Publishing and Profits
Today there are five large publishing houses. They’re headquartered in NYC and are international; that is, they publish work across the globe.
- Simon and Schuster
Mergers and acquisitions have become common in the publishing industry. You can see this in the names of these companies: PenguinRandom, for example, was once two separate publishing entities: Penguin Books and Random House.
Each house has a number of specialist imprints, such as Mills & Boon, Tor, Picador and Doubleday. My first book, A Necklace of Souls, was published under the Voyager imprint of HarperCollins; Voyager being a specialist Scifi-Fantasy imprint.
Although some of these large houses have an office in New Zealand, the NZ based office is really an offshoot of an Australian-based industry. Interestingly, some of these publishers operate in regional territories. Thus, rights that are held by one branch are independent of another.
So, if you sell your rights to the NZ office of say HarperCollins, you should not assume that the English branch of the same house will publish your work in the UK. The UK office have told me that an author holding a publishing contract with the NZ based office is a disincentive to obtaining the rights, because they will have to pay an additional fee to the NZ-based enterprise than if they, the UK office, owned the rights.
It is worth considering territories before you sell your work to a NZ based publisher; because in so doing you may build a barrier to reaching a global audience. This is particularly problematic in today’s ebook publishing industry; after all, Amazon and iBooks have a global audience.
Traditionally, publishing was broken up into the following functions:
- Selection, curation and distribution
All three arms of publishing were quite separate and (generally) performed by different entities.
But today many online retailers act as publishers. Some, like Amazon, also have a print division (CreateSpace). In the online space the differences between the functions are blurred.
Changing Technology: Online Bookstores
There are four main online bookstores:
Amazon is the dominant player. See the image below for the US 2015 market share (image from Author Earnings). This proportion and market share is likely to be reflected around the globe, although some significant non-English speaking regions, such as Russia and China, are dominated by language-specific stores.
Books for children and adult nonfiction are still mostly sold as print. This is probably not surprising, as parents want kids to have less time on screens, not more. However, with the rise of Augmented Reality (AR), schools purchasing ePub files, and the increasing use of AI and voice activation technologies, its likely this may change.
It’s already changed for adult fiction. In the US, adult fiction sales are now 70% digital. That’s a MASSIVE shift.
I don’t really know how I feel about this. Personally, I love my bookshelves, and there’s something deeply satisfying about holding a book in the hand. But when I’m travelling it’s a simpler to take a kindle, and it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to buy with one-click. So because I’m a book lover I mourn the decrease in books, as a reader, I love having access to cheaper and plentiful stories.
As a writer, though, I’m pretty excited. Because not only are most fiction sales digital, nearly 42% of sales are NOT through the large traditional publishers. So although there are only 5 major international publishers, there is an increasing proliferation of small-time and independent presses. It’s easier now to have your work published than it ever was. Publishing is no longer the provenance of the wealthy and well-connected.
As long as you have a computer, time, energy and a little money, it’s possible to share your work with the world.