What Hugh Howey Won't Talk About (but Should). You, the Publishers, and the Channels. Part III of Several Parts
There are three possible tiers of distribution in contemporary publishing, and you. Let's deal with you first.
You May Have Built That but Now You Don't Own It
In the current publishing model, you aren't part of the distribution chain. That's because when you sign a publishing contract you transfer limited ownership of your writing to a third party in return for a defined form of renumeration, mainly, royalties. (There are fixed payment deals and many variants on the basic model, but I won't cover them.)
The limits of the ownership transfer can vary. In some cases (becoming more rare but still very common), you transfer all your rights indefinitely. In many cases, you also transfer your rights to works directly derived from the original, such as a sequel, even if you never write the sequel. This transfer can cover paper, audio, electronic, Braille and form factors yet to be developed (direct rendition of text to your frontal lobes via biometric inputs, for example. Don't laugh. That's not as Sci-Fi as it sounds. Give it ten years or so).
Other limitations can include:
These are other ownership limitations, but in today's world, the above are the most relevant.
Before going further, please hammer home the concept of "transfer of ownership" into your noggin. The US court system is quite comfortable with the idea and judges and juries will be unsympathetic to the argument that since you wrote it, you still "own" your book after you have sold it. I'm sorry, you don't own it anymore. The words, characters, plot, etc. are now owned by a third party with the exceptions of any specific limitation clauses built into your contract.
By understanding the critical concept of the transfer of ownership, you will avoid creating this type of pathetic post that appeared on Hugh Howey's blog on August 12th (and which no one bothered to correct). Reading this is equivalent to watching a toddler wander into rush hour traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway:
Amazon explained that midlist authors benefit from the increased sales of lower priced books. A $14.99 ebook in the KDP program has a 35% royalty rate. That’s $5.25 for the publisher and $9.74 for Amazon. A $9.99 ebook has a royalty rate of 70%. That’s $6.99 for the publisher and $3.0 for Amazon, which seems like a poor deal for the retailer (a loss of $6.74 on every book sold at $9.99 compared to $14.99), but $9.99 ebooks outsell $14.99 ebooks by a ratio of 1.74: 1. For every 1.74 ebooks sold, the retailer makes $5.22, $12.17 goes to the publisher and there’s a saving of $5/ebook for the reader.
Poor Shelagh (though, in her defense, Amazon is promulgating the myth that their retail usage fee is a royalty) believes that after she uploads her book to Amazon with a $9.99+ price tag she will be receiving "royalties." This is wrong. Uploading her book simply means it can now be listed and purchased on Amazon. At no time will she have ever transferred ownership rights to her book during the process of uploading it to the Amazon servers. She will never receive a penny from Amazon in royalties. Amazon will take 65% of the sale while providing no publishing services and minimal marketing programs. All she will receive is 35% of the income of the sales of her book. The rest of the money will now rest comfortably in Jeff Bezo's pocket.
(If you jump to the complete post, you'll quickly find it's mathematical gibberish because its entire premise is based on an erroneous presumption. Shelagh has zero understanding of the concept of retailer margins and markup but you don't.)
You and the Publishing World of Tomorrow
Before going further, if you, as an indie author, decide it is your best interests to sign with a publisher, I strongly suggest you not sign a traditional publishing contract unless they're offering you an obscene amount of money to do so. Definitions of obscenity vary, but even if you've led a G-rated life, I doubt you're going to see a giant advance. (If you do, don't write to tell me; I'll just hit you up for a loan.)
Assuming you do move ahead with a publisher, your contract should incorporate:
Let's examine that last bullet point in greater detail. In all the sound and fury surrounding the Hachette vs. Amazon struggle, the most critical point has been ignored. And that is publishers are traditionally supposed to be able to sell and market your books, but in the world of E-books, they can't.
Why? Because they don't know who their buyers and readers are. Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords et al do.
In the vanishing world of paper, publishers marketed their products primarily by putting them in places where people went to buy books. The model allowed them to know how many books were sold and where, but it never informed them of who bought the books. To this day, none of the major publishers have good information on their readers. They're starting to obtain that information via their own direct sales operations, but the data is fragmented across divisions and platforms. I doubt if any of them have a handle on their E-sales or have good analytics systems in place. That kind of geek stuff is not what they've been trained to think about.
This means that major publishers are seriously handicapped when it comes to providing the publishing services of tomorrow. While I don't know how the current H vs. A imbroglio plays out, I do know what will happen if publishers don't learn to identify their readers and put together effective marketing programs on behalf of writers.
The retailers will. And believe me, they are thinking about it. I'll shortly be writing about MDF (marketing development funds) programs in this series and the part they play in channels. It will be informative.
But in the meantime, if the big publishers are smart, they'll buy Kobo, or Smashwords or Oyster or someone and use that as a start to create a counterweight to Amazon and a data analytics hub for their own marketing purposes. Because if they don't, they are truly doomed. The channel will devour them whole and they'll deserve their fate.
Review Submission Guidellines
Want me to review your book? You must join the Rule-Set mailing list and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do NOT use the contact form for a review request; for press and publishers only. Your book can be a proof but ready for sale within 60 days.
Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
I'll take a look at YA, but I'm not the best fit to that audience. PDF, Mobi, print all fine. If you have an author website you wish me to link to, please provide the URL. I don't charge and I also don't guarantee a good review!
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