Someone posed this question to me the other day:
If digital sales will continue increasing as rapidly as they have been this past year, are we reaching a point where traditional print contracts won’t be as financially rewarding as e-published contracts or self-pubbing?
This question came about after I advised him that traditional print publishers pay a royalty of about 8% for print novels, and 25% for the corresponding e-book sales. In comparison, e-publishers pay out 30-40% royalties, and self-pubbed royalties are around 70%.
His point was, if e-book sales were around 10% of the total book sales last year but are now closer to 30% (figures we’ve heard but hey, we’ve got no statistical data to back it up), where will they be next year? Given that it takes one to two years to see a book published after signing with a print publisher, we may very well see a scenario where, by the time an author who contracts with a print publisher in 2011 releases her novel, the number of e-book sales will be greater than the number of print sales. In such a case, the author will only collect 25% of those e-book sales (as opposed to the higher 30-40% or 70% for choosing to publish with an e-pub or self-pub).
Here’s my thought on this. I think it’s still advantageous to have a print contract. The big publishers have one major draw: a huge customer base. Things are in flux right now, but e-book sales of books published with those print publishers will continue to increase, and they’ll attract people who trust the quality of their novels. On top of that, there will always be people who choose print over digital.
I think in the future we will see authors who publish across all sorts of media: traditional print publishers for mainstream/popular novels, and e-pub and/or self-pub for nontraditional works or novellas. That’s just my take on things.
Your turn to break out the crystal ball. Tell me, how do you see the future of the publishing industry? Do you think digital publishing contracts or self-pubbing will become more financially rewarding than traditional contracts? If so, do you see it happening within the next five years?