Part 1: Why Indie Authors Will Break Traditional Publishers

This post, from Brad Vertrees, originally appeared on his Brad’s Reader site on 12/7/09 and is reprinted here in its entirety with his permission. Part 2 will run tomorrow.

 think large publishing houses are scared, and for good reason. They’re faced with an enemy that they see as a threat to their business. I’m talking about the growing number of indie authors – those who totally bypass the large publishing houses and self-publish their books in print and digital format. Indie authors aren’t afraid to trek out on their own and play by their own rules.


Indie authors have several advantages over authors who go with a traditional publishing house. And it’s these advantages that could be the downfall of  the traditional publishing business.


– Indie authors can distribute their books in any manner they please. They can sell ebooks online and sell print books out of the trunk of their car. The distribution channels for authors is opening, thanks to the internet (the great neutralizer, as I call it).

– Indie authors can seriously undercut large publishers’ prices on books. These authors don’t have a very high overhead and can offer their books at much lower prices and still make a tidy profit.

– Indie authors become their own brand. They create an online presence through their own websites, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. They sell their books to a built-in fan base.

– Indie authors can control the copyrights to their works.

Example: Joe Konrath

Even when publishers do get into the ebook game, it does not always benefit the author – at least not financially. One of my favorite author blogs is A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by Joe Konrath. He talks about making a living as a writer, including a lot of discussion about ebooks.

In a post he wrote back in October entitled Kindle Numbers: Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing. Joe “spills the beans” about his earnings and posts what he has made on ebooks from Hyperion (a traditional publisher) that have been published on the Amazon Kindle. And then he posts his earnings from ebooks he has self-published on the Kindle. Here’s how it breaks down:

Ebooks from Hyperion sold on Kindle

– Earnings from Jan. 1 to June 31, 2009.

– 6 titles published on Kindle.

– Price range per book: $3.96 -$7.99

– 1237 ebooks sold in 6 months.

– Total royalties: $2008

Self-published ebooks sold on Kindle

– Earnings from Jan. 1 to June 31, 2009

– 4 titles published on Kindle.

– Price range per book: $1.99

– 9800 books sold in 6 months.

– Total earnings: $6860

Joe made $4853 more self-publishing his titles on the Kindle. He offered fewer titles sold at a much lower price ($1.99). Why so much success with self-publishing? I think this big difference is due to the fact that when Joe self-published on Amazon, he got roughly $0.70 per book sold (35% of the price he sets).

For the books published by Hyperion Joe receives 25% of whatever the publisher receives. It’s also worth noting that Hyperion and Amazon have to strike an agreement regarding these prices. This leaves Joe with a lot less control and a lot less money in his pocket.

Here’s the interesting part, however, Joe does not own the rights to the books sold by Hyperion. If he did?

If I had the rights to all six of my Hyperion books, and sold them on Kindle for $1.99, I’d be making $20,580 per year off of them, total, rather than $4818 a year off of them, total.

Just by owning the copyrights to his own works, Joe can increase his own earnings by several thousand dollars. This makes a great case why copyright (especially in the digital realm) is becoming such a hot button issue.

Do you think I’m right in my assessment that indie authors will eventually bring the large publishers to their knees? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

In Part 2 (to be posted on Wednesday) I’ll be writing about the one large advantage publishers have over indie authors and how that advantage can be minimized.

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