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Self-published books becoming best sellers

Posting in Science

Self-publishing allows writers to use ingenuity and self-promotion to be discovered by readers

There is a sea change underway in how some authors are published. Self-published books have made their way onto best-seller lists and the distribution model is attracting more established authors, the New York Times reports.

The Times article overviews how big publishing houses including Penguin and Harlequin are now operating divisions focusing on writers that are willing to forego an advance in exchange for a greater share of the overall profits. More than 250,000 self-published books are now produced annually, and while many may never be well read (or read at all), a quarter of the most popular titles sold on Amazon were self-published.

"While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties - the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books - after the advance is earned back in sales," the Times article noted. Romance and science fiction topped the charts, according to the report.

Another avenue of opportunity is using self-publishing to distribute backlisted books that have gone out of print. A 2011 Forbes article cited authors making greater royalties off of out of circulation titles than when they were in print. But many services are geared toward novices. A quick Web search turns up a bevy of sites dedicated to the practice including independent publishers. There are also guides to self-publishing and services to assist writers that aspire to make their first bestseller or just have their voices heard.

There might be some gimmickry, but it makes perfect sense to use the Internet to disrupt how books are distributed.  The model at least provides another option that casts off reliance on publishing houses' marketing promises, agents, and other middlemen that reduce payback for what could be years of work. Maybe publishers will innovate their own services in response.

(image credit: stagecompany.org)

— By on April 17, 2013, 2:10 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure