Friday, February 18, 2011

The times they are “e”-changing.

Book stores closing, ebooks exploding, what's going on? Yesterday author Anne Rice posted a link on her Facebook page to an article about the many Borders Book Stores across the country. This prompted a lively discussion with the majority of her followers expressing distress at the potential loss of sources for books. She has posted a number of links over the last few months about the increase in ebooks and decline of bookstores. In her post yesterday she also mentioned that “Authors are fighting for their lives too.” Well, Ms. Rice, the times they are a-changing and with them trad-pub (traditional publisher) authors are feeling the pain.

For a couple months now I have been participating in discussions on discussion boards for indie authors who are publishing electronically, and what I am seeing is blowing my mind. Some of these authors are selling a thousand or more books a month! Author J.A. Konrath, an indie author of thrillers in e-format, reported $40,000 in sales in January. If you go to the Kindle store on Amazon, or the Nook store on Barnes & Noble, you will find indie authors books in the top 100 bestsellers – especially in the genre sections. Romance, mystery, paranormal, horror, chick lit, etc. are exploding with record-breaking sales for these authors. These authors are writing at home, editing and designing with the help of a network of e-businesses, publishing themselves, promoting through blogs, online forums and social networking sites, and raking in most of the profits. How is this possible?

The ebook revolution is upon us. Barnes & Noble reported that they sold more ebooks in December than paper books. I can testify from my own explosion of sales on ebooks after Christmas that a lot of people seem to have gotten e-readers for Christmas. This is going to change the face of publishing permanently. Why?

  • Price: Traditional publishers simply cannot compete with indie publishers when it comes to sales price. I did a quick search on Kindle and most of Anne Rice's ebooks sell for between $6 and $10. The majority of indie publishers sell their ebooks for $.99 to $2.99. BUT because the overhead for indies is so much lower they actually receive more of a profit than the authors of trad-pub ebooks. I don't know how much Ms. Rice (or any other trad-pub) author receives from their ebook sales but the indies are profiting anywhere from $.37 to $2.03 per book (and more for higher priced books). Trad-pubs take their percentage before the author gets theirs and, with that cut eliminated, indies can charge less. My fiction sells for $2.99 in e-format and I still make as much profit as I do from the paperbacks that sell for $17. My knitting books retails for $20 in paperback of which I receive $2.71. In e-format it sells for $8.00 and I get $5.07!
  • Writing Quality: This is what people – myself included – always question about indie authors but there are two points to be considered. 1.) Many genre fans are not highly particular about writing style as long as it is acceptable and the story is good, and 2.) Most indie authors post generous samples of their work on their web sites and blogs. And most ebook sellers offer anywhere from 20% to 50% of stories for readers to browse before buying. You know in advance with most ebooks whether you want to read them. This is not what most trad-pubs offer.
  • Aesthetics: Many of the posters on Ms. Rice's board (and lots of other places) complain that they love the feel, smell, touch of “real” books and would never give that up. I sort of feel the same way except.... I'm starting to revise my opinion. For one thing e-readers have so many advantages: you can adjust the size of the type, you can adjust the light, you can carry hundreds of books with you everywhere you go, you can read newspapers and magazines and blogs, too. A 70-something friend of mine swore she would never give up real books ---- until her kids bought her a Kindle. She fell in love with it in no time. She said it is so much better at the beach because the pages don't blow around. She slips it in a plastic zipper bag to read in the bathtub or use in the kitchen. She keeps it in her purse for when she is stuck in doctor's offices or on the train. Paper books are lovely but e-readers grow on you.

So what lies ahead? Who knows? It is an exciting time to be a writer – or a reader. Trad-pub authors are going to have to readjust their expectations. And remember, us old dead-tree-book dinosaurs are going to die off and the new generation of e-kids are going to take our place with their preference for digital everything. The times they are “e”-changing. Get with it!

Thanks for reading


  1. I have this argument with my husband all the time about books. We have tons of them, and I do love a real worthwhile hardback book, but I'd give nearly anything to trade his roomful of disintegrating paperback horror fiction for one sleek ereader.

    I love mine, and have it loaded up with digital books that I otherwise might not buy because of price and space restrictions. I still buy over sized art books for reference.

    We have the same arguments about the music industry, where I point out the independent artists who are forging careers without signing away most of their profits while the old guard sits around lamenting the rapid decline of the record label.

    I'm glad you are ahead of the curve on this one and enjoying then benefits. You are a role model for me.

  2. Thanks, Carla. I admit I'm a recent convert to the whole e-publishing business! I feel pitiful when I see the way some writers are selling. But it is a field that is just getting started so I want to learn everything I can!!

  3. thanks, kathleen, for the informative blog. my sister was finally persuaded to get a kindle, and she loves it. but the borders nearest my house is closing.

  4. This is great. My friend and I have been working on our own writing works, and we have been trying to find ways of getting our stuff published. Of course, in the e-age, publishing has become much easier getting recognized is a whole-nuther thing.


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