Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Kindle Sales Top $4200 and 5850 Ebooks

As of 11pm March 31, I made over $4200 on Kindle this month. That's over 5850 ebooks sold in just under four and a half weeks.

Here's the screen shot. It doesn't include the money earned on FLOATERS and SERIAL UNCUT, which are listed on Amazon by my co-writers Henry Perez and Blake Crouch.

I'm pretty surprised by this number. And it has lead me to some startling conclusions.

Back in October
, I looked at my ebook sales and said I'd never sell a book to a publisher for less than $30,000.

I've revised that a bit. I added a "1". My new number is $130,000.

This actually isn't as outrageous as it seems. Let me break it down.

Of my five best selling Kindle titles, four are original novels, and one (the novella TRUCK STOP) was written expressly for Kindle. Their average unit sales for this month were 880.

In June, Amazon is switching to the agency model, which means ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99 will earn the author a 70% royalty, minus a 6 cent delivery fee. Instead of making 70 cents per ebook sale like I'm currently doing, I can make $2.04 per sale.

If I put an original ebook novel on Kindle, going by my current average sales, I'd earn about $1800 a month on that title, or $21,600 per year.

That means, in six years, keeping my erights and steadily selling on Kindle alone, a single title could earn $129,600.

My first novel, Whiskey Sour, came out six years ago. During that time it has appeared in hardcover, and has had multiple editions in paperback. It has sold to ten countries. It's been an audiobook on cassette, CD, mp3, and download. It has also been an ebook, released by my publisher.

I've earned, with everything combined, around $50,000 on Whiskey Sour.

I think my royalties on Whiskey Sour are pretty good for a midlist author. The fact that it is still earning money six years later is rare, especially when I look at many of my peers who were also published in 2004 and are now out of print.

And yet, it's less than half of what I predict I can do releasing a Kindle-only title.

Of course, Kindle sales aren't a sure thing, even though mine have been steadily rising. Sales could begin to drop. The Kindle may become obsolete, like so many other technologies.

But my prediction for the future is I'll actually sell MORE ebooks than I expect, not less. I base these predictions on the trends I've seen in the industry, coupled with my own experiments. I've been blogging about Kindle for a year now, and my current numbers have exceeded my wildest expectations from back then.

And Kindle may be just the beginning.

My ebooks aren't up on Sony yet. They were just recently put up on Barnes and Noble. And naturally, I'll also sell my ebooks on the iPad. That's all extra income.

Plus, I believe the Kindle hasn't come close to critical mass yet. Over the next few years, the Kindle will get better, come down in price, and sell a lot more units.

Not only that, but I should still be able to exploit non-ebook rights. I could still sell print rights for novels, and audio rights, and foreign rights, and movie rights. I'm only talking about ebook sales here. And it makes no sense to give them to a publisher.

Let me repeat myself, because I've spoken with a lot of my peers who don't seem to grasp this point.

IT MAKES NO SENSE TO GIVE YOUR EBOOK RIGHTS TO A PUBLISHER.

Now there's always a chance my sales might drop if I raise my prices from $1.99 to $2.99. But I've been thinking about this a lot, and here is what I foresee:

1. The ebooks that my publishers own the rights to are priced between $4.70 and $9.99, and they're all doing well because readers are getting hooked on my $1.99 books and then buying the more expensive titles. I know this for two reasons. First, because my traditionally published ebooks didn't spike until I started getting popular with my self-published cheap ebooks. Second, because I've gotten dozens of emails from readers telling me that's what they did.

2. As an experiment, I raised one of my ebooks to $4.99. It made more money this month, even though it sold fewer copies, than last month at $1.99. And this is without the new agency royalty rate. Even if my sales dip, I'll still be more than doubling my current profits.

3. The difference between $1.99 and $2.99 isn't that big a deal, especially in comparison to what the major publishers are pricing at. Once the agency model takes hold, Big NY Publishing is going to sell ebooks at $12.99. I predict fewer sales for Big NY Authors, more for indie authors, even if we go up to $2.99.

4. If enough indie authors go up to $2.99, then it's the new bargain rate.

I've been part of the traditional publishing world for over a decade, and what's happening right now with ebooks is unprecedented. Not only do authors have a chance to directly reach a large pool of readers for the first time in history, but NY Publishing is so short-sighted they're making it easy for us to compete with them.

My ebook THE LIST has sold 12,000 copies in a year. At the agency rate, that's over $24k annually, assuming my numbers stay the same.

But I don't think they'll stay the same. I think my sales numbers will continue to go up, even when I raise the price to $2.99. Ereaders haven't hit their stride yet.

So if I were to take an original J.A. Konrath or Jack Kilborn novel and put it on Kindle, I believe $130,000 in six years is a modest prediction.

If I also take into account Sony, B&N, the iPad, and print, audio, and foreign rights, I can see $130,000 being just a starting point for the money one of my novels can earn.

Of course, that's my prediction for 2016. How about my predictions for 2010?

Let's say I put two original ebook novels on Kindle this year, and they sell on average as well as my top five best sellers.

That means I'll be selling 7560 ebooks per month. I'll err to the side of caution and say my sales drop off 25% because I'm raising the price to $2.99. That would mean I'd be selling 5670 ebooks a month. At $2.04 profit per download, that's still $11680 a month.

So between June 1 and December 31, I'm looking to earn $81,761 on Kindle alone. And that's being a pessimist.

If I take the optimist route, I'll assume my numbers won't drop off, they'll escalate, as they have in the past. Especially if I offer new, exclusive titles. Perhaps I'll sell 8000 ebooks per month. That would mean from June to December, I'd earn $114,240.

Being even more optimistic, I'll also put up another novella on Kindle, as well as the Newbie's Guide to Publishing ebook (over 360,000 words of writing advice.) And people will continue to buy Kindles. So let's really dream big and guesstimate I can eek out 9,000 sales a month.

That puts me at $128,520 for a seven month period. For just Kindle.

The shocking thing about this is that it isn't a pipe dream. It's entirely within the realm of possibility.

Is everyone reading this thinking "holy shit" just like I am?

113 comments:

Joe Konrath said...

An interesting side note. Back in October, I was thinking I might someday be able to earn $5000 a year on an ebook title. If I average my 5 bestsellers together, I'm currently earning $7350 a year. But that's at the current rates.

At the $2.99 agency model, each title will be earning $21,600 per year. In five months, based on climbing sales, my prediction has quadrupled.

Lee Goldberg said...

"Is everyone reading this thinking "holy shit" just like I am?"

Yes, I certainly am.

My Kindle sales are far more modest than yours, but they continue to astound me.

The month is not quite over here on the West Coast, but it looks like I will sell about 1360 copies of my books and earn about $1000, my best month yet on out-of-print books that were sitting in a drawer.

I don't see myself earning six figures from the Kindle yet...but $12-14,000 a year is certainly within reason (and that's if my sales stay as they are).

Lee

Mat said...

Well done Joe!

This post (and blog) must be terrifying publishers. They see the future where the writer is turning up saying "So, what can *you* do for me? And how much are you willing to pay?"

I worked in-house as an editor/writer and then went freelance four years ago. I've been thinking the future is good writers plus good editors and a good cover designer. What do you think?

Congratulations again.

Rob said...

Yet, new writers are still beholden to print publishers before they can even think about getting to these kinds of ebook numbers. Do you think that will last? Or do you see a time where traditional publishers are obsolete and all authors will have to break in with self-pubbed ebooks?

Not sure I like that idea.

But all good food for thought.

Ellen Fisher said...

Wow, you're doing great with Kindle, Joe. I bought two of your books this month (DISTURB and THE LIST), and they're very good reading. I know you dislike the term, but you do deserve the sales because you're delivering a good solid product.

My second month of Kindle sales was amazing, and I'm only a small press author, not a well-known author like you and Lee. There are certainly a lot of readers out there looking for indie authors! I do wonder if sales will continue at this rate when most indie authors raise their prices to $2.99, though.

I do wonder, though-- is it possible for most of us to sell to major publishers without also granting them the ebook rights? I would think that would be something that they really wouldn't want to let the author retain.

Joe Konrath said...

I do wonder, though-- is it possible for most of us to sell to major publishers without also granting them the ebook rights?

I'm coming to the conclusion that selling to major publishers doesn't make much sense, unless there's a lot of money involved.

Now I'm certainly a rarity in this case. And my opinion isn't actually going to be verifiable until later in the year.

But it can't hurt to be aware that your book is worth money. Perhaps more than a publisher is willing to give you.

Jim said...

My kindle sales were $2456 for March, up slightly from February's $2168.

I agree that these numbers will continue to increase over time. Kindle is putting an app on ipad which will let readers purchase directly from the kindle store and read their books on ipad, as well as sync with all their other devices. This, in my opinion, is good news for both Amazon and Apple. The bottom line is that the base of ebook readers is ever increasing. The good books will continue to be re-discovered month after month and year after year.

Tony Horne said...

I was talking to a fellow writer Gay Davison today. I said to him "what's more important to you, an agent, a publisher, or someone who knows the net (emarketing/kindle etc) inside out?" In that moment we both realised that we had crossed the crossroads and sure, if you are JK Rowling or a celeb then happy days, but you probably aren't. Reality check, get on the net and leave the shelf behind. Think of all that wasted emotion and effort getting rejected when cyberspace can welcome you with open arms. Great bit Joe. Always inspiring.

Joe Konrath said...

Congrats on your success, Mr. Jagger. :) You're going to have to explain to me the impetus behind the pen name, Jim. Aren't you concerned people are going to feel like they've seen it before?

Barbara Silkstone said...

Joe, I believed you. Three weeks ago I put my first novel up for sale on Kindle. It's been amazing...almost scarey. I'm about to put my second novel on Kindle. Thanks for the great advice.

E.J. Wesley said...

That sound you heard in the distance was my mind being blown down here in south Texas ... holy shit, indeed.

I don't know that I've seen other authors discussing this with the detail you're providing, and I must say your arguments/observations are compelling to say the least. I 100% agree that you should expect your eSales to only go up from here. Why shouldn't they? Tech will get cheaper, and I truly believe that someday most everyone who owns a physical book, will also own a reader. If you had told people 15 years ago that the majority of people who listen to music in 2010 won't be doing it with compact discs, I don't know that they would have bought it.

As a hopeful author (should the day come that I'm offered a contract), I'm going to pay very close attention to my electronic publishing rights. Furthermore, I hope more authors take your view and continue to build a model for profitable electronic distribution that future writers will be able to use. (Thanks for your hard work in advance!)

rex kusler said...

I'm nobody. I don't have a website. No blog. No marketing of any sort. I put my mystery novel up on Amazon two months ago with the hopes of selling 500 downloads at 99 cents in one year. If I could do that, I reasoned, it would be enough motivation to write another. In two months it has sold almost 1100. In March it sold 720.

Erin Skelly Cameron said...

So, it occurs to me to wonder ... when one sells the print rights to a publisher but retains the ebook rights, what about the cover art? Can you use the cover art from the print version for your ebook version, or no? I'm thinking about brand consistency - wouldn't you want the same cover art for both, to dilver a consistent image/product?

Joe Konrath said...

Cover art copyright belongs to the cover artist.

If your publisher pays for it, you'd have to arrange something with them and the artist.

Dave Bara said...

I've been thinking "Holy Shit" reading these posts for months now. You ought to get an award for the work you're doing for other writers. Your research is showing us just how fat the goose laying the golden eggs can be.

db

author Scott Nicholson said...

The other scary thing is how stunningly simple it is--direct connection between reader and writer, with only an Amazon server in between (or someone else's server).

I am pretty much recreating a career from the ashes and yet an actual living is much closer than it's been in my life, in only three months--even more than when I was signing three-book contracts. I truly feel sorry for the upper-type of writer getting good sales now but who have mortgaged their e-rights to publishers for the long term. Sure, the stars will survive, but the middle-class writer nailed by NY may be stuck too long to relaunch Act II.

I updated my thread in the Amazon Kindle forum today "Indie Author vs. Major Publisher." On my own, I earned nearly $500, and with the publisher I maybe earned $8. I am almost kicking myself for signing print book deals, except I realize it was basically a paid apprenticeship. I am gearing up two new novels and thrilled as hell over Act II. Thanks for inspiring many of us, Joe.

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Joe, "Holy Shit" is right. For every author that posts here, there are 100 more that silently read your story and have started to believe, "Hey, I can do it too!"

Good for you. I hope you invite us all to your movie-release party in a few years-- anyone willing to take bets which of Joe's books will be made into a movie first? My vote says Truck Stop.

There's no stopping this train now.

Zoe Winters said...

I love that everybody is starting to use the term "indie author."

Anyway I think many will go to $2.99 and with the agency model, $2.99 will become the new "bargain rate." I think we might see cases where authors charge $2.99 and then drop their rate to 99 cents for a couple of weeks at a time to increase sales numbers, then go back to their normal $2.99.

I also totally agree about not selling ebook rights to a publisher. (Of course you know I'm pretty obstinate about selling rights to begin with, lol.)

However, I think publishers know the value of e-rights even if they are too ebook retarded to figure out how to properly exploit them or are too scared to do it. I highly doubt most publishers are going to extend an offer to anyone without e-rights being non-negotiable as something they want "with" print rights.

And probably the only people who will be able to get around that are people WAY up on the food chain. You may or may not be high up enough on that food chain yourself to sell print but not e-rights. (Let us know when you find out one way or the other.)

I think newer and debut novelists won't have the option at all. They will either sell erights with their print rights to a publisher or they will not be picked up by a publisher.

That's just my opinion, but I think publishers aren't above this type of extortion personally.

I know for many it's the dream, but I just can't see the appeal of having a NY publisher right now. I mean even if I wasn't all "Yaya indie" even if my ultimate goal was trad publishing, I just don't see trying to jump in NOW with everything in flux.

Zoe Winters said...

Joe,

Even as an indie and total unknown I've said the only way I'd ever consider a NY contract is if they'd make me rich. And I mean that. People can think whatever they want about me.

I'm not opposed to hard work and if I produce books that are "grippable" and interact with my readers online, I've seen what people can do online with just themselves building audience. All I need to know is what's "possible" to motivate me toward that goal.

I don't really care how long it takes. I don't have a 3 month shelf date like I would with a major publisher to "prove myself." My audience can build organically and take as long as it takes.

But no way in hades would I ever sell my rights to a publisher when I can reach an audience on my own, unless the amount of money they were willing to part with for me was enough for me to give up the freedom of what I'm doing right now.

Joe Konrath said...

even if my ultimate goal was trad publishing, I just don't see trying to jump in NOW with everything in flux.

I think we agree on something.

Zoe Winters said...

Ha! Yay! :D

I'm marking it down. And having cake. (Okay, it's just an excuse for cake, shut up!)

Vivi Anna said...

Oh yeah, I'm saying Holy Shit all right.

You are my inspiration Joe.

I have two books I'm going to put up on the kindle.

And if sales are good, I might just start writing books specifically for the kindle.

Vivi

Lydia said...

As an aspiring novelist, I've found your post fascinating. I haven't hit this stage yet, but have debated about self-publishing and was previously against it, but your post might have changed my mind. I've read some self- published work and found it disappointing with terrible writing and worry about this.

Why aren't new publishing companies being forged around this? I would think if I had the talent as an editor, working together with a novelist to create a great work and publishing it online with a percentage of the profit might seem reasonable, especially at your forecasts.

My issue around self publishing is that I would love some guidance. I know I can hire and editor, but that can get expensive seeing it right through to the end. I wonder if freelance editors would consider profit sharing instead of outright payment if your model proves true?

Also, do you think that with the cost so low, people won't mind if they run across below average writing. This could push more writers on ebooks without necessary editing and eventually backfire on the lower cost model?

All of this from a very naive newbie!

Lydia said...

The more I've thought about this, the more I think I need to find an freelance editor before they realize the market the could have and jack their prices even further or demand profit sharing! (If I decide to go this route) Quick, delete my comment before they realize! ;)

Mat said...

@Lydia

Great minds think alike Lydia! I'm an editor who worked in-house and I've been doing the sums on what percentage of royalties make it worthwhile to roll the dice on no-fee royalty only editing.

At 15% of the royalty, you'd need 30 or so books selling at least as well as Joe's latest royalty statement to make some decent
money.

The bad side is that for a title that sells 70 downloads a month? You'd need about 6000 of these to be making decent money.

So there is a risk of whether a book when edited will sell 1000 copies per month or 70 copies per month.

Then there is the money side. A permanent royalty doesn't make sense for the author but I can see editors who've transformed work into best-selling material thinking that is worth more than some capped figure of $5000. I'm not sure how that would work out.

Perhaps we'll see a flood of editors setting up one-person online publishing companies.

When kids have access to Kindles, etc, then we're going to see some disruptive change flooding publishing. At the moment a children's writer who makes a 5000 word reader can be paid as little as $500 advance and a tiny royalty on a book that will only sell for perhaps two years. Turning to online publishing for these books looks like a very smart move - and more profitable too.

Lydia said...

@ Mat - It would almost be like agenting and editing if going that route, picking only those you think would do well with sales. Maybe agents will start pitching freelance editors instead of publishers? (I honestly don't know much about the business so bear with my lack of education if that seems way off!) Regardless though, some very interesting changes ahead! Especially as you said with Children's books.

If there was some sort of fail-safe, like the advance from the publisher? Or a higher cut for the editor? I'm just thinking out loud here and I don't know about most, but as an newbie, I might lean towards giving a higher cut at first until I learn more and don't need as much editing - just a thought.

It's all fascinating to me as an unpublished author. Do I rush my final edits or take my time and see which way the cookie crumbles? Well, either way, I'll be hurrying it up I suppose.

Mat said...

@Lydia

I think the agent+editor hybrid is about ready to hit the market. Someone who can edit manuscripts, write marketing and promotional copy, knows about SEO, torrents, etc and knows how to publish online.

Agents pitching freelance editor probably won't happen - that route is poisoned by scam agents who are fronts for taking money from desperate writers and providing bad or no editing services.

The upfront advance is a tricky one. Does the editor pay the writer an advance? Does the writer pay the editor an advance? The possibilities for scams is immense there.

I've seen manuscripts I'd be willing to edit for royalties only but I'm not sure what a fair payment for this would be. Capped at $5000 royalties? Capped at three years? 15% up to $5000 then drop to 5% for the rest of time?

I suppose the value of a good editor is going to come out pretty soon. Would unedited Harry Potter have still sold well? What did editing add and how much is that worth?

Steve White said...

Across the land, writers looked at Joe's numbers... and they returned to their stories and typed a little faster.

Jude Hardin said...

I think we agree on something.

I can't believe you're encouraging newbies to self-publish instead of earning their stripes traditionally, Joe. That just blows my mind.

It's like a little money has completely changed your philosophy about the entire process.

The vast majority of self-published novels are, and always will be, crap. Amazon's royalty structure isn't going to change that. Freelance editors aren't going to change that.

One-click impulse buying might earn self-published authors a few bucks for a while, but I can't imagine that the reading public will sustain substandard product for the long haul.

Joe Konrath said...

I can't believe you're encouraging newbies to self-publish instead of earning their stripes traditionally, Joe. That just blows my mind.

I'm encouraging newbies to place a value on their erights.

Writers have been conditioned to take any deal and be grateful for it. But their words are worth money.

In the past, there has always been the belief that even with a small advance, royalties can still help a book to earn some decent money.

But the game is changing. A print publisher who demands erights and doesn't know how to exploit them (which is EVERY print publisher) can actually cost an author money in the long run.

How could I encourage an author to take $2k for a print deal which includes ebook rights when Rex (who just posted that he's "nobody") is on the path to make more than that this year by keeping his rights?

The vast majority of self-published novels are, and always will be, crap.

I agree. But if you write a book that isn't crap, don't devalue your erights.

Why sell the cow when you can make more money selling the milk?

Joe Konrath said...

Ultimately, print publishers are going to need to figure out how to either exploit erights and make money, or allow authors to keep erights. Because buying erights, then overpricing the ebook, is purely to make more money on the print books.

That's robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it's just plain bad business.

If I sell more print books in my career, the publisher will have to give me the erights, or they'll have to pay me handsomely for them.

Jim said...

"The vast majority of self-published novels are, and always will be, crap."

Hey, Jude, that's an asshole statment. Have you actually read the 'vast majority of self published novels?; Have you read even one?

Where do you get off judging others and determining that their books are 'crap?"

Jude Hardin said...

Writers have been conditioned to take any deal and be grateful for it. But their words are worth money.

What's priceless, though, is the education that goes along with making it through the traditional vetting process.

I've learned more in the past two months, working with an experienced editor who has financial and emotional stakes in the success of my novel, than I've learned since I seriously started pursuing publishing six-and-a-half years ago.

But I've also learned a lot every step along the way. There's simply no substitute for long hours and hard work. There are no shortcuts to publishing success, no matter how quick and easy the Kindle site seems.

I have a couple of unpublished novels that I could easily slap a pseudonym on and offer for sale as ebooks. Will I?

Nope.

Why?

Because they suck.

Call me crazy, but I actually care about the quality of the product I release.

Jude Hardin said...

Hey, Jude, that's an asshole statment. Have you actually read the 'vast majority of self published novels?; Have you read even one?

Well, Jim, since Joe agreed, I guess you're calling him an asshole too.

Whatever. It's the truth. I've read plenty, and I've yet to find one I could even stomach enough to finish. That includes several from writers I consider to be friends.

Joe says the publishable/crap ratio for "indie" authors is about 10,000:1, based on the many many many he has read, and I agree with that estimate.

Mat said...

@Jim

Jude is right about quality. In the great pyramid of manuscripts there is a point we determine as terrible and everything below that isn't worth reading.

In the current model of publishing (soon to be referred to as the old model) manuscripts had to meet a certain business case. Can it sell 20,000 copies? Published. What about 10,000 copies? Not Published.

The e-book change has altered the business case so now decent books that can sell 10,000 copies per year (or fewer) have a chance to.

As for judging others and determining their books are crap ... it's pretty easy actually. We do it all the time in every other facet of life. Just because someone writes a manuscript doesn't make it good.

The flood of unedited manuscripts will expand the ebook market to many many millions and good writers will still rise to the top but there is currently and will be in the future a lot of dreck out there.

The effect of an editor on a manuscript can be incredible - even transformative - and sadly there will be ebooks out there that could have been brilliant but due to lack of professional editing will have to settle for merely good.

Joe Konrath said...

Let's all play nice.

Jim, I've read your stuff and liked it. But you've shown you're an exception to a lot of what I say. Having judged thousands of stories, the majority are crap.

I've learned more in the past two months, working with an experienced editor...

That's terrific. And important. But it doesn't give that editor or publisher to right to screw up making money on your erights. Maybe they won't. Maybe they'll price accordingly and you'll make a lot of money. But I haven't seen any publishers go that route yet.

Jude Hardin said...

The effect of an editor on a manuscript can be incredible - even transformative - and sadly there will be ebooks out there that could have been brilliant but due to lack of professional editing will have to settle for merely good.

Hi Mat:

I'm wondering...can a freelance editor even approach the level of dedication it takes to bring a manuscript to its full potential? Can $2000, or a share of the royalties or whatever, buy that kind of dedication?

I guess it would depend on the editor, but I can imagine a flood of greedy opportunists--i.e. scam artists--vying for "indie" author's dollars if ebooks actually start gaining a fair share of the commercial book market.

Jude Hardin said...

That's terrific. And important. But it doesn't give that editor or publisher the right to screw up making money on your erights. Maybe they won't. Maybe they'll price accordingly and you'll make a lot of money. But I haven't seen any publishers go that route yet.

Based on the most recent example, the Kindle edition of my debut novel will go on sale for $14.27 on May 1, 2011. That's more than ten bucks less than the hardcover, but it's still too high, IMO. I think ebooks should be released and priced similar to trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks and paperback originals. That's just my opinion, but I'm bound by contract (for my first book and the first refusal on my second) to abide by what my publisher decides. I'm cool with that, because they believed in me enough to take me on and spend the necessary time to bring a quality product to the public.

But Joe, I can remember a time not too long ago when you considered your publisher a partner, not an adversary. I'm just wondering at what point that perception changed.

Honestly, you're starting to sound jaded, and I have to say that's a bit disappointing.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> Is everyone reading this
> thinking "holy shit"
> just like I am?

well, i'm thinking that, but perhaps
not for the same reason you are...

because i'm finding it somewhat
incredible that you're thinking of
_raising_ your prices at this time.

even more incredible, you seem to
think it's a good deal for you to
raise prices and make more money
even when you end up making
fewer sales.

do you fail to realize that you are
still growing your audience base?

fewer sales now means fewer
paying customers in the future.

raising your prices now will be
sabotaging the very progress
that you've been making so far.

it's even more disconcerting that
you're doing it at the same time
your share is getting bumped up,
thanks to the greedy publishers.

even at the same price, you will
be making more money, so why
oh why would you raise prices?

sure, when they are raising their
prices by $3, you could "safely"
raise your prices by $1, but still,
are you playing their game now?

is greed setting in on konrath?

because that would be very sad.

so far you've been a great model
for new writers and a forthcoming
business model for those writers.

i mean, i was sincerely _very_
glad when you posted that you
were going to back off of the
aggressive self-promotion kick,
because that was not necessary.

(and it certainly would not scale
to all of those new writers, since
people are already sick of hype.)

but it seems like you're getting
_comfortable_, and _greedy_,
and those are very bad signs...

as you pointed out yourself,
the market hasn't even hit its
critical mass yet, so there are
still _plenty_ of opportunities
for growth. so keep growing.

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

@ bowerbird you seem to think it's a good deal for you to raise prices and make more money even when you end up making fewer sales.

Where's the evidence I'll make fewer sales by charging a dollar more? We'll see what happens when it happens.

but still,are you playing their game now?

I'm playing Amazon's game. But even if Amazon allowed a 70% royalty for $1.99 books, I think I'd still raise the price, just to see what happens.

Supply and demand doesn't exist in an ebook world. But equilibrium does. That's where authors find the sweet spot for making the most money they can. The consumers set that number.

Publishers are price gouging--charging more than ebooks are worth because Kindle owners don't have a choice.

But $2.99 seems fair. $3.99 may even be fair. We're still at the early stages of this transition from print to electronic. We'll see what the market will bear.

going to back off of the
aggressive self-promotion kick,
because that was not necessary


Now you lost me. The aggressive self-promotion is the only reason I'm still in print.

@ Jude But Joe, I can remember a time not too long ago when you considered your publisher a partner, not an adversary. I'm just wondering at what point that perception changed.

Perhaps when both of my publishers dropped me?

Or perhaps when I figured out I could make more money on my own?

"Jaded" and "realistic" are two different things. From the moment I was published and told I couldn't do any bookstore signings because my publisher didn't want to pay coop, I realized there was something wrong with this industry.

I'd love to partner with a publisher who would get behind my career and work as hard as I do to sell my books. It happens. That's why there are best sellers.

It hasn't happened for me, though. And you know what? I haven't seen it happen to any of my peers, either.

I know bestselling authors, but I met them when they were already bestsellers. I haven't seen anyone "break out" in a big way.

I'm going to earn more on Kindle, on books NY rejected, in one year than I made on my first 3 book deal.

That alone should show there's something very wrong with the publishing industry.

Joe Konrath said...

BTW, when you sign a contract with a publisher, it should be treated like a partnership. You should work your butt off to try and sell as many books as possible. I've never deterred from that agenda. I've never rested on my laurels. I've never considered it my publisher's job to sell the books.

But I did think the publisher should meet me halfway. And I haven't ever seen that.

One of the things that defines me as a writer and a person is my ability to change my mind as new facts present themselves.

My goal isn't to be right. My goal is to be successful. That often means trying new things, thinking outside the box, abandoning previous ideas for better ones.

I used to be the poster boy for self-promotion. I'm becoming the poster boy for self-publishing.

I don't want to be either. I just want to sell a lot of books.

If people want to label me, and judge me, for the things I do in order to succeed, that's fine.

Personally, I find more value in understanding stuff, rather than judging stuff.

Joe Konrath said...

I've heard the analogy that self-pubbing ebooks might become the equivalent to the minor leagues in baseball.

Print publishers will look at what's doing well, then make an offer.

I'm now wondering if the opposite isn't true.

Get traditionally published. Build a fanbase. Get good distribution. Then, when you're good enough, go out on your own and make a higher percentage of the profits.

Interesting how that flip-flopped.

Theresa Milstein said...

Joe, I love hearing your ebook journey.

Jude Hardin said...

Get traditionally published. Build a fanbase. Get good distribution. Then, when you're good enough, go out on your own and make a higher percentage of the profits.

Nothing wrong with that model.

I've been through so many edits with Pocket-47...I'm glad I resisted self-publishing, because it's a much better book now than what I would have released by myself. So, yes, when you're good enough is a key point, I think.

Jim said...

Joe, there have always been bashers of self-published authors. We all know who they are. Many of them make regular appearances on you blog. It's easy to bash. you just make a blantant comment like, "The vast majority of self-published novels are, and always will be, crap." Then you move on.

Bashing implies that you're better than the one being bashed, that you're superior, that you have judged them and found them to be below you. You have found and indentified an inferior life form. You hae done a public service by alerting the public to the presence of CRAP. They should avoid it at all costs.

Being in the group being bashed, I have never taken kindly to this type of attitude, whether it comes from established writers, book critics, organizations like MWA, or others.

The latest discouragement is that someone engages in blantant bashing on your blog and then you join right in and support them. That's a new one to me.

rex kusler said...

How much polishing does it take to turn a chunk of limestone into a diamond?

Joe Konrath said...

I wasn't aware I was bashing anyone, Jim.

Joe Konrath said...

@ Jim-- I was getting rid of all your double posts and inadvertently deleted one too many.

I've stated many times that most people who self-publish shouldn't, because they aren't good enough. And I came by this conclusion fairly, by reading thousands of stories for contests.

I said, "But if you write a book that isn't crap, don't devalue your erights."

That doesn't sound like I'm insulting everyone who self publishes. It sounds more like I'm empowering them.

Robin O'Neill said...

Yes Joe, holy something-or-other. While I was attempting to upload yet another version of my nonfic book to Smashwords I saw your recent uploads. I'm feeling like a dunce (something about different paragraph formats) but you are an inspiration. You're a public service!

Jim said...

Joe, here's the bash (courtesy of Jude) followed by your endorsement of it:

"The vast majority of self-published novels are, and always will be, crap."

"I agree. But if you write a book that isn't crap, don't devalue your erights."

Ordinarily you're a pretty good guy, but it's dead wrong to endorse such an outrageous bash against self-published authors.

Your "agreement" to the bash is not an "empowerment" of anyone. It's a belittlement of a group of people.

Joe Konrath said...

Your "agreement" to the bash is not an "empowerment" of anyone. It's a belittlement of a group of people.

I agree that the majority of self published books are crap.

You probably agree the same thing, Jim. If you think you don't, I encourage you to visit Xlibris, download 1000 free samples, and see how many you can get through before your head pops.

I truly don't care how people are published, either going the self-pub route or going the traditional route.

I care about money, and selling books.

If I can make more money and sell more books by self-publishing, I'll do it. But that doesn't mean everyone will be able to follow my example. Any more than people can follow my traditional publishing example.

So I still don't recommend people self-pub. But I am starting to recommend that writers keep their erights.

Also (and I've said this before) Don't Publish Crap.

Joe Konrath said...

Also, if were doing semantics, I am not belittling a group of people. I am staying a hard-won opinion about the work of a group of people, and Im not including all of them in my asessment.

rex kusler said...

If 50 agents think your book is crap, but one agent raves about it, takes it on, but can't sell it, because all of the editors think it's crap--doesn't that mean your agent is full of crap--and it shouldn't be published?

author Scott Nicholson said...

I actually noted to another author today that maybe in five years it will be amateurish NOT to self-pub.

Michael Stackpole just talked about a publisher offering him 25 percent royalty for his old ebook rights (and that's actually fairly generous for what NY is offering). "Hmm? Lemme see...should I take 25 percent or 70 percent..."

I think publishers are doing one smart thing--nailing down ebook rights. Whether they have hoarded enough to make it pay off during the rocky transition is quite another thing.

Scott Nicholson
http://hauntedcomputerbooks.blogspot.com

author Scott Nicholson said...

Just wanted to add, Lee's joke "Who wants to be a Kindle millionaire?" Who's laughing now?

Mat said...

@Jude

From yesterday: Can a freelance editor even approach the level of dedication it takes to bring a manuscript to its full potential? Can $2000, or a share of the royalties or whatever, buy that kind of dedication?

I guess it would depend on the editor, but I can imagine a flood of greedy opportunists--i.e. scam artists--vying for "indie" author's dollars if ebooks actually start gaining a fair share of the commercial book market.


I think it breaks down to professional editors, new editors, wannabe editors, the deluded and the scammers.

Then it comes down to a financial calculation. Can an English teacher staying home to have a baby while her partner works professionally edit a manuscript for $500? Yes. Can someone like me do that? No, because $500 isn't enough.

For good editors the money hardly plays a part. They offer some level of service (full edit, partial edit, copy-edit, proofing, etc) and then do it for the price they've negotiated. I've edited for low prices and it doesn't change my dedication to the project much. It does put a cap on how far you go though. $5000 gets multiple revisions, emails, more back and forth. $500 gets an edit, a discussion and that's about it.

The scammers will be looking at e-books and rubbing their filthy hands together. I expect to see $100-$200 e-book editors to pop up everywhere. Some are new people trying to break in and may be good but some will be The Deluded.

What I see as the problem though is that some writers don't understand the value of editing. You see comments like "I won't need as much editing when I learn more as a writer". Also, it will be very few writers who'll suffer through the meat-grinder of editing. In paper publishing the relationship is different - want to be published? Do what we say and rewrite that damn section fifteen times until its right. In freelance, it's like the editor is an employee you don't really have to listen to.

Jude Hardin said...

Jim:

I've read excerpts from your books a long time ago, and I think yours are very good.

But I would say yours are the exception.

You're right that I haven't read the vast majority of published novels, so I can only say the vast majority of the ones I've read were not of publishable quality in my opinion.

It's my personal policy to never bash another author, whether self-published or traditionally-published (and there are plenty of those who are bash-worthy as well), so that's why you'll never see me naming names, and if you see a review by me you can bet it's a positive one.

Jude Hardin said...

Mat:

Excellent points. Thank you.

Lee Goldberg said...

Scott wrote: "Just wanted to add, Lee's joke "Who wants to be a Kindle millionaire?" Who's laughing now?"

You are miss-quoting me. I ADMIRE what Joe has done...and the title of my series of posts has been "You Can Be a Kindle Millionaire." The latest one is up today, in fact.

Lee

Mat said...

@Jim

The cold hard look at self-publishing does reveal a huge amount of terrible work. It's not because they're self-published but because they are genuinely poor manuscripts produced by no-so-good writers.

In every creative field with low barriers to entry you'll find plenty of bad stuff. Go to an independent gallery show and there are people putting the equivalent of high-school teenage garbage up on the walls and proclaiming it as art. Yes it's art - bad art.

High barriers to entry have a cost (they keep some percentage of decent books out) but also a benefit (they force writers to improve, rewrite and really learn the craft).

I've read so many self-published manuscripts with "just" sprinkled everywhere. Or "that". Or "he said," gleefully/happily/sadly/moronically/morosely/adverbly. These are basic fixes which can immediately pull the quality of the writing up. Once the writer cuts that "morosely" they need to show morose, which takes more skill than that single adverb.

I wrote a review of a manuscript where it was obvious to me that the writer was new, hadn't studied the craft much (or at all) and was making standard mistakes all new writers make. That's no a problem at all - we learn and progress and end up better than we were.

But this writer didn't do that. My years of working as a writer and editor? Worth nothing. Every suggestion was rejected under "I don't follow the rules". Very basic instructions on passive voice were ignored. Nothing could get through to this writer. The manuscript was terrible and they had mentally positioned themselves as an outsider to protect their ego from criticism.

This person, sadly, is the model of quite a few self-publishing writers. They've transformed their anger/hurt/disappointment over not "breaking in" into some privileged status where editing doesn't apply.

The DIY model is excellent and I love it. This flood of creativity is a good thing for the world and in that huge pool we'll keep those good writers who are so hurt by their first rejections they drop out of the field almost entirely. But there is masses of terrible stuff out there. The gigantic pyramid must have a wide base.

Hooray for self-publishing but we mustn't confuse the ability to finish a first draft with quality.

Jim said...

Joe, I'm very disappointed. I'm signing out now and won't be back. Thanks for the earlier blurb, but I'll be removing it from whereever possible at this point.

The fact that you and jude may say i'm an exception to the rule doesn't address the issue that it's wrong for an author, or anyone, to bash a group of people, even if it's easy to do and there is almost never a backlash. Those that do get no respect from me. Applying a negative, uniform attitude towards a group is nothing more than a form of prejudice.

you and others might think you've earned the right to be negavite towards self-published authors, but that kind of right can never be eared.

Jude Hardin said...

The fact that you and jude may say i'm an exception to the rule doesn't address the issue that it's wrong for an author, or anyone, to bash a group of people, even if it's easy to do and there is almost never a backlash.

You're talking about self-published authors as though they're a race or a religion or something, as though we've violated some sort of political correctness. That's just not true. If I said that the vast majority of amateur tennis players (myself included) play like crap compared to the pros, would I then be insulting another whole "group of people"? Nonsense. Anyway, I never said that the vast majority of self-published authors are crap; I said that the vast majority of self-published novels are crap. It's important for all of us to separate ourselves from our work, I think.

Anonymous said...

"The fact that you and jude may say i'm an exception to the rule doesn't address the issue that it's wrong for an author, or anyone, to bash a group of people"

Not when this group of people won't shut the #$@#% up about how they're entitled to the same treatment and respect as people who have slaved to get where they are, a group who routinely hijack blogs, and puts the future of reading in danger by injecting so much shit into the world. I think under these conditions, bashing is most certainly in order. Joe read one of your books, and because he expresses a viewpoint BASED ON REAL, PAINFUL EXPERIENCE THAT YOU DONT HAVE (judging numerous self-pub contests) you never want to speak to him again? Really? Way to continue to raise my opinion of indie authors.
Blake Crouch

Joe Konrath said...

you and others might think you've earned the right to be negavite towards self-published authors, but that kind of right can never be eared.

The day I haven't earned the right to one of my opinions is the day I stop blogging. Could happen. But apparently you'll never see if it does. :)

Mat said...

@Jim

Jim, the majority of self-published work is terrible. This is fact, not speculation, not mean-spirited denigration and certainly not a knee-jerk judgment.

Walk into any bookshop and the base level of books there is mostly competent. The quality only rises from there to good to great to excellent to sheer brilliance.

Walk into the internet bookshop and the base level of the books is ... the base. Whatever the lowest amount of effort and skill it takes to be literate and write something. These manuscripts are unreadable and this pile stretches to the roof and miles in every direction.

Above those millions you have the competent but flawed. Then above those the good, the great, the excellent and the sheer brilliance.

But the percentages here don't match traditional publishing. With the extreme focus on editing and high barriers to entry, (most) published books have gone through the crucible of pain, suffering, hard work and multiple rewrites and this produces far more good books than self-publishing.

The good books might make up 30% of the field.

Self publishing doesn't come anywhere near this.

Don't flounce away - instead, examine your thinking and the evidence and try to pretend you are not part of the group. Perhaps check out the world of self-published artists (DeviantArt, Etsy, and a million blogs) and once you've seen masses of tripe you'll come to realise that the mere fact of creation does not equal quality.

Joe Konrath said...

Every suggestion was rejected under "I don't follow the rules".

LOL, Mat. I'm a firm believer that no good deed goes unpunished.

I once had a newbie email me a story and beg for a critique. I spent a good hour editing it, line by line, and explaining my edits.

He replied saying I was too critical and had no idea what good writing was.

He didn't want a critique. He wanted praise. And his story wasn't worthy of praise. It was flawed.

Joe Konrath said...

Not when this group of people won't shut the #$@#% up about how they're entitled to the same treatment and respect as people who have slaved to get where they are, a group who routinely hijack blogs, and puts the future of reading in danger by injecting so much shit into the world.

Blake, this is mean and totally uncalled for. And I can't stop laughing.

It makes me think that Batman needs a supervillian called "Mr. POD" who is trying to fill the world bad prose so he can lower the collective IQ and rule as king because he'll then be the smartest man.

Spend two minutes and get a Blogger ID so you don't have to keep posting here anonymously, brother.

Joe Konrath said...

If I said that the vast majority of amateur tennis players (myself included) play like crap compared to the pros, would I then be insulting another whole "group of people"?

If I start insulting do-it-yourself plumbers, would it be considered "spigotry"?

Oh man, I'm hurting myself laughing like an idiot....

Joe Konrath said...

@ Mat - Your arguments are solid. I'd guess you're a damn good editor, based on your comments. But this:

the mere fact of creation does not equal quality.

is just plain brilliant. I wish I'd said that.

Joe Konrath said...

If 50 agents think your book is crap, but one agent raves about it, takes it on, but can't sell it, because all of the editors think it's crap--doesn't that mean your agent is full of crap--and it shouldn't be published?

That depends on a lot of factors, Rex. If the writer actually got letters from 50 agents that all read, "This book is crap" I'd guess it's a bad book, because agents normally reject with form letters.

If a reputable agent likes your book and takes you one, I'd say the book has merit, because agents don't waste their time with things they don't think they can sell, because time=money.

My personal belief is that if the book is good enough to land an agent, it's good enough to publish. I've said before that not all publishable books get published.

A good definition of "irony" is my career. My four rejected novels, that NY Publishers didn't want, seem to be on their way to earning more money that the seven novels NY Publishers paid me for.

I wish I had more rejected novels. I seriously do.

Lee Goldberg said...

The vast majority of self-published books are unreadable swill. Don't believe it? Just read some of the samples of self-published work on the Kindle...and at Lulu, Smashwords, Scribd, and iUniverse, and you'll quickly see that for yourself. It's unbelievable how awful it is. There's a reason most of those authors haven't been able to find an agent or publisher. Does that mean all of it is bad? Of course not. There's a good reason by Boyd Morrison's books got noticed beyond just the sales figures (and, if I am not mistaken, he also had an agent flogging his stuff).

Lee

Jude Hardin said...

LOL @ "spigotry." You should put that one on Facebook.

Joe Konrath said...

the mere fact of creation does not equal quality.

I'm hijacking my own thread here, but I believe one of the causes of unhappiness in the world is the "Refrigerator Syndrome."

From a very early age, children are praised for doing the most meaningless, common things. Macaroni art is gushed over and placed on the refrigerator, and we tell our kids over and over that they're smart and talented and the sky is the limit and they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.

Some of this is necessary, and just normal parenting.

But too much of it fosters a sense of entitlement.

I dislike those who feel entitled to things.

Life is about working hard and getting lucky. No one "deserves" anything.

But so much of Western society is built around making people feel good about themselves, that some people get an inflated opinion of their own abilities.

This inevitably leads to disappointment, and unhappiness.

The fact is, only a small percentage of people are going to become President, or an astronaut, or an NFL player, or a published writer.

It involves dedication, hard work, failure, and luck to get anywhere worthwhile in life. Teaching that all it takes is (often dubious) talent is just plain misleading.

Writing is an interesting art. Unlike music, or painting, where it is much easier to determine talent, one cannot look at a book on a shelf and instantly judge if it is good or not.

So we've always had people who think they're good simply because they can string 60,000 words together and call it a novel. The vanity press industry has been feeding on these folks for decades.

But now, anyone can slap anything up on Amazon, easily and for free.

It's only going to lead to a lot of disappointment and unhappiness.

Jude Hardin said...

Well said, Joe.

Mat said...

@Joe

Good Deeds Punished would be the title of my essay on providing free editing services!

I'm really enjoying your blog (and have been working my way through the archives). In particular, you've clarified some fuzzy ideas I've had floating around about ebook publishing, e-rights and the future of editors and agents.

Just yesterday I contacted a writer whose manuscript I rejected in 2004 because it didn't quite meet my publisher's business case and had a long talk about e-publishing. She is a good writer who has been on the cusp for a while now (mostly due to peculiarities of Australian publishing). I told her to come here to be convinced that ebooks can be a viable alternative/addition to traditional publishing.

Keep up the good work. :-)

Anonymous said...

"But now, anyone can slap anything up on Amazon, easily and for free.

It's only going to lead to a lot of disappointment and unhappiness."

Is that a bad thing?

You lament the fact that the standard agent rejection letter doesn't include a "crap" check box, and those who rush to self-publish often need to be told their work is not-ready-for-prime-time.

I've followed a number self-published books (ones I've determined to be crap) on the Kindle Store, and eventually they receive many low ratings and sales drop off to low levels These works typically rise to extremely high rankings, accumulate one-star ratings, and lose visibility within the Kindle bookstore.

So, why do established, published authors feel threatened by the self-published work out there?

Just ignore it, and it will go away.

If the work isn't up to a minimal standard (defined by the reader community) it will be panned by discerning members.

I'll admit this new process in in it's infancy, but it is evolving.

Sludge sinks to the bottom. If you've written a good story (as an indie or industry-vetted author) it will have legs and longevity, because word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing when it comes to books. The crap will sink -- if a book isn't marketable due to quality issues the community will call it out.

I don't know what the big deal is . . . if a book isn't marketable it won't sell, right? The author is left with another piece of macaroni artwork on his/her refrigerator.

Joe Konrath said...

You lament the fact that the standard agent rejection letter doesn't include a "crap" check box, and those who rush to self-publish often need to be told their work is not-ready-for-prime-time.

I don't lament anything, or feel the need to tell people their work stinks. But I do my best, on this blog and in person, to make newbie writers understand how the business works, and to set their expectations accordingly.

The writers who ultimately "make it" are the ones who realize they're early work is bad. These writers learn how to fix it, rather than rush to share it with the world.

So, why do established, published authors feel threatened by the self-published work out there?

I don't feel threatened by any writer. It's a zero sum game.

I do feel compelled to help writers. Which is why I write this blog.

Sludge sinks to the bottom. If you've written a good story (as an indie or industry-vetted author) it will have legs and longevity, because word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing when it comes to books.

I don't entirely believe this, but if I did, that still doesn't mean it's okay to let people have delusions.

The people who come to this blog are looking for answers. My answer is: "Write, rewrite, learn craft, and find an agent."

My answer is not, "Let the market decide if you're good."

Too many writers I think are good can't get the market to notice them. Why would I encourage someone who isn't any good to wade into this unforgiving pool?

Anonymous said...

Never pay someone thousands of dollars to edit your manuscript, no matter what their qualifications, unless you have lots of money to lose. Find a support group of fellow writers, keep reading and writing, and buy a book on editing your own manuscript. And yes, the more experienced a writer is the less editing (especially by someone else) is needed, and yes Mat they do understand what editing can and cannot do.

Mat said...

@Anonymous

So much wrong in so few sentences ...

the more experienced a writer is the less editing (especially by someone else) is needed

Whoa boy.

yes Mat they do understand what editing can and cannot do

I doubt it. Unless someone has worked with an editor before they usually don't know what editing can and cannot do.

Never pay someone thousands of dollars to edit your manuscript, no matter what their qualifications

I'm not sure you understand how much freelance editors actually charge. Are you aware of market rates?

buy a book on editing your own manuscript

I agree with this but only for the point of dramatically improving your own writing. If you're low on cash and willing to self-edit, let manuscript rest, edit again, let it rest, edit again and then e-publish, then sure.

Perhaps you should take the time to search out writers who've written about the manuscript to publication process and see what they have to say about editing and editors.

On every writing forum you'll find the unpublished self-styled gurus pretending to some knowledge they don't have. Finding a support group can be great and if you find the right people to critique your work, even better but there are plenty of fakers and phonies out there too. Taking editing advice from an unpublished writer with barely any experience in the field? Sounds pretty stupid to me.

Lydia said...

As an aspiring author, I am leery about self publishing for several reasons including the lack of guidance about editing. I have taken several classes and read all the books, but would still be frightened to unleash my novel without editing, having seen just how bad self published stuff can be (full of things I learned in my first writing class or the 2nd Chapter in a 'how to' writing book.) and I know there are many more things I haven't learned yet.

I believe these will fall to the bottom and eventually it will hit home how hard it is to sustain readers and ratings if the work isn't up to par, but it frightens me to be lumped in there, being self published at this time. The shift will occur at some point...but when? There's a reason why many book reviewers (including myself) won't accept self published novels right now for review. Several I've been sent we so terrible I couldn't get past two pages. So how else do you promote yourself if book bloggers won't take you on other than the 1.99 e-book cost? Other than the usual blog & networking?

I'm 100% sure I would hire an editor if I was going to go the self publishing route just to make sure I (hopefully) fall into the middle or top half instead of the bottom. I guess we'll just have to see how many others like me are out there and how quickly the bottom half realizes it's not as easy as they think it is. Something I have no delusions about.

Dan McGirt said...

Joe: Your generosity in sharing your numbers & insights continue to inspire. I first found my way here after buying a couple of your titles on Smashwords. I epubbed my out of print fantasy novel and some short pieces there. I love Smashwords because it's upload once with autoconversion to multiple formats & distribution channels: one stop shop. But what I've realized reading your blog is I need to get off my butt, do the formatting work, and get my titles in the Kindle store directly. As valuable as your advice is, I appreciate the kick in the pants more!

Colleen Dougherty said...

I'm not having the same results with my kids book Joanie Adventure Travels the World: Picking out Puppies. Do you think the $4.99 price is the culprit?

And can you have it at $4.99 one place and the 2.99 price at another?

Anyone will to do a review and give me thoughts?

Ellen Fisher said...

Colleen, I'm not sure there's as much of a market for e-pubbed children's books as there are for adult books yet. My only foray into writing a children's ebook was a dismal failure. I think this may change as more kids get e-readers (my fourteen-year-old daughter has a Kindle), but right now, I suspect adult fiction has a better shot at selling well on Amazon.

rex kusler said...

Lydia,

Don't aspire to writing. There are more people writing novels than reading them. Where do you think all the ideas for horror novels come from? Become a nurse or a truck driver. Work at 7-ll. You'll make more money.

Robin O'Neill said...

I don't know how publishing works in Oz but I can say something about it here since I've had 15 or so books published by mainstream presses. My book, WISH YOU WERE HERE: NEW ORLEANS is illustrative of my point. (You can check it out on Amazon, it's there, my name, Berkley Pub.) I sent in the manuscript. I never received notes. Next I received the galleys. Then it was published. It was never formally edited by anyone but me (luckily I'm pretty solid and did work as an editor in TV).

Mat, you're astute and sincere and obviously capable of being a terrific editor. I wish you had worked with me. But the reality is that books in America just don't get the kind of finessing they once did. Editors are acquisition editors, they find the books. They're not expected to work on them. If they do, tant mieux.

The disparity between indie pub and mainstream as it relates to editing may not be as vast as it once might have been. Sad. Maybe.

Bottom line, writers have to be better than ever and rely on themselves--dispassionately.

rex kusler said...

Why would an author spend thousands of dollars for editing for a book that might earn $1500 in a year? Or even $4000--if you have a hot one?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the one-year focus is wrong, given that the book would be available in perpetuity. (Hey, I've got something to will my wife after all!) If the book makes $1,500 per year now, what'll it earn over the first ten years might be the better question, especially with the ebook market blowing up.

But spending a grand or more on editing? My first reaction was: If it really NEEDS it, then I wonder about the overall quality of the content. That old lipstick on a pig analogy, I mean.

On the other hand there was Thomas Wolfe, who I hear was brilliant only after Maxwell Perkins took a carving knife to his prose, and there's that whole Raymond Carver/Gordon Lish stuff. But I suspect these are rare cases.

Sheryl Nantus said...

In defense of editors:

My first book with Samhain Publishing, "Blaze of Glory", releases on April 20th.

I can say without doubt that my editor, Sasha Knight, made it a much better book. She found simple errors I had missed, such as timeline mistakes, and major errors such as scenes that just didn't work and prompted me to rewrite them.

The finished product is a much stronger story than I originally submitted. I shudder to think of what it would be like if I had released BoG without her help.

Please don't discount the value of a good editor. And if you find a good one, keep him/her close.

jmo, ymmv.

Robin O'Neill said...

Sheryl, congratulations on being published.

Another true story. My next novel is set to be published in 2011. The contract was signed Oct. 2010. I've had 4 different editors since then. Luckily I didn't have to pretend to be friendly with them.

You don't keep them close. They're playing musical chairs. They change jobs more often than a high fashion model changes clothes.

ymmv

Robin O'Neill said...

oops I meant of course 2009.
Sorry

(PIMF but I'm a lousy friend in return.)

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> My four rejected novels,
> that NY Publishers didn't want,
> seem to be on their way to
> earning more money
> than the seven novels
> NY Publishers paid me for.

but i'm sure those 7 novels that
the n.y. houses published made
_lots_ of money -- for _them_...

if you knew exactly how much,
it would probably make you sick.

***

> That's where authors
> find the sweet spot for
> making the most money
> they can.

there's another "sweet spot",
where you make the most
_fans_ that you can make,
which -- in the long run --
ends up creating even more
profit than the short-term
"sweet spot" you mentioned.

***

> The aggressive self-promotion is
> the only reason I'm still in print.

i was talking about selling e-books.

self-promotion is self-defeating,
or at least it _will_be_, very soon.

readers are sick and tired of authors
blowing their own horn incessantly.

***

> writers who ultimately "make it"
> are the ones who realize
> they're early work is bad.

that should be "their early work"...


> I don't feel threatened by any writer.
> It's a zero sum game.

you mean "it's _not_ a zero sum game"
when another writer's gain is not your loss.

-bowerbird

Mat said...

@Robin

They change jobs more often than a high fashion model changes clothes.

Ha ha!

I love this. It is absolutely true. That's why agents who claim special relationships with editors are usually full of it.

Your editing experience is shocking. A publisher who doesn't have editors ... not a publisher I think. Good thing you self-edited.

My defense of editors is in the transformational change they bring to manuscripts. I remember reading a post by Christopher Paolini (Eragon, etc) where he was brave enough to put his submitted text up and then the edited text. He described the process as painful but you can see how important it was to improving the work. The original text was not so bad but when compared to the edited text, it was a mess.

Mat said...

@Rex & @Anonymous

Not to keep the threadjacking going...

Editing is incredibly valuable in producing good work. Self-editing is possible but it's a difficult process. You must first leave the manuscript to rest so you forget most of it. Then comes edit and rest. Edit and rest. Even with these rest periods there will be gaping holes that you can't see because you wrote it. With this method I think you get to mostly good and rarely edging into excellent.

An editor will (or should) pull all your weak spots out into the harsh light and make you fix them. Why does the character do that? Why would she steal something from her friend? What is this giant block of exposition doing here?

For a writer with no money, I do advise them to find people they trust to give detailed feedback. They have to ensure these people have some skill about them and aren't simply unpublished wannabe "gurus" that spring up on all writing websites.

I am loath to advise hiring a freelance editor for a whopping chunk of money despite my knowledge that they are essential to a good book. It is so easy to be ripped off, scammed, lied to and otherwise burned in every way that it's hard to separate the professionals from the liars. I've known editors taking $2000 to work on a love-project of some writer even though they know it is unpublishable no matter what.

I suppose I'd say to find trusted writing partners and then if you can scrape together $500, hire someone good from ifreelance.

Robin O'Neill said...

@ Mat

I started in the business with one of the best editors in the field. It was lovely and she was terrific but I don't expect to see that again.

My friend who wrote an international bestseller that was published by...Basic Books, or whoever took them over?...had to hire her own editor for the manuscript because there was no one in-house to do it. At that point I knew something had radically changed in the business. (Her original editor left to become an agent.)

rex kusler said...

@Mat

If e-book sales continue to escalate to the point where an indepedent author could make $10k per title over a five year period, then it would make sense to spend $2k for editing from someone you trust who is on the same wavelength. In the beginning these editors could be recommended by respected literary agents, and even work for them. If I write four novels per year, and make $8k total from each after editing, that's $32k per year. I would definitely be open to something like this if my sales numbers supported it. I think reputable agents may want to take a look at adding something like this. But it's controversial, because it would fall into the fee-charging category. Maybe agents will become less picky, taking on clients that they believe could make at least $10k with an e-book over a five year period. The client would pay for the editing, and the agent would put their brand on the book, publishing it under their name.

Mat said...

@Rex

You're spot on about the controversial fee-charging category. That route is so poisoned with scammers that I doubt it will recover any time soon. Every website about agents warns in big flashing letters NEVER PAY THEM. MONEY FLOWS TOWARDS THE AUTHOR, NOT THE OTHER WAY.

I think we'll soon see the editor/publisher model arise. People like me who've worked in editing, acquisitions, sales, etc will start acquiring, editing and publishing all on a royalty basis. The authors don't pay upfront and these editors take a risk on future earnings.

The model will split into two stripes: the permanent royalty and the capped royalty.

I personally know plenty of writers who I'd be happy to edit for only a royalty. What that adds up to over time though is another matter. Take Joe's recent sales figures and imagine a single editor worked on each title for $5000 capped royalty per book, taking half the Amazon royalty in payment. The List would earn out in about ten months. Shot of Tequila is chugging along at about $150 per month for 33 months or so.
Planter's Punch is bringing in about $50 a month and takes 100 months.

It does all add up and the smart editor would work with a variety of writers. Ensuring that they get paid would be difficult ... people have a problem handing over money to freelancers, something each of us has lived a hundred times. The money issue is why editors will set themselves up as little publishers - so they can ensure they get paid. But then what happens when the capped royalties earn out? The book is given back to the author and republished online? The editor starts handing over 100% of the royalties?

Perhaps we'll see royalties drop to a perpetual 5% after earning out. Sort of like residuals for editors.

Joe Konrath said...

where you make the most _fans_ that you can make

I've played that route, and given away ebooks on my website for years. I still give them away. Guess what? I've sold more ebooks in six months than I've given away in five years.

People apparently would rather pay. And I'm pretty sure a buck more won't matter to the majority of them.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> I've played that route, and
> given away ebooks on my website
> for years. I still give them away.

sounds good. but...


> Guess what?
> I've sold more ebooks in six months
> than I've given away in five years.

correct... you are now reaping the fruit
from those trees you planted years ago.


> People apparently would rather pay.

once they become fans, yes they would.

that is why you want people to be fans...


> And I'm pretty sure a buck more
> won't matter to the majority of them.

to the people who are already your fans,
no, it won't. after all, you're asking them
to spend $15 a year instead of $10 a year.
what fan is gonna begrudge you the $5?

but to someone who is _not_ a fan yet?

that $3 you ask for a book must compete
now against the $2 asked by someone else.

that's the competition you used to _win_
-- back when you were the $2 player --
but you now lose since you're the $3 one.

and when you lose the competition on that
single book, you lose the fan, because they
read another book instead of your book, and
when you lose that fan, you lose all the sales
of your other books that fan would've bought.

you could afford to lose the single-book sale.
(although there's no reason why you should.)
you _can't_ afford to lose the follow-on sales.

essentially you've stopped planting fruit-trees.

because you now want to exploit the trees that
you've already planted. but each tree can only
give you so much fruit annually, so it's _much_
wiser to continue planting more trees instead...

it's still way too early in the game to consolidate.

especially for someone like you, who is now out
at the head of the pack. run. do not look back.

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

> Guess what?
> I've sold more ebooks in six months
> than I've given away in five years.

correct... you are now reaping the fruit from those trees you planted years ago.

LOL. So people, who got the books for free, are now buying the same books? That makes ZERO sense.

Barbara Silkstone said...

:) :) :)

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> So people, who got
> the books for free, are
> now buying the same books?

that's not what i said...

but it does show clearly
you've stopped listening.

so i should stop talking.

the good news for me is
your own experimentation
will prove that i am right.

so have at it, joe...

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

but it does show clearly
you've stopped listening.


I'm listening. But you simply aren't making a good argument. In fact, you aren't making any argument at all. You're just disagreeing, without any logical or experiential basis.

But I'd be happy to point out where and why I believe you're incorrect, because I enjoy debate.

I think it's fair to say that any fan of mine will be familiar with my website. On my website, I give away (for free) many of the ebooks I sell on Kindle.

A fan would know this, and get the book for free.

And yet, I'm selling far more ebooks on Kindle than I'm giving away for free on my website. My conclusion is that "fans" aren't the ones buying my Kindle ebooks. People who haven't heard of me before are buying the Kindle books. Building a fanbase has little to do with my Kindle sales.

If you look at the Kindle bestseller lists, you'll also see at least a dozen other authors who don't have any fanbases, yet who are selling as well as I am.

As such, the conclusion I draw is that Kindle shoppers are looking for authors at reasonable prices, and I am a new author to the majority of people who buy my ebooks.

This is backed up by the email I get.

that $3 you ask for a book must compete
now against the $2 asked by someone else.


There is no competition in book buying. I'm not a fan of either Stephen King OR Dean Koontz. And neither are most readers. Books aren't Coke and Pepsi, where you only buy one or the other. Readers will buy both, especially at a reasonable price.

the good news for me is
your own experimentation
will prove that i am right.


If you spend some time on the Kindle bestseller lists, you will see a lot of familiar, brand name authors, and a lot of authors selling ebooks for cheap.

I've noticed no correlation between sales priced from 99 cents to $2.99 and Kindle ranking. Some $2.99 books sell better than some 99 cent books. When the price is this low, the $2 difference doesn't seem to have any effect on buyers.

When the agency model goes into effect, many writers will go to $2.99. I'm predicting, based on what I've seen, that my sales numbers will remain close to where they are now, but my profits will more than double.

As it currently stands, I raised one of my ebooks to $4.99. That's a $3 price increase, not a $1 price increase, and I believe it's more than an ebook is worth. And yet, I made more money after raising the price, even though sales dropped off to about half.

I don't expect sales to drop to by half if I raise my prices $1. I don't expect anyone will even notice, or care.

bowerbird said...

joe-

if you can't see my logic,
then -- no offense, but
-- you're not listening...

but, as i said, it matters
not a bit, because you
will eventually learn it...

everyone will.

i wrote a long post for
the mark terry thread,
but i like the way that
rex kusler capped it,
so i just let that stand.

i could talk about this
for weeks, and you'd
say a lot in return --
but i'm not sure that's
the conversation you
intended to initiate, so
perhaps i should just
bow out politely now.

because it's your blog.

but if you really want,
let me know and i'll
post that long reply.

oh, i'm a big nobody,
so there's no reason
you should listen to
what i have to say...

and i took no offense
by your asking that...

carry on...

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

Logic involves proving a premise. You haven't proven anything. You've stated an opinion, and haven't made a single attempt to refute the logic and examples I've made.

Rex didn't say it best. Bill Gates made money and showed results. That's why people listen to him.

If you want to show the world you're right, you have to prove it to the world.

Saying "you'll see" is about as illogical as you can get. You're arguing with guesses and feelings without a single shred of evidence.

That's fine, if you want to state that you're spouting opinion.

But if you're giving advice in a thread where I'm hesitant to give advice, and I have a year of Kindle sales, five years of free ebooks giveaways, and seven years of publishing experience behind me, as well as the hard data and results of direct, observational, and anecdotal evidence, then be prepared to prove your premise.

Assuming and knowing are two different things. You portend to see the future, with nothing to back it up, and yet tell me I'm incorrect?

I love to argue and debate. I love it when people disagree with me. It gives me the opportunity to bullet-proof my theories.

But a debate is more than just positing an opposing point of view.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> You haven't proven anything.

i'm not trying to "prove" anything.


> You've stated an opinion, and
> haven't made a single attempt
> to refute the logic and examples
> I've made.

you haven't given any "logic".

you have made observations.

which is exactly what i've done.


> Rex didn't say it best.
> Bill Gates made money
> and showed results. That's
> why people listen to him.

i didn't say "rex said it best".

i said he capped the thread.
provided a humorous ending.

i got the impression that you
wanted to end the dialog, so
i was happy for his sum-up.

rex got things wrong, but
it was still a funny closure.


> If you want to
> show the world
> you're right,
> you have to
> prove it to the world.

you misunderstand me, joe.

i don't care to "show the
world" that i'm "right"...

people believe what they
want to believe, and it's
futile to work against that.

furthermore, there is no
guide to e-book success.

and that's a good thing.
otherwise there'd be
all kinds of charlatans
invading the sphere...

i'd rather have the space
occupied by true writers,
people who _will_ write
even if they must starve.


> Saying "you'll see"
> is about as illogical
> as you can get.

it wasn't logic. it was
an expression that this
"dispute" has no power,
but _reality_ has a lot...

that's the reason i have
no desire to "prove it"...

the world will "prove it".


> You're arguing with
> guesses and feelings
> without a single shred
> of evidence.

you keep repeating that...

i have as much "evidence"
as you do, joe, and mine
isn't based on self-interest.

my evidence is from the
experiments many people,
and reactions from readers.


> That's fine, if you want
> to state that you're
> spouting opinion.

i have made observations,
which have caused me to
come to certain conclusions.

if i see evidence that would
challenge those conclusions,
i incorporate it, and change.

i have absolutely _no_stake_
in my "opinion", none at all...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

(posted in 2 parts because
i exceed the character-limit.)

joe said:
> But if you're giving advice
> in a thread where I'm
> hesitant to give advice, and
> I have a year of Kindle sales,
> ...
> as well as the hard data and
> results of direct, observational,
> and anecdotal evidence, then be
> prepared to prove your premise.

again, i'm not trying to "prove"
anything. i'm stating my truth.

just like you're stating yours...

you might think your truth is
more solid. that's wonderful.

i've admitted that mine is as
flexible as a reed in the wind.

but i'm betting that you know
the story about the wind and
that reed, versus the big oak.


> Assuming and knowing
> are two different things.
> You portend to see the future,
> with nothing to back it up,
> and yet tell me I'm incorrect?

i have been predicting the future
of e-books for over 25 years, joe,
and doing it with great accuracy.

the things that would work and
also the things that would _not_.

and my "opinions" have been
honed by reality in that time,
discussions with smart people,
and lots of close observation...

so yeah, i'll certainly tell you
if i believe you are incorrect.

and if you want to ignore it,
you can ask me for "proof".


> I love to argue and debate.
> I love it when people
> disagree with me.
> It gives me
> the opportunity to
> bullet-proof my theories.

we're a lot alike in that respect.


> But a debate is more than just
> positing an opposing point of view.

it's quite amusing to me that
you think we are in dispute,
and ask me for "evidence"...

for the most part, we agree,
and i support your main effort.

indeed, when other people
demand "evidence" from me,
i often point to your experience.

> http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/10/he-not-busy-being-born-is-busy.html

> http://toc.oreilly.com/2009/10/the-good-and-and-some-bad-of-toc-frankfurt-coverage.html

> http://toc.oreilly.com/2009/11/michael-tamblyns-toc-frankfurt.html

i'm not your enemy, joe.

you're out walking point,
and i'm just telling you
where the landmines are.

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

you haven't given any "logic". you have made observations.

I've used deductive reasoning, with examples based on my experiences and observations. That's what logic is. That's how I'm able to defend my opinions. That's how I can reach conclusions about the people buying my ebooks. I've constructed an argument to prove my point.

You have only made statements without defending them.

And I should know better. When a debate gets down to defining "logic" it's usually a lost cause.

my evidence is from the
experiments many people,
and reactions from readers.


Who are you, who are these people, and what experience did you have? Names and numbers. You know my name and my numbers, because those are essential to back up my claims.

i have been predicting the future
of e-books for over 25 years, joe,
and doing it with great accuracy.


Show me. You can read my blog a year ago, and see how accurate my predictions for ebooks have been.

My argument is a simple one: the people buying my ebooks are doing so because of price, cover art, and the subject matter.

You interjected, opining that raising prices is a bad idea. But you haven't given me any examples why that is, even though I've proven that:

1. The people buying the majority of my ebooks likely haven't heard of me before.

2. There is no direct correlation between price and the bestseller list.

3. For self-pubbed authors, there is no discernible sales difference between ebooks priced at $2.99 and those priced at 99 cents.

You speak of losing fans and of ebooks being competitive.

There isn't any competition, because ebooks aren't a zero sum game. And my established fans aren't the ones buying my ebooks, because they get them for free on my website.

This is me refuting your statements with logic, based on experience and easily provable premises.

Here's a premise: very few readers only read one author and no others.

Ergo, a reader can enjoy many authors. Ergo, there is no competition between books.

you're out walking point,
and i'm just telling you
where the landmines are.


And you know that how? Based on what experience?

Here's a premise: If you raise ebook prices, you'll sell fewer copies.

Perhaps. But there's no evidence of this. Authors like Jeremy Robinson and F. Paul Wilson are selling for $2.99 and hanging neck and neck with some of my ebooks, and mine are hanging neck and neck with many 99 cent titles.

There's no way to prove I'll lose sales by jumping up a buck.

I am 100% sure, however, I'll make more money. $2.04 per download instead of 70 cents per download.

Your argument against me doing that, and your warnings, carry zero weight.

bowerbird said...

you're making this about
you and me, joe, and it's
_not_ about you and me.

did you read those links?

if you did, you'd see that
i am not your enemy, joe.
i _want_ you to succeed...

if you're willing to settle
for selling fewer books
because you make more
money by raising prices,
go ahead and do it, joe.

i'll tell you that you are
making a big mistake...

but who am i? and what
do i know? nothing, joe!
it's all just my "opinion".

so do whatever you want.

but don't be stupid, joe.
there might be _some_
inelasticity of demand
for e-books right now,
but that won't last long.

besides, any economist
(chicago-school or not)
will tell you that when
your variable costs are
virtually zero, you need
to increase the demand,
not jack up the margin,
because every sale is
_pure_profit_, joe...

so don't act like i have
no solid arguments on
my side of the table...

and you want "proof"
that a fan-base can
lead to e-book sales?

look no further than
the 37signals people,
right there in chicago.

they made a ton of
money selling their
e-book to their fans,
even though it was
nothing more than
the posts from their
very-popular blog,
all free on their site.

my goodness, they
got people to pay for
"site licenses" to make
copies of the e-book.
those people could've
copied the e-book for
_free,_ but they _paid_
for the privilege, joe!
can you believe that?

know amanda palmer?
amanda could sell her
sweat-socks to her
dedicated fan-base.
(i don't think she's
done that already,
but she might have.)

i can sit here all day
giving you "proof",
but i'd rather talk to
the people who will
believe without that.

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

i can sit here all day
giving you "proof",


No. Apparently you can't. Because that wasn't proof. That was more baseless assertions that didn't even apply to the discussion.

So I'm giving up.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> No. Apparently you can't.

well, i can give "evidence" all day.

whether or not you'd consider it
to be "proof" is another question.

but even though i _can_, the fact is
that i don't want to, so it's all moot.


> So I'm giving up.

probably for the best.

we seem to have gotten caught
in a fairly unproductive cycle...

sorry it didn't work out.

but i'll be watching your experiments,
with a very close eye on your pricing,
and its effect on your growth curves,
especially starting about one year out.

but again, i wish you the best of luck.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

I've read so many self-published manuscripts with "just" sprinkled everywhere. Or "that". Or "he said," gleefully/happily/sadly/moronically/morosely/adverbly. These are basic fixes which can immediately pull the quality of the writing up. Once the writer cuts that "morosely" they need to show morose, which takes more skill than that single adverb.

I would amusingly suggest that writers like Stephenie Meyer prove that having poor writing skills is no barrier to having astounding sales.

While it is an opinion that would make me unpopular in certain literary circles, it has been my experience that there is a huge gap between what a reader may read and enjoy and what other writers and editors consider "good" writing.

Professional authors have often subscribed to the theory that you need to "pay your dues" to be a success. Meyer and the many hundreds of other crappy authors making tons of money prove that this isn't true.

-nr

chuck curtis said...

Dear Joe,

A congratulations and a thank you. Congratulations on your success and the innovation you've demonstrated. Thank you for posting your information for the rest ofus.

Tom Nichols said...

Just to say thanks for this blog and discussion. I've juat written a book on being a dad which I've sent to a publisher; since they're gonog to take 3 months to get back to me, I thought I'd pop it online via amazon kindle to see what happened. I just put it on yesterday, and need to think now if there's other stuff I can be doing to help market myself etc. I might have got pricing wrong too - going to rethink based on your comments.

Very grateful for the enthusiasm and empowerment on these pages.

Very best
Tom Nichols
England