Self-publishing authors will be able to offer their titles on Apple’s iBookstore for the iPad at almost no cost, potentially breaking down the barriers for independent writers who want to sell their work across the globe.
According to DigitalBeat, the self-publishing service Smashwords has signed a distribution deal with Apple to put books on the iBookstore, which will be a part of the iBooks application, available as a free download on the iPad through the App Store …
The e-mail from Coker also revealed Apple’s pricing rules for the iBookstore. Each title’s price must end in 99 cents (i.e. $12.99), and books can be priced as low as 99 cents. The price of the book must also be less than its print counterpart.
Author Dean Takahashi said users can submit their work to Smashwords through a simple process that involves uploading a Microsoft Word file, setting the price and deciding where the book is to be published …
Through the service [Smashwords], authors receive 85 percent of net sale proceeds from titles, or 70.5 percent of affiliate sales. The report said the cost to distribute a book on the iPad is free …
Apple’s iBooks application is compatible with the ePub format. Apple will also sell content from some of the largest publishers in the world, including HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Shuster.
Independent writers–that’s anyone who can type on a computer and upload a Word file–will be able to sell their books through the iBookstore and iBooks app via Smashwords, which will offer an overall 60% royalty rate to authors (normally Smashwords offers 85%, but that’s only directly through their own site). I’m not suggesting that everyone should start publishing junk and trying to make money that way, I’m only saying that at this time, it is very easy to get your works onto the Kindle store, iBookstore, etc.
Amazon made waves by offering a 70% royalty rate to indie authors starting on June 30th, 2010. As long as indie authors price their ebooks between $2.99 and $9.99, that’s the swell deal Amazon is offering. And without a doubt, the deal is really swell, considering that there are indie authors already selling thousands of books a month via the Kindle store. For more on that, follow JA Konrath’s blog.
Joe Konrath is doing quite well with his ebooks in the Kindle store (he expects to be making $10K/month come July), but there are also unheard-of new authors selling thousands of ebooks a month there, too. Look for stories like John Rector’s and Boyd Morrison’s, who parlayed Kindle success into traditional publishing contracts. Rector and Morrison are somewhat unusual stories, but those stories are also becoming more common. Konrath’s blog has featured others as well (especially in the comments).
Now Apple and its new homeboy Smashwords is luring authors, not with a higher royalty rate (60% vs 70% with Amazon), but by allowing authors to price their books at $0.99 or $1.99, which many authors have done on Kindle in order to generate more downloads and find more readers.
Oh, by the way: Authors don’t have to choose one or the other. They can easily be on Smashwords/iBookstore, as well as Amazon/Kindle.
The conventional wisdom remains that aspiring authors are best served by trying to publish traditionally, but the independent alternative to the conventional approach keeps getting more and more interesting, and without a doubt that trend is rapidly strengthening. Owning the e-rights to your books forever, while more and more people are buying ereaders like Kindle, Sony, and iPad (and Kindle books can be read on any computer, anyway), does have its allure.
It’s also worth noting that Joe Konrath has discouraged aspiring authors from going indie right off the bat [EDIT: See April 7 Update, below] and encouraged new writers to seek a literary agent first, but at the same time Joe has mentioned that he’s unsure of whether or not he wants to give up the erights to his future books because he knows from experience how valuable they are, and how valuable they will be.
If you want to hear from someone who argues well for the future of indie publishing and walks her talk, check out Zoe Winters.
So tell me, what do you make of all of this?
UPDATE (April 7th, 2010): Joe Konrath has, to some degree, changed his point of view on self-publishing ebooks. On his blog today, he makes a strong case for authors retaining their e-rights. In practical terms, this likely means holding onto all rights, since publishers are (to put it mildly) reluctant to give up those rights. Yes, this would mean that dreaded thing which shall not be spoken of in serious writing circles: “self-publishing.” You may want to wash your hands now.
I asked him the following in the comments area on his blog:
What kind of advice should an unpublished author draw from your recent posts, Joe? Get an agent, publish traditionally, get your name out there, and then (based on today’s post) go indie with ebooks and POD once you think you can sell enough books that way?
Joe Konrath’s response:
I’m hesitant to give advice on this. A month ago I’d say get an agent and traditionally publish. But I was just on the phone today with a friend who has been traditionally published, and I warily cautioned him to look at the numbers before accepting any new offers, because he could potentially make more money on his own.
This blows my mind, BTW. I did NOT expect to ever be a cheerleader for self-publishing.
But numbers are numbers, and my predictions for the future of ebooks have 1 full year of data to support them.
So, hell, I don’t know what to tell you, Moses. I do know this for sure:
Everyone needs to make up their own mind. You need to follow your own path, based on your experience and experiments.
Experts are fine to listen to, but no expert (me included) should be considered Gospel.
UPDATE April 9th, 2010. Sounds like Joe Konrath is probably going all-in with self-publishing his future novels as ebooks. Check out his post.