The Slipstream

A degree of the surreal,

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And the markedly anti-real.

Living Through Interesting Times

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It has become more a mantra than even a cliché, but “we’re living in interesting times” is repeatedly chanted by book industry insiders. And aren’t we just! There are more opportunities for writers than ever before. That is, there are more opportunities to write, connect and publish, but realistically, probably no more actual opportunities to earn a sustainable income.

And there’s the rub- more opportunities for you to publish, means more opportunity for *every* author to publish, and how someone will find you among the millions is one of the biggest questions authors need to grapple with.

I should admit that in many cases I am still an advocate of working within the traditional publishing model – if you can break into it. Established commercial publishers are often the best way for a writer to start their career. Traditional publishers have the expertise and connections to get your book out to readers. They already have the editors, cover designers, typesetters, distribution channels, and contracts, already organised, and most of the time, they pay you. However, there are many flaws with traditional publishing. Established publishers are not always able to innovate as quickly as individuals, and often cannot properly reward the efforts of very savvy self promoting authors who may benefit most from remaining independent.

Saying that, self-publishing is hard work. Unlike traditional publishing, you don’t have someone in your corner who loves your manuscript and has a vested financial interest in its success. Sometimes, authors need tough love to ensure the manuscript is the best it can be. The editorial process can be brutal to both the author and the editor, but a stronger work will invariably emerge. If you are going it alone, GET AN EDITOR. I recommend finding both a structural editor and a copy editor: these professional book loving people do different and valuable things, both are worth it.

It is also incredibly important to go into self-publishing with realistic goals. For every success story, there are thousands who have barely sold a book. It is hard to get firm statistics on the actual income derived from digital self-publishing, but the vast majority of authors will receive less than $10 in total per book they self-publish. Author R. Scot Johns crunched some numbers over on his blog, and from this Lulu infograph, calculated that if there was a total of $36million earned and the top 5 earned $1.3million, the remaining 1.44million+ books earned less than $25 each. (Lulu are a self-publishing platform that helps authors make their books available via Amazon and Apple)

There is also a recent report called Not A Gold Rush based on a survey of 1007 self-published authors. If this small sample is indicative of the industry, 10% of authors earned 75% of the royalties. If this is then applied to Lulu’s infograph, the top 10% would earn $187 per title with everyone else earning less than $7. If your goal as a writer is to have your work available, then self-publishing is a great way to go. If you want to reach more people and try to build a career as an author, working with a traditional publisher is still the best option, or else prepare yourself for an uphill battle.

When signing a traditional publishing contract, as a general rule of thumb, you should expect print royalties of 10% of the recommended retail price, ebook royalties of 25% of net receipts, and an advance of approximately half the royalties you would earn on the first print run. Some publishers, particularly independent publishers, may not offer an advance, but if they have a solid reputation and do good work, this shouldn’t necessarily stand in the way. Watch out for fine print that means the publisher can reduce the royalty if they offer discounts 50% or lower, and make sure there is a reversion clause that allows you to reclaim the rights if your book is no longer selling (and not just “out of print”).

If you are print self-publishing, carefully consider how many copies you should print. While the price-per-book may be cheaper if you print 3000 copies from overseas, to avoid having 2961 copies in your garage for the next decade, consider a smaller print run of 50 -500 from companies such as Lightning Source. Be very careful of any company that calls itself a publisher but asks you for money. Most of these are vastly overpriced, and you are left with a large bill and a mediocre product. Do your research on any company before handing over your credit card.

If you are digital self-publishing, you are faced with the same issues of discoverability. Remember to look at all the eRetailing options, and do not only sign with the biggest game in town (*ahem*, Amazon). A good option is to also use an aggregator company, like Smashwords, that will help get your ebook into a number of channels.

When publishing ebook only, you should also be receiving a much higher royalty. Digital only publishers pay 40%+, Amazon offers 70% for sales in the US/UK (but only 35% for sales in Australia), and Smashwords offers 60%+ depending on which channel the sale goes through. In any event, the more sites you have your ebook available through, the better your chances that readers will find you. Word of mouth is important (this is where Twitter and Facebook come into their own) and a good review from a trusted source is worth its weight in gold.

When signing a contract, no matter how bad the terms, if there is no better option, no room for negotiating and you are benefitting in some way from the deal, then (with many caveats) it is not necessarily a problem to experiment and see how it goes. The most important thing to watch out for is an exit clause! Most contracts should allow you to terminate on 30 days notice. Do not sign any agreement that locks you in forever.

Despite the gloom facing the publishing industry at the moment, I believe the future is bright. The seismic shift in balance has already seen some publishers open the gates to unsolicited manuscripts, and start innovating with digital only imprints. In a few years, the industry will stabilise. Some publishers will fall or downsize, and some will thrive. I particularly see the future of Australian publishing being with the indie publishers who are small and nimble, picking up Australian stories they are passionate about, but able to promote them to the world stage. Authors will continue to beaver away for little or no income, and many publishers for not much more.

The most vulnerable member of the industry is the bookshops, and I cannot stress enough the importance of bookshops to emerging authors. For almost every bestseller, the author had their start being championed by indie booksellers. If you care about discovering exciting original authors, or are an exciting original author yourself, support your local bookstores. To abuse them as a mere display case to then order online devalues their passion, expertise and importance to the industry. Many booksellers now sell ebooks as well, so please think twice before buying from overseas.

Despite the brave new world, obscurity and penury continue to plague most authors. And yet, authors remain optimistic and dedicated to their calling. Perhaps the largest benefit for writers is the new community building options at their finger tips. No longer is a writer alone in a garret (unless they want to be) and, wherever they may be in the real world, they can still be part of a writing group that spans the world, or debating on twitter or playing around on facebook. I would highly recommend all authors tap into this invaluable community resource. For advice, critique and support, the technology has opened up human interactions like never before.

I first met Alex Adsett when she was working in the Rights Department at Penguin books. I remember I once got a letter from the Reality Department, which is part of the Rights Department only I misread it and thought I had got a letter from the Reality Department. I was enchanted and bemused, until it dawned on me that I had mis seen. Yet still to this day, I can’t help but feel that rights and royalties are dealt with by the Reality Department.

Years later, Alex left Penguin and moved up to Queensland, and in the last few years I see her name all over the place as someone speaking and writing about publishing and author rights and books. She knows a good deal, because aside from her experience in the Reality Department at Penguin, she is now a publishing consultant who offers commercial contract advice to authors and publishers, including print, digital and film contracts. She also represents genre fiction as a literary agent and serves on various Boards. You can find her via her website, Alex Adsett Publishing Services, and on facebook here. You can also follow her on Twitter where she is @alexadsett.

Her long and varied experience in the industry both in the world of Big Publishing, and iindie publishers, not to mention struggling and not so struggling authors, makes her the perfect first guest for The Great Debate, which begins today and runs for a month. The debate is really more of a forum about book forms, and Alex offers us a good solid grounding of information, upon which to build our discussion.

I am sure you will find her piece as engrossing as I did.

64 Responses

  1. Vauny says:

    I am a huge supporter of ebooks. It makes sense of course that an end user has different perspectives than someone who works in the industry. But to me ebooks are incredibly convenient (I actually buy books more readily in ebook form) and they open up a wold of possibility for user experience (just look at richard dawkins’ new ebook app). Though I do understand that the book industry is a business like everything else, I think the answer to the ebook issue is to embrace the trend, maybe publishers offer smaller contracts to help people digital publish and if they’re sucessful, move them into print. This would create more jobs in the industry and bring publishers more of a slice if the ebook pie.

    We’re living in an age of digital DIY. Where people see creative digital jobs (not just writing) and think “I’m creative I can do this too!” usually with mixed to bad results.

    The flip side of this though is that now there’s books for everyone. You want epic 600 page fantasies but don’t want to lug the physical book around? Ebooks. You want trashy romance but don’t want to have to look are Fargo on the cover every time you pick it up? Ebooks. You want something simple, quick and easy to read and $8 sounds much more reasonable to you for a quick once read than $20? Ebooks. You want to have a copy of 1984 and brave new world with you everywhere so you can pretentiously make the argument that that the future is going to be more like Huxley’s version than Orwell’s? Ebooks.

    • Hi Vauny, Great comments. Some publishers are already offering ebook only contracts to authors (for little or no advance) and if successful, moving onto print. Apparently many more of the big publishers will be doing this by the end of the year. Watch this space! Cheers, Alex

    • Emily Craven says:

      What I would LOVE to see is publishers selling their hardcopies with free ebook versions. I love having hard copies at home to read, but when travelling about, a tablet is just too convenient. If I could just pick up on a tablet where I left off in the print book I would be in heaven.

  2. Marta says:

    At the moment, I’m still a die-hard traditionalist – I like my books in print, as is evidenced by the many very-full bookcases scattered around my house! Having said that, however, I’m also in the process of (probably vainly) trying to write my first novel. Yes, I will one day try to get this one published – if not this one, then the next; or the one after. And I’m going to try to do this first with traditional publishers. Not because I expect to make a career out of writing, but because… I don’t know; there’s something exciting about the prospect of having your words in physical print! As Alex says, though, it’s tough to break in. So if after a couple of manuscripts I’m not having any luck, I will definitely look into the ebook market. As the previous commenter said, many people are now considering ebooks a more convenient and affordable way to buy books. And as Alex said, there are more opportunities to get your work out there if you e-publish; but, as she also said, if you e-publish, there’s less chance your work will be widely read.

    So, despite being computer literate (I worked as a software engineer for 7 years – but am currently in the process of escaping into another field!), for me traditional publishing and paperbacks are still the pinnacle. But I’m also realistic and realise things might not go the way I plan and if not, I’m glad to have articles such as this one telling me what to expect, and giving me advice about breaking into the ebook world!

    • Hi! I think this sounds like a good way to go. Always best to at least try to see if a traditional publisher will love your book and do some of the hard yards for you. And if not, then you have all the other options at your fingertips. x A

  3. carolko says:

    Great article Alex!

    Sadly, few of us will suddenly be discovered by self-publishing a book, either in print or the ‘e’ world.

    It’s a lot of work and a huge learning curve. Just the frustrating process of getting a US Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is a quest akin to getting the ring to Mordor. This would be more upsetting than frustrating if the amount in my Smashwords account was more than $46 🙂

    Having self-published, I would say that the lack of a professional editor is the biggest impact of that route. I certainly wouldn’t publish another without paying a professional or as you have suggested, perhaps a structural editor and a copy editor.

    The upside is that maybe publishers are getting a bit of a wakeup call and will lift their game. No longer can they keep our manuscripts for one year, fobbing us off with “it’s next on the pile” or sending rejection letters that are addressed to “dear author”.

    • Min Dean says:

      Thanks for your comment! I’ve got a (probably really dumb) question that shows my ignorance in the process of getting a book online; but I’m interested as a web developer looking into building an online solution…soonish.
      Do the current self-publishing solutions even offer editing alternatives as part of the process?
      Eg, when you’re submitting, do they provide a checklist (“have you had your manuscript edited professionally (if not, here’s why you might consider it, and here’s some people we recommend)?).
      Or is it left down to the author to arrange the whole thing prior to submission?

      Thanks in advance 🙂

    • carolko says:

      Hi Min:

      The simple answer is no; at least that is what I think it is.
      Amazon is the one you have to be on but I found it unwieldy; for example, I still struggle to work out how I publish and unpublish and quite often get lost navigating my way around. If there are great help/style files on there, they didn’t jump out at me.

      I found it easier to go via an Indy eBook publisher initially. A good one for you to look at (and perhaps go through the process – even with a short story) would be Smashwords. It is written in English to the point where going in totally blind, I managed to run my manuscript through the “grinder” (I can’t remember exactly what it’s called) and grab it in all the desired formats after it passed through – in one weekend. I was infinitely pleased with that, until I realised that I had a world of work to do, considering no one had heard of me or knew anything about my book.

      Prior to uploading, I downloaded their style guide and browsed that. I also downloaded .pdf templates for the cover – in all variations so designed the cover specifically to fit those.

      They do offer a service called: “Mark’s List” ($40+) which will give you a list of formatters and cover designers; but even doing a quick browse of the site now, I didn’t see any recommended editors (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that I didn’t find it.)

      I think the objective of their business is to get you to publish and I would say that they assume having reached that point, we figure we are ready – when in fact, many of us aren’t.

      Frankly, I think you could turn ePublishing on its ear if you offer advice and tools for those of us that have no idea where to look or even what the cost might be.

      Good luck! I’ll be interested in seeing your solution in all its glory!


    • Hi Min, I agree with Carolko. Smashwords are great and really go above and beyond in their user guides. If you’re looking for professionals to help you though, a great starting point is the Australian Writers Marketplace (available as a print book or online). x A

    • Min, as a web dev you have the skills to create your ePub files already – ePub is pretty much just HTML/XHTML. You would only need Smashwords for easier cross-platform distribution.
      Although, I would suggest employing at least a structural editor to look at your work then considering producing your own ePub files for Amazon and Apple (and Kobo and Nook if you want). It’s really, really easy for anyone with web dev skills. For some more info, see this site:

    • Min Dean says:

      Oh – gosh, I’m not an author Liam – I really am a web developer/user interface designer. In the writing world, I’m a fan, a reader, and I’ve dabbled in some (mostly continuity) editing for Isobelle.

      I was asking about the editing factor because it felt like an oversight in the development process, since if a website is taking on the role of a publishing house, they need to be the ones interested in getting the best out of their authors.
      But as Carolko said their interest is to get the work published regardless / making money.

      It certainly sounds like Smashwords is the best option, when trying to find an online version of the traditional publishing model – with their $40 list and style guide and such – but as someone who works with refining user processes online all day, it feels a little bit tacked on at the end, and to dismiss editing…I can’t believe it’s not a priority. Is there really no direct substitute for the traditional publishing process/model online? I guess this is why so many authors are so frustrated by what’s on offer…
      Maybe they were initially created by people not from the publishing industry, so they’ve genuinely missed a few important steps?

      I’ll let you know when I have a beta available of my (poor, neglected – silly full time day job always gets in the way of things I want to do 😛 ) web app, Carolko 🙂

    • Sorry, I misunderstood.

      I think some eBook services offer add ons or recommended partners/directories for professional editing. But in most cases it’s up to the author to organise it. I really don’t understand why any author would publish an eBook without paying at least a structural editor to look at their work. I guess it could be a financial decision… But if it was me, I’d wait until I could afford one. I wouldn’t consider the book finished without an editor looking at it?

      I’m anticipating (hoping?) Amazon adding a feature that might encourage self-publishing authors to seek a professional editor… Or to at least self-proclaim their work has been edited. Obviously, such a system could be ignored and gamed… But at least it would make the suggestion.

      Look forward to seeing your web app. Please ping me on twitter when it’s out – @liamcampbell

    • Emily Craven says:

      Sadly a lot of people see it as an expense they can’t afford or (and we’ve all been there at some point early in our careers) they believe their writing is so good an editor isn’t needed :S

      A lot of authors are warned against ‘paying’ to be published as well. This makes many newbies wary of being scammed. So I think you need to be fairly reputable before people would trust a service enough to both distribute and edit work. At least that’s the sense I get from talking to authors

    • Min Dean says:

      Maybe that’s why the big websites haven’t added editing services; because authors simply will not trust someone they don’t know with their work?
      Many of the authors I’ve spoken to about the process want to be edited, and want to get the most out of their work; whether they are the best writer in the world or not, you are far too close to your work upon completion to be objective about it and things will get missed. The problem is they don’t know where to find editors – trustworthy editors, who aren’t out simply to stamp their signature on someone else’s hard work.

      The whole being scammed by paying someone could be sorted out by, as a publishing house, not asking them for money to be edited. All you do is hook author up with suggested editor, and they negotiate prices themselves. It makes the process of getting manuscript to print (or, virtual-print) longer, because who knows how long they’ll work together for. But if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, right?

    • Emily Craven says:

      You won’t here me arguing on that point Min! I think confusion also comes from people believing any old editor can work with any old genre. The best work/result comes out of authors being paired with an editor who specialises/has the majority of their experience in a certain genre. Maybe compiling a list of people in different catagories might be the way to go? That will take the load of the editors who contribute too. If you also allowed a testimonial page for each editor that would help to boost author confidence in the area and help them make an informed decision on who is best for them.

    • Carolko, You’re doing better than me if you succeeded in getting a US TIN. After forking out money left and right to send passport etc to Canberra for a “notary” to sign a piece of paper, the US tax dept still figured I hadn’t filled out the forms correctly. They didn’t even send my paperwork back. I believe there are people who charge to obtain TINs, but as you say, for the saving, it’s hardly worth the effort. Just as well I wasn’t on the quest for the ring to Mordor, huh? I would’ve turned back lol.

    • carolko says:

      lol Paul. I should point out that I’m yet to receive my TIN. In fact, the single sheet of paper alerting me to the fact that I didn’t submit a country treaty code (which I did) is sitting here; crouched on the edge of my desk… mocking me.

      I’ve decided I’ll have to call and speak to a human; but as I’m not even at $50 in my account; I figure I won’t have to rush that part! And I expect no joy when I do!


    • I can’t understand why you need to get a TIN when all you need is a Certificate of Foreign Status which can be a facsimile of the IRS W-8
      “This is a substitute of the Form W-8 as permitted by the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, USA. The important phrase is “Under penalties of perjury, I certify that I am filing for a foreign corporation which is exempt from supplying a T.I.N. and exempt from backup withholding taxes. [Name Here] is incorporated in Australia. [signature of office bearer]
      And for the unexperienced USA recipients the phrase “This form is used in place of form W-9, which is for residents, citizens and entities of USA”

      As publishers we have been selling books in the USA on Invoice for more than a decade. The IRS maintains an office in Sydney if you need further clarification.

    • That’s great information, Peter. Thank you! Some eretailers (like Smashwords) really require you to get all the US forms, but I wonder if your advice would work for them as well?
      x A

    • carolko says:

      I’d certainly like to find out if that is the case!

    • Interesting info–I’ve just had my application for ITIN rejected by the IRS despite the fact that I had everything in order–a certified notarised copy of passport(notarised by US Consulate, with apostille), correctly filled in W-7 form(which was overseen by Consulate, who raised no objections), letter from a previous publisher in US(who still send me royalties and who still have to take taxout) as wel as an explanation of how I was going to be publishing through Amazon. In vain. I was just going to give up and claim back tax as a foreign tax credit through the ATO but what you say Peter makes me wonder if there might be another way. Where does one contact the IRS in Australia?
      Seems to me as though this is the single biggest hurdle for self e-publishers, an extremely annoying one too!

    • Checking again on the IRS site–it does say quite clearly that to get that certificate(ie for Amazon or whoever to accept your W8BEN form) you have to have an ITIN first. Catch 22!

    • Not sure why people are having difficulty registering for tax in the US. I’ve done this several times and helped other authors do it. Each time though, it’s been for an EIN not a TIN. It’s fairly straightforward for Australians because of the double tax agreement with the US. If you hit a snag, just use Skype to call the IRS in the US and they will sort it out for you.
      When signing up for the iBookstore, Apple have a good guide on how to do this.

    • Liam, I looked up the EIN pages on the IRS website–but can’t see how it applies to authors, as it’s an employer identification number, as my sole trader business doesn’t fit any of their categories.

    • Sophie, I applied for an EIN as a sole trader as this was what Apple told me to do. It took a little while but was straightforward. I haven’t visited the IRS website for a few months, so perhaps something has changed? I originally applied on 2008, but I have been recommending EIN applications to the authors I am working with and they seem to be registering ok.
      I’d suggest calling the IRS and speaking to someone there if the documentation on their site is unclear?

    • Emily Craven says:

      WOWEEE. Heather you have found the single most simple explanation for doing this! You are awesome, no wonder Isobelle thinks the world of you!

    • Heather Giles says:

      Em, oops, I can’t take the credit for this it was the amazing Isobelle who sent me this link and we will apply for an EIN if her application for an ITIN is rejected.

    • Emily Craven says:

      And you call yourself a Luddite Isobelle!

    • Hi Caralko, I think the big publishers are really speeding up their game. Many of them are now taking unsolicited manuscripts one day a week, and when they really need to, they can race a “high buzz” book to print in 6-8 weeks. x A

  4. Katy Hulme says:

    Thank you Alex (and her host, Isobelle!) for this wonderfully informative and valuable inside look into self publishing. For aspiring novelists such as myself, I’ve found it quite difficult to find clear and concise guidance on what a self published author should expect and be wary of in terms of distribution channels, royalties, and the like. This is exactly the sort of article I’ve been looking for.

    From a reader’s perspective, it’s certainly been fascinating to watch the ebook/”death of the book” debate unfold. I don’t think I’ll ever stopping loving the feel of a traditional printed book, but I recognise and appreciate the need for ebooks too. I can’t deny that long plane trips are made significantly less burdensome when my e-reader relives me of a number of chunky reads (Isobelle, I’m looking at you!). Ultimately though, if ebooks are what it takes to get more people reading and to increase literacy levels, then I’m all for it.

    My ongoing belief, however, is that a love of reading and a love of books are independent concepts. There will always be people who love reading, regardless of the format the words come in, and there will always be people who love books; seeing them on the shelf, tracking a bookmark’s progress, admiring beautiful covers. Because of that, I’m convinced there will be a place in the world for both ebooks and traditional books for some time yet.

    Thanks again ladies for the wonderful read.

    • Thanks Katy. I hope so too. There are stats around to show that more people are reading than ever. As exciting as all the development and opportunities are, as long as I get my beloved print books, I’ll be happy. 🙂

  5. Deb says:

    What a great start to the site. Alex’s information and advice is wonderful. As someone who has never tried an e-book, it has certainly given some insight to the whole phenomenon.

    I love books, old musty books, new shiny books, all kids of books (much to my husbands disgust). I’m never without one. I read (too much) everywhere, except on the loo. There is nothing better than relaxing in a hot bath with a good book and I think I’d be terrified of dropping an e-reader while in the bath.

    However, I have decided that I’m going to invest in an ipad in the near future and check out some e-books. I don’t think they will ever replace ‘real’ books fully, or I hope they don’t, but I can see the convenience in not having to drag an extra suitcase around so as to have reading material.

  6. *disclaimer* I work for eBook company Kobo

    But I speak for myself

    I love the idea of a transient time limited website to promote a book.. and the drip feed release of content will keep me coming back

    On to ebooks

    If I was a new author without a hefty swag of cash to back up my writing endeavours I’d be using the web to get editorial advice from various author hubs.. For genre writers the Penguin backed is an interesting project for example. I say that because the self-published works that do best are the ones that get the best reviews and the most recommendations and sharing and invariably these have had editorial input.

    It’s easy enough to stimulate a bit of demand with blog saturation posting, twitter bombing and price promoting, but for sustained interest you still need to find a community of readers to help you promote your book.

    Also.. DO NOT think that any old image or cover will do.. there is a feel that is engendered by what i would call “crap self-published graphic design” style. It makes your book look cheap and we do indeed judge things by their covers. Get some design advice for your cover, or look at what the really popular guys are doing.. it’s usually simple and it works.

    eBooks are not just here to stay they already make up over $70million dollars of sales in Australia alone and in a market of that size doing your homework will ensure you maximise your readership

    • 70 million!!! wow I had not known it was that much- what is the breakdown- is it mostly big name authors?

    • Hi Isobelle.. There is a huge swathe of books across all categories that make up that number but I’d imagine that the 50 shades books and the hunger games trilogy’s are both over the 100k mark so yes the bestsellers are huge.

      That been said self-published titles are possibly as much as 10% of the market, as opposed to <1% in print form.

      My usual disclaimer been that we all just make the most educated guesses we can about Amazon

    • Thanks for jumping in Malcolm. Great advice! (Everyone else: Malcolm is one of THE ebook gurus in Australia. He’s usually worth paying attention to) 🙂

  7. Natalie says:

    Thankyou Alex for that intriguing article! It’s surprising to see the statistics of today’s publishing world. To think that some authors barely get any money for their pride and joy.

    I have a mixed opinion of e-books. I will always be a fan of actual printed books with their gorgeous covers and that wonderful ‘book smell’. However, e-books are just so accessible these days and it’s much easier to carry around an e-book on your phone/kindle/iPad than to lug around a novel with you wherever you go.

    Also, with traditional books, there is a larger sense of accomplishment when you actually finish a book. With an e-book, you get to the end, and because there was no definitive change in the structure of the e-book, there’s a stronger sense of “Is that it?”.

    I’m going to continue to buy both e-books and normal books, because I think books add a little something extra to a room, and can give you knowledge and strength through your whole lifetime.

  8. Linda Funnell says:

    Great overview, Alex, thanks, and I will recommend it.
    One question, though, re Amazon: I’ve not previously heard that they pay Australian authors only 35% instead of 70% — though I am aware that they pay a lower percentage for titles above their preferred $9.99 pricepoint. Can you confirm this please? Thanks.

    • Hi Linda,
      It’s not that Amazon pay Australian authors less, rather it’s that on certain of their programs (including the one that is most accessible for self-publishing authors) they pay 35% for sales IN Australia (and much of the rest of the world). I believe it is 70% for sales in UK, US, Canada and Germany, regardless of where the author actually lives. Hope that helps. x A

  9. Heather Giles says:

    good advice Malcolm, that’s where I have found the best information on self publishing ebooks on author hubs and whether it is a print book or ebook if you are not choosing by author it is the cover that draws you in, whether to click on a button or to reach out and pick it up.

  10. Sionainn says:

    Certainly, interesting. Especially the statistics side of things, though a lot of this I was already aware of.

    I’m definitely not surprised about the low percentage Australian’s get in royalties from Amazon compared to the US/UK counterparts. I currently have a friend who is attempting to get the payment method Amazon uses for international authors changed since the majority of her royalities actually goes towards the processing fees to actually get her cheques cleared.

    • Yes, Sionainn, It’s odd that amazon, for all their tech whizz-bang, can’t figure out how to pay by direct international deposit. (More the case they can’t be bothered, of course.) Not only is there the postal delay, a 28 day wait for the money, but it also costs, what, $10, $20, for the bank fee and the wasted twenty minutes in the bank itself. Very, very annoying!

  11. I have to admit that I still love working with traditional publishers- I have loved the process of bringing a book from first draft to that thrilling moment when your advance copies of the newest book arrive in the mail in tangible form. And publishing an E book is a solitary business especially if you do not bother with sourcing an editor or cover artist. But I do truly think we are in a time of flux and change, and the best way forward for all of us – authors and illustrators and publishers and agents and all those whose life is books in a career sense – is to share information and make ourselves aware of what is happening. Hence my decision to create a go to forum where we can all locate advice, ideas and opinions- but also share numbers and figures and facts we have discovered, and discuss them- it is my hope that before this site self destructs at the end of its month, we will all have a much better idea of what the eVolution means to us.

  12. Alex, I’m glad you pointed out the sad fact that people go into bookshops, browse the books, then buy from online. An underhanded thing to do. I believe Australia has something like 22% indi bookstores, England has around 11% and the US even fewer (can’t remember exact figures, but I think I’m close, especially local indies). Compared to overseas, we’re healthy. But if we lose these stores, publishers won’t survive. Similarly, buying your books from chain stores robs the independents, as the latter can’t buy the books from the publishers at the price the chain stores are selling them at (they buy in huge quantities at 70% discount). They’re called “loss leaders”, a product aimed merely at getting people into the store. All of which of course will push the cause for the e-book revolution. I’m just hoping print books don’t go as quickly as the vinyl record did.

    • Deb says:

      Bite your tongue Paul. Though I still have a massive collection of vinyl that I play, admittedly they are all oldies.

      While I do buy books online, it’s usually only those that are not available in Australia. I buy the rest through bookshops owned by people I know. The rest I get from second hand book shops. I love trawling through the shelves to see what little gems i can pick up.

    • Marta says:

      And book stalls at markets and fetes, Deb! It’s not unheard of me for to emerge from those with a carton (or two or three) of novels!

    • Thanks Paul!
      With the demise of Borders and many of the A&Rs, I believe our Indie bookstores are actually now about 30% of our market. Sure, that’s a bigger slice of a smaller pie- but it is still something to be INCREDIBLY proud of.

      But, almost every week we’re seeing another indie store close because former customers are browsing and then buying from overseas. Most indie stores are also now selling ebooks too- so I’ll repeat my shout out to support the bookstores before we lose them!

  13. “I should admit that in many cases I am still an advocate of working within the traditional publishing model – if you can break into it. Established commercial publishers are often the best way for a writer to start their career. Traditional publishers have the expertise and connections to get your book out to readers. They already have the editors, cover designers, typesetters, distribution channels, and contracts, already organized, and most of the time, they pay you.”

    I noticed a number of luddites (no just jesting) who prefer the ink on paper book. In an early life I was a qualified Master Printer (old style) so I do have a love of beautiful paper with sharp and crisp letterpress type. Not that you get that today with direct to plate offset lithography and so called commercial registration (near enough is good enough). I have a love of real books so you can see I come from a number of sides, albeit technical to begin with then visual arts and music composition, photography, theatre and dance.

    I have picked the introductory quote above but could have picked a number of other quotes from elsewhere. To point out there has been no mention yet of bands, who self-record, duplicate and sell at gigs. In fact merchandising is a big part of band income. This do it all yourself model works and there is no reason why it cannot work with ePUBS and in particular with enhanced eBooks.

    You can research bands that did it their way and made both an artistically and monetarily life style for themselves.

    The one thing you need is a good method of promoting yourself. To get noticed. Whether it be with professional trailers, viral video, interviews with papers and magazine (particularly the online ones) and of course the old chestnut “networking” even if this may only be on line.

    • Hi again Peter. Having a platform to promote yourself is absolutely key. The self-published authors who I see as being most successful are the ones who have written a non-fiction book that ties in with public speaking that they already do. They already have the audience, and the book dovetails nicely with that.

      Many authors are already using public speaking to supplement their income- and are sometimes making more from this than the book sales. x A

  14. Fascinating article Alex. A bit depressing about how much authors and illustrators can earn though!

    I thoroughly agree with you on the importance of both structural and copy editing before publishing – either on paper or in cyberspace, through traditional publishers or on your own. This is where the value of manuscript assessors come in. Some do editing as well as offer creative professional advice.

    (Warning! Shameless self-promotion here!) Create a Kids’ Book has been operating for fifteen years, and has helped over forty books to reach publication. Both structural and copy editing are part of the standard assessment package.

  15. Just wanted to mention something that’s frustrated me as a reader of eBooks.

    If you create an eBook, please link to your other titles at the end of the book. If your book is a part of a series, then make it very clear both within the book and in the website description (Amazon, iBooks etc) how readers find your other books, which number this book is in the series etc.

    You’d be surprised how often authors and publishers neglect to do this. Seems crazy. If a reader enjoys a book, shouldn’t you provide them with links to the author’s other books?

    • Emily Craven says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more Liam! In any other business, selling a product to someone and then just letting them go after all your hard work to get them there is considered insane and akin to bankrupcy. But this is the norm in publishing. WHY??? There are so many tools and ways to make sure you stay in contact with people. Not only should they be linking to other books in their series, they should be providing links to sign up to email lists, like facebook pages, or directly email you etc.

      And why stop there? Why not collaborate with fellow authors in your genres? Promote the others book at the end of your own. You can sign up as a Smashwords/Amazon affiliate and even get PAID for doing the cross promotion.

    • It’s such a frustrating experience when I’ve wanted to start reading a series and had to google to find a list of the books in chronological order. This gets particularly difficult if it’s a series written by more than one author. So frustrating. There’s nothing worse than reading a book and finding out it’s actually the second book in a series!
      Printed books don’t have this problem as they actually have a back cover. Some eBooks don’t even include an imprint page so it can hard to find out when they were published.

  16. Maureen says:

    I was given an amazon kindle for my birthday last year and I’ve found that I use it for very specific situations- on holidays, overseas trips and on public transport. I also keep academic texts on there for my thesis because it is just so much easier than purchasing a bunch of hardcopy non fiction books which I would then need to find a place for.

    Otherwise, I prefer to read a hardcopy fiction book. I find it really difficult to concentrate for long periods on the kindle and I like the feel of holding an actual book. I find it even harder on the computer in pdf format. I recently won a pdf book in a competition and its a good 120k which I am finding a real challenge to read on a computer because of needing to take breaks from the screen.

    My friend and I have discussed this a great deal. We both find that we buy hard copy books written by authors we have either read before and enjoy, or have a big name, or have been reccomended by people we trust and then purchase self published ebooks or authors we need to take a chance on in ebook format. Having said that, my friend sometimes buys two copies of her favourite authors books in both hard copy and ebook just to be able to read them at all times, whenever she likes.

    One of the things we have both said, is that the cheaper ebook prices not only make it easier to take chances on new authors, it also makes us, as readers, more forgiving of weaker stories or weaker writing because of the bargain price. Recently, my friend bought a book off amazon for $8 that was a three in one self published trilogy. She reccomended it to me because even though the book wasn’t the greatest book ever written and it was somewhat obvious that the author would have benefited from an editor, the fantasy idea was so interesting, and the 3 in 1 such a good bargain, it was worth the price. I actually think having an ereader is encouraging me to read more books, and a wider variety of them!

    I always purchase books from my local bookstore unless they are unavailable, in which case I go look online. I hate it when my local bookstores go under. I was devestated when our local secondhand bookstore went out of buisness.

    • Maureen, there’s been a bit of debate lately about whether ebook authors should declare in their book description if their eBook has been professionally edited. I think this a great idea and hope we see it adopted!

    • Maureen says:

      That would be SO amazing! The self published book trilogy I purchased from kindle is driving me up the wall. It’s such a good fantasy concept but the endless exposition and use of first person leading to telling rather than showing is insanity inducing!

      As long as the prices are reasonable I don’t mind so much though.

    • Emily Craven says:

      Oh goodness yes, hear hear! I would even go so far as to name the editor as well.

      This is what I love so much about ebooks, is that people will take a chance on you if it’s cheap. I’m sure I’ve passed over many a good author because I refuse to pay the paperback price for something I might hate.

    • I think another great idea that is employed by some authors is rewarding their readers with a free ebook title via their website and then encouraging them to share it with their friends on social media.
      The reader feels grateful for receiving a free book and a little obligated to share it. Then those who download the book and enjoy it might seek out more paid titles from the same author. Cory Doctorow does this exceptionally well imo.

    • Emily Craven says:

      Have you heard of ‘Pay WIth a Tweet’ Liam? There people must tweet about the book to get it for free. Most people are lazy and will just send the tweet you generate for them. Others with change the tweet but they can’t change the link to download the book. Because they haven’t seen the book yet, if they change the tweet it can only be to something non-committal, never negative. Positive social media promotion, it’s the way to go!

  17. Ok, I can’t help myself… but all this thinking about eBooks has got me thinking.
    One of the interesting things about eBooks that is very different to print books is that they don’t go out of print. Assuming that the eBook platform doesn’t go out of business then the eBook is there until you withdraw it from sale.
    There is a downside to this. For example, one of the difficulties of being an app developer is releasing a new app and trying to break in to the top 100 lists because of apps that were released some time ago and have cemented their position in the ranks. There are ‘new and noteworthy’ and ‘featured’ sections to help deal with the problem… but it still reduces the available space for new titles.
    Compare this to a physical bookstore and a limited print run where titles refresh. But imagine the physical bookstore that every time new titles came out a new room was added to the front of the store and you could still find the old titles out the back. That’s the digital marketplace and that seems like a bit of a challenge for new authors.
    In the same way that a lot of new mobile users download the same apps as everyone else, will new eReaders download the same eBooks? I guess there have always been classics… but search for a topic that you want to read a fiction book on in a digital store and you aren’t going to decide just to buy the book in stock – because in the digital store all the books are in stock.
    It’s an interesting problem that’s only going to get more challenging I think. Take google for example. Is it just me or is everyone finding it harder to find stuff on google now? It seems like everyone is spinning articles and creating gammon websites to repost the same rewritten article to back link to their website in order to drive traffic and increase their google pagerank… SEO… zzz. SEO sucks. SEO is about gaming the system. It’s about using words to obscure and manipulate (but I digress).
    Problems for apps and eBooks: how to browse, how to discover, who recommends, how do I find new books, how to sift through the long tail… It’s such an interesting time.

    The Publishing industry as you knew it is dying, it’s all about Platforms now.

  18. Heather, that link for the EIN info is great. It’s a little counter-intuitive to have to apply for an Employer Identification Number, but that is what has worked for most people.

    (for some reason I can’t reply in line to your posts above)

    • Min Dean says:

      (for some reason I can’t reply in line to your posts above)

      I’ve just stopped comments from threading after a certain level, or it gets too hard to read (when you’ve got oodles of nested comments, I mean).
      You can just reply to the previous comment and it’ll appear below the others.