Milestones & publishing

I’ve enjoyed reaching two milestones in the last week–50,000 words, and 100 typed pages! It’s so cool to see how the words and pages add up through daily discipline.

Let’s talk a bit about publishing.

I absolutely love my Kindle, and I do nearly all my reading on it. In the never-ending debate of paper books vs. e-books, I’ve landed squarely on the electronic side.

The number of e-books available is astounding…6.7 million on Amazon. Many of these are written by independent (self-published) authors.

In the past few years, I’ve read a lot of books put out by indie authors, or by authors who started independent and were later picked up by large publishers. Before I’d decided to write my own books, I was inspired by the current publishing landscape and its friendliness to the “little guy.”

And it’s changing things, dramatically. Let’s look at Amazon, the biggest bookseller–and let’s specifically look at their top 15 bestselling sci-fi and fantasy novels right now.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale, Kindle edition (traditional publisher)
  2. The Man of Legends, Kindle edition (published by 47North, part of Amazon’s own publishing arm)
  3. Dune, Kindle edition (traditional publisher)
  4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Kindle edition (traditional publisher)
  5. The Hundredth Queen, Kindle edition (independent publisher)
  6. Split Second, Kindle edition (independent publisher)
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale, audiobook edition (traditional publisher)
  8. Pandemic, Kindle edition (independent publisher)
  9. The Book of Kells, Kindle edition (small publisher that only publishes e-books. This book is a rerelease of a book written in the ’80s, now in e-book format.)
  10. The Handmaid’s Tale, paperback edition (traditional publisher)
  11. Lost in Arcadia, Kindle edition (published by 47North, part of Amazon’s own publishing arm)
  12. The Secret of Spellshadow Manor, Kindle edition (independent publisher)
  13. The Gender Game, Kindle edition (independent publisher)
  14. Make a Witch, Kindle edition (independent publisher)
  15. 1984, Kindle edition (traditional publisher)

Let’s break it down. Of the top 15 in this genre…

  • 13 are e-books. The 2 that aren’t, are the paperback and audio versions of The Handmaid’s Tale, and its e-book is currently in the top spot.
  • 6 are published by traditional publishers, and 6 by independent. (I’m using “independent” to mean “self-published.”)
  • 2 are published by Amazon’s own publishing arm, which often recruits authors who have previously self-published successfully.
  • 1 is published by a small press.

Here’s another interesting fact: The authors of #6 & #8 (Douglas E. Richards & A.G. Riddle) have both published hugely-successful books as indepdendents, then have accepted traditional contracts…and now have both returned to self-publishing. Why? Well, on Amazon you earn 70% of e-book sales when you self-publish. With a traditional publisher, they take a huge cut. Then there’s your agent. I’ve read different figures, but it seems that the most you’ll expect with traditionally-published e-books might be about 17%.  That’s why independents can price their books far lower (say, $2.99 or $4.99 instead of $9.99) and still make a lot more on each copy sold.

I can see why so many people are starting independent without even trying to get an agent and a publisher. And I think that’s the direction I’m going to go. But I’m trying to go in with my eyes wide open. Currently I’m reading Write. Publish. Repeat.which is full of fantastic advice for independents

There are certainly some benefits to being signed with one of the big, traditional publishers. They do cover design and editing and typesetting for you, plus plenty of other back-end stuff. If you’re really successful, they’ll put money into marketing your book (but if you’re a small player, their marketing will be very minimal.) They can get books into traditional bookstores far easier than independents can.

But the drawbacks are numerous. It takes a long time to get a project done; the publishing company keeps most of the money; and they have a lot of creative input (which could be a positive too!)

I’m trying to keep my mind open, but I gotta say…I love the idea of not spending months or years racking up rejection letters (which is the experience of nearly all authors, even those that find “traditional” success.) I think I’d prefer to spend that time writing…and publishing.

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