The T-Rex seems to be facing off against the Amazon raptors. We have the commercially published dinosaur authors coming to the defense of the Big Six way of publishing and pricing as evidenced by the recent article featuring Jodi Picoult, who claims, in so many words, that self-e-publishing is allowing way too much crap to be listed for purchase on the Internet. The self e-publishers can be likened to the more agile and numerous raptors, circling the cumbersome Big Six T-Rex, taking nasty bites out of its exposed flesh. We can remember when the T-Rex was king and ruled the high plains with authority, chasing down its prey. That was until we learned just recently that it might have been a scavenger, a view that is held today about the ultimate destiny of the large publishing syndicates. Will the Big Six be left squabbling amongst themselves over the scraps that are left by the multitudes that are rushing to purchase cheap digital books and stories?
I'm not a math whiz, nor do I have volumes of facts and figures. I can only generalize about how I feel about the subject from a personal perspective. So let's examine both sides of the coin.
I find it extremely ironic that the Big Six claim that Amazon will become a ravenous monopoly if agented pricing is not allowed. I've seen the Big Six swallow up hundreds and hundreds of independent, small and medium-sized publishers over the past 25 years, making imprints out of them or ingesting them into their lines. How dare they make such a claim about Amazon and its strategy concerning pricing and distribution. Who has been the real monopoly here? Both of my medium-sized advance-paying publishers disappeared under the Big Six umbrella over a decade ago. If that isn't gate keeping and monopolization, what is? They've taken away submission opportunities from writers, not increased them.
At the very least, e-books require about 10% less in cost to produce, and any publisher who has the audacity to price its e-books above the cost of a normal mass-market paperback, or beyond into the $20.00 range, deserves to fail miserably. And no, I'm not self-published. I'm commercially published and have an A-list agent. This is just pure greed on their part, attempting to hold up the stagecoach and rob the public for the coveted bestsellers, penned by all those famous brand-name authors we've come to know and love. I think it smacks of extortion. If you want that popular title bad enough, you'll empty your purse or wallet, and they know that.
The Big Six and the Dinosaur authors claim that before too long the Internet book vendors will be inundated with mountains of slush, crap, trash--books and stories unfit for human consumption. Great literature will be lost, diluted in the sea of amateurish prose, and difficult to weed out. They seem to think that readers will purchase blindly and end up with this flotsam, become dissatisfied and give up on reading entirely or blame the Big Six, or demand their money back or all of it. Actually, the Big Six are shaking in their boots, aware that they are posed to lose millions, if not billions of dollars because of a much lower price threshold, coupled with the convenience of purchasing digital copy online. Print is taking serious financial hits at the present. They are also neglecting to realize that the reading public is not really that undiscriminating and can tell bad prose from good prose by peeking at the pages offered from the Look Inside Feature. They're also aware that a publisher's brand name will mean absolutely squat when it comes to book purchasing. Low prices and convenience trump publisher's brand.
Sure, the dinosaur authors will always rally around the huge or medium advances they receive as a testimony to the validity of their publishing house. But they'll not mention the 17.5% average royalty rate they're prone to get, as opposed to the optimum 70% for the self e-published author. T-Rex publishers have got book store and distribution going for them--you have to give them that. That's because they belong in the hierarchy, and are nearly the only houses who are privy to the most prestigious review sources and listings, like Kirkus and Library Journal. Publishers Market also has a tendency to announce new books primarily from the Big Six, and such books also routinely make the the country's top bestsellers lists.
The problem with the raptors is that there's so damn so many of them and their numbers are increasing daily. Anyone in sundry can self-publish digitally nowadays, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. There's scores of programs and tutorials to help you format and create cover art for zero expense. Wam, bam, you're on Amazon, Ma'am. But oh my God, it's gonna be a jam! How in the name of hell are you going to bring attention to your title or titles, generate enough buzz, start a sales momentum and make some steady cash? Yeah, you hear about Rowe and Hocking and wish upon a star, believing if they can do it, then so can you. What you don't realize is how much work must go into this type of promotion and marketing campaign. It's a self-inflicted hell. And if you don't have a huge readership before you begin your self-publishing venture, you best take a few Motrin, go into a dark room, lay down and wait for these dreams avarice to pass. Seriously. You'll need a readership or fan base in place before you even get started. If you think you can play catch up and buy ads, hire a publicist, or invest in blog tours, you'll find yourself a broke, unknown writer at the speed of light.
It doesn't stop with one book. To be successful at self-publishing digitally you'll have to have tons of books and stories, and you'll have to set up free trial periods for many or all of them, plus stagger the prices until you find their sweet spots. It's a business and you'll be monitoring it on a daily basis, plus trying to find the time to write more and more content. Hint: series work well for digital self-publishing, in a popular genre.
With more and more content comes the problem--the biggest problem of all--the EDITING problem. The faster you write and list on Amazon, the more chance you take in pasting incomprehensible slop in front of the public. If you're not an accomplished, pro editor who can handle structural, copy and proof editing, you'll have to pay for it. Editing is one of the most expensive costs in publishing. It can cost a buck a page from a friend who has experience, or five or $10 a page from a top-of-the-line contractor or service. When it's all said and done, will this book pay for itself in a year, two or five after you list it? What are you going to do about celebrity blurbs, pre-publication reviews and orders? Will you have to hire an assistant? Will you have the funds to do all of this, and risk it, knowing that you might not be compensated for your time and labor?
The good thing about the raptors is, is that the playing field has been leveled (somewhat) for the first time in the publishing industry. Books, any book, need not languish in a trunk or on their hard drive. Therein comes an amount of emotional satisfaction and accomplishment. Yeah, you can call yourself an author, since you certainly went through the moves from page one to the end. You'll reap more per book than the commercial authors, and you'll be totally in charge of every aspect of its production to its eventual sale. You will evolve into a brilliant sales person and financial wizard should you succeed. However, the odds are against you ever getting rich from this venture. It all depends on your expectations.
Whatever you decided, Good Luck!
But wait a minute, Chris. Where do you stand in all of this?
Well, the Big Six really never did anything for me. I'm not a raptor either. But I favor the little guy in this case.