Indie Corner: The Dangers of All Eggs in One Basket


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Vision 75

 

Indie Corner:

The Dangers of All Eggs in One Basket

By

J.A. Marlow

Website

Copyright © 2014, J.A. Marlow, All Rights Reserved

 

As is usual in the Indie world, it seems there is a big news item every week. Sometimes multiple times a week. These three months have been no different. For this column, the difficulty was picking a topic.

For instance, there is the news of Amazon-owned ACX, used by Indies, authors, and small publishers to created and distribute audio books, cutting royalties (link: http://www.acx.com/help/important-announcement/201457230). This not only impacts the content owner, but also the narrative talent who receive a portion of the author/company's share. As of yet, ACX has not revealed what added benefit they will provide for taking 60-75% of the sale, if they ever intend to provide any. The full fallout of this decision remains to be seen.

There is also the continuing changes going on at Barnes and Noble. The changes in executive leadership (link: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/01/2014/barnes-noble-executive-leaves-to-join-wal-mart-unit/), news that Michael Huseby’s position as CEO of the Nook division will not be filled after he takes on the role of CEO of Barnes & Noble (http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/barnes-noble-appoints-michael-huseby-as-chief-executive-officer/), discontinued the Nook Touch (link: http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2014/02/17/barnes-noble-discontinues-nook-touch/#more-63720), fired their Nook hardware engineering staff (link: http://www.businessinsider.com/barnes-and-noble-hardware-engineering-staff-2014-2), scaled back investment in the Nook platform (link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/61331-b-n-cut-nook-investment-by-74-in-third-quarter.html?et_mid=663490&rid=240988274), came to an agreement with Microsoft to revise their digital-reading partnership to allow the bookseller to stop developing its Nook e-reading app for computing devices powered by Microsoft software (http://www.thepassivevoice.com/03/2014/barnes-noble-microsoft-revise-nook-partnership/), and their continued dropping sales (link: http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=2187). Industry experts are continuing to debate what this all means for Barnes and Noble, and for the Nook platform specifically.

Adobe is changing its DRM format (link: http://www.teleread.com/drm/adobes-change-of-drm-could-end-old-e-readers-compatibility-with-e-book-stores/), and as of July will stop supporting their old format. Any new EPUB e-books sold with Adobe DRM on them will be incompatible with older readers unless they their software is upgraded, if they can be upgraded.

There there was the bombshell of Hugh Howey's Author Earnings website (link: http://authorearnings.com/) and subsequent studies of book sales at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The implications for authors is huge, and is still being talked about. He also started several polls for authors and Indies, one of which seems to indicate those who are hybrid seem to do better than most.

Sony announced (link: http://gigaom.com/2014/02/06/sony-exits-the-north-american-ebook-business-and-gives-its-customers-to-kobo/) it is getting out of the ebook selling business and is transferring its catalogue and customer base to Kobo.

And that's only a small sampling of the big stories the past three months. Yes, lots of news in the Indie-verse!

Out of all this one things becomes clear to me: How important it is not to have all your eggs in one basket.

Any channel can suddenly change terms, conditions, rates, royalties, or requirements. Or all at the same time. What once was an attractive channel to pursue becomes one no longer desirable, or one an Indie may want to pull out of completely. Then there are situations like with Sony and Fictionwise, where the channel disappears, is bought out, or goes out of business.

What happens if the Indie has not built up their presence in other channels? It can mean starting over from ground zero. Each retailer's site works differently. The algorithms are different. Categories and reader demographics are different. It takes time to learn them, to know how to take advantage of them, and to get established with that readership.

Reader demographics can be powerful, if used right. There are more ebook sellers popping up all the time, including those who are focused towards one or two genres. Readers who want those genres start to gravitate towards those retailers when they want something to read. If an Indie is restricting selling their work as wide as possible, they will miss these types of readers.

Readers may also prefer a specific type of ebook file. Is your work available in some way in Epub, Mobi, and PDF? There are other formats, but those are currently the big three.

Where the readers live may limit their access to your wares. Are your works available world-wide without the reader being penalized by possible surcharges?

Again and again it comes down to who is the ultimate goal for any book: the reader. Your work needs to get to the reader with the fewest obstacles in the way. Having your work available all across the world across many retailers mean that your potential readers will not have to hunt for your work. Or not see your work at all. Instead, they will see it all over the place.

Another point to consider is how each author, and each story, can differ in sell-through at the various sites. The market domination in the ebook world continues to fragment. The last estimate I heard was of Amazon comprising approximately 60% of the market, down from 80% in 2009-2011.

You never know what particular story is going to take off on each platform or country. You cannot second guess it. For instance, some of my stories are 80% Apple. Others are mostly sold on Smashwords or Kobo. Others will sell the most on Amazon. Kris Rusch reports that some of her non-fiction work sells mostly in Australia, and she has no idea why.

Overall, for total sales I’m between 45% and 75% Amazon, depending on the month. To turn that around, that means I’m between 25% to 55% other channels. Do I expect this percentage to be the same for other authors and releases? Nope, and that’s the point.

One cannot second guess what will take off where and when and for whom!

Take the time to think about the above. Assess how many 'baskets' you have out there. When one falls and the egg-contents break, you can still survive on what is in the other baskets? Is there a way you can cushion the blow of lost sales in one avenue by building others or branching out into new?

It's better to think this over now rather than scramble later when the unexpected happens.

What are some of the many venues available to Indies when it comes to ebooks?

Amazon

Apple

Barnes & Noble

DriveThruFiction

Google Play

Kobo

Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks

Smashwords

XinXii