It was Woodrow Wilson who said, “The seed of revolution is repression.” Have writers been repressed by big publishing?
For most writers, getting a book published by an established publishing house is like winning the lottery. Even if an acquisitions editor pulls your manuscript from the slushpile and likes it, your manuscript must impress several more layers of big-publishing management to win a book deal.
The good news for good writers is that self-publishing makes these management layers obsolete. True, earning income via ebook self-publishing may be a pipe dream for a writer trying to turn a poorly written manuscript into a commodity. But for a good writer, ebook self-publishing is a sound option for gaining ground in the market as an author, that is if she treats book development as a business and commissions the services of a good editor, a good artist, a good publicist, and a good distributer.
Done right, self-publishing meets content needs for a target market. A winning ebook would generate revenue that a writer could invest as capital for printing and distributing a print edition of the successful title. If an author has a knack for managing operation costs and a savvy for promoting books, self-publishing could replace the writer’s mundane day job and become a lucrative career. Authors whose products enjoy a niche market could even bring in additional revenue through merchandising title- or series-themed swag.
In a blog entry, Smashwords founder Mark Coker compared the downfall of traditional publishing houses to political revolution. Is his point valid? According to an article by Futurebook.net blogger Felicity Wood, only a quarter of consumers preferring e-reading would discontinue buying print books. Many ebook consumers purchase both the ebook and print editions of the same title. Though this is great news for the publishing industry at large, only authors and publishers who learn to adapt to the e-reading trend will benefit from its momentum.
Besides the obvious ― e-publishing technology, what other factors are contributing to Coker’s alleged downfall of big publishing? I would argue that little economic opportunity for emerging, and even established writers, is the most critical contributor. Writers have to write; they need to write, so much so that many accept little monetary reward. A big publisher knows how to take advantage of a writer’s addiction to writing, sucking the writer into a mediocre contract of a 5 to 10% royalty by promising him an increased royalty percentage in the hypothetical “next deal,” once he’s “more established.” With ebook self-publishing, writers may enjoy 70 to 80 percent of sales. The bottom line speaks for itself. Why would an author sign up for a low royalty percentage only to risk the publisher’s right to remove the title from its catalogue and from print before the book had enough time to reach its full readership potential?
With the ebook revolution, authors are empowered to respond to the coercive acts of big publishing. So are book publishing elites today’s publishing red coats? Is ebook self-publishing akin to Tom Paine’s patriot movement? Like Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets, ebook publishing APIs (Application Programming Interface) are connecting writers directly to readers. What’s more, the movement is purely democratic ― anyone can publish. And those reaping the economic rewards of ebook publishing are beneficiaries of a truly free hand of capitalism. If the book is any good, the market will find value in purchasing it.
For more on this topic, click here for a link to “The Uprising in Book Publishing,” a presentation by Smashwords founder Mark Coker. Also check out Felicity Wood’s blog article “Trendspotting,” which shares statistics on readers’ attitudes toward ebooks.
Powerplay Communications as an Ebook Publisher
If you’re a writer with a promising finished manuscript, I suggest investigating your options for ebook self-publishing. If you’re looking for help in editing and formatting your manuscript, Powerplay Communications can help.