Brilliant and lengthy article at Fast Company on the changing landscape of books, publishers and e-books.
The book industry is especially vulnerable because it is a “hits” business, with a small number of breakaway titles (Harry Potter, The Tipping Point, Twilight) subsidizing all the rest. Take away publishers’ best-sellers and you’re left with stacks of money-losing operations. But authors such as Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, and J.K. Rowling would all thrive in a system that let them skip advances in exchange for higher royalty rates. Instead of a star author getting the standard 15% on a hardcover, for example, Amazon could simply skim a 20% distribution fee, and the author gets the rest. In this model, “the whole thing is structured so that you, as the provider of intellectual property, get the lion’s share of the revenue after costs, not the publishers,” Maneker says. If e-books take off, Amazon could cherry-pick the biggest-selling authors, and publishers would suddenly find themselves cut off from their most bankable sources of revenue.