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Old 12-28-2012, 10:18 PM   #1
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Mid-list authors suffer from widely known sales figures

Here's an article from yesterday's (Toronto) Globe & Mail which says that the publishing industry now has a book-sales-scan service similar to what the record industry has had for over ten years.

As a result, the publishers aren't forking over advances for authors who have a track record of unimpressive sales.

The article does not in depth get into what we here know - that mid-listers can now self-publish more easily than ever before. It mentions that publishers will pick up a self-published title that has done well, but it doesn't mention that at that point the author might feel he doesn't need the publisher anymore.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/...rticle6755208/
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:53 PM   #2
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Publishers have been trimming the midlist for the last 20 years. Really, since the '80s mass-market paperback boom. Now no one can really afford to publish a midlist book except Amazon and the author.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:52 PM   #3
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Publishers have been trimming the midlist for the last 20 years. Really, since the '80s mass-market paperback boom. Now no one can really afford to publish a midlist book except Amazon and the author.
Baen still seems to be hanging in there. But they don't have (public) stockholders to answer to.
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Old 12-29-2012, 08:24 PM   #4
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Baen still seems to be hanging in there. But they don't have (public) stockholders to answer to.
They're a genre-specific publisher that has spent years cultivating an audience and a stable of authors. In a lot of ways they are a lot closer to Campbell's Astounding than a modern publishing house. They're really an outlier.

Contrast them to Tor, who are totally cribbing from them but not getting the same kind of brand loyalty. Of course, having Sargent shoot his mouth off and undo a lot of their outreach is a pretty big handicap.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:50 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by GA Russell View Post
Here's an article from yesterday's (Toronto) Globe & Mail which says that the publishing industry now has a book-sales-scan service similar to what the record industry has had for over ten years.

As a result, the publishers aren't forking over advances for authors who have a track record of unimpressive sales.

The article does not in depth get into what we here know - that mid-listers can now self-publish more easily than ever before. It mentions that publishers will pick up a self-published title that has done well, but it doesn't mention that at that point the author might feel he doesn't need the publisher anymore.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/...rticle6755208/
Excellent! Thank you for that!
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:51 AM   #6
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Baen still seems to be hanging in there. But they don't have (public) stockholders to answer to.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:33 AM   #7
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Just part of the transition from big houses to many smaller independent publishers. It will be painful for many, no doubt. I do agree with the article that many "professional" authors may be hurt but I think what we're seeing is a shift in what that term means.

Many more people will be able to break into publishing who could not before. I think what we may see is a growing pie (book sales) divided into many more fragments. As someone who went from 0% to a small slice of that pie, I'm not complaining.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:23 PM   #8
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I have no problem with advances going away. I understand that is how authors are traditionally paid but it is an antiquated system. Hopefully authors will get a higher royalty and will be paid on what they sell. I would think in the long run that could lead to a system where new authors are sold as e-books. When theycross a certain threshold, the Publisher sells the paper book.while not perfect, it would allow Publishers to publish more new authors with limited risk and reward the authors whose books do well.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:02 PM   #9
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Unless you are a big name author with name recognition, being a book author is a tough way to make a living. It always has been. In a way, as ebooks become more common, the markets begin to fragment and costs come down, things should pick up for authors who know how to market themselves to their target audience. I suspect that advances will go away though. The flip side is that books won't sit in the queue for a year+ before they are published anymore either.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:09 PM   #10
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[QUOTE=pwalker8;2361352]In a way, as ebooks become more common, the markets begin to fragment and costs come down, things should pick up for authors who know how to market themselves to their target audience. /QUOTE]

Or who play in a genre popular with avid readers.
So far, romance is the single most popular ebook genre because romance readers are always looking for new "favorite" autors.

Conversely, most of the angsting about the changes in the industry come from practitioners of the litfic genre, which relies on the traditional gatekeeper validation as its key marketting.

Tech disruptions always leave winners and losers in their wake and ebooks are no exception.
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Old 01-01-2013, 02:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
They're a genre-specific publisher that has spent years cultivating an audience and a stable of authors. In a lot of ways they are a lot closer to Campbell's Astounding than a modern publishing house. They're really an outlier.

Contrast them to Tor, who are totally cribbing from them but not getting the same kind of brand loyalty. Of course, having Sargent shoot his mouth off and undo a lot of their outreach is a pretty big handicap.
Yeah, these Baen comparisons are really apples to oranges. First of all, no one really knows how well Baen is doing - there is no evidence that they are in any way more profitable than big publishers.

Second, Baen is tiny: they publish something like 80 new titles a year. Simon and Shuster publish 80,000 new titles a year. Things that work for a niche publisher in a specific genre just may not translate to larger publishers...or to other niche publishers who are not e-book pioneers.

All we really know about Baen is that what they're doing has not destroyed their profitability in the past. (Although now, of course, they are changing their model).
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:18 PM   #12
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[QUOTE=fjtorres;2361359]
Quote:
Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
In a way, as ebooks become more common, the markets begin to fragment and costs come down, things should pick up for authors who know how to market themselves to their target audience. /QUOTE]

Or who play in a genre popular with avid readers.
So far, romance is the single most popular ebook genre because romance readers are always looking for new "favorite" autors.

Conversely, most of the angsting about the changes in the industry come from practitioners of the litfic genre, which relies on the traditional gatekeeper validation as its key marketting.

Tech disruptions always leave winners and losers in their wake and ebooks are no exception.
agreed. If you look at the history of books over the last 100+ years, you will see that the way authors make their money has changed tremendously over the years. Mark Twain made his money via newspaper serials and speaking tours, as did most of the authors of the time. The writers from the 20's through the 60's made their money via magazines. The 70's and up via paperback sales.

Last edited by pwalker8; 01-01-2013 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:46 PM   #13
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Yeah, these Baen comparisons are really apples to oranges. First of all, no one really knows how well Baen is doing - there is no evidence that they are in any way more profitable than big publishers.

Second, Baen is tiny: they publish something like 80 new titles a year. Simon and Shuster publish 80,000 new titles a year. Things that work for a niche publisher in a specific genre just may not translate to larger publishers...or to other niche publishers who are not e-book pioneers.

All we really know about Baen is that what they're doing has not destroyed their profitability in the past. (Although now, of course, they are changing their model).
I would say that the original comparison, Baen and Tor are quite comparable. Tor is one of the Tom Doherty companies which is owned by Macmillan which is owned by Haltzbrinck. I would suggest that the reasons that so many publishers have been swallowed up will no longer be applicable and that we will see a lot more of the smaller publishers in the future.
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Old 01-01-2013, 06:27 PM   #14
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I would suggest that the reasons that so many publishers have been swallowed up will no longer be applicable and that we will see a lot more of the smaller publishers in the future.
This is very likely.

The main reason small companies got swallowed was because bigger size offered extra resources that benefited distribution or content acquisition (bigger advances).
With ebooks and modern logistics for pbooks extra size doesn't necessarily help distribution or bring anything other than bigger overhead. And since big advances are going to be rarer moving forward, financing is going to be less critical to those authors that choose to stick with traditional publishing.

Moving forward, smaller publishers will be able to serve their authors and readers at least as well, if not better than big publishers. And there will be less pressure to join the big conglomerates.

(Tor, for example has been trying to emulate Baen for years--ebook promotions, DRM, community-building, etc--but was held back by MacMillan policies. If they were still independent they would not have had to fight corporate to run their busness as they saw necessary.)
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Old 01-01-2013, 10:17 PM   #15
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Moving forward, smaller publishers will be able to serve their authors and readers at least as well, if not better than big publishers. And there will be less pressure to join the big conglomerates.
Smaller publishers may serve their authors and readers well but they still need to earn a profit. Several small and independent publishers have shut down operations in 2011 and 2012. The latest casualty is our own Neil at Bewrite Books who is closing in March. And he wasn't even taking a salary.

Small publishers have limited financial resources. If you want to publish 100 titles a year, you'll need a bunch of editors and support staff. You have to pay them before sales revenue appears, if it ever does. They can't afford to have a few clunkers or wait a few years for sales to pick up. They need lots of cash now up front and the small guys may not have access to it.

Whether big, medium or small it's not easy publishing a book and earn a dime at the end of the day.
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