The Future of Book Publishing


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This presentation by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, examines the future of book publishing. The presentation was given at the Fremont Writers chapter of the California Writers Club on December 8, 2012.

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  • Thank you, we are in a world that is changing so fast with so many opportunities that it is hard to keep up. I am most thankful for the innovations of Smashwords. We have managed to sell a truckload of electronic digits at almost no cost; amazing...
    I get to tell the stories I love, and it is among life's most gratifying experiences, I encourage everyone to just do it, most of us old timers would love to help.---it's not that hard anymore.
    As always wishing what every good dog already sees in you, the very Best!
    Victor Brodt
    ps contact me without letters at if you would like input or encouragement, go for it!
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The Future of Book Publishing

  1. 1. EBOOKS AND THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING Fremont Area Writers Conference Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  2. 2. My Backstory
  3. 3. We were repped by one of the top NY literary agencies
  4. 4. Publishers Said “No”• Despite great efforts of our agent, every major publisher said NO (TWICE!)
  5. 5. I imagined hundreds of thousands of other writers just like us Silenced
  6. 6. Is it possible our book sucked? Do we suck?
  7. 7. Or is Traditional Publishing the problem?
  8. 8. The Problem with Traditional Publishing1. Publishers control * the printing press * the distribution * the knowledge to professionally publish2. Publishers reject most authors3. Publishers judge books on perceived commercial merit4. Publishers decide what readers can read5. Slow production cycles (12-18 mo)6. Print books too expensive7. Books forced out of print early8. Authors earn only 5-17% of list price
  9. 9. I Envisioned a More Democratic Form of Publishing1. Authors gain access to: * the printing press * the distribution * the knowledge to professionally publish2. Authors free to publish what they want3. Instant publishing4. Readers choose what they want to read5. Immortal books, never go out of print6. Low cost books increase affordability7. Authors earn the lion’s share of the proceeds
  10. 10. My Answer: Smashwords• FREE ebook publishing platform • Ebook printing press • Distribution to major ebook stores • Best practices knowledge
  11. 11. How Smashwords Works1. UPLOAD • Upload a Microsoft Word file, formatted to our Smashwords Style Guide • Ready for immediate sale online1. DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to major retailers1. GET PAID • Author receives 85% of net
  12. 12. Indie ebooks published at Smashwords 185,000 + (today)200000150000 92,000100000 28,800 50000 6,000 140 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
  13. 13. Enough about me.Let’s talk about your future as a writer.
  14. 14. Let’s bust a dangerous myth
  15. 15. What myth should we bust?
  16. 16. The Myth of Big Publishing
  17. 17. You were taught to bow subservient before the altar of Big Publishing
  18. 18. you weren’t an author until a publisher blessed you as such… and unless you got a book deal, you were a failure
  19. 19. … and in a sense it was truePublishers held all the power to connect you with readers
  20. 20. You were told to keep toiling and waiting. And waiting… Rejection would make you stronger
  21. 21. … and if you dared indulge in the carnal pleasures of self-publishing...
  22. 22. Publishers were the bouncers at the pearly gates of author heaven• Promised Perks of the Afterlife • editing • printing press • distribution • marketing • royalties • fame and respect • readers • “published author” inscribed on your tombstone
  23. 23. You were told …you’d get a deal when you perfected your craft like these other great published writers …
  24. 24. Justin Bieber got a book deal
  25. 25. Snooki got a book deal
  26. 26. Kourtney, Kim and Khloe got a book deal
  27. 27. StopDon’t sell your soul
  28. 28. The old model ofpublishing is brokenIt has become harmful to writers to readers to books
  29. 29. Yet your future isbrighter than ever
  30. 30. You have optionstoday that didn’t existback in the dark ages of publishing (four years ago)
  32. 32. “GOD IS DEAD”Friedrich Nietzsche
  34. 34. No, though it has lost its wayYou will decide the fate of Big Publishing
  38. 38. Let’s examine the forces, and what these changes mean for your future
  40. 40. TREND ONEBookselling moving to the Web
  41. 41. Percentage of book purchasesmade online vs B&M, Print and E- Web Brick & Mortar Today?
  42. 42. Bookselling moves to the Web• The decline of brick and mortar• Consumer drivers: • Price • Convenience • Selection• Self-published books displayed side by side with traditional books • Big publishers no longer control distribution
  43. 43. TREND TWO:Reading Moving to Screens
  44. 44. Screens are the new paper
  45. 45. A blast from the past: Ebook market share in 20081.2 0 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Source: Association of American Publishers,
  46. 46. Ebooks as a percentage of US wholesale trade market 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012Source: Association of American Publishers, 2012 Smashwords estimate
  47. 47. Ebooks to overtake printPrint books Ebooks Print booksEbooks Dollars Units
  48. 48. Why ebooks are hot• Screens offer better reading experience than paper • Changeable font size A B C D • Portable and compact • Screens will get better/faster/cheaper• Ebooks offer better consumption experience • Lower cost than print • Convenient sampling and purchasing • Huge selection
  49. 49. TREND THREEThe Rise of Ebook Self-Publishing (a.k.a indie ebook publishing)
  50. 50. Number of books published indie vs. traditional Indie books New trad. books Today?
  51. 51. Indies are Now Out-Publishing Big Publishers• Indie author advantages • faster time to market • greater creative control • lower expenses • better distribution to global market • Immortal ebooks never go out of print • lower prices to consumers • earn more per book
  52. 52. Indies are Now Out-Publishing Big Publishers• Indies scaling all the bestseller lists • Four Smashwords authors hit August 5 NY Times Bestseller list. • Every week, indie ebooks are in the bestseller lists of every retailer • This month, Apple iBookstore AU/NZ launched “Breakout Author” promotion – Smashwords only
  53. 53. QUADRUPLE +
  54. 54. Indie Ebook Authors Earn Higher Percentage of List Price Indie Traditional 60-80% 12-17%• Indies earn more at lower prices • Indies earn more selling a $.99 ebook ($.60-$.70) than a traditional $8.00 MMP ($.40) • At $2.99, indies earn $1.80. Trad. author would have to sell at $10.25 • Lower price = reach more readers = more sales at higher profits per sale
  55. 55. TREND FOUR Content Explosion Leads toDownward Pressure on Prices
  56. 56. Glut leads to ebook price competition $4.25 $3.15 October 2010 March 2012Average price of Smashwords ebooks
  57. 57. ... Impact of content explosion• The glut will only become more pronounced• Excess supply leads to price competition• Lower prices increase affordability and accessibility • More books will be read than ever before • Readers will still pay for books• Can publishers drop prices to $2.99- $3.99?
  58. 58. TREND FIVE Publishers Losing Monopoly asWriters Gain Tools to Self-Publish
  59. 59. Big Publishers Have Lost Their Monopoly• Printing press is free to all• Distribution free to all• Knowledge to publish, distribute and market high-quality, professional books is free to all• Professional authors asking: • “What can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?” • “Will a publisher actually limit my ability to reach readers?”
  60. 60. TREND SIX Print is Dead for Most Self- Published Authors (and will become less and lessimportant to traditionally published authors)
  61. 61. Print is Dead• Brick and mortar bookstores disappearing• Most self-pubbed authors don’t have access to brick and mortar distribution• Customers choosing low cost ebooks over high-priced print books• Exceptions: • Face to face print sales will continue • Some books are meant for print (for now) • Specialty souvenir books sold in non-traditional outlets
  62. 62. TREND SEVENEbooks are going global
  63. 63. The Global Ebook Opportunity• Countries outside the US are entering the exponential phase of their ebook growth• Ebook retailers going global • Apple iBookstore (50), Amazon (10), Kobo (many), B&N (U.K.+)• 46% of Smashwords/iBookstore sales global
  64. 64. TREND EIGHTBig NY Publishers are in Trouble
  65. 65. Big Publisher Headwinds• Hamstrung by legacy print business • Print business in decline, slow to adopt ebooks • High expense structures • Ebooks sell for less, so revenues under pressure• Consolidation • Big 6 now Big 5, soon to be Big 3
  66. 66. Suffering Self-Inflicted Wounds• Not serving writers• Bumbled entry into self- publishing• Pricing ebooks too high• Writers are angry• Let’s review a couple of these…
  67. 67. Authors Singing Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take it!”• Publishers: • Reject you • Delay you • Value your work on perceived commercial merit • Strip you of your creative freedom • Force you to do most of your own marketing • Force you out of print too soon • Pay you only 5-17% of list price • Price your books too high
  68. 68. Publishers’ High eBook Prices Threaten Writer Careers Why?
  69. 69. Book buyers are price sensitive
  70. 70. Authors Yield Two Benefits from Every Sale1. Money from the sale • Unit sales X royalty per unit = profit1. Gain a fan • Fans spread word of mouth, recruit new fans • Fans eagerly await your next book • Fans are less price sensitive Pricing strategy essential to maximize both
  71. 71. How Price Impacts Units Sold
  72. 72. What Price Yields Highest Earnings?
  73. 73. Publishers’ bumbled entry into self- publishing will backfire
  74. 74. In July, the parent company ofPenguin acquired Author Solutions Author Solutions earns over 2/3 of itsincome selling over-priced services to authors $25,000 publishing packages! Blood sucking parasites
  75. 75. Writers DON’T need to pay a king’s ransom to self publishEbook self-publishing is fast, free and easy Print self-publishing can be free or extremely low-cost
  76. 76. TREND NINEThe Previous Stigma of Self- Publishing is Disappearing
  77. 77. Stigmas to reverse Aspire AspireTraditional IndieAspire Indie Aspire Traditional 4 yrs ago Today? Future?
  78. 78. The Plan Forward
  79. 79. The 9 Trends Create a Future that … Benefits Indie Authors Disadvantages Some Traditionally Published Authors
  80. 80. You have the right to publish
  81. 81. For the sake of humanity, you have an obligation to publish
  82. 82. Your words have value
  83. 83. You are your own gatekeeper
  84. 84. YOU decide when your manuscript graduates to PUBLISHED BOOK
  85. 85. Unleash your words upon the world
  86. 86. Honor your readers with your words
  87. 87. Give readers great books that are as good or better than those released by Big Publishers(and do it faster with lower prices)
  88. 88. The task before you is not easy. It requires hard work. yet…
  89. 89. The Opportunity to Reach Readers Has Never Been Greater
  90. 90. Welcome to the new world of publishing You’re in charge now. You have options.
  91. 91. Who’s The Future of Publishing? Look around you, that’s who. YOU are the future of publishing!
  92. 92. Free Ebook Publishing Resources• NEW! Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of successful authors)• Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book)• Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook)
  93. 93. Thank you for considering the future! Q&AConnect with Mark Coker and Smashwords:Web: www.smashwords.comBlog: blog.smashwords.comLinkedIn: @markcoker