By Philip Jones
Last night I received an email from Rob Heinze, who has self-published 14 novels. His latest The Swarm is now riding high on the Nook and Kindle charts. “Reviewers are calling me the next Stephen King,” he tells the email list. This is one of many such emails I receive from authors telling me of their indie success – almost daily.
This morning I read too that self-published crime writer Kerry Wilkinson was the biggest selling Kindle book on Amazon.co.uk in the final quarter of 2011. According to his Amazon page, the Daily Express has described him as “The Hottest New Author In Britain”. Not bad for an author who has yet to find a publisher.
These are just the latest examples: before Heinze and Wilkinson, there was Hocking and Konrath, Locke and Leather, Eisler and Edwards.
This list represents a growing worry for traditional publishers, but it is also one often overstated. According to an analysis by Publishers Marketplace of the NYT bestseller lists last year, just 11 self-published authors made the charts, and since they were selling at a fraction of the price of other books they were earning a fraction of the income. However, as Joe Konrath points out here, or Lexi Revellion here, they do not need to earn grand sums of cash in order to maintain a living at this (and damage the reputation of those publishers who should be publishing them).
For years the publishing industry has ignored self-publishing and dismissed those companies helping authors reach the market as vanity operations. The authors themselves have been pilloried and left to languish on the slush-pile. It’s little wonder so many of them seem pissed off with publishers.
But the world has moved on, Amazon has created a huge freemarket for “published” content where there is little or no differentiator based on quality, or other suitable algorithm. I’m not always sure the big publishers have moved with it. The reaction of some publishers is still to be airily dismissive of self-published writers, as was evident in the recent Guardian piece “Ebooks are being driven by downmarket genre fiction”, or Profile founder Andrew Franklin’s view, expressed at the London Book Fair last year, that at dinner parties you turn away from self-published writers.
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