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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Digital denial

Joe Konruth's blog is essential, addictive reading

It is also controversial


Because it lays out the lines between traditional and Indie publishing ... from the point of view of the author

On Sunday, he posted the nitty-gritty of a talk given by Barry Eisler at the Pike's Peak Writers' Convention which upset a number of trad publishers, who took to twitter to vent their unhappiness.

So what led to the twitter war with Eisler?  What points did he make?

First, that trad publishers are basically paper pushers. "The primary value-add offered by legacy publishers has traditionally been paper distribution," he said. "Certainly legacy publishers offer many other services (much of which is outsourced) -- editorial, copyediting, proofreading, book packaging, and marketing, to name the most obvious -- but the primary service, the one the others are built on, has always been paper distribution."  In order to succeed -- or get noticed at all -- an author needed a publisher to get his offering out on paper.

Obviously, this has changed.

As Eisler said, "The advent of digital book distribution means that today, not all authors need a paper distribution partner. Authors can reach (and thousands of authors are reaching) a mass audience in digital by self-publishing instead (a third option, Amazon publishing, combines elements of both systems)." 

As many of us know, it's wonderful to have an editor who is in love with your manuscript, and positively desperate to get it published. It would be even more wonderful if it was a bestseller, but -- publishing being a lottery -- the chances were that it would not make that NYT list.  Indie publishing is just a big a gamble, as very few Indie authors make it to the Amazon top 100, but at least authors now have a choice.

And, he argues, the digital revolution means that the author should have much more power, too.  Once the huge costs of paper distribution are taken away, the profit to the publisher is much greater -- and the author should be getting a much bigger royalty than the 17.5% for digital rights that are typically offered.

Perhaps that is why the trad publishing fraternity got so upset. Konruth's comments might upset them even further.  Read on.


Rick Spilman said...

Joe Konrath is great. I met him once when he spoke at a writers conference BK (before Kindle.) Watching his evolution(and incredible success) has been fascinating.

Dale said...

In what parallel universe does an editor receive 52% of the author's royalties as the article states?

I wuz robbed!!

Joan Druett said...

I think he meant the publishing company, not the poor underpaid editor.

"Legacy publishers typically offer authors only 17.5% of the list price of a digital book, while they keep 52.5% for themselves (the retailer keeps 30%)."

Retailer gets 30%
Leaves 70%
Author gets 17.5%
Remainder = 52.5%

Yup. The figures add up. The publisher has had digitization costs, and the original setting up costs for the paper book (probably paid for with sales, by now), but otherwise the 52.5% is clear.

One of my editors left to go teaching, much to my distress. My agent dryly remarked that she couldn't understand why the editor hadn't done it earlier, as teaching paid twice the salary.