Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Sales are down for most authors. You don’t see blog posts about it or tweets, but it’s a reality. And the reason is simple: there’s more content out there than ever before.
Jon Fine of Amazon calls it a tsunami but at least a tsunami recedes. This is a flood that is going to get deeper and deeper.
Authors United (a misnomer as it represents less than 1% of authors) wraps itself in a cloak of noble intentions. But while some of them certainly do have those, for many it’s an economic quandary. They look at their royalty statements and see less. They also see sales shifting from hardcovers and paperback to digital. Where the contracts they signed award them less than stellar royalties.
The chosen, many of the Authors United, didn’t face much competition at the front table in Barnes and Noble and on the racks at the airport and in other retail outlets for years, and they still don’t. In fact, they face less. It’s mind-numbing to see the same names splayed out in an airport store. Publishers are pouring more coop money than ever before into their big names and not taking chances on lesser names. Tom Clancy has a new hardcover out. Really? That’s what Authors United is trying to protect?
But in digital, readers are finding new authors. And liking them. Many of them self-published. Bookbub contributes to that. So does the fact that many bestselling indie authors understand the business so much better than the Big 5 and use it to their advantage. At Cool Gus we understand publishing from the original idea for a book, through writing it, editing it, cover, copy, marketing, formatting, selling, yada, yada—the entire arc of creation and product and selling to readers. Our sales are up 22% this year. Few in traditional publishing have that broad a view. Sales that would have gone to the same old, are now going to the new in digital.
So for Authors United to claim they represent freedom of expression and ‘books aren’t a commodity’ is a flat out piece of BS. In fact, Amazon and other digital platforms have indeed democratized publishing. That’s not to say there aren’t storm clouds on the horizon, but it is the reality right now.
I’m sorry some bestselling author’s ten million is now seven million. Actually, I’m not, because many of those authors are extremely clueless about the realities of publishing, being shielded by their agents, who single-mindedly pursue their next advance without considering long-term income via higher royalties.
I know midlist trad authors are also getting hurt and signed that letter. But they also need to understand it’s not just pre-order buttons, and a retailer being reluctant to stock titles from a content distributor that refuses to negotiate, etc.. They have more competition than ever before. The reality is many trad authors have wrapped themselves in the cloak of protection (and ignorance) they thought their agent, editor and publisher provided. And the reality is readers don’t give a damn.
The real business world of selling books is a brutal place. Authors: Stop whining about it and start taking charge. Authors United is baying at Amazon, not the corporations they signed contracts with: their publishers and the ones who take 15% of their income (their agents). And beyond that, given the realities of the new marketplace, they don’t need to sign any contract if they had the intestinal fortitude to do so. Authors, change your business model instead of complaining that others need to change their model to maintain your status quo.