Indie Authors, Barnes & Noble and The Future of the Kindle

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

When it comes to writing and selling books, indie authors have a daunting task.  Along with all it takes to produce a book (the writing, cover, editing, author platform, social media, marketing strategies, etc.), it behooves us to keep up with the changes in the publishing world.  And so much is going on with publishing now.  Here are some of the things I’ve repeatedly heard in the last year or so are:

  • that print books are dying
  • that Barnes & Noble will be gone in 2013 (yes, I’ve heard that)
  • that Amazon will take over all ebook publishing
  • and more…

I thought it would be interesting to address some of these points.  Hang on to your manuscripts…

Indie Authors and Print Books

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Print books are not dead.  Yes, we indie authors by and large make the bulk of our sales through ebooks, but if you’re not considering print books, you’re missing out on making some money and spreading the word about your books.  I’m not talking a mint, but there is money for the taking…

Let’s talk for a minute about ebook sales in general.  Many indie authors have reported slower sales since the summer.  Is this because of the Amazon review scandal?  Or more competition so it’s harder to sell books?  According to Dean Wesley Smith, ebook sales are beginning to level off.  Predictions are that ebook sales will level around 30% of trade sales.  That doesn’t sound like ebooks are going to be it in the future.

Indie Authors and Barnes & Noble’s Brick And Mortar Stores

The rumors about Barnes & Noble dying continue to abound.  But has the death of the bookstore been a bit premature? According to this article, Barnes & Noble indeed plans to Barnes & Noble imageclose about twenty stores each year for the next decade.  That would reduce their stores by a third…a lot, but certainly not all.  I also found it interesting that in years past, many people reported that Barnes & Noble closed about fifteen stores a year…but they failed to note that Barnes & Noble also opened about thirty stores a year.  Will the bookstore giant eventually close its doors completely?  Who knows?  But while they are open, they are a potential place for you to sell books…

Indie Authors and Barnes & Noble Sales

I’ve also heard people talk about how Barnes & Noble sales were down this year (11% according to the article).  However:

the company still made $317 million in earnings last year, more than enough, according to Klipper, to offset losses from the Nook eReader section of the company, which spends heavily on advertising and new technology.

It’s also interesting to note that Microsoft invested $300 million in a Nook subsidiary last April (more on this below).

Barnes & Noble is committed to making money in their retail stores.  We’ll have to see what the future holds for them…but I don’t see them folding this year.

Indie Authors and Amazon

Ah, the elephant in the room.  What do we do with Amazon?  I fully agree with those indie authors who say that we have to publish there.  Absolutely.  But I believe more strongly than ever that if you’re not looking at other avenues to sell your books, you are going to be lost in the long run (emphasis long run).  It’s hard to say for sure (because Amazon is cagey with its figures) but it appears that they have about 50% of the total ebook sales.  Kobo and the iBookstore are reporting growing sales in the U.S.  What is even more important to note is that both are doing much better than Amazon worldwide.  If you’re in KDP Select, you’re missing out on sales opportunities elsewhere…

Indie Authors and The Future of the Kindle

It will be interesting to see what Amazon does with ebooks as the Kindle dies out…and yes, Nephilim Genesis of Evilit looks like it may well be gone in the future (and the Nook as well).  Sales of Kindles and other eReader devices are slowing at a rapid pace because of tablets.  Sales of Amazon’s eReaders did not go as well as expected this last holiday season.  Amazon has put a lot of money into their eReaders, selling them at a loss, banking on money being made from ebook sales.  But with the rise of Kobo, Apple and more, combined with the decline of Amazon’s eReaders, what will Amazon do to indie authors and their books…stay tuned.

Indie Authors – Things to Keep in Mind

I think Dean Wesley Smith has it right.  He’s been in publishing for over thirty years and he’s seen a lot of changes over the years.  According to Smith, we are in the new normal.  So what should we bear in mind?

  • it’s a marathon, not a sprint…few people hit it big in a short time, so give your writing career time
  • building your author platform takes time as well – it doesn’t hurt to start now, even if you don’t have many (any) books available (more on this in a future post)
  • don’t neglect Kobo, iBookstore and other places to distribute your book(s) – yes, Amazon’s KDP Select may be good to help launch a book, but staying exclusive in the long run very well may kill your career
  • don’t neglect Kobo (it bears repeating) – they are huge in international sales and they are moving into indie bookstores (more on Kobo in future posts)…there is money to be made here
  • write good books…and don’t neglect the editing (you’re only hurting your sales if you do)
  • be aware of Amazon, the good and the bad…if you go exclusive with them, do it with your eyes open (be informed)
  • don’t neglect print books
  • hang on to your dream

I like what Deion Sanders says about dreams:

If your dream ain’t bigger than you, there’s a problem with your dream.

If you love writing, keep at it.  If you want to sell books, keep at it.  It can happen…

If you enjoy reading this blog, please share it…my goal is to triple my followers by the end of the year, and I would be grateful if you’d help :).  Thanks!

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
This entry was posted in Indie Author Handbook and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Indie Authors, Barnes & Noble and The Future of the Kindle

  1. Jack Durish says:

    Is there any Indie author (any author at all) who would pass up the opportunity to be published by a traditional house? Does it really matter what the future may hold for ebooks? As for me, I will continue to write my stories and try to sell them by whatever means are available, otherwise, I may spend my days prognosticating and being disappointed. Who knows? My publishing contract may be circling somewhere overhead in a “flying car”.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Who knows? I know of authors who have passed up traditional deals (Barry Eisler), but they typically have already established themselves. If you read Dean Wesley Smith at all, he makes the point that an author can be both traditionally published and indie published.
      I think the biggest thing is to set expectations. And, I have to admit that this is a gripe for me, if an indie author truly says (and means) “I don’t care if I sell any books, I just like writing”, then don’t publish. In that situation, if you do publish, you are just making it harder for those of us who do want to make money, get discovered, have readers, etc. to do this because the more people publish, the harder it becomes to find the readers. Just my opinion :) and I’m not saying you fall into this camp…
      Thanks for your comment and I wish you the best of success.

  2. Caleb Pirtle says:

    I hope you’re right. But so many independent bookstores are closing, and I think Barnes & Noble will become a giant, but it will be in competition with Amazon online. The younger generation, those 45 and under, are sons and daughters of technology, and, unlike those of us who love to hold a real book, they would rather hold a Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      The future will definitely hold some surprises, and ebooks are certainly here to stay.
      As for the independents, I’ve read that, in actuality, stores are actually opening in these times. Whether they stay and are successful is another matter.
      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Toby Neal says:

    Thoughtful article Renee. I’ve chosen to go with KDP select, and my books are doing very well–but I have a multipronged author platform that is focused on building a loyal regional audience here in Hawaii… my experience in having my books on all platforms was that they didn’t sell even a 20th of what Amazon did, and I didn’t start really making money until I went with KDP select. I keep waiting for the bubble to burst, but it hasn’t, and I’m guarding against that in other ways–public speaking, hiring a girl to get my print books into Hawaii bookstores (not B&N cuz they still won’t carrry indie) and crossmarketing through the tourist industry. Anyone with a book with “regional appeal” is in a better position all around than those with sort of “generic” works INMO.
    Just another way of working it!
    Aloha
    Toby Neal

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m glad KDP Select is working for you…it’s always hard to know what sales one might be missing elsewhere, especially the longer you have books available. It will remain to be seen how successful Select remains, given that so many new authors are using it, and so many free books are out there, too.
      It sounds like you’ve had a very thought-out approach to all this, good for you.
      Thanks for your comment.

  4. “Ebook sales are beginning to level off” is misleading; perhaps a more accurate statement is that ebook sales aren’t rising with the same astonishing progression that took every expert by surprise for the past 5 years. It’s still a safe bet that ebook domination will continue and the gap between ebook and print will even grow wider due largely to production costs, consumer convenience and bottom line price.

    Love the Prime Time quote. Dream big.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      They haven’t risen dramatically, as you say, but experts in publishing are not predicting that ebook domination is in the near future. Who knows what may happen beyond a few years. Could ebooks could be replaced by something else? Whatever the case, we indie authors will be on top of it :).
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. David Zampa says:

    This is a wonderful, tempered post. I’m always wary when I see any opinion piece that is black and white. I’m much more trusting when attention is paid to both sides of an argument. The success of ebooks is a wonderful thing for authors and readers alike. The market shares of the big five and Barnes and Noble have certainly taken a dive. But the fact remains that they had nowhere to go but up and down, respectively. I still think what we’re seeing is the ebook format taking its natural share just for being the first option to ever exist. It will level off eventually, and we’ll all benefit. That’s the key. Doesn’t matter if you’re traditional, indie, or both, the current changing market is great for authors!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thank you, I try :). Things are wonderful right now, certainly more opportunities than in years past.
      Thanks for your comment.

  6. As always, a very informative post! I’ve been exclusive with all three of my books on Amazon for several months because I have been doing okay with them. I was losing a lot of legitimate (reviews that meet Amazon’s guidelines) 5-star reviews and it happened right after I took myself out of the KDP Select program. I wasn’t sure if there was a correlation or not, but I re-enrolled and only lost a couple more afterwards. I haven’t been receiving many reviews lately and I hope it’s not because Amazon is blocking or refusing them! In any case, I see the wisdom of your advice and need to start looking at what else is “out there” in ebook publishing land (Kobo especially!).

    I didn’t realize that the Kindle was in trouble. I thought their newest Kindle Fire HD was a good alternative to the iPads but maybe I’m wrong. I haven’t really noticed much difference (my husband has an iPad) between the two but I imagine availability of Apps has a lot to do with it. So, now that I am made aware of this tidbit of useful information, I definitely have to rethink my Amazon exclusivity. BUT…I do think Amazon gives more publicity for our books than anyone else. Their “Customers who bought this also bought” feature is really nice. Also, I like that they do send out email reminders to review books that we’ve bought from them. I also like the community that the Kindle creates…sharing book highlights and comments and the like. One day, while reading on my Kindle, I got a notification that someone was reading MY book and had left a comment! I thought that was so cool! I’m not sure if the iPad offers that feature?

    Love your blog! You are witty and informative and interesting and I enjoy all your posts. Thanks!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      You bring up some great points about Amazon, which it’s why I will not say (at least at this point lol) to go away from Amazon. I’m just not sure about being exclusive with them anymore. Amazon definitely has the corner on some nice features, and it would be nice to see Smashwords and other places (Barnes & Noble) do the same.
      Glad to here you are having success, and thank you for your kind words about the blog. It is most appreciated.

  7. Pingback: I wish | tereseh - a mad writer's blog

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