I have been thinking a lot lately about book publishing, as anybody who reads this blog already knows. Actually, to be more correct, I have been thinking of writing some books and Self-Publishing. Those are two different things, don’t you think?
I have been published by some medium-sized Publishers in the past, and it did not work out all that well. Firstly, if you let somebody else publish your work, you aren’t going to make all that much money. When I had a dozen or so books published back in the early ’90s, my royalty usually ran around 12% of the cover price of the book. On some books, I made a little (very little) more, and on some books a little less. That percentage, though, doesn’t end up bringing you a lot of money.
The books that I wrote in the past were highly niche-oriented. In other words, they were books belonging to a very small category. The average person would have never heard of them. However, for people who were also interested in that niche, my books (at least some of them) were well known. When you are addressing a niche (especially if it is a small niche) you are not going to sell a million books, because there simply are not that many people who are interested in the topic. Heck, you won’t sell 100,000 probably. I think that my best title may have sold 100,000 copies over the years, and the book was revised and updated each year. So, on an actual per-real-book basis, it might have sold 20,000 to 30,000 copies of a single edition. I considered it successful.
That was back in the early ’90s. We’re talking nearly 20 years ago. In those 20 years, the entire game has changed. We have the Internet where we can self-market things, we can self-publish to a greater (and easier) degree than we could 20 years ago. It’s a whole new ball game.
Another thing that is new this time around for me is that I have moved on to a whole new niche as well. My old niche (Amateur Radio and Shortwave Radio Listening) is something that I lost interest in years ago. My new niche is probably even more narrow than my previous one, which can be good or bad. Good in that the smaller the niche, the more intense the followers can be, the more they are willing to spend, and the less competition you will have. Bad in the sense that the smaller the niche the fewer potential customers you have. However, if you are knowledgeable about the topic, even a very small and narrow niche can pay off big.
Part of my thinking, when it comes to the Self-Publishing game is that I will market my books myself, and not sell them through other outlets. Some people’s first reaction is – “but, you’ll sell through Amazon, right?” Well, no. My intention is not to sell through Amazon or any other outlet, but only through my own websites.
- In the area that I am writing about, I believe that I am so well known that I can produce enough sales on my own to make me very happy with the results. I believe that if anybody is interested in the field that I am writing about if they do a Google search or any other search on the topic, I will be one of the first people that they find. Even if I am not the first person they find when searching, if they are serious about the subject, I believe that it is impossible that they won’t find me. If they are not interested enough to the point that they find me, I doubt that they would be buying any books on the subject anyway.
- By selling through multiple sources, I believe that I would be turning my book(s) into a commodity, rather than my brand. You see, if the book is available anywhere you look for it, it is suddenly a commodity. A bunch of different places will compete on price, thus discounting what I am offering, and thus making it difficult for me to sell it at the full price.
- By selling it myself exclusively, I can retain some semblance of direct contact with my buyer. In my niche, one of my marketing tools is that I am available to my reader. It can be difficult to maintain that availability, but I refine my operations regularly in order to ensure that I remain available, even though my audience is growing. Having that personal “one-on-one” feel appeals to my readers, and I find that it causes my personal brand to grow and increase in value. It makes me feel good, and it makes my readers feel that I appreciate them (which I do). If I was selling through Amazon and other such outlets, maintaining that personal connection would be much harder, probably impossible.
- Amazon is a middleman. All of our lives, we hear things like – “Avoid the middleman” and such. Well, Amazon is nothing but a middleman between you and your customers.
- Having that direct connection between you and your reader can lead to entirely new ideas for additional products that you never even considered. If a person buys from Amazon, they are much less likely to contact you directly with their feedback.
- I have seen some areas where I feel that Amazon has displayed a “less than honest” way of doing business. For example, currently, they are trying to force self-publishers who use POD (Print on Demand) services to use an Amazon-owned service, rather than the POD service that they have been using successfully for years. This, frankly, reeks of trying to monopolize the market. In addition, in the past, Amazon has strong-armed others (like Toys-R-Us) who were supposed to be their partners. If they will play hardball with the big boys like Toys-R-Us, what will they do with little guys like me? Frankly, I don’t even want to find out.
Well, those are a few of the reasons why I have decided to go it alone, without Amazon, without Barnes & Noble, without anybody but myself. Here’s the thing…. if I try what is in my mind, and it doesn’t work out to the extent that I believe it will, I can always alter course and go a more traditional route!
So, what do you think? Is it a wrong path to head down, or am I making the right move?
Why not do both? There are many people that have their books up on Amazon, but also make it very attractive to purchase direct from the author. For example, you can include an extra e-product that the Amazon buyer could not get. By giving people the opportunity to purchase from you (and get extra goodies), you establish a relationship with the buyer (like what you describe).
The thing to remember is that there are many, many people now who will only buy from Amazon. No matter how nice you are! Also, putting it up on Amazon through Lightning Source creates no work beyond uploading a couple of files and forgetting about it.
By the way, that 12% of the cover price has gone away. You would never get that now. With the three books that I published with a mid-sized publisher, I got 10% net. That has become increasingly common. Net means much less money. Shoot, I would have been very happy with 10% of the cover price. That whole industry has changed and why I doubt I will ever go back.
And, yes, I have mad more selling on Amazon (and BOTR sales) than I did with those other books.
All that being said, you have a lot of traffic on all of your sites. You might be able to make it alone. If anyone can, you can!
Hi Tom Nixon – Wow! That was a lightning fast response! Ha ha… I kind of expected to be hearing from you!
I don’t really consider doing both as an option, because each of those points above still would not be solved by doing both. That said, I can still do both in the future, if I decide that it has merit.
On the work end, that is not really a consideration for me, because labor is very cheap here, and shipping and such will cost me practically zero if I decide to ship from here. I suspect that most of my sales will be for e-delivery anyway, but for any work that needs to be done, I have staff or can hire additional staff. Frankly, I hope that I have to hire several more people, because if I do, that means that I am selling product!
Thanks for your comments, Tom. Much appreciated.
You know, you have have almost convinced me. I think because of how cheaply you can get things accomplished, it just might work.
If you were in the U.S., I would work harder at trying to convince you!
By the way, thanks for the link to my blog! Some of your readers have already wandered over (which is how I knew you had posted the article!).
Hi Tom Nixon – Ha ha… next thing, I’ll try to sell you on me being your publisher and shipping from here! Ha ha… just joking on that, Tom. I do intend to approach others to write books that are in my niche too, and I’ll publish them, kind of start up my own Publishing house for Philippine related materials.
Glad to know that some people have followed the link over to your blog, I like that site. Funny thing is – this particular site is not such a hot site in the number of visitors and such, so I’m surprised that I’ve already sent you traffic! 😆