Sunday, December 12, 2010

Forget Gutenberg - the real publishing revolution is now

People, including me, have been saying for years there is a major shake-up in the publishing industry. But that's not to say that ebooks mean the death of print, nor that traditional publishing is a dinosaur which will soon face extinction. What it does mean is there has never been a better time to be an author.

In the not too distant past, self-publishing or (small press publishing) was seen as the last resort for the desperate. Only those that could not "make it" in the traditional print world resorted to this avenue. Many critics stated with impunity that self-published author's work wasn't worth the paper (or ebook) it was produced on. After all, if they were any good they would have been picked up a big traditional publisher. Right?


There are many fantastic writers who have never been published. It wasn't that their writing was no good. The reasons that prevented them from publication are many: bad timing, not finding the right advocate, giving up too soon, not "spinning" the pitch effectively. I could go on and on, but it comes down to this: too many great stories and too few slots available.

Now comes the revolution. Just as Gutenberg changed publishing in 1440, technology has provided authors with even greater advances:

  • Amazon and other on-line retailers: offer infinite shelf-space without co-op fees giving authors large and small the same opportunity to connect with a horde of readers.
  • POD (print on demand): eliminates a significant amount of the financial risk which has plagued print publishing. No longer does a publisher (or author) have to shell out thousands of dollars to produce and warehouse pallets of books.
  • eBook Readers (Kindle, iPad, nook): electronic books have existed since information first started being transmitted electronically, but when read on a computer screen only a few early adopters dipped their toes in that water. The Kindle had changed all that. Now before you say, “But wait, you’ve been telling me for years that ebooks are the real deal and they still only account for 8.25% of book sales. Why should I believe you that now is the time they will really take off?” That can be answered in one word: Competition. Companies like Sony, Apple, and Amazon KNOW there is a market. This is the wave of the future, but it took these industry heavy weights to provide a mechanism that the reading population would embrace.

    So what does this all mean? It means that you, as an author, have more options than ever before. The barriers between you and the reader are breaking down. The financial risk of “doing it yourself” has decreased to zero for e-books and less than $70 for print books (paying for ISBN fee, and Createspace setup costs).

    More and more authors are abandoning traditional printing in lieu of doing it themselves: The most notable examples are New York Times Best Selling Author Seth Godin and self-publishing advocate J. A. Konrath. Now, before you say, “But they have established fan bases after years of traditional publishing. What chance do I, a nobody, have given I have no readership?”

    My answer is simple. People, just like you, are doing it…time and time again. Need some examples?

    Michael J. Sullivan (my husband) produced his first book in October 2007 through a small press and is now publishing through my own small press (so essentially self-published). From Mar 2010 – Sep 2010 he averaged 1,000 books a month) in October he sold 2,400, November 7,500 and if sales stay on track for December he could top 10,000 copies sold.

    Amanda Hocking started self-publishing in the spring of 2010 (March and April). In June she sold 4,258 copies across 3 books. In August she sold 4,873 copies making over $9,000 (six-digit income at those rates). In November she topped 20,000 books, but wait…in December she sold 10,000 copies (across 7 titles) in the first WEEK of December. Yes that’s over 1,400 books a day.

    David Daglish has several fantasy books and writes full time. He sold 2,366 books in November.

    But you don’t have to have multiple books. Victorine Lieske’s, Not What She Seems was released in April 2010 in Kindle and July 2010 in print and she sold 2,670 books in November.

    These are not isolated cases here are just a few of the authors I know of that sold more than 1,000 books in November 2010. Here are some others: David McAffee, end_of_the_skype_highlightingNathan Lowell, Ellen Fisher, Valmore Daniels, Terri Reid, Richard Jackson, Karen Cantwell, Margaret Lake, HP Mallory, KA Thompson, Beth Orsoff, Lexi Revellian, Tina Folsom, Bella Andre, B. V. Larson, Ty Johnson, Vicki Tyley, Marilyn Lee, Felicity Heaton, LJ Sellers, Jeremy Bishop, Robert Wilson, Susan Bishoff, Edward C. Patterson,Christopher Smith, Susan Bischoff, and Imogen Rose.

    So, if you’re an author looking to “break into the biz” there’s never been a better time to take the plunge. Whether you decide to follow the traditional publishing route or attempt to “go it on your own” the barriers are down and your only limited by your own determination.


Tina Folsom said...

Great post. These days authors really do have a lot more ways of getting their work out. I tried to go the traditional route as first, but was rejected by agents and publishers. Then I figured, I had nothing to lose and went the ebook way. Now I have 12 titles out there (full length novels and short stories). And the vampire series the agents and publishers didn't want? All three books of my Scanguards Vampires series are now in the top 100 Romances at Barnes & Noble. Currently, I'm selling between 100 and 150 copies of these three titles daily, and that's just on B&N.
Self-publishing has made it possible for me to give up my day job and become a working author.
Tina Folsom

Robin Sullivan said...

Great job Tina -- Someday you'll have to tell me your secret for getting high up in the B&N rankings - it seems to be very "hit and miss". Ridan books do FANTASTIC on Amazon but only so-so on B&N.

Congratz on going it on your own and being a success.