Are Publishers Controlling Online Communities Just to Gain Access to Writers and Authors?
Are online communities just a new way for big publishers to get unpublished writers to come to them? Is it their way of unearthing new talent? Amazon owns Goodreads. Penguin owns Book Country.
Harper Collins owns Authonomy. And many more communities are owned by big publishers. This question was posed in an author forum and generated some opposing thoughts.
One Question Posed was; ‘How Independent are these Communities?’
One publisher promotes a ‘self-publishing’ service through its genre-fiction online community. But is this really what self-publishing is? Well many self-published authors clearly believed that is not self-publishing but more like a move from a large publisher just creating a ‘pathway’ to gain access to new writers and authors and using the term ‘self-publishing’ to attract that audience.
Why are Publishers Now Chasing Authors to Publish?
Previously, writers and authors would struggle to get the attention of the publishers. Now the role has reversed and publishers are desperately creating new avenues to welcome unpublished writers with the hope of catching the next EL James or Amanda Hocking. Online communities are one avenue they are using to their benefit.
I believe that it is a move towards accepting the ‘power change’ where authors now have the control and flexibility unlike years gone by. Publishers do need to continue to make money and as a result are investing in the services they provide. Are they becoming a service provider and is this where they see their future revenue coming from?
Hopefully publishers are just taking the first required step to evolve and address the generational shift in ‘self-publishing’ that has turned the publishing world upside down. Many authors require assistance with various stages of the ‘self-publishing’ process and this often incurs a fee. But that fee should not also mean you receive lower royalties and hand over your rights.
Are the Services being Promoted in these Communities Worth it?
So what are some example costs for these ‘self-published’ authors using these services offered via these online communities? First let’s look at the royalties. Royalties can range from 30% to 70% depending on the price of the eBook. They also offer packages for services from $99 and upwards. Some packages run past the $1,000 mark.
If there is one thing you take from our Academy, I hope it is that you now have the knowledge to ’empower yourself’ to make better-informed decisions with regards to what services you need to pay for and how much you should be paying for those services. There have been plenty of well-documented cases about certain companies ‘over-charging’ self-published authors for services that were not delivered or were not value for money.
These cases of writers and authors being ripped off for thousands of dollars was a driving factor behind the creation of our Author Academy.
What Should Self-published Authors Expect to Get from a Service Provider?
As a true ‘self-published’ author you need to understand all of the options available to you before committing large sums of money. This is where our Author Academy strives to ’empower’ you with this knowledge so you can make more informed decisions.
I believe the true definition of a self-published author is one that receives higher royalties than what is often on offer such as 30%; maintains editorial and creative control over their work; does not pay high fees for services they can perform themselves; does not sign-away the rights to their work; and understands that there are eBook distributors such as Smashwords who can distribute their eBooks to the major publishers for them.
And if a self-published author wants more control they can self-publish their eBook direct through Amazon’s KDP publishing program.
What are the Benefits of an Author-Reader Community?
Writer, author and reader communities have many benefits as I have discussed in the article titled ’25 Benefits of Author-reader Communities for Self-published Authors.’ Most importantly communities are a great way to connect with fellow authors and your target audience.
My Personal Opinion on Service Providers
I highly recommend paying for services such as sourcing a professional editor or eBook cover designer or any other service you believe will enhance your eBook and give it a greater chance of becoming a success. Just do your research before handing over your hard-earned money for services!
You do not have to hand over your rights or accept low royalties in return for these services. There are many independent service providers who charge a fee-per-service and in no way want a slice of your eBook sales. If they do, run for the door!
My Personal Opinion on Author-Reader Communities
As a self-published author it is important to have some goals when joining an online community. For me, it is about engaging my target audience and building a relationship with those readers who would want to buy my eBooks.
It is about networking and connecting with fellow authors. As a fan of reading, it is discovering new and exciting talent.
Online communities provide a lot of benefits for all authors. Just be aware of the ‘subtle’ changes to services, features and policies for these communities as their true owners try to capitalise on the opportunity to gain access to new authors they could publish or sell services to.
I believe we are quickly moving towards a turning point where the ‘Everything’ store and ‘All-in-One’ communities will start to lose some power as the volume of eBooks and members become too large to serve any benefit to authors.
What is happening right now is that we are starting to see more dedicated stores to specific genres and categories and we are seeing more niche communities pop-up that cater to a specific interest or genre.
My Answer to the Initial Question
My answer to the initial question asked; ‘Are Publishers Controlling Online Communities Just to Gain Access to Writers and Authors?’ would be yes! But that is Ok if they do not try to dictate the terms and control your right to free speech, self-promotion and the opportunity to connect with your readers.
Of course there must be rules, just be aware if you find yourself being constantly ‘sold to’ and believe that the community no longer provides a benefit to you.
Cashed-up companies such as Amazon who bought Goodreads may only enhance the features in a community and make it more beneficial so review each community on an individual basis. Don’t be too quick to jump ship if a community is bought out.
You have the control and there are many options available to you so decide what is best for ‘YOU’ and not what another author or publisher tells you.