BookMachine is a publishing community. We run events and we post news, views & interviews. Join us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up to our Mailing list.

  • Home
  • Articles
  • Is Re-Publishing a Self-Published Book a Good Idea?

Is Re-Publishing a Self-Published Book a Good Idea?

In the last two years, a lot of publishers have been buying into self-published ebook successes in a big way. There’s the Amanda Hocking trilogy, John Locke (the first man to really “crack” the KDP system and sell one million kindle ebooks), 50 Shades of Grey, and, quite recently, Wool by Hugh Cowey to name a few of the main deals. Some of these have earned seven-figure advances, something debut authors would only dream of. But are they worth it?

The potential issue I have isn’t with the books themselves (I haven’t read any of the above), but rather the emphasis put on the past sales of the ebook titles as an indicator of an untapped print audience, and how that affects the investment into those books. The Hocking quartet were acquired for $2 million in the US. I can’t say whether the books have earned back the advance, though in the UK I suspect they haven’t. Which makes it feel to me as though the books may have already reached their limit, and found their market, and sold to the people who had wanted to buy them before a publisher had even thought about forking out money to an already wealthy author.

In my mind (simplifying the whole equation) you buy a book for £1 million pounds on the basis it has already sold one million ebooks. How many more million ebooks can you really expect it to sell (generally at a higher price point)? How many paperbacks? It seems ebook success does not translate directly into print success – perhaps part of the expectation that it will is over-confidence in an utterly flawed book review and discoverability system.

Yes, these books have a proven market, but that existing readership is not necessarily going to be easily mobilised to promote the book to a print audience. It reminds me a bit of bodysurfing: sometimes you swim up behind a massive wave as fast as you can, and only after you’ve put in all that energy and it slips away you realise the wave was always ahead of you, and you were never going to catch it.

Then, of course, there is 50 Shades of Grey. This week, The Bookseller released the statistics for the highest-selling ebooks of 2013 across all publishers – something we pretty much never see. Included in this bunch was the sales figure for the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which has sold 3.8 million ebooks in the UK. Seems a staggering number, but this pales in comparison to the 10,000,000+ paperbacks currently sitting on shelves around Britain. For me, the incredible print domination proves two things:

1) Under the right circumstances, a self-published mega-success can be worth a massive investment

2) Print isn’t dead, and by not having a print version of your book in bookshops (just as with not having an ebook version of your books online) you are potentially excluding a large portion of your audience

Though, as ever, 50 shades shows what’s possible, not what’s probable.

I don’t think publishers shouldn’t re-publish indie authors (if the authors want that – my little experience with them last year told me that many of them actively do not want a publishing contract), as I’m sure many of them are great and haven’t reached their target readership as fully as they perhaps could with the help of a publisher. But until we know exactly why a self-published ebook has sold in vast numbers, which I would argue in the most part we don’t, is it fair to assume the same sales numbers for print?

Tags: , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.
  • http://www.genjipress.com/ Serdar (GenjiPress)

    Another thing this hints at is why the obscurantist approach e-book sellers have towards publicly auditable sales figures is a bad idea. It lets people develop completely false impressions about the real-world popularity of a book. Just because something has a disproportionate number of GoodReads or Amazon.com reviews doesn’t mean it will have the same galvanizing effect on audiences that don’t touch either of those venues.

Get BookMachine in your inbox

Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.
Please provide a valid email address.
Thank you, your sign-up request was successful! Please check your e-mail inbox.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Please fill in the required fields.