Windows into the Imagination

Friday, December 9, 2011

Remember that Name

What names are these?

I'm glad you asked...

John Locke, Amanda Hocking...I'm sure you've heard of them, the self-publishing phenoms.

Now we have also have J.A. Konrath, a mystery writer who has sold 400,000 digital copies of his self-published books, and our newest success story, Darcy Chan, whose manuscript, after being rejected by 100 publishers and agents as too risky, braved the self-publishing maze and published it herself on Amazon. After a $1000 marketing and PR campaign, including a hefty $575 review from Kirkus, and strategically pricing her book at 99 cents, hoping to build an audience, she has now sold over 400,000 ebooks and is attracting interest from movie producers and audio-book publishers.

Over 30 authors have sold 100,000 copies through Amazon's Kindle self-publishing program. And a dozen have sold over 200,000.

According to Bowker, a company that tracks publishing trends, last year over 130,000 self-published titles were released, up from over 50,000 in 2006.

According to the Association of American Publishers, ebook sales went from $287 million in 2009 to $878 in 2010. That's more than triple in one year. Some analysts are projecting that it will reach 2 billion by 2013.

Some big publishers, including Penguin and Perseus, have started their own self-publishing programs and even some agents have started their own digital imprints.

Some well-established authors, like Barbara Hambly, have started publishing further adventures of series that were originally published by big name publishers. The sales might not attract a big enough bang for those big publishers, but their established fan base are very happy that the almighty dollar has not quashed their favorite series.

I keep hearing how there is a drawback to ebook sales. Although it is the fastest growing segment of the book market, it still only comprises less than 10% of trade book sales.

Those remarks always make me scratch my head.

The articles that make those statements, even from pundits of the big six, are usually talking about trends outside of traditional publishing.

So, my question is, so what about this 10%? I wouldn't think it amounts to a hill of beans.

Isn't the whole point of self-publishing that they are completely bypassing the traditional publishing industry? And for these people to achieve even 10% on minimal to no budgets and without the vast contacts and experience that the big publishers have, is an incredible achievement and puts the industry to shame.

Or am I missing something?

What's even more interesting, John Locke, who even after his big success, refused to sign with a publisher, has now signed a very unusual contract with Simon & Schuster this year. The publisher will print and distribute his books, while allowing Locke to remain as the publisher. Locke will pay for printing, shipping and marketing costs himself. The first one to come out like this won't be edited, but through the publisher's resources, his books will now be sold in bookstores, Targets, Wal-Marts, airports, none of which he had access to before as a self-publisher.

In effect, the publisher is enabling him to use their contacts and distributing power.

An interesting turn of the industry, don't you think?


  1. You would think that the 'big six' would heartily embrace the concept of ebooks, purely from a financial point of view. To produce a physical copy, first grow a tree, next manufacture printing ink, then spend thousands having a printing press manufactured. Once the book has been printed, it then needs to be packaged and physically distributed across the world to those bookshops which dot the streets of the millions of towns and cities, not forgetting to pay all the employees needed to conduct the operation. Whereas an ebook, once it has been compiled and saved onto a hard-drive, to all intent and purpose - costs nothing, apart from the minuscule amount of electricity to drive the server it sits on.

  2. I did a search for kindle books published by Simon and Schuster, one of the big 6. The result was 4258 Hits.

    Penguin Books: 3254


    I think the big 6 are positioning themselves for epublishing. I think the important point here, is that epublishing doesn't make a self-publisher. It just so happens that a self-publisher is likely to epublish.

    1. Definitely. This may be a very interesting year for the big 6.