As 2014 draws to a close indie publishing finds itself at a crossroad. There’s a growing consensus that the supply of indie ebooks is beginning to exceed demand, leading to the textbook microeconomics result.
The idea that indie revenues were falling was brought to the fore a month ago by HM Ward when she revealed that she was pulling out of Kindle Unlimited, and why. This lead authors both in and out of KU to say they were also taking a hit in the pocketbook.
This led many who didn’t look too closely to conclude that KU was a bad idea for indie authors, but it wasn’t until this week that some, namely me, started a public discussion about the underlying causes. On Sunday I raised the question about what this meant in terms of consumer behavior, and within minutes Bob Mayer suggested the explanation which had been staring us in the face all along:
To me the bigger problem than KU is the content flood which isn’t going away. I think most authors, indie and trad, are going to see a flattening of sales as readers simply have so many more choices.
I still don’t feel that I have enough market data to prove it, but I think he’s right.
And so does Mike Shatzkin, who posted on this topic today:
What a long list of indie authors has proven in the years since Kindle was invented is that there is a substantial market willing to try storytelling from unknown writers if it is offered at a relatively low price. As a result of that and of Amazon — joined by all the other ebook platforms and a legion of service-providers like Bob Mayer — making it relatively easy to “publish” a manuscript, many tens of thousands of authors have published hundreds of thousands of ebooks that way.
… Ever-growing supply and stable demand is a toxic formula for the prospects of each successive ebook published for that market. My own hunch is that Kindle Unlimited is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
So where does the industry go from here?
I don’t know, but I do have a few thoughts.
One, the days of releasing the first title in a series as permafree have passed. All that accomplishes now is to flood the market and make it harder to sell ebooks.
Two, the idea of writing and publishing your next book as the best marketing strategy is also going to have to be reconsidered.
Three, getting in to or out of Kindle Unlimited isn’t nearly as important as some thought it was a few weeks ago. As I noted when I first reported on this story, this problem is affecting authors both in and out of KU.
What do you think?