This week, Simon & Schuster was put up for sale. According to its parent company, ViacomCBS, after considering the strategic direction of the company, Simon & Schuster no longer fit in with its overall business goals. Primarily the company is seeking to expand on its streaming services and sports content.

Considering Simon & Schuster is the one of the big five publishing houses still remaining, this decision could further tighten the already competitive traditional publishing industry making it even more difficult for new authors to break through and receive any notice. Although the company publishes about 2,000 books annually, its authors are primarily high profile writers with an established market including Hillary Clinton, Stephen King, Judy Blume, and Bob Woodward. 

Yet despite those impressive names, the publisher’s sales have fallen significantly over the past thirty years from $1.3 billion in 1989 to $814 million in 2019. That’s a drop of $486 million or 37% from the 1989 numbers. 2019 also saw the publisher’s profits decline 6.5% from 2018. 

What are some of the reasons for this downward trend in traditional publishing? 

In a word: Amazon. The behemoth retail giant has drastically changed the way readers acquire and experience books. Since Kindle first hit the market in 2007, eBook sales, once given little consideration by the traditional publishing houses, have now grown to be a major player in the publishing industry. According to the Association of American Publishers 2019 Annual Report, eBook sales accounting for $2.04 billion of the $26 billion annual revenue. 

Conversely, more independent authors are now earning a comfortable living writing professionally. How are they able to effectively quit their day job when the numbers above seem to point to gloom and despair? Of the indie authors who are earning sixty thousand a year or more, they focus on publishing more books instead of focusing on publishing one or two major works. On average, these authors have a library of twenty or more books published independently of the traditional publishing houses. They keep the bulk of their royalties, which can be as high as 70% of the sales, whereas the royalty rates with traditional publishing is significantly lower. With each book published, these authors grow their business strategically with long term planning.

So does this shift in publishing trends mean that a new unknown author cannot find success in one of the major publishing houses? 

Absolutely not. 

However, as a new writer you should understand that a traditional publishing deal will require months, if not years, of waiting for your book to reach readers hands. That’s assuming that it’s picked up by a publisher at all. And that’s just for one book. Each book would have to go through the same lengthy process. 

And one has to wonder with this announcement, will traditional publishing houses be more or less inclined to take a chance on a new and unknown writer? That is a question only time will answer.

Granted, becoming a successful author, either traditionally or independently published, takes a great deal of planning and hard work. Writing is not an overnight, get-rich-quick scheme. It requires a strategic, long term vision and a team of dedicated professionals who can assist you with your journey.

For those who are serious about taking your writing to the next level, contact Willow Bend Publishing Group, LLC. We will happily answer any questions about the publishing industry and help you strategically grow your writing business. 

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