Guest Post by Ryan King, whose post-apocalyptic Glimmer of Hope novel is currently a Kindle Countdown Deal.
I think just about everyone would agree there has been a major shift in the book publishing industry in the last five to six years. The final outcomes are still uncertain, but the truth is that it has become easier for authors to publish books and for readers to buy them. There are many pros and cons to self-publishing which is not new. Self-publishing has been around for decades, but recently it has been seen as the last resort of rejected authors who simply could not get their books published any other way. In most cases those books were destined for anonymity because the delivery platform was nearly non-existent.
Large publishers typically received first right of rejection on all books. They sifted through the chaff for the delicious wheat and if they missed a few choice morsels here and there, they could live with that. They still get plenty of authors coming to them, but that is slowly changing. What should frighten large publishers are not the books they have rejected that are being published, but those that they no longer even get the opportunity to reject. Worse yet are the established authors leaving publishing to go it alone. It may be a trickle now, but I predict it will increase.
The reasons for this change in attitude are varied. Many authors like the control, or dislike the traditional publishing process, or simply want a higher royalty rate. The standard 25% return rate (with 15-20% of that going to an agent) for paper books and ebooks is dwarfed by the royalties on most self-publishing sites such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Some established authors have been able to negotiate larger royalty rates or keep their digital rights with these traditional publishers, but those authors are in the minority.
Right now traditional publishers are still the giants, but that is likely to change. Their big name established authors will eventually die off or maybe even leave to self-publish. I predict fewer and fewer first-time authors will even bother with the tedious query process. This is what should concern traditional publishers. So how do they increase the industry lead, which they still maintain, but is slowly and surely shrinking? In a word – money.
Most authors want to write full-time. That takes money to quit a day job and focus on their passion. Book advances are not what they once were and many books don’t even earn out their advances. Advances are a calculated risk on the part of the publisher.
What I propose is an end to the advance and royalty system. Publishers should consider buying books outright. They would certainly have to pay more than they would on an advance, but less possible than the lifetime of the book. Additionally, this would be for books, ebooks, international sales, audio books, movie rights, action figures, future scent-based books for dogs – everything. One of the biggest sources of friction between authors and publishers is payments. This would eliminate that source while allowing the publishers to not worry about tracking and paying quarterly sales. They buy the book and its rights and the publisher and author part company, each of them happy. The author has a wad of cash to let them pursue their dream and the publisher has the rights to that book (but should not try to lock in other books with a non-compete clause. If it is a series I would recommend giving the publisher first right of refusal).
Publishers instantly increase their returns on book sales by 25% and can sell other rights they are not interested in (audio, movie, t-shirts, etc).
Up front money. It’s the one thing self-publishing can’t compete with. Its big publishing’s greatest strength, and one it should leverage.
Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.