Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are ebooks creating increases in self-publishing opportunities?

I blogged recently on Livre du Jour about some of the amazing statistics for self-published ebook authors.  Here is the original article from USA Today:

Authors catch fire with self-published e-books

Amanda Hocking, who has been selling her popular ebooks via Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's self-publishing programs, has had almost unheard-of success for a self-published author.  According to the article, she sold 164,000 ebooks in 2010, and more than 450,000 ebooks last month.  She has written maybe half a dozen YA dark fantasy novels, and she seems to be doing a good job of marketing and pricing: 99 cents as a teaser price for the first in each series and for her short novella, and $2.99 for the later books.  According to the article, she gets 30 percent of the sale price for the 99 cent books, and 70 percent for the $2.99 books, so you do the match.  Suffice it to say that girl made more in January alone than most people make in a year!

This brings up an interesting issue: Is self-publishing becoming more accepted, or at least more acceptable of a career choice for authors?  I'd argue no on the former, yes on the latter.  That may seem contradictory, but it's obvious to me that digital self-publishing is providing opportunities for authors such as Hocking who simply never would have been published at all a decade ago.  Yet the stigma of self-publishing is far from gone: People on the B&N forums are constantly complaining about the fact that the site search doesn't allow you to eliminate PubIt! selections.  One can hardly blame them, either — although there are some high quality self-published ebooks, such as Hockings's, there are also a lot of ebooks with crappy covers and book descriptions that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.

Ultimately, though, I think self-publishing is on the road to greater acceptance.  It's taken the market a while, but ebooks are becoming more accepted now — the New York Times has even started including them on the bestsellers lists.  Since digital publishing makes self-publishing much easier and more affordable, it's providing alternative avenues that hasn't previously existed for many writers.  While that is sure to mean more junk hitting the virtual shelves, it will be weeded out by the market, in favor of the good stuff (like Hocking).  I think this is just the beginning of a major shift in how publishing works!


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katharine - Good post. This has been on my mind a lot lately. Last weekend I went to a public presentation on traditional publishing vs. electronic self-publishing. They used Amanda Hocking as an example of a successful ebook author. For me, time is probably what appeals to me about electronic publishing. You can finish a book, upload it, and start writing the next one. You don't have to wait weeks or months for rejection slips from agents and publishers. You don't have to wait months or years between getting accepted and getting published. If you can cleanly edit your own work or have the resources to do it for you, I think it's a good option. Also, I think we'll be seeing more unique reading opportunities now, because it won't be limited to what the publishers and editors think the public wants.

Katharine Swan said...

NM, thanks for your comment. For the most part I think the increased publishing opportunities are fantastic. But you also mentioned something I believe is the biggest problem with the industry: editing. Digital publishing provides so much instant gratification, that people who can't or won't edit their work are uploading and trying to sell anyway.

I think ebooks are providing lots of great opportunities for talented writers, but how do you increase opportunities for those who deserve it without also making it easier for those who don't? There's no good answer, but I think this is one of the prevailing issues in the industry, and probably one of the biggest hurdles that ebooks are having to overcome.


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