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“The dizzying pace at which US consumers were switching from print to digital couldn’t last forever. Based on the numbers being published by the AAP, with a huge assist in interpretation by Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch, it seems that the slowdown has become very noticeable in the past 12 months.”  –The Shatzkin Files

I am no economist; my checking account offers irrefutable evidence.

Yet the economics of the epublishing and the entire self-publishing world fills me with apprehension. The rush to digital has had a profound impact on the economics of publishing, rather like a gold-rush. Unfortunately, there are many people with a pan-full of fool’s gold. Have we traded one dream for another? Is it true that good stories will always rise to the surface?

First The Slowdown

The latest report from the Shatzkin Files documents current research in the apparent slowdown of epublishing sales. Between the years of ’07 and ’11 sales more than doubled each year, a remarkable increase for any business model. April numbers show a more modest growth for this year – in the neighborhood of 37%.

“Cader also cites reports from Penguin and Simon & Schuster to document the slowdown. Penguin says ebook sales growth was about 33% in the first half of 2012. And Lunch reports that Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, told them she expects about 30% growth in ebook sales during 2012. That would almost certainly constitute their (or anybody else’s) fastest-growing sales channel, but it sure isn’t the annual doubling and tripling (or more) we had seen for several years.” -Shatzkin Files

One explanation offered is the success publishers have had in driving up ebook prices, a situation that may be changed with the Department of Justice case resolution. If collusion is found and the shackles removed from Amazon then sales might rebound.

Once upon a time, we looked at books on a shelf with the New York Times Best Seller list in hand. That model of consumption has changed and brick and mortar stores are finding it difficult to compete. There is also a shift to digital by many of the bigger publishing houses and big named authors. With the development of the multi-function devices – away from dedicated readers- it is more difficult to track what is really happening.

All of This Makes My Head Hurt

I suppose there will always be a New York Times Best Seller list… as long as there is a New York Times. The new twist is perhaps a large underground type of network of niche marketing for independent novels. To me this means low prices. People will not risk $25 on an unknown. The author, and at this moment fiction seems to command some 60% or more of the market, must be a superior marketing guru! He or she must find and develop a dedicated audience to whom they market on a continuing basis.

I don’t know about you folks, but it’s difficult enough to conceive and produce the novel (and all the attendant rewrites), without having to create the marketing channels too! And work! And pay the bills! Mow the lawn! As the King of Siam would say, “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…”

Sometimes, it seems it’s not enough to just imagine and write!

For me, this Shatzkin File report clarifies my decision to try yet one more round of submissions, now that I’ve finished this last edit. Research the Writer’s Digest agents and publishers list for the most likely fit and put it out there again.

This choice helps me with another aspect of my latest dilemma: putting the project to bed and moving on to the next project. I fear once the book is epublished, interest by publishing houses would be non-existant, unless the general public rang up huge sales and publishers wanted a piece of the action. Letting go is very difficult; but, I feel necessity driving me forward.

Irony thy name is self-publishing. Breaking through is daunting. Somebody will figure this out. Why not me?

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