The Future of Indie Authors and Publishing

(image courtesy This is Beirut)

Teleread shared some very interesting tidbits the other day about independent authors and their sales numbers. J. A. Konrath is often the voice of independent authors, as he famously broke free from his publisher and is now thriving through self-publishing and seeing his ebook sales fly through the roof. But he’s not alone.

In fact, there are 25 authors listed who sold 2500+ ebooks in the month of December! Granted, these numbers are including the lucrative and extremely skewed Christmas season, but still-some of those authors sold 30k or even 100k in one month! Those are impressive sales numbers for any author, especially for ones that are doing it without a “traditional” publishing house behind them.

More importantly, what might this mean for the future? Well, as I mentioned above, December is a bit of an outlier month. But that still puts a lot of ebooks in people’s hands. And it shows the marketing strategies these authors may have used (personal websites, promotions on message boards, sale prices, etc) were clearly successful. Yet pundits love to yelp about how ebooks are killing the mid-list author!

In reality, I think ebooks may (slowly) become the best thing that’s happened to the mid-list writer! Most writers aren’t writing bestsellers. It’s likely their books are going right to quality paperback or mass market. Maybe a few of them get hardcover releases, but unless it turns into a hit that’s just a recipe for the bargain bin in six months. Now think back to the last time you were in your local bookstore. How many hardcover books did you see versus paperbacks? And how much did the paperbacks, spines out on the shelves, really stand out? Sure, there was probably a table of books or an endcap display, but it’s cutthroat to get your title on one of those.

On the internet, you aren’t competing with 50,000 other books for someone’s eyeballs. It may be tougher to stumble across a title, but when you do it’s a lot stickier. There are descriptions, user reviews, social media, author websites…in the time it takes you to read the back of a paperback you know quite a bit about a book and the author. Is it going to guarantee sales? No, but it certainly offers more engagement. And for a midlist author trying to rise above the chatter, being engaged and connected with their readers is worth its weight in gold!

So will more authors go independent? I wouldn’t be surprised if more do. I also wouldn’t underestimate the ability of publishers (especially more nimble imprints) to roll with these new trends. Smart publishers are going to find ways to capitalize on social networking, support authors who blog and write columns and promote themselves, and they’re going to benefit (and probably are benefiting) just like these independent authors are doing.¬†Whether it’s a better deal for the authors is another story!

Categories: eBooks


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