An article from Bloomberg.com, which I read on my favorite blog, The Passive Voice, tried valiantly last week to counteract Matt Yglesias’s article stating that “Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers.” It listed all the steps Big 5 publishers go through to produce a book, and insisted that the process is too difficult and expensive for self-publishers to do. Before the day was out, that was countered by at least 95 comments from self-publishers who are doing just that, and far cheaper - to say nothing of faster - than the big guys.
Publishers, the middlemen between writers and readers, were once the only game in town, so authors had no choice but to sign the one-sided contracts that gave authors only 15-17% of the profit from selling their books. Compare that to the 70% of the profit Amazon gives authors who self-publish with them.
Amazon didn’t start out to crush publishers. Jeff Bezos was looking for industries where technology could make a difference, and “books” was just one of the six he found. I suspect that, in the beginning, even he didn’t realize exactly how far behind the times publishers were. Little by little he improved life for writers, and, when, instead of following Amazon and making improvements, the industry’s answer was to dig in, to fight progress and to demonize Amazon, he continued to prove how modern methods could change lives.
Now, just a few years later, the site AuthorEarnings.com offers statistics proving self-published authors (mostly through Amazon’s divisions) earn more money from their writing than all the traditionally published authors combined. Over 500 such authors have shared their stories that, for the first time, they can quit their day jobs and make a living selling their books.
How did Amazon do it? First with cheaper books, then with the Kindle e-reader, then its self-publishing program. Later they added their own publishing lines for every kind of book: romance, mystery, science fiction, children’s, young adults, textbooks.
Since then, they’ve added Kindle Worlds, where authors can write, and earn 35%, for stories based on popular “worlds” created by best-selling authors. Then came Kindle Unlimited, where readers can choose, for less than $10 a month, among thousands of books to borrow and read. Plus authors get paid for the “borrows.”
Now another program is starting. Kindle Scout gives authors an opportunity to be published, with a $1500 advance and the possibility of earning $25,000 in royalties, with no long-term commitment and the choice to leave the program at any time. The only requirement is submission of a never-before published book in one of the three most-popular genres, recommended by a group of readers as something they think should be published.
In my opinion, all of these innovations give authors an opportunity they never had before: to write whatever they want, get their books in front of waiting readers, be paid fairly, and treated like the indispensable partner that they truly are. When many authors take advantage of all the ways Amazon provides, who would willingly go through the trouble of trying traditional publishers? Who will wait for months to learn if they’re accepted (99% are not accepted), then forced to give up most of the income from their creations, to give up control of titles, covers, and prices, often for their lifetime plus 70 years, and to be prevented from writing other books? When enough writers take advantage of Amazon’s programs, then, truly, big publishing will be crushed, because there will be no one left for them.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned Kindle Scout because I intend to submit a book and, if hundreds of other writers do the same thing, I’ll have more competition. But, unlike some of the one percent of trad-published authors, I don’t want to keep it all for myself. Like most Indie writers, I’m willing to share.