Broken Publishing’s Big Author Problem: Nobody Ever Runs Out Of Electrons

Branding expert David Vinjamuri has written an astonishingly intelligent piece in Forbes that nails just about all the most salient issues dividing indie and traditional publishing.

No matter what side of this issue you’re on, you’ll be better informed after reading his piece: Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing.


As the author of 20 traditionally published books  — including three bestsellers including one that made the NYTimes lists — I can verify that Vinjamuri certainly nailed the miserable non-job that legacy publishers do with marketing.

Yes, most authors will complain (mostly with good reason) about marketing and PR. Publishers usually dismiss them as idiot savants who should let “those who know” tend to those matters.

But I’ve served as a former Managing Director of Manning, Selvage & Lee — one of the largest global communications and marketing companies — and can say that what I see legacy publishers call “marketing” is almost always bush-league bumbling that would never rise to world-class status.

And least you think that ‘Managing Director” is just a dime-a-dozen honorific like being a bank vice-president, managing directors comprise eight of the 18 upper management positions at MS&L.

That’s not to say I am a genius, but I do know more than average when it comes to marketing and promotion.

But I have yet to have a publisher of any of my books accept for free, my services that businesses — from the Fortune 500 to tech start-ups — have paid $225/hour for.


What Vinjamuri  left out is only the most important issue facing an author’s decision on whether or not to go indie or pursue traditional publishing.

The fact is that once you sell your ebook rights to ANYONE, you have lost control of your book forever.

Nobody ever runs out of electrons. So, your rights are gone, gone, gone.

Nine of the books at my book page, Lew’s Books, are traditionally published books to which I got the rights back after they were out of print. Those contracts were written before the advent of ebooks.

I have re-issued those books and they’re selling like crazy, specially the newest ones posted (Queensgate Reckoning, The Tesla Bequest, The Linz Testament and Zaibatsu) which have a solid Cold War thread which has had a resurgence of interest now that Vladimir Putin has reconstituted the medieval totalitarianism of the old Soviet Union.

Because I own the rights to those books, I can set the price, edit to remove any typos or scanning artifacts and promote as I see fit.

But the three books still published by a legacy publisher: Daughter of God, The Da Vinci Legacy and Slatewiper, languish, unpromoted. And the legacy publisher’s ebook versions are defaced with so many careless scanning errors that readers are constantly posting complaints about them online.

But you see: I don’t own those rights anymore. And even though the books earned back their royalties a decade ago and are still selling, the publisher never sends royalties.

So, having sold the ebook rights, I have to sit by and watch over-priced ebook editions filled with scanning crap languish. The publisher doesn’t care.  And I have no financial incentive to promote the books or spend time to try and get them to do the right thing.

Oh yes, and even if the publisher did pay royalties, they would be on the order of 18% … far beneath the 70% range I get from Amazon, 82% from Smashwords and 60% from Apple’s iBookstore.


Whether indie or legacy, most authors will have to do their own marketing and PR. But the long-term issue is whether they are prepared to turn over their baby to a legacy publisher who will hang on the book forever and most likely will do an abysmal job of promotion and an even worse job on the fundamental basics of ebook publishing.


Lew's Books