Amazon and Sony have crossed the line from e-book stores to publishers, although they’re using a very old method to recruit want-to-be-authors: self-publishers, also known as vanity presses.
There are still bent self-publishers out there, promising fame and fortune if you pay them to publish your novel. But there are also new smart and professional self-publishers. Amazon fronts CreateSpace. The Reader Store has made two deals, one with Author Solutions and the other with Smashwords.
Traditional publishers have been accused of being gatekeepers, of publishing only authors they know and not truly considering new talent, but the new e-book stores like Amazon and Sony are minding a different gate. They’ll publish anyone and let the market sort them out, but they want their cut.
To e-publish with Amazon, you’ll get a 70% royalty. This may be great compared to the 15% you’d be happy to get from a traditional publisher, but Amazon doesn’t have to hire editors, printing presses, trucks or pay for promotion. What they’re charging 30% royalty for is simply the right to be on Amazon.
Sony’s deal is pretty much the same for their Reader store. If you want to e-publish with them they’ll send you to Smashwords, who will put your novel into a number of formats, including the e-pub that you need for the Sony Reader store.
Now I could use Calibre open source software to put my novel into e-pub format and offer it for sale through my website for fans who own Sony e-readers, but the traffic on my website isn’t anything compared to the Reader Store.
So that’s why I would eat the 30%. It’s not unlike the traditional publishers paying for prominent placement in brick and mortar stores. Not that a self-published author will get front page placement on Amazon, but they’ll have the feel of legitimacy when they send friends to search Amazon or the Reader store for their novels.
And Amazon and Sony will be happy to take their cut of your friends’ money.
I guess that’s okay. They’re not promising to make you famous. Yet I’ve got that oligopoly feeling I get when I look at traditional publishers–that claustrophobic feeling that makes me want to shout unfair! Who made you the gatekeepers?
Of course they’d probably reply that the internet is a big place and I can go anywhere I want, and try to sell my novel anyway I want. Which is true. It would just be much easier with Amazon and Sony.
So I’m conflicted.