Over the last few days, I’ve been part of a discussion with some other writers in my area about publishing. Specifically, about whether or not traditional publishers are keeping up with the times. One of our group still holds out hope that traditional publishing will return to its glory days, bookstores will once again show up in major numbers and they will have their books prominently on display. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t going to happen, at least not the bookstore culture of the last several decades. Locally owned indie bookstores are popping up, but they are more speciality stores, catering to a very set customer base. Unless B&N manages to adapt, it isn’t long for the world. So what about traditional publishing?
It, too, is facing a continuing decline. Too many publishers are worried about “educating” their readers and making them into the “right sort” of people than they are in entertaining. Others have chosen to step away fro their core readers. They have tried to embrace the new trends in publishing and, in doing so, have alienated a number of those readers who once bought everything those houses bought.
But it goes beyond that. These publishers continue to grasp onto the hope that ebooks and Indies will slink off into the sunset. You see this when you look at the New York Times best seller lists. Even though ebooks make up a major portion of the market now, the Times doesn’t have a list for just ebooks. Instead, they have a combined list for print and digital. Why? Because publishers don’t want to acknowledge ebooks are a major portion of the market.
But why are these publishers taking this stance?
There are a variety of reasons why they might be. The first is that long lasting hope I mentioned earlier that ebooks will disappear. The second is that by acknowledging their importance in the market, publishers might be forced to re-evaluate their business plan and we know that ain’t gonna happen. The third is they don’t want authors realizing the market had changed and they could leave traditional publishers and make as much–or more–as an indie author.
If publishers would simply admit the market has changed, they could expand their income pool. It would be simple for them to have digital only releases. These would be less costly for the publishers because there would be no printing costs, no storage costs, no shipping costs, etc. But that would be to admit ebooks are here to stay and most publishers aren’t going to do that. Just like they won’t admit they could sell more ebooks if they dropped the price. They’d rather sell one book at $12.99 than five at $4.99.
It doesn’t make sense but little about this industry does, at least not from the traditional viewpoint.
Taking a look at the Amazon Kindle best sellers list this morning, 38 of the top 100 books were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. That is a pretty good indicator that not only are those books indie or small press published, but they are available only on Amazon. Common sense says there are at least a handful of others that are indie or small press books that are on the list but aren’t enrolled in KU. So, somewhere north of 40% of the best sellers on Amazon as of 0630 this morning are not traditionally published.
If you look at the most read books on Amazon, six of the top 10 are Harry Potter books. Yes, they were initially traditionally published but they are now released through Rowling’s own company, Pottermore. And they are part of KU. Nine of the top 20 are part of KU. That is just shy of 50%.
But ebooks and indie/small presses aren’t here to stay, at least not if trads have their way.
The number of indie books sold and/or read would increase if we had the push (read promotional money) traditional publishers have. Yes, it’s a hard road but it is one we can navigate. We are navigating it and we don’t need traditional publishers to tell us if we are doing it right or not. That is what our readers are for.
So, if you want to go the traditional route, good luck. The indie route isn’t for everyone. All I ask is that you do your homework. That you realize the life of a writer isn’t what you see on TV and certainly isn’t like Castle.
And on that note, I have to get back to work. I have a book to finish editing.