NEWS: Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing The Publishing Indutry?

I want to say a few things before we get on to this article.  First, Pure Textuality LOVES indie authors.  Like, as a rule.  Several of the staff members here at the site are indie authors, myself and Ginny included.  I am posting this article because I found it funny that the article is coming from someone who is an outspoken advocate for indie authors.  Although I agree with some points, I feel that this article is a bit of a double –edged sword.  I feel that indie authors can’t win in this industry.  Even the top notch – people who pay for professional editing and publicists – still have a hell of a time selling their books because of the stigma that comes along with being an indie author (inexperienced, unprofessional, bad writers).  I have been lucky enough to get to know a good many indie authors after I read and fell in love with their books.  I acknowledge that there are some BAD writers out there in the indie world but in all fairness, there are some BAD writers out there in the traditional publishing world too.  However, the bulk of this article is not about bad writing.  It’s about indie authors selling their books for dirt cheap and what it’s doing to the publishing world at large.  I invite comments on this post.  Read the article and tell me what you think.  I am curious to know your reactions to this.  Do you think the prices hurt?  Do you think that the gimicks and giveaways are shady or “too much”?  Let me know.  Thanks everyone!  – Jena  Read on for the article….

By Melissa Foster for

Self-published authors have created a devaluing of the written word, and, some of them are scrambling to see how low they can go to get noticed.

Let us list the ways: 99-cent price point for ebooks. Free ebooks via KDP Select program. Unedited work. Kindle giveaways to get attention and bulk up sales. And lastly, nasty reviews from other authors with the sole purpose of driving down customer ratings.

Why are indie authors selling their work so cheap? In short, mismanaged expectations. Many self-published authors hear about the outliers who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’ll do anything to try and reach that pinnacle. The plain fact is that most of them never will.

The Guardian recently reported that, “Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.” That was backed up by a recent poll of authors who have 2 or less 99-cent ebooks on the market that revealed that 75% of authors are selling less than 100 ebooks per month at that rate, with 46% selling less than 10 ebooks per month.

Yes, there are 99-cent anomalies. A recent headline on GalleyCat reported that, “99-Cent Sale Sweeps Self-published Bestseller List”. Yes, Stephanie Bond did achieve bestseller status with three of her titles, all listed for 99 cents but what most indie authors fail to realize is that Stephanie was previously traditionally published and has a following in place. As a new author, that’s very difficult to match.

Although many do try, and not just by giving away books for less than a buck. Many indie authors are now relying on gimmicks to gain sales. They’re giving away Kindles and iPads in exchange for reviews and as raffles during sales promotions. Traditionally published authors aren’t stooping to these tactics. Why are indies? The short answer is that with over 1 million ebooks published each year, it’s difficult to make a mark.

The lesson may be that if indie authors don’t value their work, chances are no one else will either. Readers want, and deserve, quality books, and they’re used to paying for them. Think about it: pennies for pages didn’t exist before ebooks and self-publishing were viable.

Does this mean that self-published authors are killing the publishing industry? Yes, in a sense it does. What can be done about this devaluing of the written word? How can self-published authors change this scenario and help make self-publishing, as a whole, shine and earn as respectable of a reputation as traditional publishing?

Goals of self-published authors vary. Some dream of wealth, while others simply want to get their stories read. Some writers are now afraid to self-publish because of the reputation that self-published works are garnering. If indie authors are going to make their mark, they’ll need to band together, put out reputable works, and stop looking for get-sales-quick gimmicks. The cycle of pricing books lower than the next author is a dangerous one. After all, there’s nowhere left to go after “free”.

Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of three International bestselling novels, she is a community builder for the Alliance of Independent Authors and is a touchstone in the indie publishing arena. When she’s not writing, Melissa teaches authors how to navigate the book marketing world, build their platforms, and leverage the power of social media, through her author-training programs on Fostering Success. Melissa is the founder of the World Literary Café, Fostering Success, and the Women’s Nest. She has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine. Connect with Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.


This story is compliments of via The Huffington Post


9 thoughts on “NEWS: Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing The Publishing Indutry?

  1. On the reader side: I’ve read some truly awful unedited free smut lately (in the guise of research) but it was free so hey, whatever. I’ve also read some really great work for free that I never would’ve read otherwise because who wants to spend $10 on something that might turn out to suck.

    On the author side: I’m an unknown, so my first few titles will be $.99 while I wait for people to see me, get to know me, and love me. It’s like standing really really still so I don’t spook animals.

  2. My feeling is this: I have watched the traditional publishing houses justify their ridiculous prices for YEARS by blaming overhead cost – editing, cover art, publicists, coffee gofers, marketing campaigns, book signing tours, etc. When I published Burning, I didn’t have any of this. I organized my own blog tour, designed my own cover art, did my own ebook formatting, did my own paperback book formatting, I run my own website, I run my own Twitter, I run my own Facebook. Aside from my own personal time which, by writing, was spent doing something I love, I have a grand total of $46.15 in overhead cost for producing Burning. I don’t have the overhead cost to justify an obnoxious sticker price like the ones traditional publishing houses have been cramming down our throats for years. Would I love to sell my series at $12.99 per ebook copy? Absolutely! The take home on that from Amazon is $9.09 per copy, rather than the $0.35 per copy I am making from Burning. However, that’s just not going to happen. The reality is as an indie author, I would get my shit verbally torn apart for having the BALLS to price my ebook at $12.99 on Amazon. Even if there wasn’t a single mistake and it was FLAWLESSLY edited and the writing rivaled that of the great Anne Rice, people would take GREAT offense to the fact that I would dare price my book that way. I decided after I published Burning that each of the full length novels in my series will be priced at $4.99 each. I don’t think this is unreasonable saying as I am trying to make a career of sorts out of writing but at the same time, I feel that it is still low enough priced to be respected among my fellow indies and not break the bank of my superbly awesome readers.

    From a readers perspective: I have found SO MANY great indie authors simply because the first book in their series was free/almost free. Sarra Cannon, Joseph Lallo, Ty Johnston. All found on the free list on Amazon. All great writers. Call it shady. Call it a gimmick. I call putting your first book out there at a low price (or for free) to garner some attention that your non-existent publicist and marketing crew would ordinarily get you is nothing shy of SMART. It’s good business. Its marketing and the art of shameless self-promotion at its best. They managed to do for themselves what we have been led to believe for years could only be accomplished through a traditional publishing house. And you know what? For those authors, it worked. I am now a loyal fan and have NO PROBLEM buying the books in their series, regardless of price.

  3. I’ve been able to read a lot more books because of the lower Indie prices . . . and most are good. Some are not. Some are awesome. But I like having the CHOICE as a consumer to do that. If I spend $.99 on a book that’s entertaining but not great…is it a waste? Not to me! The gas to get to the bookstore and the coffee I buy there would be way more than that!
    It makes me hostile when I see ebooks from traditional publishers that are $12.99. Grrrrr. That HAS to come down. But I worry they will try to sign the most popular Indie authors just to get them out of the Market which drives prices down. Reminds me of the diamond industry…
    I also don’t understand why giveaways are “gimmicks” any more than a book signing is. They are just different ways to attract customers. Who gets to judge what is a gimmick?
    And I don’t think the written word is being devalued. The Market will drive prices. An established author should charge $3.99 to $5 in my opinion. But someone just starting (paying their dues)? A lower price makes sense. I would do it that way.

  4. Agreed all! Readers have more choices.

    Indie book maven and millionaire Amanda Hocking cheered when she sold her first dirt cheap books. the girl tells a good tale, and she’s now very successful. I say hell yes to a new author selling his/her work for 99 cents, to give people a chance to read their stuff. And I think more people are reading. The cost of hardcover books is prohibitive for me. I was always a paperback kind of gal, and then Kindle came along. And yes–some are good, some are awesome, some are not good at all.

  5. Traditional publishing is driven by marketable books so that the publishing house will get a return on their investment. Indie authors provide a huge range of stories and topics that would have been overlooked by traditional publishers. For readers that want the diversity, Indie authors provide not only a vast amount topics, it also gives more reasonable costs. And like you said, Jena, the quality can be iffy even in a traditionally published book. Another aspect of Indie publishing is that Indie Authors tend to make more off of each book than traditional publishing, and to me I’d rather the author get more for their works.

  6. As an indie author I disagree with much of what Melissa says but do understand where she is coming from. There’s the saying “One bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole bunch” but with a million e books published a year, its that there are more bad apples out there than good. The reason I decided to self publish The Dragon’s Eye was because I wanted to get my book out there quickly and easily. Of course I want to get noticed, who doesn’t, but ultimately it will come down to the quality of the book. Sure everyone might hear about the new e book that is being given away for free or hawked next to new ipads or Kindles, but if the book is crap, people will know.

    You’re going to get bad books with self publishers, its the nature of the beast, but I feel the good ones will still be noticed over the bad. Much of the reason we indie authors push for our book to be noticed is to get the feedback as much as the praise. I was glad when the reviews I got for my book had advice for me to improve. I’m a new writer and the more advice and feedback I can give, the better my next book will be. I believe that your good indie authors and their books will, over time, begin to get noticed more than the bad ones out there.

  7. We all know that King, Rowling, Meyers and, of course, E.L. James are rolling in the dough. But what about everybody else? I believe we are going to see more and more indie authors hitting the million dollar mark. Many already have. It used to be that once or twice a month I would read about another author making a sale to a traditional publisher. Now I’m reading about authors quitting their day jobs. How cool is that?! And, of course, it’s all relative–if you have zero kids and a husband with a full-time job, you’re probably going to be able to quit before the single writer with kids to feed.

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