Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ebooks to ailing economy: ‘Nuts!’

Now we’re hearing that the U.S. economy is running out of steam.

Well, stoke the boiler, right?

No. At least not with government “coal.” That will add to the prodigious deficit.

The Commerce Department says gross domestic product grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year, much below economists’ expectations. Analysts said government spending cuts offset a pickup in consumer spending.

Apparently we can thank shoppers for keeping the economy afloat. So keep your billfolds and purses open, ladies and gentlemen, and keep buying.

For the last few days there’s been an interesting online discussion on my publisher’s Yahoo author loop. Royalty checks for the novels have been on the disappointing side.

Some authors have been contemplating going it alone as independents. They got a shock of sorts from the publisher. The authors who bail out on the publisher at the end of their contract period lose the cover and the version of the manuscript that includes publisher edits.

Borders closed its doors last year. Bookstore chains haven’t been doing all that well as customers buy Kindles and Nooks and download ebooks from websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Ebook publishing has been one of the industries posting good numbers during these sullen economic times.

Ebook sales rose 72 percent in December 2011 over the same period in 2010. But that’s a slower rate than the triple-digit gains earlier in 2011.

So if ebooks are garnering double-digit sales, I’m left wondering why my ebook publisher is struggling with sales.

My best guess: A glut of small ebook publishers are fighting over market share. That’s the case with my publisher. My publisher, who has placed around 800 novels on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, is 10 years old. It was a pioneer in ebook publishing, but is now having to contend not only with many new ebook publishers, but with a growing number of authors who are self-published.

The ebook world is constantly changing. In the early days, the small ebook publishers ruled. Now the major publishing houses have ebooks. And more and more authors are going the route of self-publishing. They list their books on Amazon for between 99 cents and $2.99 and love to have one-day free giveaways.

For marketing nowadays, both authors who are self-published or under the wings of an ebook publisher market their novels by trying to get online reviews, going on blog tours, attending various conventions and doing book signings.

The ebook world is driven by genre fiction, categories such as horror or romance. I recently joined a Facebook site called Books Gone Viral and it’s almost entirely made up of romance authors. Many are self-published authors who use the site to announce giveaways and new blog posts. They are changing the face of the ebook world.

Publishers watched the slide of the music and newspaper industries. Should they keep prices high and differentiate their wares from the sometimes unedited efforts of the self-published? Should they cut prices for ebooks and risk accelerating the decline of print? And for the small ebook publishers like mine…should they spend more money marketing their websites and their stables of authors and their novels to set themselves apart from their competitors? Their decisions will ultimately decide their fates.


  1. The eye of the storm, It reminds me of those early mariners who set off on a wing and a prayer

  2. Very timely post Mike.

    After being rejected by all the big publishers I too decided to go the self publishing route...what did i have to loose? Not a single thing. How has self publishing treated me? Well I'm not going to break any records but in terms of satisfaction...the results are immeasurable.

    This eBook revolution is a shakeup the publishing industry has needed for a very long time.

    After all, all of the big 6's New York real estate has been acquired on the backs of authors' creativity.

    And the current author revolt has been so long overdue.