This is why the Tor boycott hurts. Those who pooh-pooh its effects don’t realize that the real wounds are inflicted on the margins:
In the 18 months between February 2014 and September 2015, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), whose 1200 members include the “Big Five”: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette — have seen their collective share of the US ebook market collapse:
from 45% of all Kindle books sold down to 32%
from 64% of Kindle publisher gross $ revenue down to 50%
from 48% of all Kindle author net $ earnings down to 32%
The AAP releases monthly StatShot reports on the total dollar sales of their 1200 participating publishers, of which the “Big Five” collectively account for roughly 80%. So far in 2015, the AAP’s reports have charted a progressive decline in both ebook sales and overall revenue for the AAP’s member publishers.
During that same period in 2015, Amazon’s overall ebook sales have continued to grow in both unit and dollar terms, fueled by a strong shift in consumer ebook purchasing behavior away from traditionally-published ebooks and toward indie-published- and Amazon-imprint-published ebooks. These “non-traditionally-published” books now make up nearly 60% of all Kindle ebooks purchased in the US, and take in 40% of all consumer dollars spent on those ebooks.
In other words, the Tor boycott doesn’t have to do anything substantial at all to ensure that Tor Books continues to bleed, it is merely pouring salt on what are clearly the self-administered wounds.
At least two of the Big Five are going to collapse in the relatively near future, although I have no idea which of them it will be because I haven’t seen their financials. We know that Tor Books is in trouble simply by observing that it is bringing in foreign authors and trying to pass off midlist authors as its leading men; the so-called biggest publisher of SF/F has published precisely zero of the big SF/F hits of the last few years. Forget Rowling and Martin and whoever wrote the Hunger Games, they couldn’t even get Howey or the guy who wrote The Martian.
This is the price of failing to develop new talent; once a new author hits on Amazon, he has no incentive to work with the traditional publishers. Throw in the Pink SF gatekeeping, the unprofessional and abusive behavior of their editors, and it should be quite obvious that they’re doomed. How long it will take to play out, I don’t know, but the end game is already clear.