Electronic publishing began in earnest long before social media really existed and when many people weren’t online. Twenty years ago we relied heavily on egroups – mostly Yahoo groups to find each other and share books. Tiny publishing houses proliferated, and sold books directly to readers. Some of those houses grew enough to be able to afford artists for book covers, which is how Tom and I met.
When Amazon got into the ebook market, it was because that market already existed. Their early policies made it hard through to impossible for small houses to keep publishing via their own websites. Of necessity, we had to all sell through them, accepting a loss of control and lower income on each book in the hopes of reaching a wider audience, and of not being made obsolete.
Many of the more successful ebook houses at that time were selling smut, and the kind of material you couldn’t get elsewhere. I watched Amazon have rounds of shutting down kink authors, shutting down queer authors, changing the rules, changing the rules again. Mostly as a company they seemed torn between the desire to make as much money as possible, and the censoring urges of the occasional Puritan they’d somehow employ. It was not fun being part of a small publishing house while that was happening.
Things evolved. Amazon got into print on demand. Other sites become more open to small houses, although that has everything to do with distribution now. One of the key things for a small publisher is to be able to get in with a distributor so that your books show up in online stores and can be ordered through physical bookshops. At this point, this is one of the major differences between self publishing and being published. As a self published author you may not be able to manage getting your print books distributed, at which point doing print on demand books with Amazon can make a lot of sense.
At this point, there are enough ways of getting your book out that Amazon can’t afford to have policies that entirely lock authors into working with them. And so it is that we’re coming full circle and seeing publisher websites offering both ebooks and hard copies. Even the bigger publishers are doing it. This is a reaction to the mess the publishing industry is in, which is in turn about the attitudes of publishers to not growing authors and not investing in marketing. Books do not magically sell because someone has published them and I really wish more publishers actually understood this. A staggering number of people in publishing seem to think that books just sell by magic.
Diversity is good, and massive corporations are problematic in so many ways. If you like an author, it is worth buying directly from the publisher if you can. Authors are usually paid a percentage of what the publisher gets, and when the publisher gets the full cover price, that really helps the author. When you see a book on sale in a supermarket for a few pounds, the author will be getting pennies for each copy sold. It’s just another bit of modern capitalism that really doesn’t work and there are parallels in many industries.
John Hunt Publishing has started selling directly, so if you’re looking for my traditionally published Pagan titles, do please have a look. https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/authors/nimue-brown