There is an old business saying: follow the money to see the true story. If we follow the money in publishing, from the perspective of authors, what story does it tell us?
This is the typical money trail in trade publishing:
- Reader pays bookstore
- Bookstore pays wholesaler
- Wholesaler pays distributor (sometimes wholesaler and distributor are one)
- Distributor pays publisher
- Publisher pays agent
- Agent pays author many months after the sale (who, by the time everyone has had their cut, receives less than 10% of book retail price).
This business model of selling print books through bookstores is not commercially viable for most indie authors. Economies of scale means that few of us can compete with trade publishing in the print-book-to-bookstore model. And the economics of physical bookstore distribution, given the discounts retailers, wholesalers and distributors need to make their profits, are punishing, even for big publishers.
. . . .
In self-publishing the most common money chain looks like this:
- Reader pays online bookstore (the author’s website or a retailer such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo etc).
- Author gets paid immediately on own website (full cost of book, minus publishing expenses); or 90 days after transaction (up to 70% of book retail price) through the retailer or one of the aggregators who distribute to them (who will also take a cut).
And these online stores, with their global readership, 24/7, give far more access to readers than any physical store can provide.
. . . .
Self-Publishing is also advantageous from a rights perspective.
The days of needing to give an exclusive, all-territories, long-term, license to a publisher in order to see our books on sale, disappeared a decade ago.
Indie authors retain ownership of all publishing rights and the savvy author understands the value of that. Owning and creating value from our rights, today’s authors can adopt a variety of business models, produce a variety of book-related content, in text, video and audio and distribute it through a variety of outlets and platforms, not least our own websites.
The author who is stuck in a Cinderella complex, where Prince Publisher Charming is going to sweep in, fall in love with their book, and carry them off to fame and fortune, without them having to do the work, has failed to grasp the enormity of what gets handed over in such a transaction.
. . . .
What few authors know is that a publisher’s business model is built on failure for the majority of authors that they take on. Of every 20 authors who sign with them, probably two will do well enough to make a living from their writing (and pay the overheads of the publisher). The problem is they don’t know which two it will be.
They are fired out into the marketplace, to see what sticks. From the publisher’s perspective, that’s understandable. They know they only need that one or two to do well in order to recoup their investment in all.
The effect for the authors is devastating. They, and their “failed” books are dropped, but they have gained no publishing skills in the transaction. Any confidence they gained from signing the deal in the first place has probably been eroded. And if they seek another publisher they are doing so from a very weak bargaining position.
By contrast, those who self-publish, and combine self-publishing with selective, non-exclusive licensing, are building skills and confidence with each book, each sale, each negotiation, each deal. We are building an author business, step by step, book by book, reader by reader, collaboration by collaboration.
As an author, you may relish the creative challenges of self-publishing, or you may quail at them, but building those skills empowers you.
Link to the rest at ALLi