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One of the many germane comments about the article is this, from Linton Robinson:

BTW, anecdotally, of the writers I know who are making decent livings from published books, about half are either letting contracts lapse or heavily considering it, while putting out books on their own.

This is what will kill Hachette and the rest. They cannot compete with the independent author on price. It is as simple as that. The indie has no back office to support. He makes more from an ebook at $3 than he would through Hachette were it priced at $10. He could even sell it from his own site and keep the whole $3!

The big publishing houses are nearly all owned by giant media corporations for whom book-publishing is small potatoes and whose only interest is the bottom line. The future is not hard to predict.

Some good people will have to find other jobs, which is tough. As for the rest …

(Via Richard Herley.)


  1. An author of one of my favorite mystery series (Chris Grabenstein, the John Ceepak series) has just released the first three (plus a short story) in eformat at Amazon for 0.99 each. I own these in paper and audio, but for that price couldn’t resist getting them in e- as well.

    The last three in the series are with a different publisher, and are literally over 10 times the price. Those I can resist.

    Publishers, take note.

  2. At almost the end of 2011, after all that has happened in the last 12 months in ePublishing, I find it extraordinary to read this document from Hachette.

    In each of their 4 points their assertions are bewildering.

    Point 1: This is utter balderdash. They are passive lazy recipients of manuscripts and chose which ones they wish to ‘accept’ based on often banal and subjective criteria and there is no evidence that they or any of the other publishers actually succeed in choosing the best writing. In my reading experience I have read more utter trash supposedly ‘chosen’ by these puffed up arbiters of quality than I have read among the self published eBooks I have purchased in the last 18 months. As far as content collaborators, that service can now be bought in by self publishing authors.
    Part 2: They lend authors money in advance of sales to a tiny number of authors. This is not an altruistic act. They make simple economic risk calculations and because they pay such ridiculously small royalties, their ass is covered at all times.
    Part 3: eBooks don’t need any of this ‘distribution’ expertise. Yada yada yada.
    Part 4: Marketing. To the best of my knowledge, outside the best sellers, they do bugger all. The author is left to do most of the leg work. Piracy controls are counter productive and territorial restrictions are hurting the authors.

    Leaving copyright protection as the only marginally valuable service that a self published author may struggle with if the action was in need of major resources.

  3. I predict that over the next 5-10 years we’ll see a reversal of the publishing consolidation trend. There was certainly a time when it made sense for publishing houses to buy up one another and benefit from the savings of consolidating certain business functions and negotiating from a position of high volume. E-publishing makes a lot of that kind of savings irrelevant.

    HOWEVER, having lived on the self-publishing side for a number of years, I predict that many authors will come to realize that there is still a lot of “business” involved in self publishing and all of that work takes time away from writing and revising. Taxes still have to be paid, digital covers designed, professional edits performed, files created, PR produced, and so on. I think what we’ll see are new, lean-and-mean (well, probably not mean) digital publishers who take on all the stuff that keeps writers from writing. They’ll tend to be much more technologically savvy than their predecessors, enabling them to work more efficiently in the digital marketplace. They will also distinguish themselves in their willingness to help promote their authors’ books (primarily online). So no, I don’t see publishers going away. I just see them shrinking back into small teams– an accountant/business-officer, a PR professional, an editor, and a technology wizard.

  4. I agree, publishing houses are due for a downsizing and reorganization, concentrating on the things authors can’t do as well for themselves. I’m not sure what those core competencies will be, because it’s a quickly-moving target.

    Chances are the author will continue to act as a “partner” with publishers, contributing some part of their own efforts (beyond writing) to the publishing and selling process. That partnership will change depending on the technology and social changes over time; promotional travel being replaced by blogs and social media, etc. And probably other things we can scarcely guess at today.

  5. As someone who has no direct experience of the publishing business I am commenting purely through speculation from a business background . .. though that never stopped me before so why start now 😉

    Months ago we had a few excellent threads discussing the new kinds of publishing-support style of agency starting to appear in the market. Entities that are offering the key editing skills that self publishing authors need, along with optional eBook technical help and optional marketing assistance and expertise etc.

    In my view this is the kind of agency that will become the preferred model for the bulk of self published authors – and I also believe that self publishing will, empowered by this kind of agency, expand to represent the great bulk of writing.

    This will allow authors to match their skill sets and their skill weakness to an agency that can deliver the best match. Pricing will be a mix of set price and royalty based pricing to match the risk factors of each service.

    How the big publishers can adapt to this new world is a mystery to me. Considering their present intransigence in dealing with the new world of eBooks, DRM, territorial restrictions, lending, etc etc I am not optimistic. I suspect that one or two may adapt but I see some going down in flames out of sheer unwillingness to face up to the changing times.

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