And So It Begins

For the past few years I've come to believe that the days of the mass market paperback were limited. I mean, look at what happened to Leisure. With more and more readers adopting ereaders and purchasing ebooks that are priced just as much as the paperbacks (sometimes even less, but sometimes even more), publishers will eventually accept that they're losing more money than usual on these paperbacks and decide to go strictly digital. So it was no real surprise to see this today:

As e-books continue to capture more readers that had read mass market paperbacks, Simon & Schuster is re-launching its Pocket Star mass market line as an e-book only imprint. According to the company, “Pocket Star will continue to feature bestselling and debut authors in popular genres including women’s fiction, romance, thrillers, urban fantasy, and mystery.” The revised imprint will feature a mix of new and old title, with the majority being new.

Louise Burke, executive v-p and publisher of Pocket, was clear that she expects the e-book Pocket Star imprint to serve in much the same way the mass market version did in the book ecosystem. “Similar to how mass market has served as a platform to develop future hardcover authors, it is our mission to use Pocket Star’s new digital-only format to establish new voices in the marketplace. An eBook imprint is flexible, cost-effective, cutting-edge and makes sense in today’s marketplace. Under the Pocket Star banner we will publish original works including full-length novels and novellas from some of our most popular authors,” Burke said. Price points will vary according to the work.

And this, my friends, is only the beginning. Soon the rest of the major publishers will create strictly digital imprints. Hell, Dutton has already started doing just that.

Now let the unanimous cry begin: But what about the bookstores???

Well, what about them? Publishers don't care about bookstores, not when those bookstores aren't making them money. If publishers can make even more money going strictly digital, then they're going to go strictly digital. It's an unpopular opinion, I know, but writers need to look out for themselves. Meaning yes, we all want to support bookstores, but quite honestly, do the bookstores really give a shit about you? Some do, sure -- some have great relationships with authors and do what they can to help promote those authors, and that's great. But the majority are looking at the bottom line, and that bottom line is all that matters. So if your book doesn't sell, well then it's goodbye, see you never, no hard feelings.

What I would be most interested to see in regards to today's announcement is just what terms these Pocket Star ebook authors will get. I'm assuming (or halfheartedly hoping) that the terms are better than the standard 25%. But something tells me that might not be the case. After all, it's a proven fact that publishers will try to get away with as much as they can to screw over authors.

But let's assume Pocket Star is offering at least 50% royalties. Okay, that's not bad, even after the agent gets his 15%. You could get 70% doing it on your own, but again, 50% isn't bad if you don't have to worry about editing and formatting and cover art. But is it worth signing all your rights away? Is it worth giving up all your creative control? It is worth knowing the ebook will most likely be overpriced and won't sell nearly as much as it could if it were competitively priced?

For some authors, the answer will be yes, yes, yes. Some authors shouldn't have any input in their creative control, because let's be honest -- just because you can write doesn't mean you know what good cover art looks like, even if it slapped you across the face. And let's face it -- many authors still want that validation of having their work "vetted" by a major publisher. They don't care that they could make more money doing it themselves by reaching the same amount of readers. They just want to be able to impress their friends. And you know what? That's their decision. There's nothing wrong with it. Me, well, you know how I feel about it, but that's beside the point. The point here is that Pocket Star going strictly digital is just the beginning. I can't wait to see who joins the bandwagon next.