A couple of factors have me thinking:
1. I gave my mom my kindle to borrow to see if she likes it. We went to find a book to buy and, as I have said before and would love to jump on my soapbox and help traditional publishers fix this but hey, I don't work for publishers, when you are searching for books while on your kindle, there is no quick way to tell if a book is by a traditional publisher or self-pubbed. I did not feel like clicking through each book to figure out who publishes what and also noted that price is not the go to resource as both traditional and self-publishers offer their books for little to no money. We downloaded MUST LOVE DOGS --the book, 'coz i loved the movie--for FREE! She wanted a book by one of her favorite writers but when she saw the cost she said, "I didn't realize that ebooks are as expensive as paperbacks (this is an adult novel), maybe an e-reader is not for me" (sigh)
Honestly, I cannot figure out the benefit to the author or the publisher of a free one-off book (1st book in an series (especially an aging series) is another thing--brilliant marketing move and I would say a must do to reignite interest in that series). I don't know if the author of MUST LOVE DOGS has written lots of other books 'coz on Kindle it is a pain to figure that out and negates the ease of the buying experience.
2. A man I know who is a great guy and a good writer wrote a book for which he could not secure an agent. He revised and rather than again trying to go the traditional route decided to self-pub it as an ebook. Heck, one my my fabulous ex-clients did the same thing after I was unable to sell her book to a traditional publisher.
3. I know some of you have told me that your 'erotica' writer friends and 'genre' writer friends are making some big bucks selling their e-books for $0.99 to $3.99....we are talking 6 figures a year!
4. And this NYTimes article...Writer’s Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, a Book a Year Is Slacking which is talking about traditionally published authors now needing to increase their output to keep in front of the consumers' eye including digital-only short stories. Interestingly, "Advances [for digital-only short stories] are typically not part of the bargain, and the works are priced so low (usually $0.99 or $1.99) that they don’t produce much revenue, even if they take several weeks or months to write. But some authors said that even though they are beginning to accept them as one of the necessary requirements of book marketing, they still find them taxing to produce."
5. Heck, these days you can buy a review from Kirkus and others....a good review is not guaranteed but in most reviews there are snippets to use to promote your book...and further blur the lines for consumers to know if it is traditionally or self-pubbed.
Where is this all going, including the negative effect of the unending lawsuits that some traditional pubs are now facing due to the US Gov't decision against Agency Pricing and the growing perception by consumers that e-books are not worth more than perhaps a buck or two. (Big sigh for the consumers who give an ebook low star ratings because they are angry that the ebook costs almost as much as the printed version.)
As you know from my previous posts, I am a huge believer in professional editing, cover design, marketing, distribution, etc. And I point you to Shelli Johannes Wells' blog on the hard work and results of self-pubbing from an author who is a professional marketer. And if you haven't read Amanda Hocking's Blog post HOW AM I DOING NOW? go read it, well, NOW. As well as Another informative perspective: When Self-Publishing Is More Useful As a Marketing Tool from the wonderful Jane Friedman blog.
What I know is I am selling my clients' books....LOTS OF THEM. And so are most of my agent friends. Traditional publishing and publishers are not going anywhere at this point, if they were they would not be hiring more editors, art directors, marketers, digital managers, etc...which many of them still are.
I am still waiting to read a self-published book that is as well edited as most of the traditionally published books. Many of these books have fun plots, interesting characters, tantalizing sex---ok, referring to a specific book here:)--and sell for way below the typical cost of a traditionally published book. Actually, part of me doesn't understand why if an author hires a top-notch professional editor, cover artist, designer, etc, their book isn't freak'n amazing. So people, please name those books for me 'coz I haven't found them yet.
Maybe the reason many self-pubbed books are lacking in some way is that authors do not want to or feel the need to invest in the things that traditional publishers do, and who btw also pay an advance and cover all costs. Maybe it is the dream/delusion that what and how we write is good enough. I don't need an editor/sales/marketing/acquisitions board telling me when it is good enough for human consumption?
So I ask you all, when do you say to yourself, ah....forget publishers....if they can't see my brilliance/or heck who knows, maybe mine will be the next 50 Shades or Wool?
Are your writer friends, non-agented or agented, debut or published, talking self-pubbing for either new work or books that have not sold in the past?
Picture above from http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/ebook-pricing-still-a-mystery-to-some-publishers/