A great article on the state of the self-publishing industry appeared in the New York Times on Wednesday that described the growth and health of the industry in comparison to the more traditional world of publishing. This article is of interest for a number of reasons – not the least of which is the open discussion of the self publishing world by a paper located in the bastion of the traditional publishing world – New York.
The article makes a number of points – but primarily discusses the huge growth in title count that self publishing has created. It goes on to note that most books that are self-published sell very few copies. But… it’s got some other interesting nuggets that bear commentary:
“As traditional publishers look to prune their booklists and rely increasingly on blockbuster best sellers, self-publishing companies are ramping up their title counts…”
- this truly is the raison d’etre for self publishing and any sort of success that it may generate. Self published books are typically most successful when the target market is NOT ‘everyone’. Focused, quality, niche-oriented titles are the products most likely to have success. How’s your book marketing plan coming along?
“The trend is also driven by professionals who want to use a book as an enhanced business card (the link jumps to an article on the Dog Ear Publishing site that talks about books as business cards) as well as by people who are creating books as gifts for family and friends.”
- in many industries, the trend seems to be ‘if you aren’t the guy who wrote the book… well, then you aren’t they guy…‘ (or gal for that matter). Professionals who stand out in their industry often write books – and in days past, they were the experts that the traditional academic or professional publishers chose to write lengthy tomes on specific topics. With professional book sales in the dumpster, very few professional publishing groups are adding much in the way of content. In comes self-publishing – the upside being that professionals can now publish their own books, in their own way, and receive all the credit and profit. The downside is still the one ‘downside’ of self publishing – anyone can publish a book and call themselves a ‘professional’ or ‘expert’.
“Still, many self-publishing companies allow authors to take more than the traditional royalty of 15 percent of the cover price on hardcovers and 10 percent or less on paperbacks.”
- the profit / royalty question – how much should an author make from their self-published book? How does the self publishing company make a profit? Who should get what? This is a tough question – and one often overlooked by authors interested in self publishing. My position is this: a self published author should get ALL the profit from sales – the company publishing (or printing -in the case of Lulu, Blurb, Createspace; all of whom are printers, not really publishers) should charge a single flat fee for each sale. Usually it’s ties into or part of a ‘print charge’ for each book. Royalties, in the traditional world, are a percentage of the sale -mostly this is done because the publisher has a higher risk in a book with a higher retail. In theory, a book that has a retail of $90 (like a textbook or professional reference) had a much higher cost to produce (design, editing, development, production, etc) than a $7.99 paperback. So – the royalty ‘rewarded’ the publisher for that risk as the retail price grew. No self publishing company has ANY risk in a self published title – they’ve all been paid for their services upfront. The only cost to a self publisher is the printing – and it’s the exact same for 150 page (or fill-in-your-page-count-here) paperback whether the retail price is $7.99 or $79.99.
“Louise Burke, publisher of Pocket Books, said publishers now trawl for new material by looking at reader comments about self-published books sold online. Self-publishing, she said, is “no longer a dirty word.””
- Well, now… what do you know. This does raise the importance of getting your readers to add reviews to your Amazon.com page.
Self publishing may no longer be a dirty word – but it’s also beginning to become a significant (albeit small yet) part of the bookselling world.