11 August 2012 - 12:33 pm

Indie vs traditional publishing – ebooks

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across a few blog posts about how indie publishing is better for writers than traditional publishing. These naturally piqued my interest, as I’m currently thinking about how I want to publish Starwalker (beyond the web serial). Do I ebook it myself or see if I can chase down the elusive dream of being traditionally published?

The Smashwords blog recently released a set of interesting statistics about ebook pricing and sales. Hop on over to the post if you want to read the detail, but the upshot is: cheaper-priced books earn authors more revenue than higher-priced books, and reach significantly more readers. The optimum price seems to be around $2.99.

Also worth noting: traditional publishers usually price their ebook on the high end of the scale ($6.99 and above), and authors who publish through a traditional publisher earn less royalties per unit than indie authors.

So, indie authors are not only earning more money per unit, they also reach more readers and can earn more than traditionally-published authors!

A surprising and rather interesting turn of events. Traditional publishers are not keeping up with the market and could be said to be doing their authors a disservice with their model and pricing.

I was also at a writing and publishing talk last week (at the lovely Avid Reader bookstore), and the published authors on the panel all agreed that if you self-publish an ebook, selling it to a traditional publisher is hard, because they want the e-rights as well. As noted in a post in October last year, traditional publisher profits are still going up despite paper books sales declining, and this is largely because of the rise of ebooks filling the gap for them. So I can completely understand that they’d want to have the e-rights to your book; it’s helping to prop up their core business!

On top of this, self-published ebooks are rising to the top of bestseller charts. They’re making their way into yardsticks like the New York Times bestseller list, as well as bookstore lists like Barnes & Noble and Apple iBookstore. Even my little Apocalypse Blog Book 0 is in Amazon’s Top 100 for scifi adventure, and I’ve done little marketing myself!

When you sell your book to a traditional publisher, what are the advantages you’re really getting? Marketing power is a big one, but for ebooks, this doesn’t seem to matter. Authors are doing it for themselves, and they’re succeeding at it.

But what do you gain if you don’t go the traditional route and self-publish your ebooks? Brett Battles, author of books like Sick and The Destroyed, recently did a post on Murderati about this. He lists advantages like complete creative control, no waiting to publish, and the freedom to set your own schedule.

With the tools and services available to authors these days, it’s easy to self-publish. So why would an author go to a traditional publisher for ebooks? Is the lure of paper books and the legitimacy still attached to them really enough to sacrifice so much freedom?

I’m not sure I know the answer. But in the long journey of being a published author, I’m still hitching my wagon to the self-publishing ebook carthorse. Because that sucker is off and running, and I want to go along for the ride.

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  1. Gabriel says:

    Good post. If I ever get my act together and really get into writing, I’ll definitely go the indie e-book route – simply because I want full control over my own ideas! Plus the way things are moving, I think the writing is clearly on the wall that this model is the immediate future of publishing.

    August 11th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Thanks Gabriel!

    I agree – it does look like things are heading that way. I certainly don’t regret going indie with the Apocalypse Blog.

    August 11th, 2012 at 9:50 pm