At least that is what Michael Kozlowski over at Good Ereader seems to be saying. In an article I found via The Passive Voice, the headline really does tell the story. “Indie Authors Are Responsible for the US eBook Decline.” Now, I won’t talk about how the headline is poorly formatted. Anyone with a modicum of journalistic training will be able to spot what is wrong. Instead, let’s take a look at the post and see if we agree with Kozlowski or with PG who said, “too much choice is a terrible problem. That’s why nobody buys anything from Amazon or reads anything on the web.”
Why are bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble enjoying a robust increase in book sales? I think the main reason is because they only stock physical books by new authors that the publisher is really hyping and perennial bestsellers by recognizable authors. Simply put, it is far easier to discover a great book in a bookstore, than try and find one online. So why are digital sales truly down? The answer is too many e-books being self-published by indie authors.
Pardon me while I laugh for a bit. Kozlowski doesn’t seem to recognize the problem with his own statement. Bookstores stock only new authors publishers are “really hyping”. Hmm. What about those new authors who aren’t receiving all the hype? They are out there. Or is Kozlowski so out of touch that he really believes that publishers give that sort of hype to every new author they sign?
Or how about the assertion that they only other books being stocked are those by perennial bestsellers? I guess that means I could walk into my local B&N and check every author in stock and find them to be as he said. A best seller or hyped newcomer. Sorry, but no. There are still some midlisters there. Yes, the number is fewer but they are still there. There will also be — gasp — classics and nonfiction titles that aren’t “bestsellers”. But that wouldn’t fit Kozlowski’s either or scenario.
Independent and self-published authors release more books on a monthly basis than the trade houses do. This creates an influx of new titles that fall by the wayside and pollute the search engine results, so it is almost impossible to casually browse and find something good.
My first reaction is, “Duh!” Of course indies release more books on a monthly basis that the traditional publishers. They aren’t limited by the number of slots they can justify to their bean counters. They aren’t having to go through gatekeepers who could — and sometimes do — keep out excellent books because they “didn’t resonate” or aren’t of the right “message” for that particular publisher. But, just because they are indie titles, they “pollute” search engine results. Bad indies. You aren’t pure and worthy. Forget about issues of whether the books are well-written or commercial successes. The fact they didn’t go through the traditional gatekeepers means they are dreck and pollute the very data streams they are stored on.
E-Books are immortal, so they never go out of print. Like cobwebs constructed of stainless steel, they will forever occupy the virtual shelves of e-book retailers. Every month there are more and more books for readers to choose from and there are now fewer eyeballs split across more books, this is the real reason why e-book sales are down across the board.
First, e-books can go out of print. At least they can if an author is careful about how her contract is written with first her agent and then her publisher — if she goes the traditional route. As for indies, they can also go “out of print” by the simple expedient of the author withdrawing the book from sale. As for e-book sales being down across the board, says who? Oh, I know. Traditional publishers. And that, my friends, is the real fault with everything Kozlowski says in his post. He is using traditional publishing numbers, as well as comments from Amazon competitor Mark Coker, to support his position without looking at indie sales numbers.
But let’s continue.
Not only do self-published authors write legitimate books that nobody reads, but some are doing some very shady things.
Kozlowski goes on to discuss the title mills that have been out there as well as the debacle a couple of years ago over the erotica titles getting released as children’s titles. Funny though, he never mentions the plagiarized titles that were bought, published and promoted out the yahzoo by traditional publishers. I guess he doesn’t think the trads can ever do anything wrong or make a bad decision about what books to publish. Nor does he go into the fact that a lot of the books Kobo removed from its listings were not erotica and the covers did not violate the ToS. Funny that. Funny, too, that he failed to mention how those books wrongly removed were put into a limbo that, as far as I know, has yet to be resolved.
He shows his feelings about indie e-books, if there had been any doubt, with this next statement: Spamming out e-books is obviously working for indie authors right now.
“Spamming”. Not publishing, not releasing, but spamming. Way to show some unbiased reporting, sir.
The big reason why indies are enjoying more success right now is because their titles are priced anywhere between .99 and $5.99, while major publishers tend to charge between $9.99 and $18.99.
Again, he sees only the financial reason and that not in full. Yes, indies sell more books at a lower price. However, readers have gotten more savvy, something he fails to recognize. They look at how well written the blurb is. If you don’t grab a reader with the blurb, they aren’t going to pay money for your work. Then the reader checks the preview — one of the best things Amazon and other retailers have done is put the “look inside feature” on the product page so you no longer have to download a sample. Again, if a reader doesn’t like what the preview shows, they won’t buy the book. Yes, there are some impulse buys but give the reader some credit for actually checking out the book before buying it.
Second, readers are learning that there are a lot of very well written, entertaining books being produced by indie authors. Why spend more than $10 for a single book when you can buy two or three for that same amount of money? Publishers put themselves behind the eight ball when it comes to pricing. They look at the profit per unit instead of the fact they would make more money in the long run if they would lower their prices and increase their sales.
I think indie authors days are numbered selling digital content online because of big new trends in the publishing industry that they are unable to capitalize on.
This is where I start laughing hysterically. First, he uses adult coloring books as an example of something indies can’t do. Funny, one of my friends and cohorts over at Mad Genius Club, Cedar Sanderson, just published her own coloring book — and she did so as an indie. I guess she ought to go take it off sale since Kozlowski said she shouldn’t be able to put one out.
Then he goes on to point out the Bookscan numbers and how they prove his point. Bookscan, the Nielson Ratings for books. That service taking the sales from a select number of bookstores, does some arcane version of hand-wavium and tells publishers how many books were sold by what author. Not a point-to-point accounting system or inventory tracker like every other manufacturer employs. No, something that estimates sales based on what is selling in certain stores in certain cities across the nation. C0ff — bullshit — coff.
He goes on and on about how indie publishing is leading to a decline in sales. But for whom? For traditional publishing? Yep. But it is not only indie publishing responsible for that decline. It is also the choice in books being published by the trads and the price they are charging. Traditional publishing knows this, at least when it comes to pricing. Ask yourself this: why publish an e-book at basically the same price as a print version of the same book? The answer is simple — to drive sales to the print book.
Is indie publishing in trouble? Not that my bank account is seeing.
Are there too many titles out there? I don’t think so. Sure, it makes “browsing” more difficult if all you do is type in search phrases. But if you are like me, you find a book or an author you like and you pay attention to the “if you liked this, you might like that” recommendations. You talk to your friends and see what they are reading. Most of all, you check the blurbs and previews. Now this indie author needs to get back to work. Despite — or maybe because — of Kozlowski’s complaints, I am going to continue “spamming” out my books and “polluting” Amazon.
So, here’s some spamming for you:
War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.
Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.
And my friend Dave Freer has a new book out.
Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this. He has a raven and a cheese as… sort of allies.
And of course there is the princess.
If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.