I ended last week fearful about the shape the publishing industry will be in when I finally finish one of the novels I am writing. I have been reading a lot about ebooks and debating ebook authors like Graham Storrs about what effect ebooks might have on the publishing industry, and I have come to the conclusion that they will probably destroy the publishing industry leaving authors to battle it out online, selling their ebooks for $2 and having to rise above a biblical flood of free ebooks.
On the weekend I attended an online convention, Survival of Writers in the 21st Century, at coyotecon.com, where, dark fantasy, author Scott Nicholson confirmed my fears. He said that he didn't expect the NY print market to be a viable proposition, especially for new authors, after the next five years. He thought that most ebooks will soon be selling for $2, as his already are. In the past months I have regularly checked the Amazon top 100 bestsellers and, on average, a third of the books have sold for $2 or less. Scott thinks that eventually consumers will expect to pay nothing for ebooks. At $2 an ebook, most publishers won't be making any money out of them, and most established authors will realise they are better off going it alone, ditching their publisher and getting their 70% of the Amazon list price of $2.
The only publishers who will not survive on 70% of the $2 list price are those with huge volumes from mega selling authors (except most of them will realise they're better off getting the whole 70%). Australian publishers will become all but extinct as they don't sell the volumes required to survive at a $2 price. Print books won't survive as readers no longer buy $15US trade paperbacks or $8US paperbacks, turning to the $2 ebook. Of course some publishers will try to keep the price of ebooks at around $10, but then their books will be choice pickings for pirated copies and be undercut by the price of other ebooks.
With little or no publishers left, new authors will need to battle it out on the web. One way to do this is to charge less than competitors. So they will charge $1, but most will soon find they don't have a big enough profile to sell more than a few ebooks, so the will decide to try to establish a profile by giving the book away for free. Of course there will be those, who through luck or skill or bullshit, manage to get a buzz going and sell their $1 ebook, but for millions it will only result in a useless flooding of the web.
With millions of free ebooks, many of them edited (whether paid for or edited by a friend), there are sure to be many quality free ebooks that consumer who expects free ebooks can choose from. To make this choice easier there will be a number of websites set up to tell you which are the quality free ebooks. One of these websites will eventually become dominate and be taken over by an ailing Amazon, struggling to survive selling $2 ebooks.
So it doesn't look good for writers like me. One thing I have decided is that I better improve my editing skills because it is highly unlikely that any of my novels will ever be edited by a publisher because there won't many of them around. I am also about to get a small inheritance which I will keep in term deposits until I need to pay for an editor to at least copy edit my completed novels.
I have also decided I better get over hoping people decide that even $10US is a fair price for ebooks, with the publishing industry surviving. They won't, It won't. What I need to do is concentrate my thoughts on thinking of ways to survive in a world where authors are no longer paid for downloads of their ebook novels. I have asked myself, is it enough to just be read, to make no money out of writing? The answer is a definite yes.
I also need to do much more writing. Last week I didn't come close to reaching my new writing goal, but if I had achieved it in the first week of trying, it wouldn't have been much of a challenge, would it?