The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the uncertainty facing the publishing industry now that the so-called “vanity presses” are becoming a financially viable option for authors looking to publish their work. While in the past there was a certain stigma surrounding self-published titles, that’s beginning to change as companies like Amazon and Apple are taking over a greater share of the market by selling e-books.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords Inc., stated in the article that “If you are an author and you want to reach a lot of readers, up until recently you were smart to sell your book to a traditional publisher, because they controlled the printing press and distribution. That is starting to change now.” While e-book sales currently make up about 5-10% of the industry’s total sales, that number is projected to reach 20-25% in the next two years. This is a remarkable shift, considering that only three years ago consumers were hesitant to read books in digital format. Now that devices like the Kindle and the iPad are growing in popularity, the way that books are published and consumed is changing rapidly.
For authors, these developments could offer many advantages. The bottom line is that major publishing houses are losing their stranglehold over the industry—which means that they no longer have the power they once did over what makes it to print and what does not. For authors who don’t already have a reliable fan base, the revenue potentials are also greater. Amazon will raise author royalties from 35% to 70% of eBooks priced from $2.99 to $9.99 this month, and Apple and several other distributors have promised to implement the same formula. Even household names are jumping on the bandwagon—Stephen King and Stephen Covey both have exclusive e-publishing deals with Amazon.
Amazon also recently launched its own imprint, Amazon Encore, which selects promising self-published titles, then edits and distributes them digitally and in print. So far 19 books have been selected. Many authors are also finding self-publishing much more lucrative than traditional methods because of the way Amazon.com automatically markets books. Its computer generated recommendations ensure that as more consumers purchase a title, it gets recommended more often. User reviews also help generate buzz, creating a viral marketing effect.
Karen McQuestion, an author from rural Wisconsin, tried unsuccessfully for years to market her book to traditional publishers. Finally, she decided to self-publish online with Amazon. In less than a year she sold 36,000 copies of her book and now has a Hollywood film option. While most self-published authors probably can’t hope for the same degree of near immediate success, McQuestion’s story is far from unique. The coming years are likely to be highly transformative, and publishing houses attempting to follow a traditional model may falter.
Read the original article here.