Disruptive technology sounds death knell for ancien régime

Guillotine

From Gutenburg to the guillotine - trad publishing for the chop

Literary establishment quaking as authors no longer need them

By ECM Plus staff

ECM Plus +++ The publishing scene has changed beyond all recognition in the last ten years. At the beginning of the century, online book retailing represented only 5% of total book sales. Now that figure is closer to 30%.

So-called ‘bricks and mortar’ bookstores are struggling to stay in business, unable to come to terms with the threats posed on the one hand by online retailers and on the other by supermarkets.

These new retail channels demand higher discounts, leading to a fragile book market and causing traditional publishers to de-risk their output, which means they are unable to invest in new talent.

At the same time, Amazon has recently revealed that for every 100 books sold on its site, it sells 115 Kindle ebooks. Kindle allows new authors to upload their books directly, thus offering mass international distribution. As literary agent Robert Gottlieb recently warned, “Publishers are frightened to death of the e-book market, because they see the opportunity for authors that they did not have before.”

With publishers reluctant to take risks on new authors and with these new channels now available to everyone, it begs the question: do authors still need traditional publishers?

Russell Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content, believes that the death of traditional publishing is a foregone conclusion, stating that “the only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader.”

Publishing a book, however, is rather more complex than just uploading a Word document to Kindle and hoping people will buy it. Whether it is e-publishing, print-on-demand or the more traditional printing and distribution model, many important processes are needed to turn a raw manuscript into something people are going to want to buy. It will need editing, designing and proofreading prior to launch. It will also need a sales and marketing campaign behind it to attract readers. Industry specific expertise is critical for all in the process.

With this in mind, Oxford-based independent publisher Infinite Ideas has recently launched a self publishing business, Infinite Authors. Authors can access a range of publishing services in order to self publish both printed and e-books. By accessing the company’s publishing expertise authors can self publish books of bookshop quality from as little as £695. Infinite Authors offers direct access to the biggest bookselling platforms and is democratising the publishing process for authors around the world.

If an author self publishes, he can expect to make a profit of 30% of the cover price of his printed book and 70% of the retail price of e-book sales. By comparison most conventional publishing contracts give the author a royalty of 10% of net receipts. On a £10 paperback that can be as little as 35p a book. On an e-book the author may receive 25% of net receipts (although e-book royalties do vary greatly) which may generate £1 per sale. By self publishing, however, authors can put their books up on all e-book platforms including Amazon, Google, Kobo, Sony and Apple and have physical copies available through online retailers and wholesalers. So self-published authors now have direct access to quite literally millions of readers the world over.

Tim Moore, Marketing Director at Infinite Authors, explains: “Mass consumer channels such as Kindle offer authors unprecedented direct access to their readership. Our sister company Infinite Ideas has had huge success in generating viral campaigns for key authors. Some of their titles have had in excess of 100,000 downloads. We know how to generate interest and we share this expertise with our self-published authors. For a very small investment authors can now publish their own books internationally in multiple formats.”

Moore continues: “In traditional publishing two-thirds of sales take place in the months before Christmas. For the e-book market, the busiest sales are from Christmas Day onwards because this is when people who have been given e-readers as presents begin to download books. This offers authors huge opportunities to sell substantial quantities of their books direct.”

UK sales of digital book products grew by 20% last year, according to the Publishers Association. Yearly sales now stand at 180m, around 5% of total book sales. With the latest generation Kindle selling for a mere £89, the gap between the author and the reader will continue to decrease. Infinite Authors aims to bring authors and readers closer together by providing real publishing expertise to help authors bridge that gap.


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