Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thoughts on the Future of Publishing

This week, I had an interesting discussion and read a couple of articles about the explosion in e-publishing that is throwing traditional print publishers into a bit of a tailspin. There’s no doubt that the e-book market is growing rapidly. When I first wrote about e-publishing sales, they captured only about 1% of the market. Several months later, I read statistics indicating that the market was up to 3%. A recent article by Christine Kearney published in The Vancouver Sun suggested that e-books now account for 5% to 6% of all U.S. book sales, although this is still a fledgling market not yet making money for most publishers. Also, traditional print publishers are losing money on books and have been for several years. For this reason, Kearney believes that publishers will accept the work of proven authors with great sales records, a trend they’ve been leaning toward for some time, in fact. This doesn’t bode well for up and coming midlist authors who’ve already taken their share of hits over the past twenty years.

There is a growing battle for readers from traditional publishers, Amazon, e-publishers, and independent authors. While independent authors have been marking down their newly published e-books to a dollar or less to attract readers, it seems that some of the big publishers are following suit. According to a piece in the Southern Review of Books, Harlequin is actually giving away a 15,000 e-book novella to readers, hoping to entice them to purchase the author’s full length work.

So, I’ve been wondering, where is all of this going to lead? As author and publisher, Julie H. Ferguson suggests in her insightful blog, the e-book explosion will definitely impact a writer’s contract. As Julie points out, it’s up to writers to keep up with the times and trends whether their publishers are on board with the e-book world or not.

The thing is, with over one million books being published (not including reprints) every year and with so many more people choosing to publish electronically, is there a real market for even a fraction of all those books? Statistics indicate that people aren’t reading more than they used to; in fact, they’re reading and buying fewer books. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the average book sells maybe 250 copies. With so many more books being published, could that figure drop to say, fifty copies in another five years? A writer’s world has always been challenging and competitive. While producing and promoting a book is certainly easier than it was fifteen years ago, the battle to rise from obscurity and sell lots of books might be harder than ever. It wouldn’t be wise to count on royalty income as one’s sole retirement plan. Given the way things are going, the odds aren’t great. On the other hand, I know a few fairly unknown independent authors who sell far more than 250 print copies of their work, so who knows?

To read the entire Kearney article go to

You’ll find the Southern Review of Books’ piece on e-books under No. 26 at

To read more of Julie’s insightful blogs on this and other topics go to

1 comment:

The Yard Bard said...

I'm pretty much in the dark as to how ebooks actually work, so I can't begin to imagine what their role will be in the future of publishing. More studying...