What does the publishing shift mean for authors and readers?
We've all heard the discussions about whether or not ebooks are good for the publishing industry, and if print sales are declining or holding strong. For the traditional publishers, print sales are remaining strong compared to their ebook sales, mostly because their ebooks are priced far above the market average.
Sales are up but prices are down and will probably continue to drop.
Self published authors have helped to alter the publishing world in many ways. But the sad reality is that they’ve also hurt the world for future authors.
I am a self published author of two romantic suspense novels. I’ve had thousands of copies of my ebook sold and read (I am enrolled in Kindle Unlimited). But I’ve only made a few hundred dollars in royalties over the course of a year and half.
Not enough to live on. Barely even enough to pay for a trip to the grocery store. I certainly have not covered my expenses to create a book that meets the expectations of the general public: professional proofread, cover design, and well-formatted.
The market is flooded with below-par books, error-ridden and weak storylines. It can be difficult to distinguish between good and bad, and as a result, many readers rely on reviews. Enter an entirely new market: paid reviews. For the low price of $5 on Fiverr, you can pay someone to download your book and page through it, perhaps even read some of it, and leave a 5 star review.
The real problem: supply is greater than demand.
But that isn’t the real problem. The real problem, in my opinion, is how this flood on the market is driving down prices. While the costs of printing have disappeared with the emergence of ebooks, the cost of the author to create a quality ebook is still very real. Authors spend hundreds of hours creating a story, invest in having it edited and a cover designed, not to mention promotional expenses if you actually want someone to find it and read it.
Then the author needs to turn around and practically give the book away. As readers, we balk at paying $4.99 for a book. We’ll wait until it goes on a $.99 promotion, or even free, leaving the author with little or no royalties.
What is good for me as a reader is pretty discouraging for me as an author. To become an author that actually can turn a profit, and possibly even have writing as a career, still seems like a nearly insurmountable hurdle. And I don’t see anything changing soon.
Partly because many authors write for the joy of it, and profits are a secondary goal. But also because self published authors like myself will continue to try and break into a saturated market and gain market share by offering lower and lower prices. And as lower prices become the norm, readers are unwilling to pay for what used to be considered a fair price.
It is easy to look with anger at Amazon or major publishers who have been trying to lock prices, but in the end, we as authors and readers are the ones causing this shift in the market. We’re setting the low prices, and we’re hesitating buy books priced at “normal” prices, like $7.99, which was the industry standard not too many years ago.
What is the result of this low-priced trend?
It isn’t more books being purchased; the increase in book sales is around 1%, same as it’s always been. The result is a LARGER amount of LOWER QUALITY books. Authors like myself are hesitant to invest money in professional services, such as editing, cover design, and book formatting. After all, if my book is priced at $2.99, I’ll need to sell nearly a thousand of them before I’ll pay for the average cost of professional services. I don’t know if that sounds like a lot or not to you, but I celebrate when I sell one book a day. It could take me years to earn back my investment on a single book. The average self-published authors makes less than $5,000, ever. So what do most authors do? Find second-rate services, or skip the professionals altogether and try the DIY approach to publishing.
This is what leads to such a variation in quality of the books pushed out every day on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and every other book-selling service.
And the possibility is that many authors will quit before they are discovered, giving up in a market that is too statured and becoming increasingly difficult to turn a profit.
What do you think, either as a reader or author, about the current state of publishing?
Do you agree or disagree with my perspective?