Screw the Gatekeepers

I grabbed this screenshot from the Amazon Kindle store last week when looking at the top-100 bestselling travel reference books.

First of all, thanks to everyone who has ever bought a Kindle copy of The World’s Cheapest Destinations! (Or for that matter, a paper one or PDF one or iBookstore one).

For writers, there’s a whole big batch of lessons in that little picture.

The first book has had massive publicity, plenty of promotional funds, and a well-known New York publishing house behind it. The second has had me, the mom-and-pop business in Maine known as Booklocker, and close to zero in promotional money behind it. I believe this is what they call “leveling the playing field.”

The funny thing is, I’m probably making three or four times the royalties on my book that Patricia Shultz is making on hers, even though we’re both doing the same amount of work. Actually she probably works harder than me on promotion because she’s got a whole line of related products to sell. But most of her book revenue is actually going to the publisher. Same deal with the majority of the 98 books behind mine on that list (and the 1000 after that) that are put out by well-known publishers.

In most traditional book publishing contracts, the author is only getting 10% or 15% of the net earnings—of the wholesale cost, after accounting for returns.

That whole arrangement seems antiquated. And just plain unfair.

Screw the gatekeepers. If you’ve built up a following and/or have something worthwhile to share, you probably don’t need them as much as you think you do. You certainly don’t need them as much as you did in the last millennium, when these awful publishing arrangements almost made sense.

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