Who owns all the oranges? by Oran Burke
Photograph © Moyan Brenn 2011
January 7, 2013
Dark days ahead for publishers
Every New Year brings forth a glut of articles about consumers’ purchasing habits over the Christmas season – what trends were seen, how much was spent and what were the most popular items? For many years the humble book has been one of the easiest presents – small, relatively cheap and personal.
The last few years however have seen the march of the Kindle and its associated self-
The normal route to getting a book published can now be circumvented should an author wish to and, arguably, it may be worth it. Having coaxed that novel from yourself, sending manuscripts to agents and publishers is still a valuable exercise but one that may leave a writer despondent a year later if nothing happens.
The main arguments for self-
Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Smashwords all offer UK-
Smashwords, a US-
In 2008, the first year of operation, there were 90 authors and 140 titles on the site. The latest figures for 2012 show there are 58,600 authors and 190,600 titles handled by a staff of just 19 people. Smashwords’ relationship with Amazon is strained but they have been profitable for the last two years and have so far retained their indie credentials, a major factor in their success.
The US has a more established self-
While this was a great headline, it has to be remembered that one of them was EL
James and three of the titles were her Fifty Shades trilogy. It does however show
that successes happen and another milestone was reached before Christmas when Michiko
Kakutani, a respected New York Times critic, put Alan Sepinwall’s self-
Publishers are beginning to take some notice of independent authors when they become successful. EL James was offered a traditional book contract after Fifty Shades of Grey became a bestseller and this has happened to a handful of other novelists but there may be very little worth in accepting a deal when you already have a hit. Some reasons might be to gain more expertise in marketing or help to hone your writing skills plus access to a wider market by releasing a print version, but all this can now be done alone.
Figures released by Bowker, who control the distribution of International Standard
Book Numbers (ISBNs) in the US, show that 43 per cent of printed books released there
in 2011 were self-
The work involved in being a successful writer before online publishing was draining
– write, format, send copies to agents and publishers, wait nervously and hope to
get lucky. There is no less effort required when self-
This seems counter-
Paula Margulies, a US-
There is anecdotal evidence, again from the US, that mainstream publishers are no longer putting the same amount of effort into marketing books as they used to, preferring instead that the author handle their own promotion by insisting on a social media presence. Unless a novelist has already reached the top it’s unlikely they‘ll have an assistant to do this so it’s up to the individual to do a proportion of their own marketing.
It is here that publishers may strike a nail in their own coffin – if much of the
80 per cent promotion must be done by the writer anyway, what value is there in having
a book contract? It will only take a few big name authors to get fed up and decide
Publishing houses seem slow in embracing the idea that they may need to change to
survive, choosing to follow the music industry in their denial that the internet
could have any effect on their business, setting ebook prices at the same level as
a printed copy even though the costs of production are lower. Ultimately if customers
continue to buy then they will continue to sell but public opinion can change quickly,
and if the UK follows the US further down the self-
© Oran Burke 2014. All rights reserved.