As another New Year kicks off, it’s worth taking a look around at what’s being said about this crazy industry we call publishing. For many of us, it’s the data that matters: the most popular sites for readers, the titles they’re buying, which genres are ‘hot’ (and is there a snowball’s chance in hell we could bang out 50k words before that genre goes cold?). However much we may dislike marketing our books, we need to decide where they should be, what the ideal price point is, and many more variables which could see a few more copies downloaded.
So what might this year hold? If you can make it through the hyperbole, a good place to start is Ten Bold Predictions for 2014. Yes, last year was the best ever, except that now the price of eBooks is “plummeting”. Good news for readers, but if the mainstreams are finally bringing eBook prices down to what Independent Authors have been selling them at for a while, where does that leave the latter? Another telltale factoid is that “ebook revenue has tapered off”, which also supports the suggestion that mainstreams now understand they’ve milked the eBook market as much as they can. The problem for Independent Authors is that it removes a fundamental selling point: that our ebooks were cheaper.
An interesting perspective, and much useful information, is to be had in this article by Paul Jarvis. He describes his own experiences with using Indie sites to sell his books, and talks about publishing a book on Amazon as though it were a bit of a chore: “It took 12 hours [for his book to be on sale] which isn’t bad… Basically, there’s a lot of waiting for Amazon…” I found Jarvis’s use of Indie sites to sell his books to be a refreshing change, given that in my experience, Amazon is the number one place where a book has to be available.
However, as someone very famous whose name I can’t recall right now said: “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” All of those percentages and numbers are only going to tell so much of the story. On the other side of the publishing coin, it can appear that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this article on The Guardian, which could’ve been published at any time over the last 150 years, London’s literati are given free rein to extol those books of 2013 which they’d wished had done better. The comments below this article tell their own story.
Worryingly, it seems that several years into this publishing revolution, many readers still need a mainstream’s “seal of approval” before they’ll give a new author a try. Perhaps they’ve been burned by a poor-quality Indie book, or perhaps they believe everything they read in the papers – that Indie books are only written by hacks. Many readers still don’t stop to question the true value of that “seal of approval”; they don’t believe that an Indie book can pack a punch more powerful than a traditionally published book. Worse, too many readers still don’t see the injustice: that when they buy mainstream, only 7% of what they pay gets back to the author – the actual creator of the work, while a large portion of the remainder goes to keeping the literati in their plush offices and agreeable second homes in the south of France.
So perhaps the most important perspective hasn’t really changed: the reader’s. Independent Authors still need to keep in mind the driving necessity to convert as many readers as possible to our cause. Once a reader has been pleasantly surprised by an Indie book, then their perspective will change; then they’ll reach the conclusions we reached years ago. There are a lot of readers out there, so it may take a while. But we’ll get there, one reader at a time.