A recent blog post between two male authors discussed the future of publishing. One of those men had walked away from a big publishing house offer for half a million dollars. That's right, $500,000 -- for writing.
Barry Eisler, the author who left the big money on the table, has a successful series of books based on the character John Rain who is an assassin. So why did he walk away from such a lucrative offer? He decided to self-publish instead.
Gasps of horror. Self publishing is for losers, isn't it?
The conversation on the blog, listed at the bottom of my post, is long and involved, but the basics are that Eisler decided he would do better in the long run to keep the erights to his books and earn more money from them over time.
According to the discussion between Eisler and Joe Conrath, who self publishes, the big publishing houses are trying to hold off epublishing by charging a lot for ebooks. Ebooks, of course, cost very little for the publisher. Still, the author earns only 14.9 percent of the cost of that ebook. The seller, usually Amazon, takes 30 percent off the top. The publishing house gets 52.5 percent of the list price. On paper, the author gets 25 percent, but the agent and attorney get a cut too, bringing the total down to 14.9 percent. Authors can earn 70 percent of the purchase price if they self publish with very little overhead to get started. Conrath is selling 3000 ebooks per day.
In Conrath and Eisler's opinions, the publishing houses are holding onto their glory days, giving life support to the stiff spine and supple pages of books printed on paper, rather than embracing the new technology.
I love printed books, but I've been hankering for an ereader for a few months. I imagine being able to travel and carry only an ereader filled with lots of different books. I think I would also buy more books if they were priced around $5 rather than the $15 I spent for a paperback yesterday at Barnes & Noble.
One of the benefits of self publishing is that the author has total control over the cover and the title. Apparently some authors have been a little unhappy with the choices made by the publishing houses, like the cover for Eisler's book Connexion Fatale which featured an olive green garage door and security lights. Apparently he felt that did not convey the thriller that lay inside the cover.
Another benefit of self publishing is that the book can reach readers about a year earlier than it would going through a publishing house, each page printed, bound together, and sent to warehouses then bookstores.
Okay, so more money for the author, more control for the author, book in the hands of the readers sooner. All of these reasons seem like wins for the author.
But, what if everyone self publishes? How will readers decide which books are good and which are bad if we don't have the publishing houses as gatekeepers any more? Truthfully, bad books have always gotten published and good books have always gotten rejected. Readers may have to search a bit more, but once a book starts selling, other readers should follow.
I've always wanted to hold a book in my hands with my name on the front. Author Paulita Kincer. Maybe I won't get that chance as the industry changes. But even greater than the longing for a hardback or paperback, is the urge for readers to plunge into a story that I created, to love my characters, to hate my characters, to get to the end and sigh.
So, if given the chance to publish or epublish, I'll grab it and keep in mind the words of wisdom from Joe Conrath and Barry Eisler about authors earning royalties.