Thursday, June 23, 2011

JK Rowling Will Self-Pub Harry Potter Ebooks

Yes, you read correctly.

According to Wired.co.uk, the billionaire author is forsaking her print publishers and releasing her novels on her own.

Whoa.

A few years ago, I was critical of Rowling's decision not to release ebooks of the Potter series. Piracy became the only way to get her ebooks, and those bootleg copies thrived. I wouldn't be surprised if she was the most pirated author ever, simply because fans had no other choice if they wanted to read her on their ereaders. That means she missed out on a lot of money.

Looks like she found a way to get that money back.

Naturally, I think she's brilliant for making this self-pubbing move. She'll be the first superstar to do so, and others will no doubt follow suit.

This comes on the heels of Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint acquiring the rights to more than forty titles in Ed McBain's backlist. McBain died in 2005, and has sold more than 100 million books. I love the 87th Precinct novels, and they were one of the main reasons I chose to write police procedurals. It will be great to see them in ebook form, and in print once again, even if the Seattle Mystery Bookshop won't carry them.

They also won't carry Barry Eisler, who turned down half a million dollars from St. Martins in order to self-pub. (For those with Kindles, our entire three-part 35,000 word conversation is now nicely formatted and available for 99 cents. Ditto Nook, and free on Smashwords.)

And, of course, let's not forget that John Locke is the first indie author to sell a million ebooks.

Borders recently got a one month extension to find a buyer before they're forced to liquidate.

Barnes and Noble is hanging in there, and sales are up 20% over last year. But this is mostly due to increased BN.com sales, many of which were ebooks.

So what does all of this mean?

More than a year ago I predicted that ebooks won't destroy the Big 6 because readers will abandon print (even though they're doing just that--ebook sales up 157% in March, print books down 22%-40%), but rather it is authors who will render the Big 6 obsolete. The more authors who choose the self-pub route over legacy, the harder it will be for legacy publishers to stay afloat.

Some bookstores will survive if they learn how to adapt. But it'll be tough, and I think everyone agrees that the heyday of bookstores is over. From now on there will be more stores closing than opening.

As I've said before, this is a death spiral.

What happens next is obvious. After more bookstores close, publishers will follow suit. They'll keep ebook prices high to make up for their print losses, but won't be able to sustain their overhead. Since ebooks now outsell print, very few authors are going to sign new legacy deals for 14.9% ebook royalties, so publishers will have to offer more or lose them.

It's only a matter of time before the house of cards collapses.