2018 Book Industry Predictions: Are Indie Authors Losing their Independence?

The Beginning of the End of Indie Authorship?

When I look back at my predictions for 2017, most of those predictions came true or are still coming true.

And then I wondered, if we continue in this direction, where does it take the indie author movement?

I think it takes us to the end of the indie authorship as we imagine it.

It’s a dark future where writers can still self-publish, but one marketplace holds all the readers captive, and that marketplace’s business model is entirely dependent upon commoditizing everything it sells.

In this dystopian future, participants can still pat themselves on their backs and call themselves indie authors if it makes them feel good.  After all, they’re still choosing to publish where they publish.   But the emerging truth of the matter is that these indies have lost their independence because if they jump away from that dominant marketplace, there might be no there there to jump to.

It’s a future where the other ebook sellers have been decimated and have either gone out of business or become irrelevant.  It’s a future where no other ebook retailer can build a profitable business.

Let’s Celebrate Dependence Day, December 8, 2011

No, that’s not a typo.  Yes, I’m being a bit sarcastic.

When the history books of the indie author movement are written 20 years from now, historians may point to December 8, 2011 as the day that indie authors lost their independence.

Until that day, every retailer was welcoming self-published ebooks into their stores, gave authors control over their pricing, and paid up to 70% list.

It was also the day that Amazon, the world’s largest online bookseller, decided that these indie authors were becoming too powerful and too valuable to roam wild.

December 8, 2011 was the was the day Amazon launched KDP Select and began stripping indies of their independence.

The independence of indie authors wasn’t stolen from them.  Instead, indies were coaxed, prodded, browbeaten, extorted and tricked to gradually surrender it.

It was a brilliant strategy in retrospect.  Convince indie authors to hand over exclusive distribution rights to Amazon for short 3-month (auto-renewing) increments.

As I warned the day Amazon announced KDP Select (read it here), the scheme would slowly starve Amazon’s competitors of books and customers, and make authors more dependent upon a single retailer.

Then on July 14, 2014, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited which offered customers unlimited book reading from a catalog of titles sourced almost entirely from indie ebooks enrolled in KDP Select.  A key feature of KU is that the author’s list price is irrelevant.  You’re compensated less than one half penny per page read.

Today, over one million indie ebooks are exclusive to Amazon via KDP-Select and KU.  Those books act like leeches to slowly drain other booksellers of their lifeblood.

Amazon aggressively promotes KU to its customers. It encourages them to read books for free with KU.  Readers of indie ebooks now have over one million reasons to never purchase another single-copy ebook again. The day KU launched, I warned authors of the potential implications (read it here).

Authors who now derive 100% of their sales from Amazon are no longer indie authors.  They’re dependent authors.   I suppose we have indie authors and de-authors now.

Where to from Here?

You may feel at times like like you’re just one vote, or that you’re a victim of forces more powerful than you.

But your vote matters because just like in politics, the election for your future will be greatly contested by those who want to exert power over you.

The challenge here is that although you’re an integral participant within this grand indie author movement, there’s no collective organization.  No representative body looks out for our interests.  We’re all free agents.  We’re divided and conquered.

There are great organizations, companies and writers organizations out there that advocate for authors, but none have the reach or power to harness collective action.

Every indie author is out there trying to make their way as they search for readers.  From 50,000 feet, it looks like hundreds of thousands of cats moving in random directions searching for mice.

Someone figured out how to herd the cats.

A single mousetailer has corned the market for mice.  All the cats run there.

But there aren’t enough mice for all the cats, so the mousetailer proclaims that only a select few can now have preferential hunting privileges.  All you have to do is surrender your independence.

Read the full article at: http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/12/2018-book-industry-predictions.html

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