Yes, it’s true, successful thriller author Barry Eisler just walked away from a hefty 500K deal with Minotaur Books in a decision to self-publish his next novel, The Detachment. He had apparently been talking heatedly with self-pubbing guru, and fellow thriller writer, Joe Konrath, in order to learn all the digital angles before he took the plunge. In Eisler’s words: "it wasn't just that the 17.5% ebook royalty publishers are offering was looking less and less attractive compared to the 70% I can make on my own. It was that, combined with the way I saw the industry changing, along with my growing understanding of the overall longterm value of a legacy publishing deal vs the overall longterm value of going it alone."
Makes horrible sense. Publishers Weekly reported that there’s been a definitive rise in eBook sales. Bookstores can’t seem to sell enough books to stay out of financial trouble, and more and more folks are buying kindles, iPads and the like. I feel the burn too. In the Catskills, where I often go to escape the frenzy of NYC, the last great indie bookstore, Hamish & Henry is closing shop. I can’t find even a cruddy bookstore within a 50 or 60-mile radius. This lovely bookstore was the lifeblood of the western Catskill community. They hosted readings and talks and all kinds of fun parties. No holding back “progress” I guess. Ebooks are a sensible answer to the many, many people who love to read, and happen to live in places lacking a decent bookstore.
I’m a person who sees the glass half full, though. I see the revolts in the Middle East as exciting (not the bloodshed, but the overthrow of the 30 and 40-year stranglehold on the people)—a true reformation of the people, by the people. I also see this revolution in the book industry as potentially exciting, albeit scary.
Trade publishers are handing out less contracts as their budgets shrink. Smaller advances too. Bookstore chains are suffering. And forget about the smaller mom & pops. If amazon offers a 70 percent royalty on indie eBooks, why would an author be so incredibly excited about a much lower eBook royalty from a trade publisher? This phenom is similar to what happened in the music industry. You can’t find a good CD store anymore. If you want to buy an album (an old term already!), you head on over to iTunes and download one for half the price. The musicians still get paid (mainly earning their keep from touring anyway), and without all the middlemen.
On the flip side, self-pubbed superstar, Amanda Hocking is headed in the exact opposite direction. Grass is always greener, right? Word has it that she’s shopped around her new series to trade publishers. To quote the New York Times article: “On the same day Barry Eisler turned down half a million dollars from Minotaur to self-publish, news emerged publicly that Amanda Hocking appears to be doing the exact opposite. Yesterday afternoon we finally caught wind of what many in the industry have known about for weeks now, which is that agent Steve Axelrod is shopping her new four-book series to publishers, attracting bids of well over $1 million for world English rights."
Lastly, read the link about another self-pubbed book, Faking It by Elisa Lorello, that has caught fire.
Still, it’s a serious leap of faith for anyone who has struggled and sweated to finally land a book contract, or two, or three… and get published the traditional way, to even think about going rogue. As of now, I’m just a very interested bystander. Print will be around for a long time. Or, in Amanda Hocking's own words, "I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret: This isn't an either/or situation (print vs digital). You guys are both on the same team - Team Writer."