Oldpub is dead. The Amazon age is truly upon us.
How do publishers make money?
You might say, “by selling books,” and you’d be wrong.
Books aren’t commodities like TVs and toothpaste. They’re pure information. Nobody buys just one book, and eBooks have made them post-scarcity items.
If the laws of supply and demand don’t apply to books, how do publishers stay in business? The same way movie studios and record companies used to: By creating artificial scarcity through gatekeeping.
Amazon has removed the barrier to entering the book market. Now anyone who wants to be published can be published. KDP made an end run around the publishing houses’ bottleneck.
There are trade offs. With the publisher bottleneck in place, 1% of aspiring authors got published, and 1% of the 1% got 90% of the royalties. Of course, publishers got even more of the total proceeds.
Indie authors like Nick Cole, Richard Fox, and Michael Anderle are making small fortunes without giving up any control to a publishing house.
Now that the market’s been democratized, any aspiring author can be published, but the pie is distributed somewhat more evenly. There will be no more Stephen Kings, J.K. Rowlings, or Lee Childs.
But every gravy train runs out eventually.
Most Amazon employees used to care more about profit than making sure authors had the correct thoughts. Their SJW contingent appears to be growing, as they’ve now banned books by Roosh V. and Jared Taylor. Small publisher Castalia House temporarily had their entire KDP account scrubbed.
Only Nethereal, which has been on the market for four years, and which Larry Correia Book Bombed, has grossed higher.
In contrast, the CFXS Amazon launch underperformed. I followed the advice of data guys like Chris Fox and Jason Anspach to the letter, including newsletter swaps with big time authors.
Whereas this approach yielded modest success with my previous Amazon launch of The Ophian Rising, my latest launch only garnered about half OR’s numbers.
You might argue that most of my readers bought their copies of CFXS through the IGG campaign, but that’s my point. Training Amazon’s algorithm is supposed to bring in new readers. Indiegogo did better than Amazon in this regard. 40% of CFXS backers were drawn from IGG itself.
Amazon, on the other hand, did not deliver the 30 day algorithm bump that many successful indie authors swear by. According to my numbers, the A9 algorithm pushed CFXS for only one day.
That was despite a clear demand for the book, as IGG showed. The newsletter swaps did indeed train the algorithm correctly, filling my also-boughts with genre-appropriate titles. I even ran three AMS ads. But despite CFXS getting rave reviews, Amazon’s algorithm didn’t grab the book and run with it.
We can only speculate as to why, but I suspect that Amazon has made changes to nerf the algo gaming strategy. They’re constantly tweaking their algorithm, and they’ve previously blunted formerly successful strategies like free giveaways. Nick Cole has even reported diminished results from newsletter trades.
This is pure conjecture, but I also suspect that the length of time Amazon’s algorithm pushes your book depends on whether or not it likes you. Nothing sells like success. If you’ve previously sold hundreds of thousands of copies, A9 gives your follow up books a 30 day bump.
Everybody else? You’re on your own.
Which brings us back to spitballing about a post-Amazon future.
For many creators, including Ethan Van Sciver, Vox Day, and myself, crowdfunding campaigns are vastly outperforming their Amazon earnings. Even first-time authors are finding success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Are KS and IGG the future of publishing?
No. Both platforms are too converged to support a popular literary renaissance. But they do give us a road map.
I predict that SF authors will embrace a neo-patronage system. The only obstacle to this model is that currently, the Conservative and apolitical money men don’t care about the culture. Or they’re too greedy to see past their own noses.
As on most fronts of our elites’ war on normal people, real change must await the day when Gen Z come into their own. They understand the stakes and will be more willing to help like-minded creators.
I envision patrons commissioning books from author clients and funding those authors’ careers so they can write what they want. If they’re smart, they’ll write what readers want to read.
There will be a fiction renaissance in more ways than one.
The day might be coming when working in the arts is just a normal job. Professional rock musicians, film makers, and authors might live on the same street as lawyers, architects, and orthodontists. No more lottery winners, but more artists can earn a living through their art.
Until that day, independent authors must rely on existing platforms like Amazon and Kickstarter. The sequel to Combat Frame XSeed is live now on Indiegogo, where it’s already rivaling the first book’s success.
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