Home » Agents, Amazon, Author Earnings/Vanity Presses, PG's Thoughts (such as they are) » Publishing’s Greatest Challenge Might Surprise You

Publishing’s Greatest Challenge Might Surprise You

5 December 2017

From Books & Such Literary Management:

In the October 2 issue of Publishers Weekly, the publication revealed the results of its annual salary and jobs survey. One of the questions the 442 respondents answered was, What is the #1 issue facing the industry in 2017?

. . . .

The #1 challenge publishing faces is the limited number of online retailers

Although only 5 percent of responders named this as the prime problem, PW reported,

“…A number of publishers who commented on industry issues named Amazon–in one way or another–as the greatest challenge to book publishers.”

The relationship with Amazon has been fraught from the beginning. Yes, we hate Amazon because it is monopolistic–and more so every day. But where do many (most?) readers buy their books? Uh, Amazon.

In terms of creatively finding ways to drive the price down on individual titles, no other entity can surpass Amazon. This year we had the challenge of which seller will get the sale when the buyer clicks on the buy button. Book sellers other than the publisher received a boon from Amazon when the buy button went to the lowest bidder–the seller with the lowest price. Publishers have been inventively working to hold (or regain) that prime real estate. But that’s just the most recent challenge to publishing’s well-being that Amazon has either benignly or calculatingly posed. 2018 will doubtless add to Amazon’s list of ways to create publishing mayhem. (Not that publishing is being targeted; Amazon functions in the same cutthroat manner with every industry.)

The  #1 challenge to publishing is too many books being published

Publishing looks to the Bowker Report to collect these numbers, and it takes some time for Bowker to assemble them, but this is how the stats stood in September 2016: More than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015, which is an increase of 375% since 2010! The number of traditionally published books climbed to over 300,000. The net effect is that the number of new books published each year in the U.S. has exploded by more than 600,000 since 2007, to well over 1 million annually. At the same time, more than 13 million previously published books are still available.

In 2016, the U.S. population was reported at 323.1 million. Think about how many avid readers would be needed to sustain the present explosion of available books. Is it any wonder that a new title has a few weeks at a retail outlet to sell through to a customer? And how is the reader supposed to ferret through this vast selection to find the books that interest him or her? The problem is staggering.

. . . .

The greatest challenge seen by publishers is flat sales

Twenty-five percent of the respondents are concerned about a publishing variable that is easy for each publisher to track–how many books sold this year? The sobering fact publishers picked this as their primary concern is that it’s core to the industry. Publishing’s function boils down to selling books. If it doesn’t succeed at this, it won’t succeed at all. And it isn’t like 2017 is the exception. No growth has occurred for five years.

As the PW article reports, “According to the Association of American Publishers’ recent StatShot report, total industry sales fell to $26.24 billon in 2016, down 5.1% from 2015. Between 2012 and 2016, sales fell every year except 2014, and over the five-year period sales dropped 5.2%. Within the trade segment, sales rose 1.5% in 2016 over 2015 and were up 1.3% in 2016 over 2012.”

Link to the rest at Books & Such Literary Management and thanks to David for the tip.

If only Amazon would just go away, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only Amazon would increase its prices a lot, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only there weren’t so many books, mostly sold from Amazon, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only publishers could sell more books, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only we could return to the good old days.

.

.

The simple fact is that the best way to make money in the book business in 2017 is to sell ebooks. All an indie author or a publisher needs to do is create an electronic book file, upload it to Amazon, etc., (or maybe just Amazon) and wait for the monthly checks to arrive.

PG suspects the math is pretty much the same for small and large publishers.

You can run a very lean publishing organization selling ebooks. (PG suspects most indie authors are a one-person publishing organization.)

No printing costs, no inventory management, no Ingram fees, no shipping fees, no returns and nobody needed to manage the whole printed book mess.

If you must have printed books, PG suspects that a print-on-demand operation like CreateSpace is probably the most profitable way of doing that if you track down the fully-loaded costs of all the various people and operations in creating, maintaining and managing an inventory of printed books.

It’s no wonder that traditional publishing is such a low-wage/low-profit business.

The underlying problem for Books & Such and a lot of other agents and publishers is that the reason authors pay them so much is that they are gatekeepers – gatekeepers to publishers who don’t want to spend time reading submissions from authors, gatekeepers to printed book sales via Barnes & Noble and other traditional bookstores.

Gatekeepers make their money by charging people who want to go through their gate. And gatekeepers in the book business don’t just charge a toll one time. The book deal that is closed to day will pay the large majority of the money the book generates to the gatekeepers that permitted the book to enter the traditional stream of book commerce.

And, to add insult to injury, the gatekeepers will continue to receive the same toll for the rest of the author’s life. Plus 70 years. The author will be dead and the agent will be dead and everybody who worked for the publisher when the book was released will be dead. But the tolls will continue.

Some time, PG needs to calculate the total payments made to gatekeepers during the hundred-odd years before the copyright expires on a book.

If the current US copyright laws had been place when Ernest Hemingway wrote, given that Hemingway died in 1961, his agent and publishers would continue to receive their gatekeeper tolls until 2031. Gatekeeping tolls in the form of agents’ fees and publisher’s share of book sales would still be payable for The Sun Also Rises, first published in 1926.

PG says fewer and fewer authors are interested in walking through those particular gates.

The simple reason is that there is an alternative and that alternative pays better than traditional publishing does for most authors. More and more writers are realizing that if they want to be professional authors and earn their living by writing, they are much more likely to reach their goal by self-publishing ebooks and selling them online.

A few facts from Author Earnings (emphasis is PG’s):

  • In 2016, two-thirds of traditionally-published fiction and non-fiction books were sold online.
  • About 75% of adult fiction and non-fiction books (including both traditional and indie published) were sold online (77% of fiction, 72% of non-fiction) in 2016.
  • In early 2017, Big Five publisher sales on Amazon were 20.8%–or barely one fifth–of all Amazon US consumer ebook purchases.
  • As far as the earnings of individual authors who have debuted in the last three years:
    • 250 Big Five authors are annually earning $25,000 or more from Amazon sales
    • 200 recent small or medium publisher authors earn $25,000 or more from their Amazon sales annually
    • Over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years are earning more than $25,000 per year from Amazon sales
  • Looking at earnings of debut authors from the past five years, more indie authors are now earning a $50K-or-better living wage from Amazon than all of their Big Five and Small/Medium publisher peers put together.
  • Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authors and 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.

PG suggests that traditional publishing’s greatest challenge is demonstrated by numbers like this.

Agents, Amazon, Author Earnings/Vanity Presses, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

41 Comments to “Publishing’s Greatest Challenge Might Surprise You”

  1. This is one of those “please fisk me” articles. I’ll just do one.

    ” If a town no longer has a Christian bookstore or any bookstore, where will readers turn to buy their books?”

    Uh, maybe that was a problem for the Ingalls at the Olesen’s Mercantile.

    • If a town no longer has a bookstore – because the bookstore did not sell enough books to stay in business – it’s because readers have already turned somewhere else to buy their books.

  2. And now I just spent a half hour over there reading the full post and responding to comments. I know that’s probably an exercise in futility, but preaching to the choir here wouldn’t change anything.

  3. The #1 challenge to publishing is too many books being published

    Back to basics. Competition results in a wider distribution of market share and lower prices.

    • I read this agent’s comment as basically PC-speak for “too many books are published on which we agents (and publishers) make nary a cent.”

  4. The government needs to step in and regulate the publishing industry. They need to level the playing field by making it as tough for self-publishers as it is for trad publishers. Yes, it’s time for Publishing Neutrality.

    • Or maybe they should make trad-pub as easy as indie/self-pub? No more crap contracts, the writer having more say in the editing/cover and pricing? 😉

    • The industry truly needs more online venfors of pbooks and ebooks.

      Unfortunately, corporate publishing policies over the last twenty years have hampered everybody but Amazon and B&N and the latter is run by folks hampered by B&M anchors. And who somehow managed tp lose money when they controlled a quarter of the ebook market.

      At this point instead of wondering about Amazon’s success we should be pondering the failures of their competitors. Do that and the main source will become clear.

  5. In 2016, the U.S. population was reported at 323.1 million. Think about how many avid readers would be needed to sustain the present explosion of available books. Is it any wonder that a new title has a few weeks at a retail outlet to sell through to a customer? And how is the reader supposed to ferret through this vast selection to find the books that interest him or her? The problem is staggering.

    I will concede them one point. Searching for books can be frustrating. Amazon has the same problem as Google–search for one thing and results come up for *everything* that might possibly be related in this universe and all others, including alternate universes. Part of the problem is that publishers provide the search keywords and they aren’t always accurate. Amazon, itself, is the major problem. It’s like walking into a store and asking where to find blue paper and being shown into a 20,000 square foot warehouse with shelves stacked to the ceiling containing every paper product ever made.

    I don’t know how Amazon can fix that.

    • Amazon is working on it: big data + “AI”.
      So are Google, Microsoft, and dozens of tech startups. Give it time. MULTIVAC wasn’t built in a day. Or six. 😉

    • I will concede them one point. Searching for books can be frustrating.

      It is for me. I’ve recently realized that many readers prefer certain topics, and thus online searches deliver at least some of what they are looking for.

      But I enjoy a wide range of topics and genres: fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, mainstream fiction, historical biography, science non-fiction, Brian Greene, Jane Austen, Lois McMaster Bujold, Georgette Heyer, Steven Brust, C.J. Cherryh, Louisa May Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and so on.

      I want the prose to be well-written, the storytelling to be compelling, the characters to be engaging, the plot to be engrossing, the concepts to be clearly presented, the worldbuilding to be immersive. The topics and themes can be almost anything, so long as the elements I list above are present.

      I stumble upon books I like mostly by pure chance. I’d love to have a more reliable way to find them.

      • I do most of my reading in the science fiction genre, and the thing that has been working for me is to read a well edited anthology and then research and sample each of the authors therein. I may skip some, but I often find authors I enjoy that Amazon doesn’t bother recommending to me.

        • I think your method is a good one.

          I recently had three stories of my own included in three different book bundles (created by BundleRabbit), so I read the stories by all the other authors in each bundle and discovered several that I enjoyed very much.

          I’ll definitely be looking for more by Alexandra Brandt and more by Leslie Claire Walker.

  6. “The #1 challenge to publishing is too many books being published”

    No, the problem (for trad-pub) is how many books are bypassing the bad contracts of trad-pub and going around the old gatekeepers. (Trad-pub and their agents aren’t getting their cut of the profits.)

    “The #1 challenge publishers face is the difficulty in getting attention for new authors”

    No, newer (and some of the older) writers are saying no to the crap contracts and slush-pile rejections and self publishing. (Trad-pub and their agents aren’t getting their cut of the profits.)

    “The #1 challenge for the industry is the financial pressure on bricks-and-mortar stores”

    The readers/buyers go where they can find what they actually want – not what trad-pub wants to force on them. And since most bookstores won’t stock indie/self-pub, the readers/buyers aren’t going to them.

    “The #1 challenge publishing faces is the competition from other entertainment options”

    So what they offer isn’t interesting enough to attract readers? Maybe they should have tried some of the book offers they didn’t know how to market.

    “The greatest challenge seen by publishers is flat sales”

    Flat for trad-pub maybe, and it can’t have anything to do with pricing – right? Funny thing is, Amazon says they’re selling more a/e/books, so maybe sales aren’t flat for all publishers.

    .

    And of course it’s all Amazon’s fault …

    “Having too many titles doesn’t increase sales; it results in readers having a harder time surfing through all the options to find a book they long to read.”

    No, it makes it easier to find something you might like, unlike trad-pub where that good book might not have made the slush pile cut because they had enough books for that quarter.

  7. Smart Debut Author

    So, sad buggy-whip merchandisers are sad.

    What else is new?

  8. The loss of fiction publishers and B&M fiction outlets is a result of the Disruption. The changes that opened up one avenue for authors closed another.

    Concern over traditional fiction publishing is like concern over those buggy whips. Some folks are building new cars. Others are telling buggy whip makers how they went wrong, and suggesting how they can approach the new era.

    Leave the whip in the buggy, and get in the car.

  9. Too many books being published? What can we do about that? It seems to me that copyright exists in the US to encourage the publishing of more books. If there are too many being produced perhaps the copyright law is too generous? Perhaps even unnecessary?

    What a ridiculous argument. The problem for tradpub, as one poster put it so well above, is not the number of books being published. It is the number of books bypassing them. And competing successfully with them.

    • When I hear that too many books are being produced, the first question is, “Too many for what?”

      For what condition are too many books being produced, and why should we care about that condition?

      Likewise, for what condition are too few books being produced, and why should we care about that condition.

      Since it is possible for various factions to advocate for different conditions, we can end up with claims of too many and too few books being produced.

    • It always has been and always will be about ‘control’.

      Back in the day (before internet) they controlled what could be found/read.

      Now a days they no longer have any control over those that refuse to play their game their way – and this upsets them badly … 😉

  10. I read the entire original post. Don’t worry, I took some extra insulin, just in case the sweetness got to me. It’s basically the same old apology/rant that the agent/publisher gatekeeping business is being lost to writers and readers who want to avoid these tired old paradigms. I practically spilled my coffee on the keyboard when one of the comments said that editors insert no errors in traditionally published books. What a hum that was. I’ve seen it many more times than once, in cases where publishers either employ editors who aren’t worth the money, or where editors manage to insert errors the author didn’t make.

  11. I have to agree on most of these points. More online (and offline) retailers would liven up the market. There are too many books published, but the solution is not publishing fewer books. Rather, the solution is a better way to show me (and every other reader) the books I want to read out of the vast number published. Flat sales for traditional publishers, shows me that in this market of burgeoning opportunity, those with the deepest pockets and largest resource base don’t get it. If they can’t, can I? I hope so, but it is a little daunting.

    • There are too many books published,

      Too many for what?

    • Too many books coming to market?
      One solution is for the big corporate publishers with the declining sales to put out less books. That’ll create more room for smaller tradpubs and Indies. 😀

      Standard business practice: don’t like a market? Leave it.

      • Felix– I think both you and Terrence missed my point. I was not clear.

        I don’t want to decrease the number of books published, but I have a problem finding the books I want to read out of the flood. I waste too much time on books that are not worth my time. Too much sloppy work, too many boring derivatives. Both from trads and indies. I like it that anyone can publish whatever they want, but I want a better way to wade through it. I want a lot.

        • I was referring mostly to the OP, not you.

          As I pointed out above, your problem awaits the development of more sophisticated pseudo-AI solutions. Preferably a return to the personal Agent (running locally to protect privacy) approach of the past. Think of it a personal shopper ‘bot.

          For now, most people tend to focus primarily on one or two genres so they don’t have to wade through the full rising tide of content. Which means there isn’t much urgency for the retailers to hurry up their “AI” efforts.

          I’m betting the answer will first arrive as a standalone commercial application rather than as a storefront enhancement.

  12. PG>The underlying problem for Books & Such and a lot of other agents and publishers is that the reason authors pay them so much is that they are gatekeepers – gatekeepers to publishers who don’t want to spend time reading submissions from authors, gatekeepers to printed book sales via Barnes & Noble and other traditional bookstores.And, to add insult to injury, the gatekeepers will continue to receive the same toll for the rest of the author’s life. Plus 70 years. The author will be dead and the agent will be dead and everybody who worked for the publisher when the book was released will be dead. But the tolls will continue.As far as the earnings of individual authors who have debuted in the last three years:

    250 Big Five authors are annually earning $25,000 or more from Amazon sales
    200 recent small or medium publisher authors earn $25,000 or more from their Amazon sales annually
    Over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years are earning more than $25,000 per year from Amazon sales<

    These figures are meaningless without knowing 1) each author’s frequency of publication in a calendar year, 2) the traditional authors’ advance and royalties paid per book, 3) the indie authors’s frequency of publication and royalties per book, which varies based on their pricing.

    A traditionally published author might get a $25,000 advance for a single book, which they could receive in total in one year if they deliver the completed manuscript by the end of that year.

    An indie author might earn $25,000 from one book in a year, or they may have to write and publish several books in a single year to earn $25,000.

    In such a scenario, the traditionally published author works a lot less than the indie author for the same annual income.

    • “In such a scenario, the traditionally published author works a lot less than the indie author for the same annual income.”

      Care to give us any examples of any new trad-pub authors getting $25,000 contracts right out of the gate? (The ‘Star’ contracts and ex/non-Presidents don’t count.) If not, then we’re most likely looking at authors that have several books being sold for years to finally get up to that $25,000, so I don’t see them having worked ‘less’ to get there – and it most likely took them a lot longer than three years.

      And of course you don’t mention the odds of getting a trad-pub contract in the first place – though even I’ll admit with all the indie/self publishing going on the slush piles probably aren’t what they used to be.

    • Peter – Thanks for your comment.

      If a person doesn’t want to work hard at their art/craft/job, they should probably stay away from the writing/publishing/B&M bookstore business entirely.

      Respecting advances, an advance isn’t free money. It’s money the author receives today in lieu of money the author would otherwise receive later. If a typical traditionally-published author doesn’t reliably earn out his/her advances, advances for subsequent books will be lower or the publisher will simply dump the author.

      As far as money earned from traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, the underlying royalty rates decisively tip the scales in favor of the indie author.

      If the indie author prices his/her ebook the way Amazon has learned will optimize sales, the author receives 70% of the sales price of each ebook Amazon sells.

      A traditionally-published author has no control over pricing and, under the typical publishing agreements existing today, the author will receive 15% of the sales price of each ebook Amazon sells.

      And instead of receiving monthly payments of royalties from Amazon (and knowing how much each payment will be in advance) as the indie author does, the traditionally-published author has no idea what his/her royalties will be and receives royalty payments twice a year.

      There’s also more work (and more anxiety) for the traditionally-published author to figure out whether she/he will have enough to pay the monthly rent or mortgage payments, utilities bills, etc., etc., etc.

      • There is an aspect of traditional v. indie that I have never heard discussed. I have three traditionally published non-fiction books. My cash outlay on them was not much– I expensed a few books, some equipment, my office space, network connection, etc. With my advances, I’ve shown a net profit on all of them, although none have earned out. But, if I had published them independently my costs would have been much greater.

        My publisher supplied cover art, book design, three rounds of editing (technical review, copy/developmental, and proofreading/line), and indexing. I’ve been looking at these costs and I estimate I would have to pay out four or five times the amount of my advances, which were not large, but enough to keep me interested.

        In addition, the whole business of finding qualified designers and editors and managing them does not appeal to me. I got out of software development because I was tired of the standard management drill.

        At this point, I think my publisher has invested more in my books than I have. I have to say that I look on publishing as a risky proposition these days, riskier today than it was five years ago when I began writing and before the floodgates opened on the number of books published. Thus, I am tempted to continue to push the risk off on my publisher.

        I estimate that I would have a net loss on my previous three books if I had published them myself. I doubt that I would have done as well on the covers and design. Although my publisher has not done much in the way of marketing, they do regularly have my books on display in booths at trade shows, which I would not be willing or able to do myself and I think accounts for a big share of my sales.

        My question is whether or not increased royalties on independently published books regularly offset the costs that traditional publishers take on.

        I imagine increased royalties are a net win for fiction, but what about non-fiction?

        • Smart Debut Author

          At this point, I think my publisher has invested more in my books than I have.

          Democritus, why don’t you come over and build me a new garage and patio? It’ll only take you a month or two. I won’t pay you, since your professional labor hours are worth nothing, apparently. But I’ll buy the lumber, so naturally I’ll be investing way more in the effort than you are.

          You see the problem with the logic of your statement?

          You’ve fallen into the same institutionalized-thinking trap that most traditionally published authors suffer from.

          Namely, that the author’s professional time is worthless, and the hundreds of labor hours they spend creating a manuscript on spec don’t factor into the final division-of-profit made for the published work.

          Consider: if you expended 500 hours of professional labor in researching & writing each manuscript, then at even minimum wage, you’ve already invested the equivalent of $7,250 in labor in each book before the publisher even looks at it.

          Did your publisher spend $50,000 total on each of your books for advance, cover, initial print run, and launch marketing?

          If not, then only the most self-effacing thought process could lead to the idea that the publisher “invested” more than you did in your book and is thus entitled to 75%-85% of the profit.

          • I do count the value of my time. At my consulting rate, each of my books would bill out at around 200K dollars, but that’s not relevant to this equation. Why? Because I don’t consult 2000 hours a year. I could not if I wanted to and I don’t want to.

            The time I put into writing is sunk. It’s not real money, it’s just time spent and as unrecoverable as wages paid to an unproductive employee. I don’t fret over recovering sunk costs. That’s realism, not self-effacement.

            If I self-publish and don’t earn back the real dollars I invested in design and editing, I am out roughly $8000 per book that I could have spent on booze and loose women. Since I enjoy writing, and would have spent the time writing anyway, the real fungible money I’ve lost is $8000 and that would hurt.

            In addition, if I spent my time on managing a production team, a task I am familiar with and detest, I loose both dollars and pleasure. That’s the equation for me.

            I don’t really care what my publisher invested or didn’t invest. That’s their lookout, not mine. When I mention their investment, I am only speculating on their motivation.

            I am a sybarite who cares only about booze, loose women, and how I spend my time. If my publisher makes out like a bandit, more power to them, but I want my booze, loose women, and writing time. If I don’t get that, the deal is a bust.

            On the other hand, if I were certain that the dollars and time invested in self-publishing would offer me more booze and loose women, I might take the deal, but I am looking with my eyes open.

            I don’t expect you to agree with me, but this is how I see it. But please, don’t insult me by suggesting that I don’t value my time. I guard it jealously.

            • Smart Debut Author

              No personal disrespect intended, Democritus. And sure, you can individually choose to consider your own writing time an unrecoverable sunk cost in the value equation — but that’s your personal choice.

              The sad thing is, I’ve heard publishers try to sell that same argument–and some have tried to do it here–when attempting to convince economically naive writers to accept their miniscule royalty share.

              Outside of the entertainment industry, there isn’t another profession where industry middlemen could get away with that argument.

              Bill Gates certainly didn’t consider his time writing DOS as an “unrecoverable sunk cost” when he negotiated his first deal with IBM. Elon Musk certainly doesn’t consider the personal time and money invested developing reusable rockets as an “unrecoverable sunk cost” when deciding how much to charge today’s launch customers or tomorrow’s potential acquirer.

              Traditionally published authors are about the only professional creators of intellectual property I know who routinely get talked into giving away their up-front labor for so very little, while middlemen reap the majority of the rewards.

              • Check your history. Bill Gates wrote a BASIC interpreter. He bought DOS. 🙂

                • Smart Debut Author

                  Touche. 🙂 I chose a poor analogy, but my larger point (about the industry’s operative convention that an author’s upfront labor has zero economic value) nontheless stands.

                  As long as enough authors still can be led to believe that’s true, publishers will have no incentive to pay authors fairly.

                • I apologize for the cheap shot.

                  My point is that it doesn’t matter to me how the industry values my labor. I care about my labor’s value to me.

                  Why? Because saying to publishers “You must be just to me,” is a weak negotiating position in a free market. Why should they care?

                  I’ll stipulate that authors often don’t know their business, but an author’s time is only worth only what they can sell it for. In business, without a buyer, the value is goose eggs.

                • Smart Debut Author

                  You know what’s a strong negotiating position?

                  Self-publishing and finding out what your writing labor is actually worth on the free market.

                  Then, when publishers approach you, you know *exactly* what you’d be giving up by signing with them, and thus what they have to compensate you for.

                  That’s why I’ve turned down offers that most trad-pub authors would have jumped at without batting an eye. Because I looked at what my previous novel earned in its first month, compared it to the advance they offered, and laughed.

                  As you say, without a buyer, the value of labor is goose eggs. Which sucked for authors before they had an alternative to selling their IP to publishers. But that’s no longer the case today, which is why it’s time for authors to revisit their institutionalized thinking about the value of their labor in the publishing world.

                • Smart Debut Author

                  In your particular case, it sounds like you’ve made an informed choice about how you want to spend your time and what that time is worth to you.

                  But for too many trad-published or trad-aspiring authors that I know, it’s not an informed choice at all.

                  The idea that their writing time “doesn’t count”, and that they should just be grateful if a publisher offers them anything at all for taking 85% of a book’s income, has been ingrained into their thinking.

                  Institutionalized.

        • My question is whether or not increased royalties on independently published books regularly offset the costs that traditional publishers take on.

          I’d suggest focusing on what is accomplished rather than what it costs. Two people can accomplish the same thing for very different costs.

          One party can be very efficient. The other can be very inefficient. I don’t think we have reason to say a dollar spent by an independent has the same results as a dollar spent by a traditional publisher.

          The same is true among independents. Some thrive as project managers. others are terrible at it. We shouldn’t expect each gets the same for a dollar spent.

          An interesting test would be to take a collection of covers and ask a sample of publishers and authors what each cover cost. Are they able to accurately determine the cost by looking at the product?

        • If your books are graphic-heavy, then yes, they might be more expensive to produce. But if you write fiction, or mostly text, then your costs to bring a book to market should be no more than $1k, tops. The costs have been laid out by numerous authors in numerous blogs and posts, but basically, with cover design, content edit, and copy edit, I come in between $600-900 per book – and that’s working with some top-level people. There are all kinds of ways to do it more cheaply, including buying one of the many excellent pre-made ebook covers out there for around $100, trading reads for content editing, and finding a good yet cheap copy editor. Formatting can be cheap/free for both ebooks and print. This is for fiction – if you’re writing non-fiction, you might, as I said earlier, have other costs.

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