The Amazon Effect and Self-Publishing

June 9, 2014

PW’s newsletter published an article Friday whose title “Is Amazon Really the Devil,” sounds like something from the Onion but actually makes solid points in the discussion about Amazon’s pricing dispute with Hachette.  One notable point is about royalties and Amazon’s ability to open the market to self-published works of true interest to the public:

While showing no support for Amazon position, [Author’s Guild President Roxanna] Robinson acknowledged that authors don’t completely support the Big Five publishers, which have refused to raise the e-book royalty rate of 25%, which is generally considered too low for a format that has low production costs. “The [author-publisher] partnership based on mutual cooperation and shared success that was traditionally part of the publishing world is being lost,” she said. “Publishers used to split their profits with authors, after accounting for the costs of production, 50/50. Now [publishers] are treating authors as hostile opponents. It’s not a good economic model, and it’s not a way in which anyone prospers or makes money. It doesn’t bode well for the future of publishing either.

Considering these numbers it is no wonder that some writing talent will be attracted to self-publication, especially in the eBook arena.  The problem is that the universe of self-published titles is so large and until now has had fewer traditional quality filters (professional reviewing, publisher endorsement) that would help us identify easily which self-published titles are really going to appeal to our public.

Jim McCluskey just pointed out to me that this year OverDrive and Smashwords agreed to release bestselling self-published lists to libraries in OverDrive’s Global Network. Deals like that may help us get a sense of what’s viable and valuable in this new reading market.




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