Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov. 12

The word is that Google is signing agreements with publishers to offer e-books for sale. They will have a format readable on everything but the Kindle (Amazon's proprietary reader.) The New York Times announced they would start listing an e-book best seller list. Some authors are evangelizing that the e-book revolution is here! Authors can self publish and make money hand over fist. Except- um... no. Reality check, millions want to be writers. If 10 percent finish a book that's what 100,000? So 100,000 books go up for sale on the web. How do you get buyers to buy your book-to pick your story out of 100,000? Imagine the library. (Most libraries don't have even close to 100,000 books in their four walls.) What books do people check out the most? Authors they know. Authors that make the hard cover NYT bestseller list. So, guess which authors are selling 20 or 30 percent e-books? Yep the big names splashed across Oprah and the Times. Guess which authors will make the NYT e-book list? hmmm.
In truth the sad state of affairs is that bookstores are disappearing. Shelf space is diminishing and many good, solid authors, who never made the Bestseller list, but have a following are being let go. That shelf space is only for the big sellers. Many mid-list authors are pushed into e-books-so, yay, for a venue for these wonderful artists. But e-books don't pay advances. In fact they pay in approximately $.70 increments. So, how does a midlist author make a living? By e-publishing every book they've ever written...To put this in prospective I've written 50 complete manuscripts and published ten. So let's say every author who has published ten now puts 50 up for sale. What happens to the 100,000? It goes up exponentially. The sad truth is that you have to e-publish a lot to make money, but the more you e-publish the more competition there is and you spread the buyers' dollars thinner. Thus there will be less money to make. Can anyone say vicious circle?
Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that there is a new place to sell wonderful books that publishers' marketing departments rejected because it didn't fit the statistical model of a strong seller. I think it's great to hear so many new and old wonderful voices. But don't let anyone drag you down the fairy path that there is fame and fortune to be had in e-books.
A friend said that writing is like a gold rush. A lucky few stumble onto a solid vein and get rich quick. But the only people really making the money are the people who sell the tools and groceries. I'm not saying don't live your dream. I'm simply asking that you live it with your eyes wide open. (It breaks my heart to see writers on Facebook and Twitter write: "Please buy my book. I need the money.")


  1. Nancy, you stated what I've been thinking for months now. Yes, it's great you want to be an author, but if every person on the planet self-pubbed a book, who on earth would buy them?
    I think at some point it will hit equilibrium and peak out, and many writers will realize they can't make any money that way and stop. I read a Times article last year that stated soon most books will be free, due in part to 'overpopulation.'

  2. Yikes- Free is not good for writers, is it? All that work for free... crazy. I hope it doesn't come to that.