Thursday, April 18, 2013

Traditional Publishing and Non-Fiction

I sometimes enroll in a course at Coursera.  It’s free and online, and they’re taught by experts in their fields from recognized schools.

Currently I am taking Surviving Disruptive Technologies taught by Hank Lucas from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.  The course is nice and understandable so that’s why I’m still with it weeks after its start date.  (If you start a course and find it’s not your cup of tea, it’s simple to unenroll.  No one is going to give you a hard time.)

The course has reached a lesson regarding publishing (it followed newspapers) on how disruptive technology is changing the business.  Prof. Lucas has published non-fiction work and was kind enough to share the numbers.  Like a fiction author, the non-fiction author receives a percent of the net per their contract with their publisher.  He receives the average 15% after net - $50 cover price, he receives $4 for each new book sold.  I’m adding Prof. Lucas receives nothing for the sale of a used textbook.

Here’s where publishers may have competition from self-publishing if authors think along the same lines as Prof. Lucas.  The author provides the content – the intellectual property.  He also provided the interior drawings and illustrations, something publishers used to do.  Is the value of his content roughly 8% of the finished product, or should the author receive more?  Prof. Lucas did include in his lecture that freelance editors and peer reviews are available for hire outside of traditional publishers – hence, he would need to invest money into the project like other self-published authors.

Obviously, Prof. Lucas has a promotional advantage over some self-published authors.  He can assign the book as part of his in-person course at his college, or teach a MOOC (massive open online course) at Coursera to get his name in front of eyeballs interested in the topic that his book(s) also covers.  

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