The World We Know -Dorothy Grant
What if the war was over, the good guys won, and nobody realized it? This happens in every war in history, actually, from the Battle of New Orleans after the war of 1812 to cut-off Japanese troops fighting well after the emperor had surrendered and WWII was officially over.
In economics, and in the marketplace, “war” is a metaphor, and nobody signs documents officially declaring the horse is no longer the main form of transportation, or the calculator as dominant over the slide rule. Even today, there are still cobblers, typewriter repairmen, watchmakers, and small family farms who have a small niche carved out while the world has fairly well shifted to mass-produced goods as a standard.
Being human and liking neat beginnings and endings to the sense we want to impose on past events, we like to look for dates and markers to place the beginning and endings of eras. The introduction of the personal computer, for one. The first Kindle on the market. These aren’t necessarily when the market shifted, but they’re close enough to substitute, and to confuse. Kindle Direct Publishing started… when? 2008 was the first I heard of it, but the ever-unreliable wikipedia says it was in open beta in 2007.
Either way, less than ten years later, we’ve quietly passed a watershed moment and didn’t know it until Hugh Howey & Data Guy released the latest Author Earnings reports. http://authorearnings.com/report/september-2015-author-earnings-report/
Amazon-imprint & Indie books now make up 60% of the market, and gross 40% of the revenues.
Yes, you read that right. More than half of all the books sold aren’t from the Big Five, or the 1195 other publishers of the AAP. Congratulations, indie writers, you’re not fighting to get in the market anymore. You ARE the market.
But change in publishing isn’t limited to the ebook market.
Last month, a self-published indie PRINT children’s book — a trade paperback — was one of the Top five print bestsellers in the US for over two weeks, selling over 29,000 print copies in its first week and hitting #6 on USA Today’s combined Best Seller List. (An oddly-timed rule change that same week by the New York Times Best Seller List kept it from appearing on the NYT List.)
But the exciting news for indie print books doesn’t end there. Walmart will very shortly be carrying a self-published book on its store shelves: Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Redemption.
Both pieces of news disprove the outdated notion that a traditional publishing contract is necessary if an author wants to achieve chart-topping PRINT sales, or to see their print book sold on Walmart shelves.
Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear? Still looking for that blue jean baby queen… (Rock on.)
Three years ago, the indie book market was generally compared to a gold rush. Like many a marketing fad, people thought the market would be quickly flooded, and the first authors in would make a killing, the major rush would make a lot but be unsatisfied compared to the killing the early entrants made, and the latecomers would struggle to make a buck at all.
Instead, several of the early entrants were spectacularly successful, and now are making a good living… but they also still have good covers, good blurbs, and promotion. (Joe Konrath may not have released lately, but people have released stories in his Kindle World. Their promotion effectively promotes his original books, too.)
Hundreds of people who followed them are now making a good to great living, and many thousands more are able to pay a couple bills, or go out for dinner.
Now, some people are comparing indie to early auto industry and the computer industry, where many small manufacturers started out. Only a handful grew by conglomeration, innovation, and economy of scale until they dominate the entire market. (This is also how the formerly Big Six came to be, in broad strokes.)
But those manufacturers came to dominate by economies of scale and logistics… and in the digital entertainment world, there is no greater cost savings to shipping a million songs or stories than one. Even with POD, there’s no cost savings to shipping 5,000 units instead of 12. (Now, if you know you’re going to be shipping north of 5,000 units at a single time, offset printing suddenly makes a lot more sense, and significantly reduces the cost per unit in return for a longer delay in the printing and shipping logistics, and need to warehouse the product. More on that another day.) Thus, the current state of the market.
Watch the market to see how it shakes out, because what happens now with Intellectual Property sales and marketing for songs and stories is going to be really, really interesting when applied to IP designs for household 3D printers. What will happen to the aspirations of centralized medicine and the insanity of health care regulations when your home printer can make a chip to diagnose your health, and tailored drugs to fix the issues? To the billions-of-dollars & euros fashion industry, when your printer can create the designs you download for wearing out the door in thirty minutes? Heck, what happens when the cartels lose control of the drug trade, because any printer can make a better, purer, controlled dose anytime they want? How would our society handle an end to the Drug Prohibition?
It may not be that amazing now – but there was a time when e-books were distributed on floppy disks. We mark that in the history books as the beginning of ebooks, though it was fifteen years before KDP really got going.
The future is coming. The world we know is already changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.