I wanted to write a short reminder post about the trials and tribulations of authorship: the news that Tate closes, authors beware of BEA, and other normal advice. This is one of the things we need to do to help each other remember about the dangers [fical] of wandering about in the publishing industry.
News like Tate closes, authors beware of BEA, and so on is just normal advice
For those not aware, Tate (who is a commonly used Christian vanity press) gave up. Never fear, they will reemerge shortly in another incarnation. This type of operation always does. Are they evil? Not necessarily, but they are worldly predators seeking the ignorant author afraid to go out on his or her own and self-publish.
The problem is that they have gotten caught in the new reality—which is that new authors cannot afford to use tradepub pricing as they get started on their writing careers. This is why it has become almost impossible to get a decent contract from a traditional publisher. If you were part of the Bergsland Design book production FaceBook group you would have seen a couple of posts in the past couple of days about the pricing problems of the tradepub industry. Join us to get the most recent posts of this nature.
Supposedly, print is soaring and ebooks are tanking. Don’t believe it. Here’s a link to one the posts I was talking about:
- The other FB post was another quote from Jane Friedman showing the Truth about ebook sales. Here’s an excerpt from that quote: “Are ebook sales declining? Only for traditional publishers, not for the market as a whole. Traditional publishers saw ebook sales decline by 16 percent in 2016. But Author Earnings estimates Amazon’s ebook sales grew by 4 percent. Traditional publishers are losing ebook market share to the non-traditional market of indie authors, small presses, and Amazon’s own house imprints. Both Nielsen and Author Earnings confirmed that, when looking at the total adult fiction sales of traditional publishers only, about half of all sales are digital. When factoring in the non-traditional market, more than two-thirds of all adult fiction sales are digital.”
The problem is ebook pricing
For the niche publisher, the small potatoes novelist, and the new author there is a strong new reality. No one is willing to pay more than $5 or so for ebook fiction. It almost impossible to get anyone to pay more than $10 for even the best non-fiction in ebook form. Tradepub needs to charge exorbitant ebook prices to pay for their internal production costs.
This is where Tate was caught. Even though they were already charging the authors to publish their books, they still had to keep prices high to pay for their internal production. Remember, this basic proverb:
Never pay to publish your book, unless you retain all rights and receive excellent royalties
All the authors I know who used Tate, and the others in the industry, were unable to control the pricing of their Kindle books—if they were ever even released. The most common price point for a new author is $2.99 for fiction and $4.99 for non-fiction. Tate could not survive at those levels of pricing.
If you self-publish, you can make 70% Kindle royalties on books at this price. Vanity presses often force their authors to price their fiction or non-fiction at $7.99 or much higher. Do not sign a contract with a publisher unless they give you an ePUB you can sell in the various suppliers at current industry pricing. If they can’t [or won’t] do that, you cannot afford to hire them to publish your book.
Beware of marketing opportunities!
In this world where Tate closes, authors beware of BEA, and so on is just normal advice, what do I mean beware of BEA? I just received an excellent article in Jane Friedman’s newsletter this morning. In it, she warns about signing up for predatory marketing plans offering you access to the large industry events like BEA. Here’s a little quote:
What is Book Expo (BEA)?
It’s the largest industry trade show in North America focused on traditional publishing. It started off as a convention for booksellers (the American Booksellers Association), and it’s attended mostly by people inside the industry, including literary agents, booksellers, librarians, and the media. The bulk of BEA consists of an exhibit floor where publishers purchase booth space to show off their upcoming titles (and authors), sell rights, and network with colleagues. There’s also a separate rights area where literary agents often have tables.
Do authors attend BEA?
Yes, but usually at the invitation of their publisher. Every year, traditional publishers decide what specific titles they want to push heavily at BEA, and will often invite the authors to do signings or events meant to bring visibility to the work pre-publication. Remember that “visibility” in this context means visibility to the trade (the industry), not visibility to consumers. There’s a separate event—BookCon—that focuses on consumers.
In 2014, in acknowledgment of the growing indie author market, BEA opened up an exhibit area where indie authors could buy affordable tables to conduct meetings and network. It was initially known as “Author Hub” and is now called “Author Market.” This is not an opportunity to sell books—selling books is not allowed at BEA. You can give away copies, though.
Now I’m certain that several of you began salivating at the prospect of having your book promoted in a venue like this. Give it up! Drool ain’t cool! Plus, unless “you’re a professional, independent author with a significant history of sales, and already know of other professionals you could potentially meet and network with at BookExpo” all you will do is throw your money away.
This is a marketing opportunity for authors like Bill O’reilly, Clive Cussler, David Baldacci, Lee Child, David Blatner, and the like. Best-sellering authors are promoted here, and you need to be able to compete at their level.
Is there anything wrong with vanity presses or marketing opportunities?
No, not really. The good ones tell you exactly what they are offering. However, the unscrupulous and the predatory will steal you blind with no results. So, what should you do in a world where Tate closes, authors beware of BEA, and the other normal advice is necessary?
Pull on your grownup shorts or panties & self-publish!
If you do it all yourself, you can publish for free. At most you will have the cost of a professional editor and/or a book production specialist. But that will cost you less than $2,000 [probably less than $1,000 & maybe only a few hundred dollars] and you will have the much higher royalties and complete control of your pricing. That is certainly better than paying a vanity press $10,000 or more, plus several thousand for something like BEA access. Plus, the quality of your book will probably be better. And, your sales will almost certainly be better. You can easily update, change the cover, adjust the pricing, make special promotions and all the rest of the things truly necessary in this world where Tate closes, authors beware of BEA, and all the other normal advice really is necessary.
What questions do you have?