Windows into the Imagination

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The State of the Publishing Industry

Does anyone know what the publishing industry will look like twenty years from now? The business is still going through so many changes that it's too early to tell.

There are a few things we do know though and are fairly evident:

- Ebooks are here to stay and will gain an increasingly larger part of the market
- Amazon used to have a dominating position in the market (90%) but that has changed and they are in danger (60%)

- Amazon uses and will continue to use predatory tactics in order to crush the opposition and uses tax loopholes that more ethical companies don't in order to undercut the competition
- Book publishers are embracing the new technology and social platforms and are trying to get ahead of Amazon despite not having as much in monetary resources
- Amazon has changed the face of publishing by making vanity press fashionable and challenging the old model where publishers actually had to invest resources in authors and take all the risk. Now writers pay all the costs and take all the risk themselves instead of burdening publishers.
- The number of books published each year has sky-rocketed, mainly self-published and indie published books and it has become increasingly harder to make a living as an author and to get any attention because it is no longer a needle in a haystack situation, it's a drop in a vast ocean of books.
- At first, the draw of free books made cheap books a boon for readers. They dominated the bestseller rankings for a few weeks on Amazon, but that quickly changed and cheapie books comprise less than 10-20% of the top 100, and some of those are from well known publishers pushing short stories, or cheaper books published by larger traditional publishers.
- In the past, if a publisher charged for it's services, they went on a scammer list. Now, there's a whole cottage industry of businesses targeting writers desperate to get attention, any attention. The sharks are circling and authors are the prey, and this trend was championed by, you guessed it, Amazon.
- The quality of books available on Amazon has decreased dramatically since they made self-publishing the vogue. They've made it easy for people to plagiarize others and sell books as their own by just changing the cover. They are also the biggest offenders of allowing people to sell public domain books for profit, because there are no quality controls, no editors to check that the works aren't copied from someone else.
- The percentage of good and successful authors hasn't change, only the total number that have entered the market.
- The percentage of authors who earn the majority of the publishing profit has also not changed. In fact, Amazon doesn't like to advertise something they tell the major publishers, that the bulk of their profit from books ISN'T from self-publishers and indies, it is still from the larger traditional publishers.
- Midlisters have suffered from the trends in the publishing industry and midlists have been halved and halved again in the last few years.
- The majority of books in the Amazon bestseller list, and which have staying power are still books by the tradtional publishers.
- To this day, Amazon is still secretive about its sales numbers and how exactly its often wildly fluctuating bestseller lists are calculated.
- Amazon is still trying to gain a hold in physical bookstores, which flies against the self-publisher claims that print books are dead because Amazon doesn't do anything unless they think they can get loads of money from it. Maybe Amazon knows something these people don't.
- While self-publishers who use Amazon tout its role in making them (self-) published authors, there is also a growing backlash of people (readers, writers, reviewers alike) who have had very negative experiences with them, usually people who are victims of Amazon's bullying and predatory practices.
- Other large companies are getting into the market and challenging Amazon and offering services Amazon hasn't even thought of yet.
- The lack of experience of the new breed of 'authors' who somehow think that publishing one book makes them experts on the whole publishing industry is shocking and makes them perfect prey for all those who hold out the carrot of elusive success and other get rich quick schemes. Just look at the number of  'book awards' that have sprung up in recent years for a good example.
- The glut of people who think publishing a book will make them rich or that they will make a living by writing is amazing...and highly deluded.

The book industry has changed and is still changing. There is no going back.


  1. Preach Elizabeth preach! LOL. Although I've self-pubbed some shorts via this vehicle before, I always strive to submit to a traditional publisher, even now with this changing climate.