Several industry experts were invited to a closed event at BookExpo to meet with Amazon executives about the state of self-publishing. Three notable self-published authors were there, including Stephanie Bond, CJ Lyons, and Hugh Howey. Along with GoodEReader, several other well-known contributors to digital publishing participated: Jane Friedman from Writer’s Digest, IndieReader.com president Amy Edelman, Justin Boog from GalleyCat, Jane Litte of Dear Author, David Vandagriff of The Passive Guy, Len Edgerly of Kindle Chronicles, and Porter Anderson of Publishing Perspectives. Amazon’s Nader Kabbani and Libby Johnson McKee hosted the event to gain insight into what authors and readers have to say about digital publishing and self-publishing.
Litte started the discussion with a question about readers’ perceived value in both pricing of ebooks, and how an ebook fares when a print book is available as well. That quickly turned the discussion to how readers perceive the work of self-published authors.
Lyons and Bond both spoke about their past experiences with traditional publishing, and both seemed to feel that the largest criticism for the industry is the snail’s pace of publication. Both recounted how their fans regularly reach out to them demanding more content, sometimes only a matter of months after a new book was released.
For his part, Howey spoke from the perspective of not having been traditionally published, but having to make a key decision about relinquishing control and a significant portion of the royalties in order to accept a contract. Rather than focusing on wider reach to a broader audience or how the contract can be beneficial to him, several publishers were too focused on the advance and royalties.
“How much are you going to pay me for saying I’m published with your company?” Howey asked in jest.
From a reader standpoint, the participants weighed in on compatibility issues and piracy concerns. While most felt that piracy was not a huge issue, what was important was the ability for readers to find indie authors’ works and be able to read them without a lot of hassle or hoop jumping, as well as how to make it possible for readers to choose to read on a variety of devices—even those from different retailers—without sacrificing their existing ebook libraries.
Edelman highlighted an interesting perspective on the self-vs-traditional status of authors, in terms of saying that readers enjoy the knowledge that they helped an unknown author get discovered.
“When people first started talking about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, my readers were saying, ‘Please, I read that six months ago.’”
Both Lyons and Howey added to that awareness on the part of readers with fans who would reach out to them to ask where they should buy the next book, meaning, “Where will my purchase get you the highest royalty?” That discussion demonstrated that readers are actually quite aware of the finer points of the publishing industry in terms of how authors get paid.
While there was never a feeling that either the self-publishing or the traditional models will die away any time soon, Anderson made a vital statement about the status of authors: “The slush pile is visible now and the best rise to the top.” That sentiment, echoed by others in attendance, makes it clear that the readers now have more control than ever before over what books get taken farther, and it is quality and value that will get them there.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.