Predictions: E-books and Publishers and Amazon

First off, I’m not a prognosticator or guru. As a traditionally published and indie author, I straddle both sides of the fence, but I have no academic or other credentials from which to predict the future of ebooks and  publishing. But occasionally I do like to take the long view and try to make sense of the chaos around me. So I’m going to stick my neck out and make a few observations. They’re entirely subjective and unscientific, and if they don’t come to pass, you can have lots of fun telling me how wrong I was.

First off, Amazon.

As we know, Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Somedays they’re my best friend, other days my worst enemy. And I’m just an author. Imagine what publishers think about the Big A. Amazon is their key distributor; at the same time, with their growing number of imprints, Amazon may well become their key competitor. Given that, the big question is whether booksellers, some of whom say they’ll never stock an Amazon book, will eventually capitulate. I think they will and we will see Amazon books in bookstores, Costco, Walmart, etc. But in order for that to happen, Amazon will have to give up something.

Royalty Rates

And that leads me to my second prediction. There is a growing consensus among writers and agents that the 25% ebook royalty rate the Big 6 (and other) publishers offer their authors is highway robbery. I’m firmly in that camp, btw. I think 25% is way too low. Something has to give. So here’s what I think. Amazon will raise their royalty rate to publishers from 70% to 80%. Not for indie authors, you understand, just for “certified” (in some way), bonafide” publishers. Publishers will then raise their e-book royalty rate for their authors to 35% or 40% of net. (Which is about what Amazon currently offers their new stable of authors). In return, the Big 6 will drop their resistance to Amazon entering the bookstore market, and presto — Amazon books will be sold side-by-side Harper Collins, Penguin, and St. Martin. Whether this happens in a formalized way or whether it just becomes a quid pro quo, I don’t know. But I think it will happen.


There’s one more part to this prediction, btw, which stems from the complaint that the quality of indie books is sub-standard. Much of it is, and Amazon is already dealing with that by sponsoring periodic promotions of traditional publishers’ books. These promotions are the bane of the indie author. Amazon’s power to direct hordes of buyers to the books being promoted instead of indie authors’ work means indie sales usually drop during the promotion period. I know mine do.

Well, welcome to the new world of co-op, fellow authors. This is exactly what happened at B&N and Borders in the last decade. “Big” books were prominently featured on tables near the front of the stores, while midlist authors’ books languished in the stacks. And I predict Amazon will launch more of these promotions going forward. It’s a way for them to theoretically control quality without further alienating publishers. So if you’re not with a publisher, gird yourself. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

On the 99 cent price

I keep hearing that Amazon wants to raise their prices on books  and get rid of the 99 cent book. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Amazon makes twice as much from 3 books selling at 99 cents (about $1.93) than from 1 book that sells at $2.99 (about .99 cents). Why would they give that up? I think there will always be an Amazon market at  .99 cents. The question is whether authors want to price their work that low.

Finally, a couple of other observations.
I think more authors will band together to brand themselves in this new market. I’m a member of the Top Suspense group, and we’ll be publishing our second anthology soon. There’s also a group called Backlist E-Books,  and a group of horror/sci fi authors just announced their presence. I think that will continue, as authors try to stake out territory in the new e-verse.

I also think more authors will sell books from their own websites and platforms.

And I’m not sure enhanced e-books are going to be the next, best thing. We’re already sufiiciently ADD’d by all the distractions and links (including mine) that undermine our concentration and sometimes seem just randomly thrown in because they can be.  I just don’t see videos and interviews and other gizmos being a big part of literature, especially if they drive up the price of ebooks.  But I might be wrong. There’s an interesting article (Thank You, Passive Voice) about this here. (Yeah, I tried to wait till the end to insert links.)


So what do you think? Let’s talk.