Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Book Publishing Industry

Credit Where It’s Due ~ #TraditionalPublishing and #SelfPublishing


Regular visitors here know I’ve been covering the Traditional Publishing beat (this post will be in the collection at that last link…).

But, I’ve given space-preference to Self-Publishing.

You probably know that there’s been a Digital Book Revolution; but, if you haven’t been involved in deep study of the Book World, you may not have noticed how it can appear that traditional publishers are in the position of a critical need to adapt or die

And, it can certainly seem that those publishers are in as much denial as the folks who think there’s no climate change

Still, it was the old guard publishers who gave most of us the books we’ve treasured (unless you happen to be under the age of 20 and got into e-books very early).

So, I’ll work backwards into what got me writing today:

There was a man named Leonard Shatzkin who passed away in 2002.

He was one of those legendary figures who is said to have been “…responsible for innovations that became industry practice…”.

He seems to have been best known for a particular book he wrote, In Cold Type: Overcoming the Book Crisis.

Here’s one significant excerpt:

“For every copy of a hardcover book sold at its normal retail price, one book is sold as a remainder— a book that goes from the publisher to the remainder dealer for less than the cost of producing it and with zero income to the author. No other industry can make this claim.”

Continuing to back into what got me writing this post today, Leonard had a son, Mike, who’s referred to as, “…a widely-acknowledged thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry.”

In an article about his father, Mike said:

“…the percentage of titles that don’t even recover their direct costs is rising. It is actually getting harder and harder to publish new titles successfully, even if the standard of success is lowered…”

O.K., now I’ve backed all the way up to what got me here today—Mike’s recent article, The Reality of Publishing Economics Has Changed for the Big Players.

I’ll share just a few excerpts:

“In the 1970s….With five thousand individuals making the decision about which books to take, even a small minority of the buyers could put a book into 500 or 1000 stores.”

“Now there are substantially fewer than 1000 decision-makers that matter. Amazon is half the sales.”

“The agent who was confirming my sense of these things agreed that the big houses used to be able to count on a sale of 1500 or 2000 copies for just about any title they published. Now it is not uncommon for books to sell in the very low triple digits, even on a big publisher’s list.”

And, for me, the most telling statement in that article:

“This is a fundamental change in big publisher economics from what it was two decades ago. While the potential wins have become exponentially bigger than they were in bygone days, the losses have become increasingly common. And while it is still an open question how well anybody can predict sales for a book that isn’t even written yet (which is the case for most books publishers acquire), there is a real cost to getting it wrong, even when the advance being paid is minimal.”

I find it interesting that Leonard, the father, was edging toward digital publishing when he died; and, it’s said about his son, Mike: “His insights about how the industry functions and how it accommodates digital change form the basis of all of the company’s consulting efforts.”

I, personally, feel that Traditional Publishing’s struggles with the Digital Revolution will tell the tale of whether they’re somehow reconciled with Self Publishing; or, they pass completely away

For those whose work demands a close and deep look into these territories, Mike Shatzkin’s Space on the ‘Net would be worth close inspection
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2016 Predictions for Book Publishing


I’ve featured Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, many times on this blog… 

And, today, I’ll give you some excerpts from an article by him (hoping I encourage you sufficiently, so you’ll take the link and read it all… {Although, readers who are sure they’ll never be writers may want to check out only what’s in this post, to get a feel for what writers concern themselves with…})—2016 Book Publishing Industry Predictions: Myriad Opportunities amid a Slow Growth Environment.

Mark begins his predictions in a very interesting way:

“I went overboard for 2016…I also asked friends on Facebook to suggest additional questions…So in addition to my first 10 below, I take a stab at 29 additional questions. Yikes.”

I especially like this:

“You’ll see I back each prediction with copious background on my thought process.  I invite you, my dear reader, to add your insights in the comments…”

Then he makes a prediction I can fully agree with:

“Here’s one thing I’m absolutely certain of:  Indie authors are the future of publishing.  The decisions indie authors make today will continue to reshape the future of publishing for better or worse.  You’re in control.  Now let’s have some fun.”

Now, Mark’s 10 Major Predictions ( I’ll only list the Headings—the really interesting stuff happens when you take the link up there to the full article :-) :

1.  Indie ebook authors will gain market share at expense of large publishers

2.  The overall market for ebooks will shrink in dollar terms, but unit volume will increase

3.  Kindle Unlimited will gut single-copy sales and drive greater ebook commoditization

4.  The ebook subscription model will experience a backlash in the indie author community (but will it matter?)

5.  Print will remain steady, though those sales are the sole domain for authors of traditional publishers

6.  Many full time indies will quit or scale back production in 2016

7.  Preorder usage will experience a dramatic increase

8.  Library ebook sales will increase for Smashwords authors

9.  More series writers will adopt perma-free series starters

10.  Wattpad will be acquired

And, here are the questions from Mark’s Facebook friends (Answers at the full article…):

Will Amazon do something more to monopolize the market?

Will Amazon’s brick and mortar stores add or detract from their success in general and/or affect book sales?

What genres/subgenres will get a boom [in 2016]?

Will more authors go hybrid, and will the ones that are currently hybrid stay that way or lean more toward one route or the other

What will happen in the world of indie short story sales?

Subscription services. Where are they going?

Will this author win the Nobel Prize this year? Or a million dollar contract? ‘Cause that would be awesome

World peace: Possibility or writing device?

It’s difficult to get noticed. Is there any hope for us small time authors to actually make a name for ourselves in this industry?

Any idea what’s going to happen in the romance market? KU appears to have gutted sales there

Will brick and mortar stores continue to decline, or will they fight back?

Will the other retailers grow in a way that that will help us counter Amazon/KU?

Will Barnes & Noble survive or go out of business in 2016?

Will B&N drop all ebooks and/or implode and go under?

Will Amazon relax the exclusivity requirements for Kindle Unlmited in 2016?

Will Google Play introduce a subscription model in 2016?

Will Google Play put their significant weight toward becoming a big force in eBooks, and counterbalance to Amazon?

Will Disney call me?

Will Kindle Worlds go international and multi-lingual?

“Digital refund policies… will [Amazon’s policies] be reworked to prevent [their liberal return policies from ] being used as an ebook library?”

What’s happening with China and India with ebooks over the coming years?

Will iBooks try to take on the Zon by releasing a multi-platform app?

How much will the standard agent/publisher cut shrink in the face of the superior economics of self publishing?

What percent of new authors will decline a standard agent/publishing deal and go it alone?

Will new promotion-oriented businesses emerge to help new authors, and what will these look like?

Will Smashwords introduce a POD offering in 2016?

Predict when indies will be allowed into brick and mortars

Is there a place where I can see all your past predictions altogether?

And, for writers (and readers who just might, one day. become writers…), I’ll excerpt Mark’s closing comments:

“Things change in this industry every day.  If you’re like me, you probably find it bewildering at times.  But take heart.  Some things never change.  The most important thing that will never change is that books are magical containers for delivering stories and knowledge.  You create magic.

“The industry will change – players will go out of business and others will rise and fall and rise again – but books will always remain.  Authors will always remain.  You are the captain of your personal adventure in publishing, and the course you chart is rife with opportunity.

“The global book publishing is a $100 billion market. Despite anemic growth, and even if the market shrinks, there’s still incredible opportunity for every new, future and veteran author alike to reach thousands if not millions of readers.  Best practices will separate those who reach a lot of readers from those who reach few.

“Luck plays a factor as well, but only for those who implement best practices first.  Best practices prepare you to capture lightning in a bottle when luck strikes.  Luck strikes all the time.  It’s word of mouth.  It’s a blog post or a tweet or a Facebook mention or a review that recommends your book.

“The books you have in you are important. Your books are important to the future of book culture and humanity.  Don’t let anyone or anything discourage you from putting your book out into the world.”

New Year’s Bonus for those who got this far :-)

Mark’s Free Books:

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

Smashwords Style Guide
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Grab A Free Novel…
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