With all of this movement toward e-books, what can authors expect in the near future? Some of the coming changes may include the following:
•Funding for authors’ advances may begin to be provided by external investors (as they are with films and plays)
•Best-selling authors, who already have a name brand, may turn to self-publishing for higher royalties, making more room for midlist and debut authors
•Until then, the bar is higher and authors may want to consider self-publishing
•Some authors are already serializing their books online to build readership
•Publishers can’t hold on to rights indefinitely by making books available as POD or e-books, according to recent rulings (when such a book is out of print, rights will revert to author)
Average advances today are between $1,000 and $5,000 for debut literary fiction as opposed to the $50-100,000 advances of the past. For commercial fiction: $15,000 or less. And publishing houses are beginning to shrink their lists, so it’s becoming more and more difficult to get picked up as a debut author.
One option is to take your chances with self-publishing and try to find ways to grow your own fan base. One unpublished author is serializing his new book, chapter by chapter on his website where, over the next ten weeks, it will build like a part-work. In the words of a friend, he’s “doing a Dickens.” And he’s making it available for free, betting that many readers won’t want to wait and will go ahead and download the entire book for less than the cost of a paperback. After that, it will go to Amazon, with an iPod version later. A second, already published, author, John Gorman, is serializing his new thriller to a WordPress site. On the site, his Mission Statement encourages people to contribute to the story. He won’t publish their words, but he might run with their character ideas and plot twists, so there’s a collective element to this novel.
For those who decide to self-publish, Publishers Weekly now puts out a quarterly supplement, called PW Select, that announces self-published titles for $149 and reviews for free those they feel are most deserving of a critical assessment. For more information, check www.publishersweekly.com/diy.
Personally, I went the self-publishing route for my first book and it’s seen very few sales, despite the awards, simply because it’s not out there enough. I won’t go that route again. I’d rather hone my craft and keep writing and querying until I get an agent. An agent will lead me to a publisher who can get my name out there. I’m hoping that a lot of these top authors who no longer need a big publisher will go the self-publishing route, thereby making room on publishers’ lists for more midlist and debut authors.
In my next posting on this topic, I’ll share the thoughts and experiences of some of those who have.