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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The decline proceeds apace

The influence of the gatekeepers of Big Publishing continues to decline in a precipitous manner. As we are demonstrating with the apples-to-apples comparison of The Corroding Empire with The Collapsing Empire, there is simply nothing that the Big Five Publishers can do that small and medium publishers can't do better, except for buying endcaps in increasingly empty bookstores and purchasing slots on fake bestseller lists for PR.

As the chart shows, whereas the initial ebook boom most favored indy writers, now that the market is maturing a bit and it is getting harder to make a name, the trend is favoring small to medium publishers who can offer branding and force multiplication efforts to the Indy authors who a) are not a top 100 author in a major category or b) snapped up by Amazon itself.


One big reason for the fact that the Small/Medium Publisher category outperforms in Gross $ Sales versus units (33 percent vs 17 percent) is that they tend to maintain a higher price point. Looking at the per-unit Indy revenue average, there is no reason for any of those independents, no matter how successful they are, not to go with a Small/Medium Publisher on average. Even if they don't sell more units to make up for the publisher's cut, they'll make the same amount of money or more per unit anyhow due to the ability of the S/MPs to maintain higher price points.

How is that possible? Esssentially, S/MPs are delivering Big Five quality, or better, at prices that are twice Indy levels but less than half the price of the Big Five. It's a value sweet spot and Castalia is just part of the much larger trend here. I think the reputation of S/MP publishers is only going to increase, because it is the reader's perception of quality that is essential to our very reason for existence. The success metric is simple: deliver reliable quality harmonious with your brand or see your readers abandon you for Indies and the bestsellers that Amazon has skimmed off everyone else.

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63 Comments:

Blogger Lovekraft March 18, 2017 9:05 AM  

The bigger the corporation/entity, the higher the chance of it being fickle (responding to market forces) and indifferent (appealing to the mass). Look at Game of Thrones. GRRM has completely lost it - failed to fulfill his commitment, the show was taken over by famewhores and sjw virtue signallers.

Blogger Lazarus March 18, 2017 9:24 AM  

Game of Thrones: The Convergence.

Blogger tuberman March 18, 2017 9:24 AM  

This trend will be fun to watch over the next couple of years, also the decline of Hollow-wood and leftist studios and actors.

You have to love what is emerging to take over. The wildness of the Right is indeed virtuous..

Blogger tuberman March 18, 2017 9:29 AM  

2. Lazarus

"Game of Thrones: The Convergence." Yep, the convergence has everywhere sped up, moving at the speed of seppuku... it's guts out now.

Blogger Silly But True March 18, 2017 9:31 AM  

Tor has become a fake publisher by employing fake authors to write faked spectres of classic scifi.

Blogger Orville March 18, 2017 9:35 AM  

I'm really curious what your thoughts are on newbies self-publishing via Amazon. As you probably know there are various people who are pushing a marketing model to new writers where you build an email list, manage keywords, offer buy one get one deals, etc. Looking at your stats above, it seems that might not be the way to go.

Anonymous BBGKB March 18, 2017 9:42 AM  

I was just thinking about writing:
Title "Big Gay Steve's Survival guide"
Subtitle "How would you feel if during the nigapocalypse your kids were starving & you knew a faggot was traipsing thru the snow to his earth sheltered greenhouse?"

I could market it to the people who pay $90,000 a year to lease inflatable boats to escape NYC. It would be the ultimate shiv if there was no power to the air compressor when they showed up.

Do you think there is a market for it?

Blogger JACIII March 18, 2017 9:43 AM  

Big Five have created a huge quality black hole that Castalia and similar publishers books are rushing to fill.

This is not the fault of the Big Five, but a failing of society to enforce enlightened consumer demand for crap message fiction and further proof of the pervasiveness of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, fascism, and populism that must be stamped out AT ALL COSTS.

Anonymous Ivan Throne March 18, 2017 9:44 AM  

One more reason I am entirely thrilled to be part of Castalia House.

It isn't just the go-on-the-offense mindset.

It isn't just watching McRapey cry.

It isn't just the business success.

It's being part of the new age.

Beautiful.

Regards,

Ivan

Anonymous TheBoom March 18, 2017 9:44 AM  

This is good news. A plethora of small to mid size publishers are a much better defense against the SJW than the Big 5. I hope the Big 5 continue their death spiral.

Blogger VD March 18, 2017 9:47 AM  

I'm really curious what your thoughts are on newbies self-publishing via Amazon.

It's a great way to start your career if there don't happen to be any publishers interested in launching it for you. I highly recommend it. That being said, if you've already self-published a book, don't submit it to us. If it's successful, we don't want to reset your metrics. If it's not successful, we won't have any reason to be interested in it.

As a general rule, we want new stuff. And if there are exceptions, we will approach the author.

Blogger The Z Blog March 18, 2017 9:47 AM  

For the second year in a row, e-book sales have declined by double digits. They account for ~19% of units sold, but only about ~10% of sales. Your chart most likely reflects the fact that mass market sales are shifting away from e-books. The growth has been in paperbacks and audiobooks.

Blogger VD March 18, 2017 9:48 AM  

One more reason I am entirely thrilled to be part of Castalia House.

And we feel privileged to have the honor of publishing you. You have been a surprisingly strong addition to the club.

Blogger VD March 18, 2017 9:49 AM  

The growth has been in paperbacks and audiobooks.

We've certainly seen a considerable amount of our growth there, and we're still not even 50-percent capitalized on them.

Blogger Matamoros March 18, 2017 9:54 AM  

Off topic, but perhaps the defense of Europe begins:

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/03/18/dozens-somali-migrants-shot-dead-boat-red-sea/

Blogger tuberman March 18, 2017 9:56 AM  

I've been coveting "The Missionaries" for some time now, that will start me on Castalia House fiction soon. I own 3 non-fiction Castalia House paperbacks.

Anonymous Steve March 18, 2017 10:08 AM  

I can't even remember the last time I was in a bookstore. Maybe 2005? They're going the way of tobacconists, cobbler shops and video rental stores.

Blogger Dave March 18, 2017 10:11 AM  

Vox, the article left us hanging...what is the narrow subcategory?

We’ll save a more detailed breakdown of the Small/Medium Publisher category for a future report, but we’ll say this:

Almost all of the recent “Small/Medium Publisher” gains appear to be driven exclusively by one particular narrow subcategory of publishers, which is now seeing explosive growth in their ebook sales.

Hint: it’s not whom you think…
��

Blogger Goldeneye March 18, 2017 10:12 AM  

Man, that drop for the Big Five is ridiculous. Vox, is it really that bad? Or is it even worse than it looks?

Blogger Orville March 18, 2017 10:13 AM  

@11 Thanks Vox! I've invested a considerable amount of time learning the marketing side of the business.

BTW I'm reading "The Corroding Empire" right this moment. It's a pretty good satire of today's technocratic cult of "science".

Blogger Dave March 18, 2017 10:22 AM  

The Z Blog wrote:For the second year in a row, e-book sales have declined by double digits. They account for ~19% of units sold, but only about ~10% of sales. Your chart most likely reflects the fact that mass market sales are shifting away from e-books. The growth has been in paperbacks and audiobooks.

What am I missing? From the article:

>Between early 2016 and early 2017, overall Amazon US ebook sales grew another 4%

While that’s not the kind of double-digit (or triple-digit) growth we had seen in the earlier days of the ebook era, it’s still more than enough to offset the ongoing shrinkage at Barnes&Noble’s Nook. In other words, albeit slowly now, the overall US ebook market is still growing.


Anonymous Crew March 18, 2017 10:24 AM  

Looking at the stats, it suggests that on average, the 325M people in the US are purchasing two eBooks a year per person.

However, I think that your average Somali refugee or Muslim GoatFucker is not buying any of those, and those 60M Mexicans won't be buying many, so is Amazon happy with the decline in the White population?

Anonymous Crew March 18, 2017 10:27 AM  

The growth has been in paperbacks and audiobooks.

I rarely purchase paperbacks these days, and I can read faster than I can listen, and my time is precious, so why bother with audiobooks?

Blogger Orville March 18, 2017 10:32 AM  

@23 I don't care for them either unless I'm on a long road trip, but the market wants what the market wants. On the web, a lot of people prefer vids to written articles.

Anonymous BBGKB March 18, 2017 10:32 AM  

not buying any of those, and those 60M Mexicans won't be buying many, so is Amazon happy with the decline in the White population?

They plan on coming up with a 3-D ereader for pop up books on Juanita & her male donkey.
Here is a preview trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEL1o1jN0cU
I never noticed the white guy giving pizza to the niglet on the commercial before.

Blogger Durandel Almiras March 18, 2017 10:35 AM  

@23 - I know a lot of people who like audiobooks and Vox is constantly peppered with questions about when the audiobook is coming out for a new book by Castalia.

I'm not much into audiobooks, but I'm sure like others, I'm happy to listen to one during my commute as I can't read and drive at the same time, and I have no interest in listening to the garbage that is music on the radio/Sirius.

But I also think there are many people who, well, they can read, but they can't read well or quickly. I think these folks also like audio books.

Anonymous BBGKB March 18, 2017 10:35 AM  

Even more at the end they have the white girl next to niglet, then boys who get progressively lighter going away on the other side. Had to be on purpose.

Anonymous Crew March 18, 2017 10:37 AM  

I misread the stats. Those were for print books, eBooks is about 1&2/3 eBooks per person.

That makes the decline in the white population worse in my view. Blacks generally don't buy books, and on those occasions I am in B&N I don't see many Hispanics there either, just Whites and Asians.

Blogger The Z Blog March 18, 2017 10:41 AM  

#21:

Dave, Put the phrase "ebook sales decline" into a google machine and see what pops out. Here's an example: http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/e-book-sales-decline-20-0-in-the-first-half-of-2016

It's been fairly well known for a few years that ebook sales crested and have been in decline. The news is not that they are in decline, but that it is so dramatic.

I'm not entirely sure it matters to a publisher like VD. The edge for a small publisher is the ability to take risks on new writers and their granular understanding of the intended audience. The only edge the big guys have these days is their ability to book authors on TV shows to hawk their books. That and their role as palace guards to keep the hate thinkers out. Both of those roles are disappearing.

Blogger Basil Makedon March 18, 2017 10:42 AM  

@23 I read faster than I listen as well, but I also have a substantial commute, so audio books allow me to multitask.

Blogger The Z Blog March 18, 2017 10:45 AM  

@23 I've never done audio books myself, but I do like podcasts. When I go out for a few hours on the bike, listening to a Dan Carlin podcast is a good way to enjoy a ride and learn something. My guess is audiobooks fill a similar niche.

Anonymous Patriotic Shitposter March 18, 2017 10:46 AM  

"Fake Bestseller". That's guaranteed to chafe the dress-wearing "I have a yuge lawn" demographic.

Blogger Durandel Almiras March 18, 2017 10:47 AM  

@29 that link mentions "a 20% to 30% price increase across the board could stymie the digital revolution." If major publishers have hiked the price on their ebook sales, or if Amazon did so (I don't know), then it makes sense that sales might drop if the paperback and digital prices are about the same.

Last year, anytime the price was equal or had a difference less than $4, I bought the paperback over the digital. That meant that for large publishers, I bought their paperbacks, where as with Castalia, I bought all ebooks.

Blogger Durandel Almiras March 18, 2017 10:50 AM  

@ Vox - side topic, how do you see Hollyweird being forked eventually? Does the pulp revolution and the small/med publisher takeover need to occur first before entertainment media can churn out non-converged, non-degenerate garbage? I always felt that entertainment media gets most of its ideas from the literature world and not the other way around.

Anonymous Ironsides March 18, 2017 11:07 AM  

Durandel Almiras wrote:@ Vox - side topic, how do you see Hollyweird being forked eventually? Does the pulp revolution and the small/med publisher takeover need to occur first before entertainment media can churn out non-converged, non-degenerate garbage? I always felt that entertainment media gets most of its ideas from the literature world and not the other way around.

I'm obviously not Vox, but my personal opinion is that the barrier to entry is still high enough so we won't see right-wing TV shows or movies until some kind of alt-right Trump gets interested in it. Someone with a lot of money, who isn't directly dependent on the "system" any more and can therefore flout a lot of its conventions without ending up being ignored and/or ruined.

That also seems like a very important thing to be done. The visual media are superb conveyers of propaganda, and have the added benefit of generating vast amounts of revenue, which could be rolled over into further efforts against convergence.

Hopefully, someone with massive amounts of bucks will eventually go alt-right and start such an enterprise.

Blogger Markku March 18, 2017 11:13 AM  

I think Mel Gibson would have the will and means to be even more disruptive than he already is.

Anonymous Gen. Kong March 18, 2017 11:22 AM  

Since Amazon itself is rapidly being converged - Bezos' taking CIA money to buy the coprolite tower of fake-news called the Washington Post being one of the more recent of several examples that he's one of the enemy - how long is it going to be before CreateSpace and Kindle Self-publish platforms are patrolled by the thought police for crimethink? Ingram launched a self-publish platform designed for authors not long ago as I recall (Ingram Spark I think). It strikes me that it would be a good opportunity to build independent platforms for ebook distribution (first) and add print nodes (setting up workflows with on-demand printers in multiple locales to minimize shipping charges for dead-tree format).

Blogger Markku March 18, 2017 11:53 AM  

Here's the indie problem as I see it from my own experience: You can't "sell" me a random indie book even free of charge, because my time is worth me more than what you'd probably charge for it. I have to already have good reason to believe (usually from existing brand, or from hearing good things about it from someone I trust) that you're not wasting my time. I'm much more likely to pay 10 bucks for a book like that, than read a book not like that for free.

Blogger VD March 18, 2017 11:53 AM  

Man, that drop for the Big Five is ridiculous. Vox, is it really that bad? Or is it even worse than it looks?

It is that bad, but it bodes much worse than it looks. The yellow line is their biggest concern; you can expect the red and yellow lines to continue to rise at the expense of the purple in the next 2-3 years.

I'm not entirely sure it matters to a publisher like VD.

It actually helps. As they cut more and more midlist writers who no longer fit their model, we get access to back catalogs and established writers we did not have before, and can become choosier about who we publish. It should increase our perceived quality and status.

I've been pointing the benefits of the negative-sum game for disruptive publishers for at least two years now.

Blogger VD March 18, 2017 11:55 AM  

how do you see Hollyweird being forked eventually?

The Chinese replace the Jews and make movies for the global market with a Chinese flavor that are less sex-obsessed and more tradition-friendly.

Blogger Markku March 18, 2017 12:01 PM  

Of course, the indie problem becomes the Big Five problem SQUARED, when you charge me more than anyone else, and still stop giving me reason to trust the brand.

Anonymous Dave March 18, 2017 12:04 PM  

O/T question: Where can I find an unbiased review of the "Uglies" series by Scott Westerfeld? My feminist sister gifted it to my daughter, which makes me immediately suspicious.

It's nice to know that if the world ever falls into a hedonistic post-scarcity dystopia, we can count on a rebellious 16-year-old girl to overthrow it for us!

Blogger Goldeneye March 18, 2017 12:08 PM  

VD wrote:It is that bad, but it bodes much worse than it looks

Any guess when the Big Five will go bankrupt?

Also, thanks for replying. I'm helping Jason at Superversive SF publish comics, and you're one of my inspirations for publishing. The other two are Ian Ballantine and Jim Shooter.

Blogger Orville March 18, 2017 12:18 PM  

@38 Those issues can be overcome, but not overnight. Just as Cernovich says, "I'm an eight year overnight success". If a newbie is going the indie route, he just needs to accept that he will have to plug away for some years to build a following out of nothing. That and putting out at least two books a year. On the marketing side, free isn't the best persuasion approach. Limited time offers of the new product with older ones discounted seems to work better to get around the "if it's free, then it ain't no good" thinking. I'v seen Castalia House doing that here and there.

Blogger VD March 18, 2017 12:33 PM  

Any guess when the Big Five will go bankrupt?

It won't work that way. They'll become the Big Four, then the Big Three. Then editors will start leaving imprints and starting their own S/MP houses with the writers with whom they were previously working.

Blogger Dave March 18, 2017 12:50 PM  

@Orville On the marketing side, free isn't the best persuasion approach.

Most Indies that give away the first book of a series or one of their earlier works say it's worth it to hook new readers.

Also you could have kept it to yourself that you are already reading The Corroding Empire. I'll have to settle for the excerpts for another 40 hours.

Anonymous Trump-Democrat March 18, 2017 12:51 PM  

One big reason for the fact that the Small/Medium Publisher category outperforms in Gross $ Sales versus units (33 percent vs 17 percent) is that they tend to maintain a higher price point.

I've learned that as a consumer its good to try be loyal to certain things that you like and even pay more for them, instead of just always going with whatever is cheapest,.. I have recently taken an economic stand with Peter Pan peanut butter, its more expensive than Skippy and Jiff or the super market peter butter, but I don't care, I like it, I think its higher quality peanut butter and I insist on Peter Pan all the time now. At some point I will insist on Tide as my detergent, but I am not there yet financially

Blogger Michael Maier March 18, 2017 12:52 PM  

Why wouldn't it be an error to NOT include total books sales vs. e-book sales?

ARE there titles where the hardcovers cut heavily into e-book sales?

I would guess the profit margins are better for e-books at any price but I have been shocked before.

Blogger Michael Maier March 18, 2017 12:52 PM  

"almost any price", sorry

Blogger Orville March 18, 2017 1:07 PM  

Dave, I'm a third of the way through it. I'll post a review on Amazon, but for now just know that it is good. Scalzi is going to be embarrassed this week.

Anonymous Loki7 March 18, 2017 1:23 PM  

I used to go into what was Radio Shack and find the coolest things. But by it`s end all I found was people who didn`t know a difference between their a-hole and a hole in the ground (they did want to sell me a cell with an annual plan though). Nowadays it`s the same at Books-a-Million. Acne-faced kids who don`t read much less anything else.

Anonymous Crew March 18, 2017 2:10 PM  

The chart of book purchases per country has an interesting correlation, it seems.

The US data shows two printed books per person, on average, per year.

The Australian data shows almost 2.5 books per person, on average, per year.

The UK data shows almost 3 books per person, on average, per year.

I ignored Canada because they are weird, eh!

Is it related to the percentage of Northern European people in those countries?

Blogger John Williams March 18, 2017 2:25 PM  

@Crew so is Amazon happy with the decline in the White population?
SJW's always sacrifice the host for the narrative. They don't built the host, they just take it over and have no skin in the game.

Blogger Doug Cranmer March 18, 2017 2:30 PM  

Once upon a time the Radio Shack in my home town carried hobbiest supplies. Soldering irons, DIP chips, wire wrappers, etc. And the couple who ran it knew their stuff pretty well. All gone.

Anonymous Satan's Hamster March 18, 2017 2:52 PM  

"If major publishers have hiked the price on their ebook sales, or if Amazon did so (I don't know), then it makes sense that sales might drop if the paperback and digital prices are about the same."

No, it's worse than that.

The Big Five don't want ebooks to take over from print books, because the print market is the only thing they still largely control. So they've been pricing ebooks *higher* than paperbacks.

Amazon used to discount Big Five ebook prices so they were competitive with print. But a year or so back the Big Five negotiated agreements where they would set the ebook price and Amazon couldn't discount. So now Amazon are discounting the print books while ebooks are still at full price.

Hence many of us say 'why would I pay $14.99 for an ebook when the paperback is $7.99?' and buy the paperback instead. And the Big Five then celebrate, because they've protected the print market, and it's only cost them millions of dollars in profits.

This is why, as Vox says, the future of publishing is with small to medium publishers, not the big ones. Publishers like Casatalia can serve a niche where they get good sales from dedicated customers, with much lower overheads than a Big Five publisher with a Manhattan skyscraper.

Anonymous Man of the Atom March 18, 2017 2:54 PM  

Author Earnings broke the print vs ebook issue back in January. Amazon print-on-demand is eating into the Big 5 since their ebook prices went up. Big 5 is taking a hit on both ebook and print.

Charts from Author Earnings

Blogger E. William Brown March 18, 2017 4:13 PM  

@37, Amazon has gotten itself into an interesting legal position on censorship. Back when they were new they got into several legal battles over sales of books on how to grow drugs, assassinate people for money, and other such topics that normal publishers wouldn't touch. Their defense hinged on combining the First Ammendment with an extension of the common carrier doctrine - essentially, Amazon isn't responsible for the content of the books they sell because they'll carry literally anything.

They won that fight, but the result is that now they can't change their minds and start filtering their content. If they do not only do they expose themselves to massive legal problems over their vast array of pornography, criminal how-to manuals and other objectionable content. So they probably aren't going to risk that as long as the current management remains in place.

Blogger Brian Niemeier March 18, 2017 6:01 PM  

Exciting news from AE! Congratulations to Castalia House.

@The Z BLog and Dave

The "Ebook sales are declining" canard came from a Publishers Weekly story based on a report from the top 20 legacy publishers. It relies on Nielsen BookScan numbers that omit Indies and most small/medium publishers.

TL;DR the Big Five's eBook sales are declining while everyone else's continue to rise, which isn't surprising when the Big Five charge paperback or even hardcover prices for eBooks.

Anonymous Blume March 18, 2017 6:33 PM  

Long work drives

Blogger Gordon March 18, 2017 6:59 PM  

I think you're right about the "sweet spot" pricing. I was looking at an ebook on Amazon the other day. It came well recommended. But the price was $9.99. Frankly, that's too much for an author I don't know myself.

I have limited time to read, and I'm getting very particular about what I buy, because I may not live to read all that I own now. At the $4.99 price point, I'll probably buy. If I know the quality, I might pay $10.

Anonymous Holmwood March 18, 2017 9:13 PM  

Crew wrote:I ignored Canada because they are weird, eh!
Remember very roughly 1/4 of Canada was French, and like Australia she has heavy immigration from Asia. CIA factbook reports 58% of people in Canada as English speakers, 77% in Australia, 79% in US.

Plugging that in, Canada comes out at 2.4 printed books per person, Australia at 3.0, and US at 2.6. Canada's still weird though.


Is it related to the percentage of Northern European people in those countries?

No bet.

Blogger SmockMan March 18, 2017 9:31 PM  

5% into Six Expression of Death and really loving it. Great addition to Castalia House.

Blogger apna job March 23, 2017 7:00 AM  

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