Monday, September 26, 2011

Are Indie Books Winding Down? - Maybe So

Since I'm in the middle of writing my 3rd novel 'Tempest in a Teapot' I've not had the time for blogging. I've seen quite a bit that I want to comment on.

Indie Publishing

Some say it's the industry's first shake down - others 'just another summer slow season.' What you see depends on who you are.

I think it is a trend.

The Word on the Indie boards is that sales are very slow. Many Indies are talking about packing it up. Other's are throwing their books into the Dollar Dreadful Ghetto just to bump some numbers.

There are, of course, hundreds of newbies for every 'dropout.' Alas for the Indies - back-list continues to appear. So readers are picking up their favorite authors.

It's not just Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Katherine Rusch, Bob Mayer and Andre Jute dusting off their old books. It's EVERYONE with a lick of sense and a few out-of-print published books in storage.

It is the law of supply and demand in action. When there wasn't a supply of 'known' authors, the 'un-known' did very well for themselves. Now with the flood of 'name' authors with new and back-listed titles the average Indie is not able to compete.

This may well lead to the deepening of the pool of  Dollar Dreadful e-books. If Indie books aren't able to compete on the level playing field with quality, cheap prices may be all they have.

The Christmas Season

The Christmas Season looms - millions of i-Pads, Kindles, Kindle-tablets, Nooks, Color Nooks, mini-Nooks, Sony readers packed with Harry Potter books, and the stalwart Kobo are waiting to be shipped to stores for Black Friday.

I predict that Black Friday will be the big sales boost to e-books as it always is for retail. It might take a week for it to echo out, but that is the day for every Indie to hold out for.

Enjoy it, my friends, because it's going to be the last hurrah for the Indie Author.

This next wave of sales is going to signal the end of the Indie Author Boom. By this time next year there will more back-list titles than Indie titles. That will the end of the Indie 'Revolution' because the supply of back-list will meet the demands of readers.

The Indie market will pop, like all bubbles.

Stay tuned.


Andre Jute said...

People are presently overreacting, Kat, because of ignorance of the industry they find themselves in. On the one hand you're right about the likely consequences, but more than likely out by a few years on the timing.

1. Literature is a cruelly competitive business. It is a the purest form of Darwinism outside biology. That's good, because it guarantees a quality product.

2. That said, September 2011 isn't one of the periodic shakeouts, otherwise known as a massacre of unwanted authors, it is just a routine recurring annual dip in sales. This year it has been aggravated by Amazon insensitively tweaking their algorithms, and thus reducing the exposure of the indies' books, at the same time as a normal annual trough in the market for books. My own sales for September will be about 30% down on July, the best month this year; that's just what I expected, nothing to panic about. My sales for September will still be 3x of my sales last Christmas; that tells you exactly how ridiculous all this doom and gloom is.

3. Authors who've suffered massive declines (bigger than 40%, say) did something wrong. For a start, too many indies failed to inform themselves of the Bell Curve for books. They assumed their one book would sell forever. It doesn't work like that. The market saturates and readers move on to writers with new books. See, it's a NOVELty business.

4. October will be better for most authors but most of all for those with a new book.

5. Christmas will be a bonanza for the indies as well, on a generally rising market, driven by new etablet and ereader sales.

Continues below.

Andre Jute said...

Continued from above.

6. Sure, eventually the professionals will roll over all but the best indies like Heinz Guderian having a good in France. But there is no reason to believe that it will happen while the market grows. For instance, the mobile phone market for literature is largely untapped. Nor do I see any reason to believe the market for ereaders will saturate this Christmas. Even 2012 is too soon. Maybe 2013. That's further than most indies plan. That's less time than most professional writers plan for.

7. You're right, when all this has shaken out, in say five years, there will be the same old writers, plus the usual quota of new faces, but bigger, their sales inflated by the influx of new readers the erevolution has brought us. And also a good whack of surviving indies, who'll be indistinguishable from scarred old pros, the survivors of many shake-outs. That will be a gain, that at least we'll hear no more whining about publishing keeping out deserving writers.

8. However, it won't be "indie books winding down"; the good indies will merely have been assimilated in the shifting body politic that is publishing, and the rest will have fallen off the wagon. The whole thing might even be called indie publishing, but it will be owned by different people, some of them corporate virtual persons called Bertelsman and Hachette and so on. I doubt that many treatises will be written about the indie phenomenon as we've briefly known it. It seems to me more likely than not that the Slush Pile articles on my blog at -- which together is really a nostalgic tour through the now gone high-literary publishers of my youth -- will in a decade or two do double duty in describing the origins and rationale of the indies, and the reasons for their demise, which is that 80% of them had no business being published.

9. A point that you mention but do not emphasize sufficiently is this: We are all indies now, whatever our origins, competing in ebooks on a level playing field. The vast majority of indies will not be flattered by the inevitable comparison. They used their indian summer to gloat about the downfall of trad publishing -- and abused those of us who tried to explain to them that they were forecasting their own fall -- instead of learning something useful about their new trade. I've already made the case that retribution will not be as speedy as you believe, but you're right, it is inevitable and inexorable.

Don't shoot the piano player. He can only play the score put in front of him. At the top of the score stands the name of the composition:

Survivors survive.

Ms Kitty said...

I agree on some points.

1. Agree. This is a cruel business. Which goes along with my point that this is a trend.

2. I disagree that there is no shakeout because I've seen books on my shelves disappear. There are people dropping out of the e-book business.

This is NOT a trade shakeout. It is authors who got into it as 'easy money' who are getting out. I agree the bell curve (or learning curve) is an utter bitch. Unless a newbie has someone with more experience (like yourself) to talk them through it, it is utterly nerve-racking.

3. Agree - many of them published books that weren't ready yet.

4. Disagree - with this economy, I think it will take until Black Friday for sales to spike. At least here in the USA the political bullshit has tanked our economy once again.

5, 6, and 7 - agree. ;-)

8 & 9 - agree whoever is leftover (in 2 years) is going to be just another author.

Surviving the next two years is going to be the trick.

I never shoot good piano players.

Ms Kitty said...

I still think the game will be totally different by this time next year.

The industry has change SO fast - it feels JUST like the Dot Com bubble - where I lost my life savings and my retirement. After that kind of trauma I would be hyper-sensitive.

Ms Kitty said...

I've got a book ranking gizmo that tracks my books. It's very simple - red is down, green is up.

What I'm seeing is a few points up on the books with the lowest numbers.

Which tells me that people are pulling their books. As far as I can tell, over a dozen books have been pulled this morning.

Indies are giving up.

Can't say I blame them.