Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Since I posted about this last week, Hugh Howey issued two more reports, one about the fact that, unlike the 7,000 best-selling books that were analyzed in the first report, the second analyzed over 50,000. The third report analyzed Barnes & Noble’s sales.

But before commenting on those, I’ll repeat some of the complaints put forth by BPH (Big Publishing Houses) insiders and friends, and compare them to the facts those earnings reports revealed.

* Digital Book World reluctantly admitted that self-published writers now had access to distribution of their work. However, they believe authors “hope” to have influence with BPH or even manage to be offered a contract.

The hundreds of comments posted thereafter seem to show the truth is that more and more traditionally-published authors are leaving BPH and newer, younger ones don’t want to go there at all.

* DBW also said that “only authors at the very top can afford to quit their day job.”

The Passive Voice blogger disagrees. “If it were worded, ‘Many authors who can’t quit their day jobs in traditional publishing, can do so when they self-publish,’ he would agree.” And PG’s figures prove his point.

* Phil Ebersole’s Blog compared Amazon to Walmart and stated, “First you gain an initial advantage through economies of scale. squeeze your suppliers to keep prices low so you knock out small competitors and keep new competitors from emerging. Meanwhile, you treat your ... employees like dirt.”

I don’t know what Walmart does, but the 78 comments that followed that outburst revealed plenty of facts to dispute such a claim as well as huge numbers of writers reporting gratitude to Amazon.

* * *
Howey’s second report looks at 54,000 titles of which 60% were non-fiction, 2% were literary fiction and 20% were children’s books. A mere 22% were genre fiction (which was the only category used in the first report). Nevertheless, that category comprises 69% of the best-sellers and 61% of the daily sales. As for revenues, while the Big Five collect 55% of it, their authors only get 39% of that and Indie authors get 61% of theirs.

* * *
In the Barnes & Noble report, Howey studied 54,000 best selling books in the same genres as before. Of those, Indie published books represented 53% of the best sellers, and books from small or medium-sized publishers another 23%, leaving only 26% for the Big Five publishers.

Indie titles made up a third of B&N e-book sales, and, together with smaller publishers, equaled half of them, the same as all Big Five combined. It’s only when you look at publisher income that the Big Five show 70%, and that’s because BPH books cost more than self-published ones and publishers take most of the profit. However, on a daily sales basis, author income matches publishers’ income more closely: 48% to 52%. Contrary to what BPH leaders say, readers choose to buy almost as many Indie books.

In this last report, Howey discussed something he wrote in the first. Because of the numbers, it appeared possible readers rated BPH books lower than Indie-published because they resented the BPH books’ higher prices. That may not be true: instead, higher ratings may simply mean the readers liked those books better.

* * *
This post is already too long, but you can find lots more pro-and-con on the Internet yourself. I’ll close with a post from the blog of Eoin Purcell, Editorial Director at New Island Books, an Irish publisher.

* “...the truth is, if there was a war between self-publishing and publishing, it’s over because authors (who are the major self-publishers and hence the foot-soldiers...) have won it. Yes, many people are still fighting that war on both sides of the debate, and it may well be some time before the most reluctant publishers realize that their cause is lost, but the gains made by self-publishing have been so pronounced, so rapid, and what is most important, so irreversible, that it’s time to call it done.”

Personally, I’m calling it done.

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