Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Wall Street Journal on Self-Publishing

An article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg in The Wall Street Journal described self-publishing as a tale of two cities.  His point was that some self-published works hit the big time while others go largely unnoticed and unread.  I’m not sure how that is supposed to be different from traditionally published books—most don’t earn the advance back for the publisher. 

For established authors, self-publishing is a gold mine.  Here is what Trachtenberg wrote: 
“Amazon.com Inc. fueled the growth by offering self-published writers as much as 70% of revenue on digital books, depending on the retail price. By comparison, traditional publishers typically pay their authors 25% of net digital sales and even less on print books.
For some established authors, these terms can make self-publishing a financial home run. Ms. Belleville, for instance, a veteran romance author who wrote for seven years under the pseudonym Bella Andre and a year as Lucy Kevin, self-published her first e-book in April 2010. She has since cumulatively sold 265,000 units of 10 self-published titles, most priced between $2.99 and $5.99. Her total take from those 10 titles since last April: in excess of $500,000 after expenses, she says. Previously, the most she ever made from a book was $33,000.”

For new authors, however, it is a hit-or-miss game.  The Wall Street Journal article points to Eve Yohalem as a new author example.  “More than a month after self-publishing, she has grossed about $100 in sales—after incurring costs of $3,400.”  Then there is the case of new author Darcie Chan
“The Mill River Recluse, hit No. 5 on The Wall Street Journal's list of digital fiction bestsellers for the week ended Oct. 23. Ms. Chan priced her novel about a secretive widow living in Vermont at 99 cents, and says she has sold ‘hundreds of thousands’ of copies since it went on sale on Amazon in May.”

The contrast between Yohalem and Chan isn’t unique to self-publishing.  What is different is that with traditional publishing, the publisher promotes.  If you self-publish, you need to have some marketing skills because you are on your own.  New authors have to be discovered to be successful, whether digital or in print.
 
Trachtenberg does note that authors have less concern about how that will be viewed and more concern about the promotional aspect.  He writes, “The question that most intrigues would-be self-published authors isn't whether they'll be viewed as literary outcasts, but how to do it and what it costs. Simply getting attention is an enormous challenge….” 

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