The Real E-Publishing Story: It’s Not the Millionaires, It’s the Midlist

The folks at Puretextuality were gracious enough to let me do a guest blog posting about my take on the indie e-publishing revolution; if you get a chance, take a look at it. There’s one point in it that I wanted to expand upon:

There will be a lot more headlines to come about the big deals that happen because of indie e-publishing, the Amanda Hockings and the others who hit million-dollar jackpots with their ebooks. That’s great; god bless ’em and more power to ’em. News like that is going to attract a lot more attention to what’s going on with indie e-publishing.

But to my mind, the real story is what will increasingly be going on below the talented and fortunate writers who are hitting it big. And that’s the return of the midlist writer as an economically viable and long-term career, which is something we’ve seen get frozen out of the traditional publishing industry in our lifetimes.

Consider: A writer who builds up a faithful following of 10,000 readers is a nobody as far as the trad pubs are concerned. They’ve decided that he or she isn’t even worth bothering with — and given the horrible inefficiencies of the traditional publishing industry, they might be right about that. But if the 10k-fan writer sets herself or himself up as a cottage industry and indie e-pubs her or his book for $4.95 on Amazon (which is of course a bargain price compared to what the trad pubs price their ebooks at), she or he pockets nearly three-and-a-half bucks per copy sold. Times ten thousand, that’s $35,000 — lots of people live on less. (God knows I have.) If our 10k-fan writer does two books a year — which is certainly do-able; I wrote each of the first three books in my new Kim Oh thriller series in two weeks — now she or he is looking at $70k a year. Lots of people manage to live on that.

In other words, an e-pubbing writer with a readership number that wouldn’t even get her or him on the radar of the traditional publishing industry would very likely be able to do better and sustain her or his career for longer than would another writer with more readers, who stuck with the trad pubs for as long as she or he could.

And that’s the real indie e-publishing story. It might not make the headlines that the big deals will, but it’s the number of working writers making a living from their writing, not the number of millionaires, that is the genuine revolution in e-publishing.

3 thoughts on “The Real E-Publishing Story: It’s Not the Millionaires, It’s the Midlist

  1. Spot on.

    Big publishers don’t care about the midlist. They sign ’em up like lottery tickets in case any of them break out. And bin them when they lose.

    An indie writer can make a living with 10,000 fans, less even. Not only does self-publishing allow writers with smaller fan-base to make a living for the first time, it also lets writers who don’t write straightforward commercial stuff to make a living. Welcome to the age of the micro-niche!

  2. Good article. Thanks for posting. I’m a traditionally published author in romance and romantic suspense and have recently released 3 backlist titles as ebooks. I’m excited by the numbers so far. But I also know several never before published authors who’ve gone Indie with great success, pulling in more than 10K readers on some of their books. It’s great to be an author today if you learn the craft and you know how to market.

    Lisa Mondello

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