This year was also a breakout year for self-published books. Seventeen of the top 100 kindle books in 2012 this year were self-published, including Howey’s Wool series, which came in at No. 10.
The No. 1 self-published book became a global phenomenon.
E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey erotic romance, and each of its follow-ups, wound up setting a bar every writer and publisher is chasing. The book was first published on a fan website under the title Master of the Universe, then was reworked and re-released in the form that went viral.
It was among the reasons cited by Penguin Group chief executive John Makinson when the company announced it was acquiring Author Solutions, which, according to its website, provided the tools and know-how to help “more than 100,000 authors” self-publish.
Makinson saw 50 Shades’ sales as merely a beginning – “exceptional, [but] it is not unusual now.”
Hardly surprising, then, that Penguin’s parent corporation paid $116 million for Author Solutions.
Independent publishers are also stepping into the gap between the big houses and do-it-all authors.
The Writer’s Coffee Shop was the first to notice the first 50 Shades book “in the fandom,” and to develop it, according to company co-founder Jenny Pedroza. When global sales exploded, she said, the company sold it to Vintage Books.
“There’s the self-publisher. Then there’s the big guys. And we’re kind of in the middle,” said Pedroza. “We kind of lead our authors from editing all the way to distribution.”
The success of 50 Shades inspired Miami-based independent publisher Ily Goyanes to launch her business, Ampersand Editions.
“Honestly, everything that a big publisher can do these days,” she said, “an e-publisher can do.”
The advantage she offers writers, she said, is expertise and a name.
“It’s very DIY these days,” Goyanes said. “You kind of have to do it yourself. You have to learn to write a PR release. You have to learn marketing. You have to know who to call in the media. ... It’s a little harder if you’re a self-published author without a company title behind you.”
It’s not just first-timers jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon. Big-name authors are doing it, as well. Stephen King was an early adopter, testing the waters more than a decade ago. Last year, J.K. Rowling announced she was self-publishing the Harry Potter series on her website, and Jackie Collins said she was trying it, as well.
“If you pay attention to book publishing news and blogs, then you probably already know I’ve decided to try my hand at self-publishing by re-writing and releasing a NEW version of my book The Bitch,” Collins wrote on her blog. She said she will continue to release books through her usual publishers, “but times are changing, and technology is changing, so I wanted to experiment with this growing trend of self-publishing.”
She points out that if an author is successful at self-publishing, royalty rates are higher than what they’d receive from a traditional publisher. Amazon gives its authors 70 percent of each book’s sales price. Traditional publishers tend to give writers around 15 percent, and the author often has to pay an agent 15 or 20 percent.