In December 2000 the situation for publishers began to change a little with the establishment of Nielsen BookScan, a local affiliate of US polling company A.C. Nielsen. Nielsen tracks book sales by barcode from around eighty-five per cent of all retail outlets selling books in Australia. Its main customers are publishing houses which, for an annual subscription fee of up to $100,000, are regularly emailed spreadsheets showing the best-selling books. These include details such as actual copies sold, average selling price and publisher across 140 genre categories and sub-categories.
Of the top 132 best-selling titles listed in the first two pages of the Nielsen top 5000 list for the five weeks ending 1 January 2005, 65 originated from Australia. Of these only four were literary novels: Tim Winton’s The Turning at number 9, Cloud Street at number 65, and Dirt Music at number 104. Winton is unique in Australian publishing, having both a literary and a large popular audience.
This is another problem for writers such as myself whose work might straddle the literary and commercial fields.
THE RISE OF THE GENRE PARADIGM
The appearance of genre fiction in bestseller lists with the advent of BookScan also granted it a new cultural and economic respectability. Genre fiction is highly author-and formula-driven and attracts reader loyalty, while its authors tend to generate new titles on a regular, often annual, basis, making genre fiction far more reliable than literary fiction from a publisher’s list-building point of view. The authors of popular fiction are also more likely to be granted celebrity status than literary authors, maximising their promotional potential.
The availability of data from companies such as BookScan means that publishers, for the first time, have access to accurate, up-to-the-minute sales figures that are transparent across the industry. No longer is it possible to fudge sales.
THE DECLINE OF LITERARY
Of the recent changes in Australian book publishing, among the most striking is the decline of the literary paradigm.
By the early 2000s almost no major Australian publisher was aggressively seeking or promoting new literary fiction at the forefront of their lists, and literary fiction was no longer the cornerstone of the industry’s self-perception. In the late 1990s Penguin Books, which had been at the forefront of the ‘cultural renaissance’ of the 1960s to 1980s period, first dropped its poetry list.
Literary fiction will otherwise become the preserve of independent or small publishers and self-publishing. The consolidation of publishing has resulted in a counter-movement from established independent publishers such as Text Publishing and Scribe, who have sought to exploit the potential of niche-audience mid-list titles as profit-making prospects with ‘a long tail’. Midlist is a term in the publishing industry which refers to books which are not bestsellers but are strong enough to economically justify their publication and likely, further purchases of future books from the same author.
In 2004 Text formed a partnership with Scottish publisher Canongate to maximise the value of both lists. New small presses such as Vulgar and Giramondo attempt to offer a home and space for aesthetic freedom an experimentation for mid-list authors disenchanted with mainstream publishers, such as Brian Castro now at Giramondo.
Confronted by the new market conditions, literary writers have begun to look at ways of reinventing themselves, either turning to a commercial model or else looking overseas.
The increasing difficulty of getting published has fostered an underground push for change and a search for new paradigms, reflected in the rise of alternative literary festivals, a live reading circuit, and self-publishing through make-your-own imprints such as Vandal Press and Cardigan Press both collectives that publish short story collections. Such developments point to how literature might become a do-it-yourself culture that will operate, for the time being, at least partly outside mainstream publishing culture, having cleared itself a space for experimentation and the development of new paradigms.
But publishers say there is no harder sell in the world of books these days than literary fiction.
Meanwhile, writers around the world can bypass the traditional publishing process if they wish, and self-publish their work, enjoying unprecedented freedom and autonomy in delivering their work directly to readers.
You create an account with KDP and upload your manuscript, cover images and other required details onto Amazon’s KDP platform. https://kdp.amazon.com/ where you will find all the information you require for setting up and proceeding.
ONE SECRET IS the amount Amazon reports paying out in 2019 to indie publishers and authors through its Kindle Unlimited subscription program. That brings Amazon’s total payout for self-published authors up to $2.2 billion since 2012 when it launched this “pay as you read” program that’s much loved by readers around the world.
Very few indie authors know what Kindle Unlimited is all about!
Kindle Unlimited is a ‘lending library’ that helps readers discover your books in dozens of countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and beyond. Authors are paid by the number of pages read instead of outright eBook purchases.
Kindle Unlimited is just one of many great sales and marketing opportunities available at Amazon, and self-published authors have found great success using them to launch and promote their eBooks.
Establish a price for your book and list your book’s genre and categories. Choose keywords so readers can find your book, and supply more information, called metadata, about your book.
Your book, digital or printed, will go live on Amazon just a few hours after you’ve uploaded it correctly. Millions of potential readers can now find your book. It’s part of a relatively new distribution process called Print on Demand or POD. Amazon sends out royalty payments to authors each month of 12 to 20 percent of the sales price for the physical POD books and 70% for the eBook sales.
You need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to distribute your book through retailers globally. Amazon can provide one for you, or you can purchase your own from Thorpe-Bowker Identifier Services https://www.myidentifiers.com/
KBoards is a website devoted to all things Kindle. They’re a small family operation, but they’ve become the largest independent Kindle user site on the web.