With best selling author Barry Eisler turning down a $500K advance to self publish and Amanda Hocking becoming a millionaire at 26 by selling her own books through Kindle, the publishing world is changing grasshopper. Now we hear that Amanda Hocking has gone traditional and signed with St Martin’s Press.
This week I’ve invited Amanda Green to talk to us about the industry and Naked Reader Press (NRP) aptly named, because there is ‘nothing between you and the story’, meaning they produce e-books. Amanda is Senior Executive Editor of NRP.
Here in Australia the impact of e-readers and e-books is only just starting to hit. In the last twelve months I’ve seen more and more people using e-readers on the train going to work. Before that, there were hardly any. Recently I read an article in the Science Fiction Writers of America magazine which said if you’re a published author and you aren’t selling your back-list as e-books you’re crazy.
Q: I’m going to lead in with a question about Amanda Hocking. She’s already made almost 2 million from self publishing now she’s signed with St Martin’s Press. On her blog she said: “I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.” You follow the publishing scene in the US were you surprised when she signed with a traditional publisher?
Hi, Rowena. Thanks for having me here at ROR.
As for your question, no, it didn’t surprise me to see Hocking sign with a traditional publisher. In one of her blog posts, she admitted that she knew her success as an “indie” was the exception and not the rule. She’s also been very open about the amount of time it takes to do the promotion necessary to make her the success she’s become. She’s hoping that signing with St. Martin’s will take over a great deal of the promotion so she can do what she likes – write.
But there is another aspect of the signing we need to recognize. I think everyone’s aware of just how difficult it is to get a publishing contract these days. That’s going to get even harder, especially if Borders and other troubled chains are forced to shut down, because publishers will have fewer outlets for their books. I think we’re going to see more instances of publishers seeking out and signing indies (self-published authors) who have a built-in audience already. The question will be if that audience follows the author to a traditional publisher. Some will, but others will not for one simple reason – indie books are traditionally priced below $4.99. Most are in the $2.99 or below range. Traditionally published e-books are much more expensive.
Q: You post regularly to the Mad Genius Club blog on publishing topics. It was through your posts over the last couple of years that I was made aware of the advancing market share of e-books. How do you keep up with everything?
Actually, every morning as I have my coffee and try to get the brain working, I read certain blogs, the Kindle boards at Amazon and publishing-related sites. Among those I regularly check out are Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, and GalleyCat. Also, even though I don’t use Twitter nearly as much as I should to tweet, I do check it out to see what is trending. It really is amazing what you can find out that way. There are also several author and agent blogs that I check on a fairly regular basis. All in all, I probably spend about an hour each morning checking these sites and will do a second check when I break each afternoon.
Q: On the Naked Truth blog, you listed the Associated American Publisher (AAP) sales figures for January. There was a 115.8% rise in sales of e-books, with sales of almost 70 million. That’s a big figure and a big leap. I’d no idea e-books were selling so well. Yet, you say, it was a lower rise in sales than in previous months.
It was a slightly slower increase than in the previous month, but a part of that was the huge bump in sales just after Christmas. That week between Christmas and New Year’s always sees a jump in sales of both e-books and hard copy books as people are busy redeeming their gift cards.
What was interesting to note in the latest figures is that, other than education books, the only areas showing increased sales were digital – e-books and digital downloads of audio books. While I don’t see the end of traditionally published books any time soon, it does presage a flip-flop in coming years as to the preferred format.
As the cost of dedicated e-book readers continues to come down, as more people adopt “smart” phones and as more companies come out with competition for the iPad, the number of people reading e-books will continue to grow. Yes, there is something about the feel of a book. But there is also something to be said about being able to carry your entire library with you in a device that weighs less than the typical mass market paperback.
What is going to have to happen for mainstream publishers to fully embrace e-books is for them to finally figure out how to deal with e-books. They are worried now about e-books cannibalizing the sales of paperbacks and, if you look at the last few months’ sales figures, you can see where they are coming from. The problem arises from the fact they are offering the e-books version of a title at the same time as the hard cover. Some people will buy the e-book then. Others won’t, citing the high price (e-books of best sellers are often priced only a dollar or so below the price of the hard cover on sites like Amazon). So these readers will wait until the soft cover version of the book comes out. The problem is, by that time, they’ve forgotten about the book and have moved on to something else. So the publisher has lost at least one, if not two sales. Whether this means to bring out the hard cover and then, at some later time, bring out the e-book in conjunction with the soft cover, I don’t know.
Q: As a writer I find my books have been pirated and I keep getting Google alerts for sites where I can download my books for free. Some authors feel that book piracy is promoting their books, while others feel that it could impact on their sales and this could lead their publisher not to offer than another contract. What’s your take on e-book piracy?
I fall into the latter camp. The way I look at it is that if someone reads a pirated copy of one of NRP’s books, they are going to go looking for more books by our authors. When they do and they see how inexpensive our titles are, they will pay for them. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I believe that most readers are willing to pay a reasonable price for their books and short stories.
If you will let me get on my soapbox for a moment, part of the problem with e-piracy is DRM. That’s like waving a red flag and daring someone to break it. It also adds to the cost of the e-book.
The way I look at it, e-piracy is always going to be there. But if you make your books available in non-DRM formats and at reasonable prices, you take away a lot of the reason for piracy. I keep going back to the Harry Potter books. J. K. Rowling has been very open about her resistance to putting the books out in digital formats. It has also been well documented that the books were available in PDF formats online within hours of hitting the shelves in stores.
In fact, if you look at a lot of the piracy sites, what they are offering isn’t a digital file they bought somewhere and now they are just passing on. These are PDF scans of books they’ve made, or that someone else has. So, it doesn’t matter if you have a digital title out there filled with DRM or not.
Q: NRP is offering authors 60% of the cover price (less the credit card processing fee) and 50% of the amount received from the reseller. This is a better deal than traditional publishers are offering authors. Why do you think the large publishers are charging so much for e-books and paying authors so little?
No one likes change. That’s especially true in an industry that hasn’t had to change all that much in decades. Add in the fact that the industry is struggling right now, revenues are down in a number of areas, and there is resistance to doing anything that might take money out of the stockholders’ pockets.
NRP was formed by a group of people who have worked in various aspects of the publishing industry. The one thing they all agreed upon was that the author is the source of our product and, therefore, we need to do everything we can to get as much profit into their pockets as possible. I guess you could say we like thinking outside the box that way.
Q: Is NRP also offering readers the choice of printed versions of books as well as e-books?
Great question, Rowena, and I’m really glad you asked it. We have two titles being prepped as we speak for release in soft cover and two more planned. They will be available through Amazon and other outlets. Once they are available, we’ll be making announcements on our website, our blog and on facebook.
Q: I see NRP is offering give-away on their web site. Is this a regular thing?
It’s semi-regular right now, but we have plans to make it more of a regular feature. As our catalogue expands, we will be offering more give-ways as well having contests and author events our readers can take part in.
Q: My first book sale was in 1996 when publishing was still very traditional. It has all changed so much in the last fifteen years. Where do you see it going in the next 2- 5 years?
That is the million dollar question. I think we’re going to see e-books continue to take over more of the market share. However, until an industry standard format is agreed upon, e-books will continue to trail traditional books. Think of how digital downloads of music increased once mp3 became the standard format.
I think we will also see an increase in the number of authors releasing their backlists either on their own or through small e-publishers. The flip side to this is that I’m afraid we’re going to see more publishers trying to hold onto e-rights long after they should have reverted to the authors. Out-of-print is going to have to be redefined to protect authors and that, I’m afraid, is going to require litigation and that will only wind up hurting publishers in the long run.
The next few years are going to be interesting in publishing, probably a little scary, but growth always is. As an editor, I’m looking forward to it. But then I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. As a reader, I’m thrilled because I’m looking forward to being able to get books I remember from when I was younger and that I can no longer find.