Mainstream Publishing versus Self-Publishing ... and the winner is?
Something is rotten in the state of publishing.
This month, the American public bid goodbye to Borders. I witnessed a last-minute fire sale at a metro-Atlanta location. Have you ever seen vultures picking at road kill? It was kind of the same thing but with books, DVDs and CDs.
The game of publishing isn’t changing; it’s evolution on the precipice of revolution. It’s largely why I beat the drum for independent publishing and why others do so as well. Ignore it at your own peril.
Barry Eisler, a New York Times bestselling author whose nine novels have been translated into 20 languages, turned down half a million dollars to self-publish.
A March 2011 blog Q&A interview between him and successful self-published author John Konrath reveals their shared belief that digital is the future of reading. In fact, many news outlets have pointed to Borders’ mishandling of the exploding digital market as a contributing factor to the former book giant’s demise.
It’s a compelling argument, and I may be biased, but I just can’t find a valid argument for buying paper over digital that does not involve novelty.
It certainly can’t be the money; mathematically, the formula for an author’s financial success (i.e. a self-sustaining writing career) does not add up.
Mainstream houses offer 6 percent to 15 percent royalties on the retail price. To make my old teaching salary (about $44,000) on a book priced at $14.95 (with 15 percent royalties) I would have to sell almost 20,000 books.
On my own, I’d get five times that amount per book on 4,000 books — a much more reachable figure.
A trade publisher has to cover the costs of producing books — layout and design, ISBNs, barcodes, and the like. But that total is a small fraction of the $250,000 it makes on 20,000 books. E-books comparatively cost nothing to distribute, and the author still makes 15 percent while the house gets the lion‘s share.Continued on the next page