When the Indie Math Doesn’t Add up

indie authors self-publishing ebooks LuluThere’s little argument that most self-publishing platforms offer authors a far greater share of the income from their work than traditional publishing contracts often do. But there’s usually more to the equation.

One key variable no route to publication can ever guarantee is sales. And in many cases if authors find they’re unable to sell their work at a certain volume, the advantages of going indie can begin to dry up.

Nearly 60% of self-published authors who responded to the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey sold fewer than 500 copies of their latest books. That may not reflect the overall market, and those books might go on to sell more over time, but the current landscape is still leaving many authors shortchanged.

As sociologist and indie author Dana Beth Weinberg points out, “three years of surveys with different samples of authors have yielded remarkably similar results, and other sources of data tell a similar story” about the steep odds of brisk indie sales.


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Barnes & Noble Sees Promise in Hybrid Market (PW)
Reversing course on its plans to spin off Nook Media, Barnes & Noble says it will instead rethink the troubled ebook division’s relationship with its bookstores based around the “naturally overlapping customers and business partners” the two share. Barnes & Noble is on track to turn its college books division into an independent education company later this year.

Licensing Challenges and Opportunities Rise Together (Pub Perspectives)
As publishers go after new revenue opportunities by licensing their content internationally, the legal and logistical challenges pile up. One industry insider sums up the current landscape: “Publishers are licensing rights they do not own, overpaying or underpaying on royalties, not complying with contract stipulations and deadlines, mishandling their intellectual property and often missing out on opportunities to sell rights because they are not aware of what they control.”
Related: Publishers Must Invest in Rights Departments

Pearson Testing Surveillance Raises Alarms (WashPost)
Pearson is discovered to have been monitoring students’ social media accounts during Common Core–related testing in a New Jersey school district, drawing criticism that the effort to guard against cheating amounts to spying.

Google Gives a Hand to Android App Makers (Good E Reader)
Google creates a universal app template, in the form of a music player, for developers to build apps that operate across a wide range of Android-running devices. Apple and Microsoft have also begun encouraging universal app development.
Related: The Android-Apple Race and What It Means for Ebooks

Kobo Partners with Writing Platform Widbook (Ink, Bits & Pixels)
The ebook retailer signs a deal with the Brazil-based storytelling platform Widbook, allowing the platform’s paid users (premium memberships cost $5 a month) to distribute their titles through Kobo.

What Reader Data Suggests about Bookselling (The Scholarly Kitchen)
One observer argues that the more we learn about how readers actually make their ways through the ebooks they buy, the more outmoded certain ideas about how book content is monetized begin to appear. On the other hand, “if the expectation is that books are tasted and not always swallowed whole, we would come up with a new set of guidelines for how books can be used before payment is required.”
Related: Using Metadata to Go Beyond the Book

Modest Expectations for Amazon’s Tmall Store (Epoch Times)
Amazon’s recent decision to launch a store through the Alibaba-owned Chinese e-commerce platform Tmall has garnered considerable attention, but one Amazon watcher points out that for the e-tailer, “doing business with competitors is nothing new” and explains why “the impact on both companies is likely to be small.”

Authors Collaborate on Shared Fictional World (Guardian)
A group of twenty indie writers team up to produce individually authored ebooks belonging within a shared narrative universe. The series, called Apocalypse Weird, will release two titles each month.


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