Do authors suffer from fear of success?
Perhaps. What else could explain an entire industry’s acceptance of outdated business practices that derail and undermine their potential for earning?
No other industry so readily accepts such draconian terms for transacting business like those who create books. This has become especially perplexing, given the information age we live in and the ability for anyone to create their own publishing and distribution models. The internet was supposed to be the great equalizer, yet authors still cling to the type of deals forged in the days of traditional publishing.
NEWS FLASH! There are no more bookstores. You are not competing for shelf space. There are no “ebook advances” or wholesale purchase orders. And no one is helping to market your ebook.
The big ebook stores take 30-70% or more of the profit from a digital book sale. Why is this acceptable? They are acting as retailers, taking the customer’s money and delivering the book – but where are the wholesale purchases?
Apparently authors are supposed to be excited to earn 35% of their net sales. Sorry, but I still see that as giving up almost two-thirds.
The way it works in the offline world is that you sell a product at a drastic discount because the purchaser will buy a bulk quantity. That’s the incentive – to move a lot of product in a short time.
But Kindle, iBooks and the others do not buy your books in advance. There are no guarantees that you’ll ever sell a single copy. They carry no risk, and yet they still get the wholesale rate.
But they also take more than just the profits. They also take your customer. None of the major e-tailers for books provide the author with any customer data. No email address means the author must spend marketing dollars to reach their own customer when it comes time to sell them book #2, #3 and on down the line.
Which is more valuable – that $9.99 ebook, or the customer’s email address? If you know anything about marketing, you know a $10 acquisition cost for a buyer is a steal, especially if you understand the concept of a sales funnel.
So, no customer info, no money… What could be worse?
How about price control?
In addition to the other grievances we’ve discussed, authors are not even in control of their vertical. According to Amazon, Apple and their ilk, all information is an equal commodity. There is no more value to a book for neuroscientists explaining precise details on the latest life saving techniques than there is to a brownie cookbook.
Every other business determines the price of their product based on a number of indicators, not least of all: What will this market bear?
But in ebook fantasyland, all information should be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 if you want to reap a whopping 70%, less distribution fees. But by no means are you to price upwards of $299. You surely have your decimal point in the wrong place.
Yes, these ebook stores get a lot of traffic. Yes, you can get discovered by potential customers surfing your category. But remember – there is no shelf space here. You are among the millions of other choices, with more being added daily. So, the “discovery” will actually rely on your ability to market your book in the first place, bringing us all the way back to the fact that your success is in your own hands.
If you’ve read this far, you must agree that something is broken here. Fortunately, there is a company looking to disrupt the publishing industry by giving the power (and the profit) back to the brilliant authors and creators that are responsible for the valuable information we all consume.
In time, I believe that more and more authors are going to see that their job is not defined merely by the words they assemble, the insights they share, or the ideas they foster. It isn’t enough to simply be a wordsmith – they must also master the role of Entrepreneur; encompassing all the duties that go with the title – marketing, business development, social media management, even salesperson.
However, it all comes with a major pay raise 🙂
And a long list of customers ready to buy your next brilliant product or service.