Contributing Writers future of the book Lee Foster traditional publishing

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing: A 2020 Vision

By Lee Foster

Few duties focus the mind more than an task to provide a 5-minute speak on a publishing panel. Lately, my task was: “Lee, since you’ve done books both self-published and with traditional publishers, what are the prospects for both strategies in 2020?”

The topic requested is something I’m enthusiastic about continuously.

This was a congenial activity for me: Supply a succinct 2020 vision of our guide publishing future.

There have been additionally three other guide authors on the panel. We might each describe our particular person publishing paths and visions. The panel was for the Bay Area Journey Writers, a gaggle in my San Francisco Bay Area region.

The Want for an Overview and For a Recent Perspective

I loved this task as a result of I’ve had constructive experiences in each publishing trajectories.

I’ve 13 traditional and 5 indie/self-pub books on my Amazon Writer Web page. Frankly, all have been good experiences. So I definitely had some observations to offer the other panelists and the viewers.

However I also got here to study and pay attention. Sometime a beginning writer has a recent strategy. For example, the organizer of the panel, Ruth Carlson, achieved a serious publicity coup. She persuaded the most important native TV evening news program in San Francisco, KGO TV, to run an extended phase interview in their prime-time evening newscast on her new and first guide, Secret San Francisco, from Reedy Press.

As I considered my speak, I knew I wanted to be temporary and cryptic. So I decided to concentrate on two revolutions and 4 observations that appear to me to lend probably the most readability or “2020 Vision” to our e-book publishing goals.


#1: Advertising

One vendor dominates, and that is Amazon, and all books look equal to the customer on Amazon.

It seems that Amazon sells perhaps 60% of all print books/ebooks bought in the U.S. I see numerous figures, some larger and some decrease, and want to have more precise numbers. Can anybody provide them with certainty and cite the source of the knowledge? Whatever the remaining accepted figures, the hugeness of Amazon in the marketplace is clear.

One consequence of this dominance: the looks of all books to the customer is equivalent on Amazon. That may be a putting element. The “shelf space” look given to every e-book is analogous. In reality, an indie writer who puts careful attention into the appropriate metadata for a e-book may find yourself with higher publicity than a standard writer. On my to-do record for this summer time: an enchancment in the metadata for all my books on Amazon. I confess I am means behind.

Back in 2000, once I revealed with Globe Pequot my royalty e-book Northern California Historical past Weekends, Amazon was not an element. As an writer, I absolutely wanted a standard writer to get the e-book into Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. At present bookstores remain vital, however are more marginal. The truth is, physical ebook placement in a bookstore is a unfavorable till the guide sells. After 90 days, the bookstore might properly send the ebook back to the writer/POD printer, with no revenue for anybody and substantial loss for the publisher.

Happily, my Globe Pequot guide will probably be jumping over later this yr to my self-pub stack from my traditional-pub stack. The new title shall be Northern California History Travel Adventures: 35 Recommended Journeys.

Globe Pequot gave me, amicably, a complete “reversion of publishing rights” letter relating to that volume and its content material. Globe Pequot and I had a great run collectively. The individuals at Globe Pequot love books and authors. I informed them, as they prepared to print another thousand copies at Bang Printing in Minnesota, that, “I could do the book better myself.” They stated, “Lee, we’re not here to slow you down. We’ll give you a clean reversion of publishing rights.”

#2: Know-how

Print-on-demand know-how makes it attainable for me as an writer to print one-off lovely black-and-white 200 pp books for maybe $4, and promote them for $15.

In the olden days, solely a standard publisher with the capital (perhaps $15Okay for 5K offset-printed copies bw e-book 200 pp) can be viable.

My advice to authors is to do a POD print e-book immediately with Amazon for Amazon and instantly with Ingram Spark for bookstores. My POD opportunity makes self-pub viable for me as long as I stick with bw books. Furthermore, with POD regionally out there worldwide, a buyer in London can order my books at this time and get them delivered tomorrow. The offset model would have to be shipped from some USA warehouse at high expense and delay. The sale would seldom happen.

In fact, POD won’t all the time work. I’m notably watching the worth and quality of colour POD and marvel when it is going to be viable. Your insights on that concern are welcome. Also, some books merely have a complexity of scale beyond my assets and my wishes to self-publish.

For instance, my most recent traditional pub e-book is with one of many prime worldwide journey publishers, Dorling Kindersley, also referred to as DK. It is Again Roads California of their Eyewitness Collection. I took a money buyout (about $15Okay for my portion) somewhat than a royalty for my writing/photograph content material for the e-book. I think they spent 1 / 4 million dollars of all points of this pretty shade and high-design venture. They’ve fans worldwide who buy each printed guide in their collection. They don’t seem to be concerned with ebooks.

Beyond comments on these two “revolutions,” I had a bit of time to make four observations on what I name “variables.”


#1: Income

Income could be larger in self-pub.

When my $15 guide sells in self-pub I earn about $four, paid subsequent month. When my $15 ebook sells in royalty traditional-pub, maybe 15% of internet, I earned a royalty of about $1, despatched to me 6 months later.

#2: Control

The control of publishing varieties is complete in self-pub, however may be highly restricted in traditional-pub.

Self-pub permits all conceivable types, reminiscent of print e-book, e book, website guide, and so on. Traditional-pub may mean print e-book solely, with content material locked up endlessly for other varieties.

#3: Gross sales

What sells a e-book immediately? Is it the writer or the “series” writer?

With every passing yr, it appears to me that energies of the writer turn out to be extra decisive, even if the e-book is in a “series.” Writer engagement in Social Media may be important.

In an earlier period, the “series” was extremely essential. I’ve had journey pictures in more that 300 Lonely Planet books. They have been the most important “series” in my experience. Lonely Planet paid me about $220Okay to be used of my photographs 1998-2010 in additional than 300 of their guidebooks and in their external photo-licensing enterprise. Some bookstores of the previous carried each LP guide routinely, endlessly. That period has passed. A e-book resting in a bookstore unsold after 90 days is now a legal responsibility.

#4: Alternatives

Are there wildcard opportunities that a self-pub writer can exploit higher than a standard publisher?

I consider there are. Might your ebook be an audiobook? I’ve one audiobook, my literary travel ebook Travels in an American Imagination. Why look forward to permission from a standard publisher to do this and why settle for only a small proportion of the revenue?

Might your ebook be revealed efficiently as an e-book in China in Chinese language? I have two Chinese-translated ebooks. Both are listed on my Amazon Writer Page in the U.S. because is a major vendor of ebooks in China. See them as Guide 1 and Guide 2.

Why look forward to permission or hope that the normal publisher may see the chance? For a guide writer, with an area market of easily identifiable non-bookstore retailers, why depend upon the normal writer’s “gift shop salesman” to behave? Few good outcomes happen long term in the present store scene for the traditionally-published writer, in my experience.

Insights of Different Authors and a Conclusion

It’s all the time fascinating to take heed to truthful real-world stories of actual authors on how nicely or badly they are doing. Two different panelists, apart from moderator Ruth Carlson, provided fascinating observations.

Barbara Barielle is an experienced writer who has coated meals/wine for many years and has in-depth information of Sonoma County and different Northern California areas. As I listened to Barbara, I was reminded about how all “more seasoned” authors in all fields must play to their strengths. No 20-something may have a palatal and taste expertise that Barbara provides, or will perceive the changing food/wine enterprise with the depth of her previous expertise. She has worked in movie and in public relations, beyond her writer/writer position. Her forthcoming e-book on Sonoma, out there from Amazon, shall be announced on her web site.

Valerie Stimac is a young and energetic writer carving out a completely new topic and territory. She envisions a brand new publishing class in journey that she calls “space tourism” or “astrotourism.” She is going to champion this topic for worldwide travelers together with her website, books, and tours. I consider Valerie might grow to be a “shooting star” journey writer to observe streaking throughout the e-book publishing sky. Her new guide with Lonely Planet, out quickly, can be Darkish Skies: A Sensible Information to Astrotourism.

I didn’t supply a feel-good conclusion to my speak. In contrast to some other people within the publishing scene, I don’t assume that an writer will simply promote truckloads of books. Neither a self-pub/indie nor a traditional-pub trajectory assures ebook writer success in 2020. However there’s hope in both approaches, and, I feel, especially in self-pub.

An writer must be extremely attentive to all the small print, both the obstacles and the alternatives, in the risky and altering trendy e-book publishing/content advertising scene.

Photograph: BigStockPhoto. Amazon links include affiliate code.