Should an author go all in with Amazon or hedge her bets?

Mark Coker
Mark Coker


Each year for the last several years Mark Coker over at Smashwords has released predictions about what the future holds for Indie writers. He followed suit in December 2014 with his prognostications about 2015.  I encourage every Indie author to read Mark’s piece. It is thought-provoking and comes from a person who views the digital revolution from a unique perspective via his vantage point at Smashwords.

Mark’s list for 2015 has twelve bullet points, but I will only address a few of them. To set the tone for his predictions, Coker says in his introduction: “Despite the incredible opportunities available to every indie author, clouds loom on the horizon.”

A lead like that makes me want to know more.

As he sees the world of digital books, 2015 will find more authors joining the Indie ranks, but these new Indies will run head on into a set of challenges that are just beginning to manifest themselves. As the playing field becomes even more crowded, the major publishers will adopt some of the strategies that have given Indies an edge in the eBook market. EBook pricing will become more uniform. Free book promos will increase in number, but lose much of their former impact. Reading on devices will continue to grow but at a slower pace than in prior years.

In light of all these developments, Coker predicts:

8.  Many indies will quit in 2015 – Authorship is tough work.  Discouraged by weak or slumping sales, many indie authors in 2015 will either give up on publishing or will decrease their production rates.  With the rapid rise of anything – whether we’re talking tulips, dot com stocks or real estate – bubbles form when the market becomes too frothy, too optimistic, too euphoric, and too crowded.  All markets are cyclical, so this boom-to-bust pattern, while painful for many, is healthy for the long term, especially for authors who stick it out.

Indie authors will be forced to take honest stock of their dreams, motivations and commitment.  What drives you?  Is it the joy of writing, or the necessity of putting food on the table, or both?  Either reason is respectable, but if your family’s next meal is entirely dependent upon your book sales, you’re under extra pressure.

He goes on to say that time management will separate the winners from the losers under the new paradigm. By this he means that authors will have to decide whether they will spend their time fueling social media or writing books.  In that either/or, writing books wins hands down.

But it is really at bullet-point ten where Coker gets down to the main thing Indie authors must consider in 2015.

The effect Amazon’s subscription service Kindle Unlimited will have on Indie authors.

Here’s how he puts it:

10.  Amazon Will Use Kindle Unlimited to Pay Authors Less – Whether you love it or hate it, KU is already a massive disruptor in the world of ebook publishing. Many writers are claiming it caused their sales to plummet, while others say it has helped them reach new readers.  You can check out my prior analysis of KU here and here, or check out David Streitfeld’s recent story on KU in the New York Times.

At the end of this section, Mark puts the question directly to Indie authors.

Will they succumb to the Siren song of KU or opt out of Amazon exclusivity and make their books available in multiple outlets?

It should come as no surprise that Coker, whose site serves as an eBook distributor, would counsel Indie authors to distribute their books to as many book sellers as they can.

But it is hard to turn a deaf ear to those Sirens.

Finally, Mark concludes his predictions with a return to basics.  The final item in the list lays out the essential elements every Indie author must focus on if she expects a book to succeed.  It is worth repeating.

12.  Back to basics:  The bestselling authors in 2015 win with best practices – The formula for bestseller success isn’t rocket science.  Success is all about best practices.  For every well-executed best practice implemented by the author, the author gains an incremental advantage in the marketplace.  What are some of these best practices?  1. You must write a super-awesome “wow” book that takes the reader to an emotional, satisfying extreme (this applies to fiction and non-fiction).  2.  Your books should be professionally edited and proofed  3.  A great cover image makes your book more discoverable and more desirable to your target reader.  Great cover images make an honest and visual promise to your target reader about the experience your book offers.  4. Give your book a fair price.  5.  Release your book as a preorder.  If you’re not doing preorders, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful merchandising tools today (click here to learn how preorders work).  6.  Avoid exclusivity and distribute your book widely.  7.  Write another book, rinse and repeat.

So there you have it.

But the big question for Indies in 2015 is how they deal with the five-hundred pound gorilla. Or as I put it in the title of this blog: Should an author go all in with Amazon or hedge her bets?

What think ye?


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