If you’re a strong-platform author who is starting to get more intrigued by the possibilities of self-publishing, I just saw two links about e-book distribution today (which led to a third observation) that might interest you as you map out a publishing strategy:
  1. http://andrewhy.de/amazons-markup-of-digital-delivery-to-indie-authors-is-129000/ From Seth Godin’s Domino Project blog today – a link to independent author Andrew Hyde’s discovery of the hidden cost of e-book distribution with Amazon. Apparently he’s determined Amazon marks up digital delivery fees by 129,000% to independent authors selling e-books through Amazon.
  2. BookBaby’s (bookbaby.com) e-book distribution packages – where no “conversion only” packages exist  but they have an amazingly broad distribution platform – is raising their premium package prices from $199 (which includes conversion, distribution to all e-reader stores with free updates, and fulfillment management, so far as I can see) to $250 per book on June 20. This is only a bargain if you actually make money on Amazon.
  3. As an Amazon Prime member, I can borrow many, many e-books for free (including the entire Hunger Games series, which I did, as well as the Association of Independent Authors’ new e-book Self Publishing! Publish Your Books and Avoid the Pitfalls with Advice from Leading Experts and Experienced Authors – to which I’m a contributing author – which I didn’t). I just have to borrow no more than one per month. Considering how long it takes to read most e-books, profit here dwindles even more. Why buy, even at 99 cents, when you can borrow for free and it’s instantly delivered?
What these developments indicate to me is that in terms of profit, strong-platform authors may eventually outgrow e-book distribution services – if they already have lots of traffic to their website, and they’re engaging in widespread marketing anyway, why not just post the file directly on your website for readers to download and keep all the profits? Even with less sales, the math might work out in your favor.
Right now the reason why you WOULDN’T do that is that if you don’t sell on Amazon, for instance, there’s no automatic delivery to your e-reader. And the extra step to download to your computer and then upload to your Kindle would likely be fatal, not just “less.” And the biggest loss of all would be the connection to Amazon’s massive network of readers, via reviews, comments, etc. It’s not just about the money lost; it’s about the leverage and connections lost. And surely that’s worth something.
I realize most successful authors don’t expect to make any money publishing books, and many devote months and years to writing books and finding publishers to provide leverage and credibility, not real income. But what if that’s because the past profit models have conditioned them to believe this is the only option, and they’re choosing to make the best of the situation?
Here’s the point: lesser obstacles than these have been obliterated by new tools and technologies. I feel certain some web-savvy person will come up with a way to circumvent that two-step download from author website to e-reader and maybe make it even more convenient for readers – if he or she had enough focus and motivation and desire. And another reputable platform for seamless networking and commerce might emerge (smaller, perhaps, but tailored for specific niches).
Just more examples of how quickly e-book publishing itself is changing, and how more and more opportunities for profitable independent publishing will unfold for strong-platform authors – IF we focus on the message and not investing too heavily in one kind of media. Let’s keep up with the media, of course, but I think the best authors know that they’re really selling ideas rather than books, and rather than fixating on a particular media, they’ll be ready to ride the wave whenever a new one emerges.