Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Authors Discuss the Move to Self-Publishing

Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath discussed self-publishing in a Google Doc Discussion they later blogged. It's a little long-winded, but the dialog boils down to why Konrath forsook his publishers: "My switch to self-publishing isn't personal. It's just business. I can make more money on my own."

Buried in the banter about the writing world are a few nuggets for writers weighing their publishing options:

  • We figured out that the 25% royalty on ebooks [publishers] offer is actually 14.9% to the writer after everyone gets their cut. 14.9% on a price the publisher sets. As e-book prices fall, these margins incent authors to self-pubish. At a price of $3, published authors net less than $0.50 per copy. Without a publisher or agent to collect, an author would expect to collect more than $2.00 per copy. In most cases, there's no reason to expect a publisher to sell 4x as many books.
  • My own sales, and the sales of other indie authors doing well, pretty much confirm that a rising tide lifts all boats. Virtual shelf space functions a lot like physical shelf space. The more buyers congregating anywhere, the more sales, and all the trends show e-books overtaking paper books. The same is also true for an individual author. The more books or stories you have to sell, the larger your section of the e-store.
  • I originally self-published The List in April of 2009. It went on to sell 25,000 ebooks at $2.99. Now, two years later, I lowered the price, and it's selling 1500 copies a day. Things like that don't happen in paper. Do the math. 25,000 copies at about $2 per copy is $50,000. If the reduced price is $0.99, 1,500 copies per day is netting about $500 a day, or $180,000 per year.
  • On the digital side of the ledger, publishers don’t add much at all because there’s nothing to distribute. Or, to put it a little more accurately, what publishers can add on the digital side (editing, copyediting, proofreading, cover design, jacket copy, formatting) can all be done by other players at least as well. On the paper and digital sides of the ledger, publishers also have great contacts in mainstream media. They can get an author on the Today Show, or make a connection to their film and television cousins. And they still own distribution of paper-based printed products.
Read the entire conversation for more details. These two authors have lots of fun war stories, and a real-life perspective on the trade-offs of working with publishers and self-publishing.

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