Is Indie publishing a bubble destined to burst ala the housing market?

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Carlyle Clark, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    If it's working for you on the self-publishing route, there's no earthly reason to stop. (However, dealing with the t.v./film people, you will definitely need an agent or film lawyer. They are not kidding around with those contracts.) The simple point of a partnership with a publisher is to achieve certain goals that the publisher can help with, which can be anything from placement of print editions in odd places like airports to multiple country launches on a solid scale to taking over functions that are keeping the author from being able to write. But if you are achieving your goals without the publisher, then teaming up isn't necessarily the path you want to take, or maybe take with some projects and not with others. (You might, for instance, want to self-publish adult works and work with a publisher on YA or kids projects to get into the schools more effectively and widely.) If you are only e-pubbing, you're selling to a smaller, more restricted audience. But if you're selling to 100,000 of that restricted audience, that's not necessarily a hindrance. If you're only doing it on Amazon, that's a big concern, but the market is opening up way beyond Amazon. And POD is doing interesting things. It's a lot of work, doing the shipping, etc., but some authors are willing to do it and it works for them.

    The important thing is for authors to stop feeling guilty. Authors working with publishers should not be made to feel guilty for doing so. Authors self-publishing should not be made to feel guilty for doing so. But there are, unfortunately, some financial rewards some people can make out of doing just that. And so we have this other fake war of words going on.
     
  2. hughhowey

    hughhowey SF Author

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    Good points. More reasonableness from you. Why am I not surprised? ;)
     
  3. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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    You SHOULD be very protective of your rights. You need to examine each contract with an eye for in what circumstances you can get those rights back. I care more about "reversion" in many respects than I care about the $'s on the deal.

    Well so far neither my wife or I have needed the "day job" when self-published or traditionally published. From a purely economic standpoint (assuming a good product that will sell well in either) I belive there will be more money in the self-publishing route. I would like nothing more than to have all my books come out through Orbit (they did a great job with The Riyria Revelations) but if that means one of us has to go back to work...I'll go back to self-publishing where I pretty much know I'll be financially sound.

    It is what it is. Like you, I know more self-published authors that earn a living than traditionally published authors. But not all self-published authors will reach the level of success that you have. The issue comes into play when you have the option to do both.

    The issue with traditionally published - if you "blow big" you'll out perform self-publishing - but you are right if you are "in the middle" then you'll do better financially as self-published.

    That is why I said that is one of the things that have to change. Now Orbit but out three books from me (well technially 6 because they were 2-book Omnibus versions in three months (Nov, Dec, Jan). And that was great for that series. But now I'm ready to turn over the next book and I'm really afraid that if they want it they might not have a slot until fall 2013. I can't be 18 months without a new book out. Which is why I think hybrid may be the way to go - having them on their "long shedule" and sublementing releases with self-published between. But.....the contracts have to allow for that and I think that will be the most challenging aspect.


    There is no evil machination on their part. They just have release calendars and catalogs that have long lead times. Orbit just announced signing of Mur Lafferty...and her book is slated for fall 2013. It may be that was the next spot open.

    I think the odds are the same either route. The number of authors that make it throught the query-go-round to a published deal is about the same as self-published authors that make the same amount of money. In other words. Say an advance is going to be #10,000 and there are I don't know say 5,000 queries turned down to find that 1. Then I think there will be 5,000 self-published books who won't earn but there will be 1 self-published book that does make the $10,000.


    Lol -don't get me started on Absolute Wirte - they banned my wife for similar talk. They don't believe that it is possible to be successful with self-publishing...period...end of story. It's too bad as many people are getting their data from there and it is only 1 side of the story.
     
  4. hughhowey

    hughhowey SF Author

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    Really? I'm sorry she went through that, but I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. What was weird was how aggressive all these writers were being with me. It was crazy-making to have that many people tell me that I was the one being unreasonable. I was basically saying the same sort of stuff I say everywhere else about self-publishing. They think that's the devil's juice. Which is sad, because I'm sure a lot of those writers would be better off on their own than buying into the there's-only-one-way-worth-trying mentality.

    Again, thanks for all your responses. It would be a blast to sit down over a meal with you, Kat, and Laer and just listen to the banter.
     
  5. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    (Wow I have a lot to read... )

    My experience on this end of writing is still evolving, and I will continue to grow. From what I've gathered here from the exceptionally intelligent and fine people fo this forum is this: you have to look at the pros and cons and understand where things best work for you. Never assume anything to be a one-size-fits-all.

    BUT, on that note, I did decide to consult with Seth Godin, whom I consider to be an expert in the market of publishing, self-publishing, marketing, and being a general entrepreneur. In an email, his thoughts on the article were this:

     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
  6. hughhowey

    hughhowey SF Author

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  7. kmtolan

    kmtolan KMTolan

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    Amazon and publishers is a lot like Wal Mart and local businesses. Not gonna be pretty.

    Just remember that you don't want Amazon being the only game in town. When the top predator finishes off the other predators, who gets eaten next?

    Business is never going to be kind or fair to anyone.

    Kerry
     
  8. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    A footnote to this discussion. Print-on-demand works two ways. The author buys a few books, perhaps 100, and sells them herself. Maybe at a local sci-fi convention, or a larger more-distant one. She has to have a table, but perhaps she gets one only for a day because she knows she'll sell all her books that day. Then she goes home, or stays and has fun as a free agent. Or she shares a table with someone else.

    Or - and this seems part of the "evolutionizing" of self-publishing - she goes with a company which does all the shipping, advertising, etc.

    I'm going with Amazon's CreateSpace as part of my tip-toeing into self-publishing. CS (formerly BookSurge) is a separate company but partnered with Amazon so that to buyers the two are one. Amazon's page for a book has a link to their Kindle/Fire edition, and another link to a CS page for the printed book.

    A reader orders the print book there, and CS (or possibly Amazon itself) prints, packages, and mails the book. They also handle returns, which is a big headache for a self-publisher which I'm very happy to have someone else handle.

    The CS page provides a link which you can customize. I've set it to send readers to my Author Page on Amazon. This has (along with a bio photo and text) a list of all my books. So that (again) Amazon and CS look to be the same company to buyers.

    I could have set the link to my Web page, which naturally has a lot more for prospective readers to read and view than Amazon does. That includes a page for readers who want to explore the Shapechanger Tales universe. Including exploring as a tourist, just as I did a couple of years ago when I went to Ireland and retraced the travels of my hero Mary McCarthy.

    My page also includes snippets from books not yet published, short stories, and more - including links back to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the various books and shorter works published through those two outlets and (eventually) Apple.

    There are other ways to go the POD route, of course. Lulu and Ingram/Lightning Source are two of the biggest. Both of those are also linked with Apple's iBook program in some of the same ways CreateSpace is with Amazon. I'll eventually explore that route as well, but for the time being Apple's ebook and "pbook" channels are too small a niche in the self-pub industry for me to spend time on.
     
  9. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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    Seth Godin is probably the best person to follow with regards to marketing and building a brand.
     
  10. hughhowey

    hughhowey SF Author

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    I don't buy this argument. We should keep horrible businesses around because it's the only reason other businesses act decent? That means we are 100% guaranteeing the thing that we worry *might* have some small chance at coming to fruition.

    More likely (judging by history), it'll go like this: Businesses that couldn't compete by offering more for their customers at a better price will collude with government to have the good and decent business broken up, and the media will do their part in helping portray the good company as an evil machination which should be burned to the ground. Meanwhile, customers lose and bad businesses win.
     
  11. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    I disagree with that guy Seak quoted. I don't like being called prejudiced towards ebooks, and I'm sure many others don't appreciate it, too.

    I attacked it on my blog, but more from a major publisher angle. I would say major publishers - and retailers like Amazon - aren't particularly helpful towards buyers (which also happened back with MP3s and Apple in the early days), in that they price in an uncompetitive manner but also - in the case of publishers like Black Library - they sometimes sell books by using Moon Logic to come up with prices.

    I don't think indie publishing will ever "burst". I think it'll grow, but then just settle down once people get used to it and it'll just sort of work like that. There's a lot of different marketing tactics going on in indie publishing (just going by Amazon) where some authors will give away the first book then price the following ones "normally", or they'll - much to my annoyance - price low for the first then price high for the following ones, or they'll even just price along the lines of other books.

    What I'd like to see is a move away from Amazon, though, and this is said by she who owns a Kindle :p
     
  12. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    I agree with you. But "settle down" suggests reaching a plateau or valley. It may not be the best phrase to use to describe self-pub's future.

    Powered vehicles for well over a century have increasingly diversified into ever more "evolutionary niches" ranging from skates to spaceships. Ditto electrical communication, evolving from electrical semaphores in the 18th century to satellite phones and cable TV and the Internet.

    Self-publishing will likewise diversify and grow for decades and centuries to come - if we survive that long, that is!
     
  13. Window Bar

    Window Bar We Read for Light

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    Ebooks will die. In fact, the printing press idea itself is just a passing fad. Myself, I'm stocking up on stone chisels. The tablets of Ur are the only format in which I have faith.
     
  14. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    I'm with you. But they are temporary too. Eventually authors will just send their books to the readers using telepathy.
     
  15. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

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    No no no. We all know our stories are written in the skies with stars... :rolleyes:
     
  16. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    So, I'm still trying to read through all of the wonderful posts, and it will take me a while. But here is what this humble newcomer has gleaned from all of the amazing people that have posted to this thread:

    Being a self-published author is like being an entrepreneur; you are essentially in business for yourself and thereby responsible for doing your own research, reading your own fine print, performing your own marketing, and ultimately you are responsible for how successful you are.

    Being an author that has a Traditional Publishing House backing them is like being somebody who has bought a franchise (err, sort of), or more like hiring a consultant. You gain the boons of their experience, professional services, and networking (including their massive contracts, which they can leverage against places like Amazon). But, like most consulttants or professionals, you have to pay them. Otherwise, why would they be involved?

    As for eBooks in particular, the research I recently did was stating that yes they are good, and you can try to make these your bread and butter. OR you can do as Seth Godin did, and you leverage some of the information by giving it away for free (you can go to sethgodin.com and read some of Seth Godin's marketing material for free by the way). He gave away "The Ideavirus" for free, and this helped build his onlind brand and identify, and subsequently generated sales for "Unleashing the Ideavirus," which was a hardcover. Seth Godin doesn't seem to believe that traditional publishing houses are dead, just some of their methods. He also believes in using ebooks to supplement his success with traditional book publishing.

    This is was I've see. But KatG, Laer Carroll, please check me on this as I know you both are great at pointing out how wrong I often am :eek:
     
  17. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    You're wrong. :)

    All authors, whatever form their text comes out in, are entrepreneurs with full ownership of all rights in their intellectual property and the ability to exploit those rights and receive payment for that exploitation or not, as they choose to attempt, under the copyright laws of the home country and other territories in which the property may be sold or contracted for. The difference between self-published and non is how the author goes about bringing his project to the market. In self-publishing, the author runs everything, is in charge of production and must finance everything. To have others do services of production, distribution, marketing and PR, the author has to pay for them in fees or a percentage of sales.

    Published authors don't hire publishers. Instead they find a publisher interested in selling the book, at no cost to the author. The author grants an exclusive license to the publisher of the right to produce the book in the author's name in specified forms under specified terms in a contract. The publisher handles all production, a lot but not all marketing, some PR and further sub-licensing of those specific other licensing rights on the author's behalf granted under the publisher license. The publisher pays all costs it incurs in producing, marketing, publicizing, distributing, inventory storage, accounting, returns, etc., and marketing authorized rights to the work. The author pays nothing, but the author therefore has no say in the publisher's production, marketing, distributing and publicizing, or in the terms of sub-licensing agreements the publisher makes under their license. The author cannot order the publisher to incur any cost the publisher does not choose to make.

    The author is expected to make good faith efforts to publicize the work, to cooperate with the publisher in efforts to publicize and market the work and to coordinate with the publisher regarding the author's efforts to publicize and market the work. The publisher has no say over any efforts the author makes to publicize and market the work that the author pays for, excepting that the author's choices cannot be ones that damage the license the author granted to the publisher as that violates the contract between them.

    In exchange for the license and its continuance, the publisher pays the author a portion of its profits from the sale of its product and revenues from exploiting its granted rights and sub-rights in the product. These payments are specified in the contract between publisher and author and can be a percentage of the book price of each copy sold or a percentage of the net revenues in total the publisher receives, or, in the case of sub-rights licensing, a split of the monies the publisher receives for the sub-license and subsequent revenues from those sub-licenses (often 50/50, depending on the right sub-licensed.)

    Larger publishers incur the additional production expense of paying the author an advance against the share of revenue estimated to be going to the author. If the publisher guesses wrong on its estimate, the publisher eats the cost and the author keeps the money. In this way, authors can obtain financing from a larger publisher for the period of waiting for the book to be produced, the distribution and marketing of the book, and the accounting period required to process shipping sales, returns and net sales and revenues without being penalized for the initial decisions of the publisher over which the author has no control.

    E-books is far more complicated because e-books are not physical objects but instead software programs. And neither the publishers nor the authors own the software programs. So when an author enters into an agreement with Amazon, for example, the author is granting the electronic rights license on a limited basis to Amazon for free. Amazon has full control over the content, pricing of the content and whether the content will exist in their system and for how long. The author pays for most costs in publishing the work, but Amazon pays some minimal costs in consulting aid, conversion staff, and putting it out for the Kindle system (distribution in a limited but large venue.) In return for that effort and because they own the electronic Kindle license to the work, Amazon gets paid thirty percent of the author's revenues, although in some cases they get more and may provide more services for that. The rest of the revenues that go to the author are not a royalty. They are revenues, from which Amazon deducts its fees.

    My understanding is that Amazon can change this revenue split any time it feels like it. Right now, it works for them to keep it at that rate for a number of reasons. So the article author is pointing out a particular issue -- the electronic distributors own their electronic software platforms which gives them control with no risk. If they decide to change the game, that will have consequences for both self-published authors and authors working through publishers. Hence the many tangled negotiations between publishers and electronic distributors over who owns licenses and how revenues will be calculated. Self-published authors don't have any leverage in these negotiations. If they want to go through these distributors, they have to grant the license for free and abide by the distributors' individual terms.

    However, the Web is wide. The leverage of the electronic distributors is only in proportion to the amount of control they have on access to software and customers. Initially, Amazon had 90% of the access. Now it has about 60% with the publishers and losing ground rapidly as more and more players enter the game. It still has about 90% of the self-pubs because it offers the biggest pool of customers for no direct cost. But it's losing that too. It's pushing into foreign territories outside North America and is the lead there, but it has competition. And outside of these electronic distributors, it's becoming easier and easier for authors to use software to sell books themselves directly without Amazon et. al., as can publishers. If they can attract enough customers, then the customer pools that Amazon, Apple, the Nook, Kobo, etc. can offer matter less and less and the market becomes bigger, if limited to the electric elite (who are growing smaller as a group in the West and bigger in the East, where other companies and governments rule.)

    So that's why the self-publishing e-market cannot possibly die or "burst." Because there is now a retail customer pool (as opposed to mostly bit torrent piracy we had previously,) that is becoming more and more accessible and potentially larger. There are of course issues of overall access to the Web itself that can effect things. Internet access is becoming more and more limited and costing more and more. If the phone companies, who run the Web because they run the wireless satellites, decide to do certain things, it could bring the whole thing down. But the way things are moving, that's unlikely to happen. What will happen is that there will be some attrition, as the get rich quick patter of self-publishing now fails to produce and people leave the market.

    But there may be a groundswell of other authors from other sources. People keep going on about enhanced books and vooks, etc. -- those have been tried before and they don't work except with small children. But what does work is to have a book as part of a multi-media franchise. It works for vloggers to have an e-book (and print book) out, and a DVD and T-shirts, etc. It works for politicians and pundits to put out books and tour for them as part of their franchise of speaking, consulting, media, etc. You cannot kill books, nor can you make them into something else other than large pieces of text. They will always be products that produce a low rate of profit with high odds of failure for a steady if unexciting demand with additional publicity uses in limited channels, and for a small percentage of product, adaptation into high profit media. It will also be an open market in which, unless you live under an autocratic government, anyone can and does sell their wares, usually on a small scale for limited cost. None of this has changed in several thousand years. And as Window Bar pointed out, as long as we have two rocks, we'll have print of some kind and people doing it. Nobody is going to die.
     
  18. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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  19. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

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    Yikes. That is a little scary. I guess I better go back to honing that query letter... :(
     
  20. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    Amazon is not our enemy, but it is NOT our friend

    For those not bothering to read Kat's link, it reports an incident in which Amazon without warning dropped an ebook price from $2.99 to $.99. Then it was not very responsive to the complaints of the author.

    A similar but more serious incident is detailed at the following link, by author James Crawford. One of his books, listed at $4.99, was dropped to $.00 by Amazon's automatic pricing because he had published the first three chapters for free. Amazon's computer assumed the entire book had been published for free, so 6111 copies were downloaded. Amazon admitted in correspondence that this was an error, but refused to compensate Crawford for the mistake.

    http://www.geek.com/articles/news/a...ee-by-mistake-wont-compensate-author-2011118/

    If you keep alert to the epub scene you'll read more such stories. Such as one where a best-selling author's books were completely deleted from Amazon for several weeks, just before holiday shopping season. (I couldn't find my link to this. Please post it if you know it.) Amazon admitted it's mistake, but took several weeks and several email exchanges to get his books back. And they did not compensate him for THEIR error.

    Such glitches are likely very rare, relatively speaking, because Amazon deals in many thousands of ebooks. But the absolute numbers (for that very reason) must be in the hundreds or even higher, and several times those reported.

    The size of Amazon and so its dependence on their computers is the cause. As every computer engineer knows, glitches happen.

    Amazon's slow and reluctant responsiveness is also a result of its size - big companies are not agile or flexible. Also, ebooks are a tiny segment of what items Amazon sells, which is almost every cheap item and increasingly more expensive items as well.

    This does not mean that Amazon is an enemy of the self-published author - a paranoia some authors seem to delight in. But it is not our friend.

    Furthermore, as other companies get in the business of self-publishing, we can expect the same conditions to exist. Even in fairly small companies, whose size is no guarantee that they will be much better.
    .
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    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012