in it; mostly they are not writing very much, because, what’s the point? But they still feed their own students into the chute.

  3. Dang, another title that needed fixing around here. You’re slippin’, PG. 😉

    “New Report States What is Obvious to Everyone BUT Michael Kozlowski: Indie Authors a Threat to Legacy Publishers”

  4. Actually, the threat is always determined by the readers, consumers, not the authors. Unlike in the music industry where the cassette tape was killed by the CD, readers are more conservative, and breaking away from the paper book is slower. That’s the conclusion I gathered over the past few years. The eBooks will become the dominant media, but it may take longer then originally envisioned. The bookstores are also a determinant in the favor of paper books. They act like a temple of literature, for some people, and although the readers may peruse the books on the shelves and buy from Amazon, the paper book and the fact that the book is in a bookstore may contribute to the paper book longevity. Only when the consumers will view swiping a debit card versus writing a check (paper) in the same way as reading an eBook versus a paper book will the end of legacy publishers happen. They cannot compete against the Indie Authors’ eBook prices.

    • The eBooks will become the dominant media, but it may take longer then originally envisioned.

      Sure. It’s important to look at different types of books. Each type will transition at a different pace.. Novels will move to eBook faster than economics books.

      Anyone know the eBook/Paper breakdown for novels? Units? Dollars?

      • Hi, Terrence,

        Nielsen Bookscan puts 2015’s total trade fiction print units at around 314 million. That won’t include a few million units of library sales, publisher direct sales, bulk corporate purchasing of business books, and the like.

        Author Earnings puts 2015’s total trade fiction ebook units at around 420 million.

        US trade fiction skews toward ebooks. Nonfiction skews toward print.

        As an aside, roughly 30% of the 313 million print Fiction books sold in the US were bought on Amazon.com. (Amazon.com’s share of print Nonfiction is far higher: well over 50% (half!) of the 311 million nonfiction print books sold in the US were sold on Amazon.com.)

        It’s common knowledge in industry insider circles that more than 50% of all traditionally published book sales — print + ebook combined — are now sold through Amazon.com.

        Don’t expect to see that little tidbit mentioned in Publishers Weekly anytime soon, though.

        All my best,
        Data Guy

  5. Shh… don’t tell them we’re sneaking up on them!

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