It is time that authors realize that publishers are no longer what they once were. Why?
- Good editors are everywhere and cost $2000 or less.
- Good book cover designers are everywhere and cost $500 or less.
- Good print layout designer are $500 or less.
- Good publicist/marketer is $500 a month ($6k a year). Some, not all authors, can afford this on their own.
- Distribution is easy. Now distribution is done online through all the stores I just mentioned. The last remaining distribution channels that publishers have are brick and mortar stores (which are declining) and libraries, which are now including the ability to checkout eBooks, even from indie authors.
So publishers are realizing that their only remaining values are these:
- One time upfront cash infusion (cost of editor/cover/print layout)
- They can send an email to their large contact list.
- Writers can focus on writing and someone else does the publicist/marketing work for them
- A sense of quality from a book.
These are all just services that anyone can pay for.
Why would any author give up 80% to 90% of lifetime profits for nothing more than a one time service? Hire your own editor, your own cover artist and your publicist. You pay $9k and you own 100% of your work. You get %70 from all eBook sales.
If an author builds their own contact list, then #2 is canceled out. That means all a publisher is anymore is one time service and a monthly publicist/marketing service.
The final feature, quality, is not going to last. Indie authors can write with quality. Editors that once worked for publishing agencies can still work for indie authors. Check out this certificate of quality available to indie authors: http://scififantasyreaders.com/services/certificate-of-quality. Pretty soon, there were be more indies following these quality standards. What will be left of the publishers? If they don’t change and adapt, they will all go out of business and only their names in the books they once printed will remain.
So how can a publisher adapt? For starters, they can realize that they are really just a service. They don’t provide as much value as they used to, so they should take as much value. Instead of taking %80 to %90 of an authors work, they should invert the percentages and only take %10 to %20 percent. Or they can change their contracts so the author makes more overtime. Maybe year one they publisher gets %80. But each year the author gets %3 of that until the publisher is down to 10%, where they remain for life. There are many possible new contract options that fit the new market better. But the current contract options aren’t dead to everyone except the most famous authors. And for the most famous authors, now that you are famous, you realize you can drop your publisher and you will get %70 of all profits of your next book.
Even if Big Publishers adapt, they might not make it. In this day and age, a group of authors could band together and form the equivalent of a publishing company. Shared editors, shared publicists. Publishers may find that adapting isn’t enough. They may still be doomed to be nothing more than services companies.
Goodbye old traditional publishers and hello new service-based publishers!