A few weeks back I wondered why publishers haven't taken the initiative to begin selling e-books in a more-agressive way, and especially why they don't empower authors to sell their own e-books.
Reader Steve Davidson took that a step further and wonders why an author with a platform needs a publisher or distributor at all:
Very interesting, but I don't think it takes things far enough.
What I have been wondering of late is - why are established authors with inventory bothering with online distributors at all? Why are they giving away any percentage of a sale?
There are fairly easy to implement on-line store suites (some even open source) - turnkey operations - that can handle all of the transactional issues (credit cards, downloads, etc) that will also capture purchaser information.
Amazon/B&N offer an author the "those who read X will enjoy y" sales pitch - but that cuts three or more ways; a competing title might get the dollars instead - an author's website offers no competitive sales option. The author can take the distributor's cut and plow it in to promotion and advertising or pass it along to the purchaser. The author's website can offer far more background and personalized promotional information. The only thing missing is the questionable "additional exposure" or "floor traffic"; that can still be obtained by retaining a single title and a really good author's page on such sites (rather than all of the inventory). Most authors don't see any real promotional effort spent on their books by the publisher (we're being told constantly that a lot of that is being pushed off onto the author already) - so why do that extra work AND pay for the privilege when one could do the extra work and add 10 or 30 or 30 percent to their take? No, the above won't really work for emerging authors initially , but for someone with a track record who can regularly attract some press...it would be another round of cutting out the middleman, but this time the spoils go to the author.
Right now it's hard to imagine anyone but the very biggest authors commanding the ability to sell outside of existing channels. When people want to buy an e-book they go to Amazon or B&N, they don't think to Google an author and see if they are only offering a book for sale
But could this change? Could we see a shift where not only traditional publishers, but also Amazon and B&N aren't necessary for an author?
It seems to me that this is an opportunity for Google especially to undercut Amazon. Google could provide the vending platform, much as they were supposedly going to do with independent bookstores, and they could steer e-book sales directly to authors and their own websites.
These days it's hard to imagine a world without Amazon. But just as malls are giving way to specialty stores and online vending, could individual author sites pave the way for dispersed e-bookselling?
Art: The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope by Henry Rousseau