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The state of the 2015 Oracle publishing market

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonFebruary 10, 2015

 

Question:  I'm talking to a publisher who says that my Oracle book will only make me a few thousand dollars in royalties.  Are they ripping me off?

Answer:  This is a great question.  Back in the mid 20th century, publishing a book was a major undertaking, with typesetters and lead slugs and six figure costs that proved to be an effective barrier to entry for nascent publishers.

Today, computer automation has made is easy to publish books.  However, the barrier to entry remains in the brick and mortar arena, and bookstore buyers (Barnes & Noble, Borders, &c) carefully vet the publishers and authors. 

The good news is that there is still room for excellent books on hot Oracle topics.  If you want to become an author, just fill-in an Rampant Oracle Book Proposal Form.

Shelf space in a book store is an expensive resource, and the bookstores employ a mathematical "hurdle rate" to measure the profit, storage cost and velocity of each and every book in the store.  Only books with demonstrable sales velocity are replenished.

  1. Successful books are priced high and sold low - A book has a much better chance of getting on the shelves if the publisher charges a high price, and sells the book at significantly less than their competition.  Books on specialty topics with inelastic demand (no close substitutes) are ideal.  Remember, the bookstores only "rent" the books.  They can keep them for years and then return them to the publisher for a full refund.
     

  2. Footprint matters - The ratio of profit to footprint is important.  A cheaper, large book is less desirable than a tiny, high margin book.
     

  3. Quality counts - Known, proven authors sell better than neophytes, and the reputation of the author and publisher is paramount.

There are several external factor that influence the Oracle book market in 2015:

  • The Oracle market is mature - When I started in the mid 1990's a good Oracle book could easily sell 10,000 copies. Today, the space in the bookstores have gone-down from entire shelves to one rack, and publishers fight fiercely for the shelf space.  Hence, niche topics and experience-based books without close competitors are de' rigueur.  Long gone are the days when theoretical computer books sell well.  See my notes on the bestselling computer books of all time, and contrast that with my notes on bestselling Oracle books!
     

  • People still buy lots of books - Just look at the shelf space dedicated to new technologies and it becomes clear that the free crap on the blogs are not effecting the desire for quality information, information that's worth paying for.
     

  • Plagiarism is haunting the market - I've had major publishers accidentally publish content stolen directly from my web pages, and Oracle community is reeling with thieves.  See my notes on why the theft of Oracle research has become epidemic.

It's a super-competitive market for Oracle books, and publisher still invest a small fortune in producing and distributing Oracle books.  It costs just as much money to develop a low-selling book as a bestseller.

As to author royalties, it depends on the business model of the publisher, and most offer anywhere from 8% up to 15%. 

For more details, see my notes on computer book author compensation.

 


 

 

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