Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Recently, I sat down with Mike Shatzkin, book publishing consultant and Digital Book World 2014 conference chair, to talk about a wide range of topics, including many that will be covered at DBW 2014. Over the next few months, I will be bringing you some of his insights, many of which will be expounded upon and made into practical, applicable takeaways at the conference itself. Learn more on how you can attend.
Self-publishing has become a palpable presence in the publishing world. In the first half of this year, self-published titles hit the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller List 66 times — more times than some of the biggest publishers in the world. And it’s not abating: More self-published titles are being published every year, according to the latest numbers from Bowker.
At the same time, large publishers are acquiring self-published books that have done well, using the self-published best-seller list as a kind of advanced slush pile.
So, what do publishers need to know when considering self-publishing?
I sat down with Mike Shatzkin to discuss.
Jeremy Greenfield: Let’s talk about the rise of self-publishing.
Mike Shatzkin: What publishers need to understand is that they have some built-in handicaps. One is speed. Publishers are slow compared to authors. And there’s very little a publisher can do to change that.
The second thing is that publishers need to share more of the revenue — a big chunk of the revenue. That’s two things a publisher has to compensate for if they’re going to be appealing to an author.
JG: Amazon’s rise has a lot to do with this — as bricks-and-mortar bookstores become less important — right?
MS: As sales move online and concentrate at Amazon, a publisher can’t really make a huge difference in Amazon compared to what an author can do on their own. So, the publisher has to make a difference in a diminishing part of the market, which is everything else.
JG: That compared with the nimbleness of an author working on her own can put established publishers at a significant disadvantage.
MS: What you have on the one hand is a publishing business that has long-established practices and a lot of bureaucracy and agents and committees versus the lean situation for an author on their own. At the same time, you have more and more services — the most recent one being Ingram Spark — to make it easier for authors to do this on their own. You have an environment which is, over time, bound to get more difficult from a publisher perspective and easier from an author perspective.
If it [ebook adoption and Amazon market-share growth] stopped where we are now, with amazon getting 35% to 40% of the [print and ebook] business, and online being half the business, then you still have a pretty firm basis for a publisher to make a difference in the career of an author. But if Barnes & Noble closed or if the Amazon share goes up to 60%, it’s going to get extremely difficult for publishers to persuade authors that they’re worth employing.
JG: So what should publishers do?
MS: Digital marketing at scale, which is audience-centric in its thinking.