Ebook Publishing: Are Traditional Publishers Sitting on a Pot of Gold?

The prospects for an explosion in the ebook market are growing every day. Once traditional publishers realize the ebook-only market is a huge opportunity, they will embrace it and they will realize that they had a pot of gold right in front of them all the time.

Current Publishing – Are things panning out with ebooks?
Traditional book publishing is built on speculation and profit predictions. They control the system and the popular authors. They have been sitting at the end of the rainbow for a very long time.

Then along comes this ebook thing with a slick delivery system and their way of life is being threatened. The old guard is holding everything back, trying to protect their investment. They know one way and that way has been successful. Even though no one is admitting it, they have to see the additional income reaching their bottom line.

They realize ebooks do solve some of the traditional book problems. Ebooks have an unlimited shelf life. They are convenient to purchase and to read. There is no physical warehousing or distribution unless you want to count an unmanned server disbursing the ebook and collecting the money. There are no page number or book size limits, etc.

And there is the fading bookstore distribution channel problem which is a major part of their system. They must resolve this to be able to reach out to their customers.

They do have a stable of authors but the authors still have to pass the test of being published in hardcover first. And they are leaving the marketing up to the author unless they are a superstar to cut back on costs.

So how do they strike gold?
Why do traditional publishers have a golden opportunity? They have most of the good players – you know the well know authors, the cover designers, editors, illustrators, layout staff, story/genre experts, marketing, etc. and there is a huge potential in their backlists inventories.

What do they need to do to dig into this opportunity?

1. Rejections become products. They have a built-in process of prospecting and evaluating already in place. For example, if they just take the top ten percent of their rejections and move them directly to ebooks, like the movies do with their direct to video releases, the potential is huge.

2. A big question for them is “Where will the next wave of super authors come from?” They need to setup a farm system of potential super authors? For a relatively low cost, they can try out authors and their titles through ebook offerings and then move them up-stream if they are successful.

3. Establish a new author category in a genre specific area. If the ebook/author becomes successful, move them to paper. Work the traditional system in reverse.

4. Work with bookstores to become more than just a shelf of books. If the traditionals don’t try to protect this channel, everyone will go on-line to purchase their books. That in turn directs the reader right into the lap of their competition.

5. Once they get over just producing a digital copy of the original and start looking at rendered and enhanced ebooks, the more profit potential they’ll realize. The reader’s prospective is changing rapidly with color, the tablet market and the software advances like pub3.

6. They must look at the royalty structure to be competitive with the on-line publishers/retailers.

Looking down stream
So the question is “Do traditional publishers keep damming the river or do they look down stream for the gold?”

The current stream of events should put most of the gold in their pile. They have the experts, the superstars and the inventory of unpublished material. There is indeed a high profit potential for the ebook-only market but they will have to change their ways and adapt.

There are some lessons for the self-publisher in this rainbow. If you create good content and are successful marketing, you have the keys to being recognized by traditional publishers. These publishers must make a move to protect their interests and the ebook author must be ready.

Do you think that traditional publishers will change their system and adopt real ebooks? Will they ever give the self-publishers/ebook authors a chance to break into the system?

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at: jrm@hbspub.com
Or goto my blog: The eBook Author’s Corner
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

Related Blog
Surefire Book Publishing Interview

Prospector image via Wikipedia

  • Yes, that would have been a great model for publishers to employ two or three years ago (or even 10 years ago, when everyone knew this day was eventually coming and publishers started demanding e-rights even when they weren’t using them). Now, though, it sounds like more of an argument to self-publish in the first place and exploit all those competitive advantages as bookstores decline.


  • thanks for the comment scott. you are right on point on this one. they are not going to change. indies just have to take the ball and start running with it or maybe an upstart publisher will see the light at the end of the tunnel. competition can be a great thing.

  • Ebooks will remain anathema to traditional publishers as long as they own inventories of printed books. You can see it up and down Amazon, where routinely discounted trade paper editions sell for less than “agency-priced” ebooks, say $10.88 for a trade paper and $12.99 or $14.99 for the ebook edition.

    Trade publishers DO NOT want to sell ebooks, and they don’t want captive authors selling them either.

  • Eric thanks for the comment. I totally agree. However the bookstore demise could cause a serious ripple in the chain of distribution. Again we need an aggressive publisher to take the lead.

    • There is not going to be a panacea to the dying old order. The system has already balkanized beyond the means of mainstream publishers to carry on much longer in light of the failing chain bookstore traditional model. The leviathans will die–soon, I hope–as some traditional authors move to the self-publishing model and independent publishers (like me) pick off most working authors, who’d rather stick to writing without the hassle of learning to publish and sell their own stuff. The vertically integrated Amazon model will set the pace for selling books, but it will be successfully copied and built on; it has become a big, fat target everyone who deals with it loves to hate.

  • James, Scott, and Eric, thanks for your timely insights. If Rowling has moved to the independently publishing model with her ebook rights, is the game for traditional (20th century) publishing over?

    • Ron, it’s =been= over, but the corpse hasn’t called it quits–because it’s big, it’s dumb, and it’s too mean to die easily. But it’s over because so many of us have left it, and many more never joined up.

      For the record, I’ve been at it for fifty years, making a good living from writing since 1979 and publishing on my own since 1985. I started with big publishing, I’ve been doing what I can to undermine big publishig, and I am watching big publishing die.

      • Eric, I’ve never been one to dance on graves (can’t dance, among other things), but I enjoy watching other people do it. I feel your joy.

  • Guys, good comments. How that we know the problem, someone needs to figure out a solution. Someone that can take advantage of the entrenched ideas. We know the big guys are going to milk this dry.
    My next blog is going to be about a new program at Amazon called the Amazon Upgrade. You need to check this out. It is very pro-traditional publisher.

    • The solution is: Ignore it. It will go away on its own. And if it doesn’t, it will become insignificant on its own. The magic is gone.

      Amazon is not about to upset its independent and self publishers. I’m justy one little pubisher pushing 44 titles, so far. I’m making thousands per month and they’re making a third of that. That’s many millions for them from ebook sales, and very little of it is from overpriced big publishing ebooks. They aren’t running dtp to ignore us.

  • If they really want profits I think publishers should go both ways, traditional and the ebook platforms but invest more in ebooks I should say.

    • I’ve been in POD since 1999 and ebooks since mid-2009 (exactly two years). I have 44 ebook titles and about 24 PODs. My ebook sales (Kindle, B&N, Sony, and Apple) have increased 10x per month* since October 2010 and my POD sales have decreased by 50 percent since June 2010. Those are the trend lines I’m basing decisions on.

      * Kindle has increased 10x, B&N has increased 2x, Apple is steady, and Sony is losing ground. I have reason to believe that most books read on iPads are purchased from Amazon and read with the free Kindle app.

  • My daughter has an ipad. I have a laptop and a desktop both with the Kindle app. On a recent cruise, people were all over the deck reading, and the number count per apparatus was the highest on iphones, which included my wife. Portability for her is number one. She may have to go back and get her car keys, but she never forgets her iphone. I have four books in print and 4 on Kindle, and she still downloads to read. Her reasoning is it is easier to carry several books on her phone than under her arm. Ebooks are here to stay.