From TPV regular, author Randall Wood:
This past month we saw the birth of AuthorEarnings, a website created by best-selling author and self-publishing guru Hugh Howey, in trying to expose what kind of money authors, both trade and self published, are really making. Howey’s data has raised a bit of controversy, with rebuttals coming from several trade-publishing supporters such as Mike Shatzkin, Dana Weinberg at DBW, and agents such as Donald Maass calling the whole study such things as “incomplete”, “a stellar example of what not to do”, and saying that it “raises more questions than answers”.
I’m not going to argue Hugh’s numbers here. I feel they speak for themselves and people will twist them to support whatever agenda they have. Unlike other studies, Howey provides the raw data for just that purpose. One thing that I did notice in the many responses was the insistence by the trade-pub crowd that the numbers meant little, that it was simply not how the trade publishing world worked. They say this despite offering no data to support their argument. Regardless, they fail to see (or tactfully ignore) the main question that the reports attempt to answer; Is a new writer better off pursuing a trade-pub deal, or going it alone with self-publishing?
It’s often said that publishers no longer view the reader as their customer, the customer for the publishing industry is now accepted to be the book store. The reader is now viewed as a persona, a variable to plug into an algorithm in an attempt to find the next 50 Shades of Grey.
So, from a Big Publishing House point-of-view, what kind of reader are you? Most would answer by genre; I like Thrillers and Science fiction, or by author; I like Bella Andre andH.M. Ward. I think trade-pub sees the reader in an entirely different way. To trade-pub, you the reader fall into one of three categories;
The Voracious Reader: This is the reader who spends his entertainment time and money on books and little else. They put one down and immediately shop for the next one. They make up the smallest percentage of the reading public but spend the most dollars-per-person by a large amount. Most were early adopters of the e-reader, and due to their reading appetites seek out lower priced books. They are the group most likely to try an unknown self-published author.
The Casual Reader: This is the reader who divides their entertainment time and money among several other different sources, be they TV, movies, or newspapers, in addition to books. They stick to authors they know, usually best-selling names, and rarely divert from them. Their busy lives and short supply of free time limit their reading to less than 12 books a year. Price is not much of an issue due to the low volume of books they purchase. They prefer paperback and hardcover or are late adopters of e-books. They are also the group least likely to try an unknown self-published author.
The Social Reader: This reader prefers to get their entertainment from sources other than books, reading perhaps one or two a year at the most. However, they are by far the largest population of readers out there. They read mostly for social reasons; when the Casual Readers in their social group are all talking-FaceBooking-Tweeting about a book they will not hesitate to pick it up. They are the group most likely to be seen reading the hot book-of-the-moment, and also the ones telling the world via every social connection they have what it is they are reading, thus promoting it even further. The Social Reader is what makes a book a blockbuster. By their nature they are nearly impossible to market to. The Social reader requires a Casual Reader to stimulate their reading/purchasing of a book.
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As book prices rose, voracious readers found other means than buying new to feed their habit. Libraries, used book stores, book swaps, etc. In example, for every reader who bought Stephen King’s latest in either hardcover or paperback, there were probably fifty who didn’t buy the book new but read it anyway. To test this I visited my local library when King’s book 11/22/63 came out back in July of 2012, I reserved it on the library list, and was informed that I was number 234 in the queue. That means 233 people who wanted to read his latest, but weren’t willing to pay retail for it, were willing to wait behind up to 232 others.
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[I]t’s not hard to come to the conclusion that the targeted reader for the BPH’s, the one they spend their marketing efforts on, is the Casual Reader. Once you realize this every baffling practice adopted by Big-Pub falls into place; the select list of big-name authors, the monthly new releases, the high cost of trade-pub ebooks, Windowing, the purchased coop space, the limited marketing push for new authors, the six-month shelf life, the lack of marketing for the existing mid-list. It all makes sense now.
More importantly it leads to this; There is an upper limit to how many Casual Reader Authors a publishing house can have at any one time.
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The Apple/Big-6 case points to just how afraid the publishers are. Price is usually the defense of the collusion charge, but the real reason is simply that Amazon can do something that they cannot; target the Voracious Reader.
Link to the rest at Randall Wood Author and thanks to Dan for the tip.