Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

Authors no longer at the mercy of publishers

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17th October, 2012.

Buoyed by the success of e-readers like Kindle and Amazon’s direct publishing online system, budding authors are sowing a direct relationship with their readers and reaping better royalty payments in return.

“Writers don’t need publishers anymore,” says Joel Naoum, publisher at Momentum, a digital-only part of Pan Macmillan Australia, launched earlier this year. “The new technology allows writers to distribute directly and I think it’s a fantastic development for us all.”

“It means publishers have to try harder to provide value to writers and that publishers aren’t accused of being ‘gatekeepers’ quite as often.”

Fantasy author Dionne Lister self-published her first book, Shadows of the Realm, as an e-book.

Royalties for self-publishers are generally much more attractive for those selling an e-book directly to the reader. Percentages vary, but an author will typically earn $2.66 from a $25 hardback, 68c from an $8 mass market paperback, or $1.49 for a trade-published e-book.

By selling a self-published e-book on Amazon, authors get 70 per cent of the proceeds of books sold for more than US$2.99. The remainder goes to the retailer.

Dionne Lister is a fantasy author living in Sydney who self-published her first book, Shadows of the Realm, as an e-book in April. She is now working on the sequel.

“I had had a few rejections from publishers and realised with all the competition, self-publishing as an e-book was my best option,” says Lister. “Let’s be honest, my book was not going to be the best one trying for a limited spot.”

“You can’t get into it expecting to make money right away. I spend at least two hours every day marking my book, and my sales this month increased threefold,” says Lister. “You have to be persistent and patient with it.”

Despite some authors finding success, one survey earlier this year of self-publishing authors found that around half are making less than $500 a year from their work.

“I look at it as a way to develop an audience,” says Patrick O’Duffy, an author who writes mystery fiction. “It’s great that authors now have lots of different options out there. We can do a lot more now, and they don’t need to be locked in with publishing contracts.”

“I just got my first pay cheque from Amazon after two years of selling, so I don’t look at it as an income generator, but sometimes it’s the best option. The print market for short stories is fairly weak.”

Charity Parkerson is an author of erotica fiction who decided to self-publish e-books exclusively. Of her twenty e-books, eleven of them have been Amazon bestsellers.

“I started out as a published author, but once I realised that the same amount of marketing is involved either way, I decided to give self-publishing a shot,” says Parkerson. “Now I earn 70% royalties as opposed to 8%. I haven’t regretted that decision since.”

“I can now make a living off it, and writing has been my full-time job for ten months now. I can’t say that I will never go the way of the publisher again, but for now, this is the best choice for me.”

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3 comments on “Authors no longer at the mercy of publishers

  1. Emily Reddon
    November 11, 2012

    Really interesting article, thanks for posting. It’s all well and good for writers to have more access, but to play devil’s advocate, don’t publishers play an important role as the quality control? Sometimes good authors can’t get published for whatever reason and that’s a shame, but does that mean that ANYONE should be able to get published? To use the analogy of film, this would be like a world where film-makers don’t need producers and a film of a man sitting on the toilet for two hours can be shown in cinemas. Just playing devil’s advocate here, not attacking, it’s just a debate I find really interesting. Again, thanks for posting the article!

    • Matt Smith
      November 11, 2012

      There are movies like that, Emily. They’re called ‘arthouse’. 🙂 I think you’re right, but these days it’s harder then ever to get published, and there are good authors out there who will never get a chance, simply because it’s easier just to put out a cookbook or a biography of Paris Hilton. There’s always been self publishers, and now it’s easier. Generally I’ve found there’s an audience for everything. Thanks for commenting.

      • Emily Reddon
        November 11, 2012

        This is true, you’re right, and there are examples of really great books that would have gone unnoticed otherwise. It may be too early to tell what self-publishing will mean in the future, but I guess I just worry a bit in the wake of things like the 50 Shades of Grey debacle. Fingers crossed that it will mean a greater platform for good writing, though!

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2012 by in book, technology and tagged , , , , , , .
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