This post, by Mathew Ingram, originally appeared on Gigaom on 3/1/11.
The writing has been on the wall for some time in the book publishing business: platforms like Amazon’s Kindle and the iPad have caused an explosion of e-book publishing that’s continuing to disrupt the industry on a whole series of levels and reshape the future of the book, as Om has written about in the past. And evidence continues to accumulate that e-books aren’t just something established authors with an existing brand can make use of, but are also becoming a real alternative to traditional book contracts for emerging authors as well — all of which should serve as a massive wake-up call for publishers.
The latest piece of evidence is the story of independent author Amanda Hocking, a 26-year-old who lives in Minnesota and writes fantasy-themed fiction for younger readers. Unlike some established authors such as J.A. Konrath, who have done well with traditional publishing deals before moving into self-publishing their own e-books, Hocking has never had a traditional publishing deal — and yet, she has sold almost one million copies of the nine e-books she has written in less than a year, and her latest book appears to be selling at the rate of about 100,000 copies a month.
It’s true that the prices Hocking charges for these books are small — in some cases only 99 cents, depending on the book — but the key part of the deal is that she (and any other author who works with Amazon or Apple) gets to keep 70 percent of the revenue from those sales. That’s a dramatic contrast to traditional book-publishing deals, in which the publisher keeps the majority of the money and the author typically gets 20 percent or even less. If you sell a million copies of your books and you keep 70 percent of that revenue, that is still significant, even if each book sells for 99 cents.