Monday, May 03, 2010

And They Say That A Hero Will Save Us

Just got back from six days in Ohio, at the Romantic Times Convention.

As usual, I drank too much, said many inappropriate things, annoyed a bunch of people, and had a great time.

The conference was very similar to the dozens of others I've attended. Fans and writers interacted. The panels were pretty much same old same old. It was comforting, and familiar.

And yet, if you looked a bit closer, you noticed there was change coming.

I saw over a dozen Kindles. Two Nooks, two Sony Readers, a Kobo, and three iPads, all in the hands of readers anxious to evangelize them.

I heard, from a prominent industry professional, that mass market returns among the top publishers were at almost 80%.

The line for the ebook seminar was about a hundred yards long.

I heard from a librarian that their Overdrive program (lending ebooks) now accounted for 34% of their loans.

F. Paul Wilson is making just as much money on self-pubbed ebook sales as I am.

And four separate people came up to me and called me a hero.

The "hero" thing took me off guard. The first time it happened, I smiled politely and brushed it off, as I do all compliments.

By the fourth time, I began to realize how much this industry was really changing.

When I was a newbie, I was mystified by the publishing industry. I believed getting published meant being invited into some exclusive club. One with gatekeepers who had strange demands, and where control was out of a writer's hands.

But that dynamic is changing. In a big way.

With the Internet, writers are savvier than ever. They aren't nearly as naive as I was when I got started. They go to conventions, and read blogs, and talk to each other. Agents have blogs of their own, and they explain how this business works, and are happy to answer questions.

In other words, today's newbie is much more informed than newbies from even three years ago.

This makes me wonder.

At RT I talked to several name authors. People who sold more than I do. People who are now very anxious to get their backlists up on Kindle so they can start making money.

But I also talked to a lot of newbies. And these folks are gung-ho about completely forsaking traditional print publishing all together.

I'd always assumed that print publishers would begin to lose market dominance once ebooks took off in a big way, and they'd have to either restructure or die.

But now I'm predicting another death for them.

What is going to happen when authors stop sending their books to publishers?

If I know I can make $100,000 on a self-published ebook in five years of sales, and I have the numbers to back up this claim, why would any informed writer--either pro or newbie--ever settle for less?

The dominance of ebooks is coming. I have no doubt. But I always thought it was the readers who would lead the charge, based on cost and convenience.

Now I'm starting to believe that the ones with the real power are the ones who should have had the power since the beginning of publishing. The ones who create the content in the first place.

The authors.

It's a wonderful, dynamic, empowering time to be an author. For the first time, we can command our own ships.

We're the ones who write the books. We can reach readers without any gatekeepers at all. And we can make money doing it.

The print publishing industry's biggest fear shouldn't be the eventual dominance of ebooks over print.

Their biggest fear should be not having any books to publish in any format, because the authors all wised up.

88 comments:

Ellen Fisher said...

I'm envious. I've always wanted to go to an RT convention *sighs*. Well, maybe some decade when the kids are all grown up...

80%? Really? Those return numbers are insane. They can't possibly continue that for long, surely.

Kristen Painter said...

I'm bummed I didn't get to meet you at RT. I put a book up on Smashwords because of you!

The Daring Novelist said...

It's definitely a strange new world. I'm wondering if there will be some kind of convergence between agents and publishers - maybe into something manager-like.

Or agents become managers and publishers become publicists.

Nancy said...

I wonder the same thing about publishers. I have also taken the plunge because of you and published on Smashwords.
Thanks for the inspiration and the mental push to wise up.

Jon F. Merz said...

Gonna be interesting times ahead, for sure. I'm loving my Kindle sales on Amazon, and then again, I'm also loving the fact that St. Martin's sent me the catalog copy for my next novel today...glad to be a part of this changing world!

Laurence MacNaughton, Author said...

And here's a question nobody's been asking: where does this leave literary agents?

Anonymous said...

Where does this leave literary agents? Leaving snarky comments on Twitter about what nitwits authors are.

rex kusler said...

"Where does this leave literary agents?"

I think there is still a demand for longhaul truckers.

Anonymous said...

Lit agents will do what lit agents do.

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2010/05/fate-of-self-published-works.html

CJ West said...

And you are him! Thanks for being that hero Joe.

I was in a bookstore signing recently and the owner came over to talk. He is terrified of ebooks and it was clear.

I hope you'll be at BCON in October so I can buy you a drink.

CJ

Thomas Brookside said...

Joe, at the convention, did you get any negative feedback from industry professionals who were pissed off at you for your statements about direct publishing of ebooks?

I think we're just about at the point now where Wanted posters of you are going to start going up.

Ellen Fisher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen Fisher said...

Heh, Thomas, I guess one person's hero is another's Most Wanted.

But yes, I'm curious about this too, Joe. Any negative feedback?

Natasha Fondren said...

I was so pleased when Amazon upped an author's cut to 70%. I just find it so unpalatable that an author makes the minority of the money from the sale of their work.

I hope bookstores and publishers find a way to survive, but I'm with you on empowering authors.

Claire Farrell said...

It's nice to think that authors have some power now, before we were all at the mercy of agents and publishing houses - now, the changes are coming so rapidly that the publishers seem to be the last ones to see it.

It makes sense if the person creating the content holds the most power and now that it is so easy create professional looking books, the divides are narrowing. It's a good time to be a writer. Writers benefit from higher royalties and more creative control while readers are benefiting from competitive pricing.

Joe Konrath said...

did you get any negative feedback from industry professionals who were pissed off at you for your statements about direct publishing of ebooks?

I plead the fifth. :)

Eliza Gayle said...

I wanted to come up to you at RT and thank you for your blog, but I was too distracted by your butterfly wings. :)

I've been attending RT since 2006 and it's the first year I really felt the change. I cannot remember how many readers came up to me and asked if my books were available in ebook instead of print.

This is definitely an exciting time and the information you share here is invaluable.

John Hamilton said...

I've been in publishing for almost 30 years, working on both sides of the editorial desk, and I've never seen such a sea change as what's happening now (except maybe PageMaker and the LaserWriter). I'm definitely putting my next novel on Kindle and foregoing the old publishing model, which must have been devised in the Dark Ages. Thanks for lighting the way out, Joe!

Steve Anderson said...

It's indeed a great time to be an author -- for once. A year ago I had no idea such great things were coming. It's going to get ugly for those in traditional publishing who refuse to adapt. Amazing how fast the shackles come off, once they start coming off.

E.J. Wesley said...

Preach it!

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

The big publishers will change, or they will die.

I just read an article today -- did you know that Blockbuster was contacted FIRST about creating those "Redbox-type" machines? They ignored him. So now Blockbuster stock is worth 50 cents and Netflix and Redbox have essentially taken the lion's share of Blockbuster's business.

Wake up "traditional" publishers! A lot of us don't need you anymore. Maybe we never did.


The big publishers don't want to change, so they are going to suffer for it. Or die for it.

rex kusler said...

Publishers need to diversify. I wonder if they can recycle those returned books and make buckboards out of them.

Jude Hardin said...

I don't know, Joe. My publisher gets 150 submissions a week, and they're a small press. All the blogging agents say they're consistently swamped with queries...

Seems to me it's as hard as ever to break into print, and I don't think they'll be hurting for material anytime soon.

Ruth Francisco, author said...

I was thinking of going to Bouchercon again this year, but since I'm Kindle publishing now I wondered what I could hand out to fans--you can't sign a Kindle (at least not easily). Maybe postcards of the cover art? 8x10 glossies? Hats? I'm at a loss, but fans love to hold something, love a signature, love that connection to the author. Perhaps a CD of the author reading their book?

K M Tolan said...

I think a lot of success for those electing to self-publish has to do with whether or not they have already made a name for themselves. If combating obscurity is an issue for e-book authors who are attached to small publishers as I am, then it can only be worse for the self-published crowd fighting to be heard above the flotsam.

I really can't see publishers being endangered in the long run because there still needs to be a way for readers to sift through the huge amount of poor writing out there in the self-pub areas. You may see distributors become publishers themselves, complete with quality control and editors.

Right now, most genre self published authors who arrive new on the market may not see the optimism heard here.

Kerry

David Derrico said...

With the caveat that self-publishing is not a path filled only with puppy dogs and ice cream, I think it's clear that more and more authors are becoming disillusioned with the traditional publishing "dream." I've had only a fraction of the success that you have, but even I, a relative nobody independent author, would no longer sell over the rights to my novels for the typical first-time deal of a $5,000 advance and 8% royalty and zero marketing and publicity support.

That's not to say that tradpubs have nothing to offer, but they seem dreadfully behind the times and authors are flocking to the indie route. Sure, there are many pitfalls, and it takes hard work, and only a tiny percentage will be successful ... but the odds still seem to be better than traditional publishing, which has all those same risks and then some.

Mark Terry said...

"And four separate people came up to me and called me a hero."

It was the tights, Joe. And the cape.

Okay. I've been giving this a lot of thought and of course, nobody knows. But you say that in 6 years print will be dead. Neil Nyren and many others in publishing say it never will, that e-books will become about half the market. Who's right?

I suspect you might be, but time will tell.

Here's why I think so. It has to do with costs. There's going to be too much money in e-books for publishers (assuming authors continue to deal with publishers, which I think is quite up in the air). If publishers had 50% of their books (and I don't know if Nyren meant 50% of revenue or 50% of books published) that were published were in paper, and they found themselves selling less and less paper books, but still paying warehousing, print costs, paper, returns, etc., it's not going to be long before the major print houses simply look at their bottom line and decide they can't afford to continue wasting money on paper printing, whether there's readers for them or not, unless they jack up the price of their books to accommodate the drop in sales volume... which will result in fewer sales, which will...

Yeah, I suspect you're right, whether we want it to be or not.

There was a recent article in The New Yorker about e-books (Publish or Perish) and two things struck me about it. One was that he never seemed to seriously consider that authors, perhaps especially authors who are already being published in paper, might decide they've had enough of 10% royalties, having some of their manuscripts turned down and their backlists being buried and might go it on their own; and the other was how so many of the heads of major publishing firms seemed to be in a defensive crouch waiting for someone like Steve Jobs to come along and save them instead of doing something proactive to save their own asses.

Zoe Winters said...

The snottiness and contempt shown to writers by many agents and editors who blog and tweet isn't helping matters either.

When there are alternatives, fewer people stand in line for the opportunity to be verbally abused by people who, if they could write, would be doing so.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Great post. For some reason it caused the Kinks song "Money-Go-Round" to run through my head.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

I've been doing ePublishing (games industry stuff -- tabletop RPGs) for 6 1/2 years now, and I'm pleased to see the wider market starting to shift as well...

But the thing that I find amazing is the friends that I have in mainstream publishing who are not only very quick to dismiss any experiences like yours, but when they're presented with hard numbers (like in your blog posts, or when I lay out my numbers for them), they deny even harder.

It's kinda sad, really. Real head-in-the-sand stuff.

Joe Konrath said...

My publisher gets 150 submissions a week, and they're a small press. All the blogging agents say they're consistently swamped with queries...

Give it 18 months.

I was thinking of going to Bouchercon again this year, but since I'm Kindle publishing now I wondered what I could hand out to fans--

I didn't give out anything. I had only two panels. I was active on the dance floor, and with mingling, but I didn't do any self-promotion at all.

And yet, in the last four days, I've been earning $150 a day on Kindle, when before the convention I was earning $125.

Is that because of being at Romantic Times? I dunno. But maybe there is still something to making in-person appearances.

As for signing, I signed two Kindle covers.

I really can't see publishers being endangered in the long run because there still needs to be a way for readers to sift through the huge amount of poor writing out there in the self-pub areas.

And yet, readers manage to sift through bookstores which carry 150,000 titles, and Amazon which carries several million titles.

Vetting is fun. It's called "shopping."

it's not going to be long before the major print houses simply look at their bottom line and decide they can't afford to continue wasting money on paper printing

Exactly, Mark. Once ebooks reach a larger percentage of the market, they will cut into print sales. That means smaller print runs and higher costs. Which means fewer titles published.

Then, what will bookstores sell? Publishers will need cash, so they'll ask stores to pay for the credit that has been extended. Stores will start returning books because they have no cash. The house of cards collapses.

The snottiness and contempt shown to writers by many agents and editors who blog and tweet isn't helping matters either.

The only agents I've seen have been very supportive of writers, and very open about demystifying publishing. Are there some snotty ones?

Robert W. Walker said...

You have always been my HERO, Joe...and always will be. I love yu, man--and that's not just a movie title.

As to Original to Kindle titles, I put up Children of Salem, my life's work, my passion, rejected by every publisher on the planet, but also my How-To, turned down by every publisher on the planet, Dead On Writing and both are selling more briskly than any paper books published by me in the last three years. I put up Cuba Blue and Deja Blue as well along with an antholgoy - Thrice Told Tales all orginal to kindle titles.

Recently while working on my work in progress, I began wondering to whom I should send a proposal and start begging when a light hit me and aha! It goes straight to Kindle my Curse of the Titanic just as soon as I get it vetted and edited and ready for my dashboard.

Pricing, cover art, titles I control; what a sense of freedom and power. When a paper book fails after everyone in the publishing house has had a decision in all the marketing elements it is STILL the author's fault when the bottom falls out. When all the returns come in and your paltry royalty is cut in half or by two thirds. No remainders or returns to speak of in ebooks.

U R my hero, Joe and I like your tights and cape. Wear that Giant J on your chest proudly, man.

Rob

Anonymous said...

No idea why, but one of your books showed up on my screen at Amazon. THE LIST. Never read you before. You're good. I'll read some more. Kindle for Mac---rudimentary, but Amazon swears improvements are coming. Thanks, fella.

Mary Stella said...

You're not only heroic, after Friday's performance, you're hareoic. Except when you criticize my choice of drink. But thanks anyway! :-)

Reading your blog and talking to you more about all of this in person really has me thinking and planning. Thanks, Joe!

Robin O'Neill said...

A couple weeks ago, I wrote to "my" publisher and told them I was withdrawing my second novel from their consideration. They were so shocked. If I could get the first book back, I'd be thrilled but it's already on the schedule altho they've forgotten about paying me even though I've mentioned it every month. Of course every month there's a new editor, so you start at zero every six weeks. The money they're paying me doesn't make this hassle worth it--and I told them that. Do you think I made an enemy? Do you think I care?

J.A. Marlow said...

The 80% rate of returns is mind-blowing. Just....wow.

So true about the publishers having problems when the authors decide to do it themselves and take most of the profit. For both publishers and agents, well, someone here mentioned long-haul truck driving. Hehe.

I've already decided I'm not going to play the games. If my book is going to fail, it will be because of me, not a publishers decisions that I had no say in. If I'm going to have to promote and market my book, then I darn well better be getting a much bigger slice of the pie. If something doesn't work, I'll change it without someone telling me 'no'. I will write the books I want without someone telling me it isn't mainstream enough.

Why put up with their nonsense? Who needs the hassle? Life is too short, and the market has changed to where I don't have to. Ahhhh, the power. It was about time the power came to the content producers!

Zoe Winters said...

Joe, I got a really bad taste in my mouth from watching some of the crap going on on twitter in #queryfail. I realize there are some great agents out there. Hell, I'd throw 15% of my money at Nathan Bransford on sheer principle of his awesomeness. But a lot of them really like to mock writers. It comes across as very distasteful and unprofessional to me and I can't imagine why any writer would want to enter into business arrangements with such people.

I've got a couple of "agents behaving badly" in mind as I type this. Anyone who has seen #queryfail on Twitter probably could take three guesses and pick them out of a crowd.

I also came across this blog post one day from an editor and I was like... um excuse me?

http://www.caroclarke.com/iamyoureditor.html

Anonymous said...

The first adopters of Kindle (and other ebook devices) were the heaviest readers -- the 3% that make up 30% of the brick and mortar store business. These are the reading addicts (many read 3-5 books a week or more) who found digital to be an absolute godsend -- fewer books to haul around and store, better prices, and books available on demand, from the comfort of home, 24/7.

Losing the hardcore reader/consumer dealt a mortal blow to the book industry, and it happened very quickly.

Debbi said...

I think we may finally be on the same page, Joe.

I've been saying for a while now that authors were eventually going to get sick of the publishers' games and bypass them altogether.

Authors create the content. Without the content, publishers have nothing.

Thus, content = power in a time when self-publishing is a totally viable option.

Jude Hardin said...

I think Caro Clarke's article should be required reading for all aspiring authors. I especially liked her addition at the end:

All those beginner writers who said 'gosh, this is tough and mean, but I really need to learn from it' have tended to be writers who were serious about their craft. Those who said 'what a stuck-up know-it-all creep; who does she think she is?' have usually been those who'll never get anywhere. Why do I know this? Because I've often read their work, and it correlates nicely. I also know because real writers accept that they have to get published in the real world, and that world is full of unpalatable truths, while wannabe writers prefer a fantasy world where their dreams come true without their having to make an effort.

Jon F. Merz said...

Jude, I agree with you - I thought Caro's blog post was great. Still, it'll be interesting times ahead!

A.M. said...

Zoe,

For some reason, the #queryfail isn't pulling up on my twitter. However, reading over the link you posted...I'm not quite sure about her intelligence to be honest.

I stopped reading after she wrote that she rejected feminist books written by men. First of all, two of the most educated--and unbiased--feminist scholars I know are men. Second, rejecting a feminist manuscript b/c it was written by a guy is sexist. Unless it was a "woman's only" publishing company and not a feminist publishing company then I could understand. Oh, and I am a woman and very much into equality.

Joe, that is so cool that you got to go to RT :). I agree that publishers need to realize the potential for eBooks before the competition becomes too much for them. I can see how some writers may want literary agents b/c they don't know how to market or sell, but authors who know how to market may be able to sell their own books soon for more earnings.

I read somewhere that agents might be rough on authors, but the reality is that the agent becomes the employee of the author. It is their job to sell the manuscripts and make the author money so they can earn money as well. If this is true, then agents themselves may want to consider brushing up on new media marketing trends.

I'm still working on my first novel, but I'm also earning a degree in marketing communications. I didn't know what I was going to do with it at first, but if I am accepted by a traditional publishing press and decide to publish other works online, then I think I might know what to do with my upcoming degree :).

A.M. said...

* When I say her intelligence, she may be skillful as an editor, but anyone who thinks that a man cannot write a good feminism book needs to do some research.

Karen McQuestion said...

"It's a wonderful, dynamic, empowering time to be an author. For the first time, we can command our own ships."

Well put! The balance of power has definitely shifted in favor of the writer, thank goodness. I don't want to be made to feel lucky to be "chosen," I want to be an equal partner, or else do it myself. And between self-publishing on Kindle and my AmazonEncore title coming out in August, that's just the way it's worked out for me.

And Joe, you are a hero to many of us, me included. Thanks again for sharing your insights and leading the way.

piers said...

I think the sea-change is taking place in the mid-level, writers who don't have the name recognition (yet), but who are also avid readers and evangelists, who share the love around, edit each others work, and like you say, blog and tweet about their successes. The most agile will always be the ones who are empowered yet unencumbered.

Anonymous said...

I've never felt I was at the mercy of "the business". I've enjoyed a successful ebook career and am enjoying my NY print career which is exceeding my expectations. My philosophy has always been that writing is my business. And like any business, it is wise to maximize as many revenue streams as possible. I chose to start in ebooks because I needed to create a demand for my genre. Moving to NY was part of my 5 year plan. Leaving the ebook market never was. I held back two series to keep my options open for new revenue potential. I think the market created by e-devices is it. I'm happy for new market opportunities, and since I've positioned myself so I can take advantage of them I don't see "good guys" and Bad guys". Just different markets with their own pluses and minuses and different potentials that can benefit my business. I believe the most important thing for authors to do right now is to keep their options open within their contracts so they can make the most of opportunities existing now and in the future because it is very much a changing world.

Renee Pace said...

What a great blog. I've been an e-pub for years and am now considering launching my YA on my own as self-pub because yes, I do all my marketing myself, love my monthly royalities but like you said it, am feeling more in charge of my destiny as a writer. Thanks again for talking about this.

Stacey Cochran said...

Now if you really want to be ahead of the curve... the DIY Direct-to-Video and Direct-TV-Download market for indie film producers are going to be the place to make a killing in the next 5-10 years.

If I could make a short film on my own and get it into NetFlix's Instant Download Database... then the film industry will be doing the same thing as Kindle and eBooks have done for writers.

Only, people spend a lot more money on movies then they do on books.

____________________

Stacey Cochran
Publisher of Stacey Cochran Books
and Bestselling author of The Colorado Sequence
and CLAWS

author Scott Nicholson said...

That's what Amazon's 70-percent royalty is all about--major defections by major authors, publicity for Kindle and ebooks, more digital sales.

But I don't think the sub pile will slip for quite a while, and for most book slots, one sub is as good as another. Seriously.

Scott

The Daring Novelist said...

I don't care about any "snottiness and contempt" on the part of publishing professionals (I just don't see it myself, but if it's there it doesn't matter).

What concerns me is the raw sweaty-palmed fear I sense emanating from publishers right now. The irrational high prices, etc.

I'm afraid to seek a contract until they get their act in gear. As a new writer, I don't believe they would let me keep my erights, and I don't see them as understanding or using them properly yet.

Helen Hanson said...

Under the print paradigm of publishing, the publisher takes an enormous financial risk to launch an unknown writer’s work into the marketplace. I think it’s fair for the risk-taker to reap the lion’s share of the monetary carcass. To my way of thinking, the advance seems a rather generous notion.

Given the limited print resources, literary gatekeepers were necessary to cull the “best” from the herd. The best for their imprint, the best for their editor, the best for their company’s vision. If nothing else, they needed to keep the slush piles from becoming a fire risk.

The print houses were the buyers. My money—I get to make the rules. I’m a capitalist at heart. To me, this is logical.

But, regardless of the marketing budget splashed on some books, they still failed, because the work didn’t resonate with readers. And e-book math no longer requires a patron to keep you in corn flakes (or Jack Daniels) while you write.

E-books allow us to take our work directly to the reader, where it breathes or chokes on its own merits. Thus the admonitions by agent/editor/critique group to groom your work still applies. Quality always matters.

But the e-book paradigm removes the coach from the field. You wanna play? Get out there and dazzle us. The readers now decide who sits on the bench.

rex kusler said...

"I think it’s fair for the risk-taker to reap the lion’s share of the monetary carcass."

The publishing buzzards have never shown any interest in my carcass. It's nice to be able to peddle it myself before it rots.

Joe Konrath said...

But, regardless of the marketing budget splashed on some books, they still failed, because the work didn’t resonate with readers.

I don't believe that's the case, Helen.

If all books had equal print runs, marketing campaigns, and exposure, then it would come down to the writing.

But a lot of good books don't find their audience because the audience is unaware they exists, rather than the book not resonating.

And a lot of mediocre work sells like crazy simply because it is universally available.

Writing a good book is important. But a good book will sit on the shelf if the readers can't find it. And that's the fault of the publishers.

Linda Pendleton said...

I agree that it is the authors who will, and are, changing the dynamics of NY publishing...

Kait Nolan said...

Frankly, I've been puzzled by how little power authors seemed to have in the traditional publishing structure--because, as you have pointed out, if they don't have authors they have no product. If we don't send them our work, they fold. Publishers seem to think of authors as livestock in a stable. And if they dare to act up, they send them to the slaughter house. I say it's high time the farm fought back.

Zoe Winters said...

Jude,

I felt that last part of the article was an attempt to cover her ass. She behaved in a way that is not befitting a professional expecting to enter into a working relationship with a writer and then justified her snide BS with that at the end. I'm not buying it.

It's one thing to say: "Here is my process, here are the things I look for and don't look for."

It's a completely other thing to be that openly hostile toward writers. The level of contempt she showed writers makes me wonder why she'd enter or remain in the editing profession at all.

Zoe Winters said...

Jude,

Also her implication that people who don't tolerate verbal abuse from her are unprofessional and somehow "not a real writer," is laughably stupid.

Zoe Winters said...

A.M. I know! That feminist thing was something that irritated me too. Someone who is that big of a misandrist doesn't need to be involved with the issue of gender equality at all let alone editing for a publication that is supposed to be all about gender equality.

That kind of attitude long ago convinced me that most of what passes for feminism these days is about being "anti-men" not "pro-gender equality"

I'm sure the irony of judging someone and their possible contribution based on their gender, was lost on her.


Helen,

I agree with you that whoever takes the biggest risk in a work deserves the most of the financial pie. To me the indie thing is about not ASKING someone else to take that risk. I'm not interested in someone else taking a bigger risk than me to profit larger than me. I'd rather take all my own risk and reap all the reward.

Anonymous said...

What Kait Nolan said. When authors are afraid to complain about covers that are downright racist because they are worried their agent and/or publisher will label them difficult or drop them, when they have to write entirely to the market or start over because they "missed the boat" -- and agents say this to querying writers all of the time, to write another book "because I already represent someone who writes vampires" -- why bother?

Weren't agents supposed to work for US? Since when should I feel "honored" that I'm first in line to receive royalty checks and lose control of my work? I'm doing this because I *want* to, not because I expect to get rich.

I am a control freak. I don't want a shitty cover on my book or have to rewrite to suit someone's tastes. I will happily edit twenty times to fix problems and typos and canon inconsistency, but I'm not going to sacrifice 20,000 words if the story needs to be 120,000 and not 100,000. Hell, no. Screw that and the boat it came in on.

Jack H H King said...

Joe,

WHISKEY SOUR was your first novel that sold, and you wrote it because the big publishers rejected your previous works, correct?

If you were a newbie author self-publishing your first book on Kindle today, do you think you still would have written your Jack Daniels series?

Or would you be writing different kinds of books? Would you still write PG-13 content, or would you go full R-Rated or even NC-17?

Would you self-publish your 5th draft at 80,000 words, or your 9th draft at 60,000 words?

Would you still be getting blurbs from famous genre authors if you self-published all your ebooks?

Would you release your books on POD paperback if 5% of your audience wanted to own dead-tree copies?

You're 40, you have a big backlist, and you're an example of success. You're a hell of a writer, and a hell of a guy.

What would you be doing today if you were 25 and you had just written ORIGIN?

- Jack

Joe Konrath said...

WHISKEY SOUR was your first novel that sold, and you wrote it because the big publishers rejected your previous works, correct?

I wrote it because I love the genre. But I did pay special attention to what was currently selling, and tried to make sure I had a ready-made audience.

If you were a newbie author self-publishing your first book on Kindle today, do you think you still would have written your Jack Daniels series?

Maybe. Hard to say. I love writing the JD books, but they aren't the only genre I love. I've written horror, medical thriller, sci-fi, thriller, and technothriller novels. Some humorous, some not.

Would you still write PG-13 content, or would you go full R-Rated or even NC-17?

The JD books are R rated. I'd call Afraid NC-17.

Would you self-publish your 5th draft at 80,000 words, or your 9th draft at 60,000 words?

I'd publish the book when I felt it was ready, regardless of word count or draft number. But I've pretty much always done that, with both print and ebooks.

Would you still be getting blurbs from famous genre authors if you self-published all your ebooks?

At least a few, yes. I'd try to.

Would you release your books on POD paperback if 5% of your audience wanted to own dead-tree copies?

I am releasing my ebooks on POD this month.

What would you be doing today if you were 25 and you had just written ORIGIN?

Knowing what I know now? I'd self-publish it on Kindle and Smashwords, self-promote on the web, attend conferences to meet other writers, become part of the burgeoning ebook community, and cross my fingers.

I'd also write my ass off, to get as much content on Kindle as possible. One huge advantage self-pubbing has over p-pubbing is timeframe. A print book takes 18 months to get released. A self-pub book can go live in less than a week. The more good ebooks you upload, the better your chances of success...

Zoe Winters said...

Congrats on the POD releases! Which POD printer did you decide to go with?

Stella MacLean said...

This is all so thought provoking! It begs the question of who will remain standing after the ebook takes over? And what about self-publishing? Will the author need only an editor and a kick ass marketing plan?
Stella MacLean

John F. Blair, Publisher said...

This is all fascinating stuff, Joe. I do have one question:

If you were in charge of creating and marketing ebooks for a small, dynamic publisher (like Blair), what would you do?

Jack H H King said...

Joe,

WHISKEY SOUR

(I started it two nights ago and have almost finished. It's badass. I can feel the love of genre in your prose.)

I thought I read in your 'Newbie's Guide' that your agent sold it, but the publisher wanted edits.

You sent it out when you thought it was 100% complete. You made some of the changes that they wanted. You shortened the book, softened some of the language, added more polish. The normal back-and-forth.

Do you think the published version is a better book? Or, if you were self-publishing it on Kindle, would you release the version you first sent them, the version that you first thought was 100% complete?

I'm wondering if you feel that working a novel through the Big Publisher editing process helps to give it an overall higher quality?

You seem to have the engineering of a one-man novel publishing machine. I can understand why the ebook revolution excites you. You're a professional, with god-like powers.

But what about authors that need help? Do they take all the risk? Do they spend $3000-$5000 and hire editors and proofreaders and cover artists and layout designers and PR professionals, and eat the cost if the book doesn't profit?

I think of Big Publishers like insurance. The healthy books support the sick books. And the system, while imperfect, helps a lot of writers and readers. The best part is that participation is optional.

It's good to hear you're going POD.

- Jack

Jack H H King said...

Zoe,

My small press uses LSI for POD. My editor loves them. She says it costs about $100 to release a paperback, they can price to the market and make about $7 profit per book sold.

50% of lifetime sales have come from Amazon, 25% from B&N Online, 25% from readers who walk into bookstores and order the books.

They've been using LSI for 5 years, and have not had a single complaint.

- Jack

Joe Konrath said...

I'm wondering if you feel that working a novel through the Big Publisher editing process helps to give it an overall higher quality?

That's a good question. It's also non-specific, because some editors help some books, but not all editors help all books.

On average, I think editing helps. Getting a learned opinion and suggestions, with rational reasons to back up the points, is always helpful.

That said, I have been asked to do edits I didn't agree with. Sometimes I did them, other times I didn't.

I wouldn't ever pay for editing. My peers help me vet my books, and I have people who help me proofread.

If I were a newbie starting out, an editor could definitely help make a book better. But it's still a case- by-case basis.

Joe Konrath said...

If you were in charge of creating and marketing ebooks for a small, dynamic publisher (like Blair), what would you do?

Keep the prices low, under $2.99. Take a small percentage, say 15% of the net of every sale. Try to grab as many authors as I could before they realize they can do it themselves.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Jack,

Yep, I'm about to do my first print release with LSI. They are probably one of the best kept secrets of publishing. Otherwise I can't understand the "serious self-publishing authors" out there who, in the age of the Internet, are still equating POD with author services companies and encouraging offset print runs. That's epic fail right there!

Thanks also for giving me your percentages on B&N sales through LSI. Also interesting about people walking into bookstores and ordering the books. What discount do you offer through LSI? Do you use the short discount option?

There is a bit of a learning curve to working with LSI but anyone with any kind of profit motive as an indie would be wise to jump the hurdle. They're the best option out there.

I'm a little bit of a nerd in that I can recognize the print hallmark of an LSI book and all the POD books that actually look good as far as construction, cover stock, paper, and actual printing, is LSI.

I'm not sure if CreateSpace and Booksurge use the same printers since they are both Amazon-run but when I originally got samples, Booksurge had ugly yellow glue (book binding glue should not stick out like a sore thumb) and way too shiny covers.

Jay Hudson said...

Love it Joe!

I've always said self-publishing is the best way for the average writer to go.Going to share your link with my writer friends at jayswritersworld@yahoogroups.com

Jay Hudson

Victorine said...

Great post today, and I have been thinking along these same lines the past few weeks. I think you've hit the nail on the head. You're absolutely right. Thanks for such a great blog. I'm now self-published because of you.

Jack H H King said...

Zoe,

All my LSI books are at the 25% "short" discount, with no returns.

Amazon seems to change their discount at random, but most of the time they take off an extra 10%.

For example, my all-sex diet book.

$2.99 Kindle. My small press lists the POD paperback at $13.95.

Amazon buys it from LSI for $10.50.

Amazon sells it to the reader for $12.55. Free shipping.

LSI take $3.

My small press collects $7.50.

My editor keeps $.50 per book. She's a one-woman machine.

I earn $7 per paperback sold and get paid every month.

My new thriller is coming out in fall 2010 on Kindle and paperback.

I met my editor in college. We both studied playwriting. We both intend to be doing the indie fiction thing for the next 50 years.

I don't want New York Publishing to fail. I just will never need them.

Kristopher and Crew said...

Hey Joe,

I guess you could say you're MY hero! You're the only reason I bought a nook. (Well, not the nook specifically... I can't blame you for that)

I still send folks to your post about odering a pizza from your e-reader in the pool. I think the idea of a paper book with the ebook on a micro SD is brilliant and I'm SHOCKED that I heven't seen it yet.

Keep it up, and I'll keep reading, regardless of the form. I found you at the library, but I'll follow ya in any form.

Mary Anna Evans said...

You've convinced me, Joe. I just downloaded your Newbie's Guide.

I relate to your tagline about the writer who never gives up. I wrote and submitted for seventeen years before I sold that first novel. Some of that early work deserves to remain in my file drawer, but some of it is now available in ebook form.

After I sold Artifacts, I did a lot of the things you've done. I've made appearances in 23 states. I've gotten press coverage--print, radio, and TV--in major markets including NYC. I sent library mailings and independent bookstore mailings. The result is that I sell very well for a small publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, with a backlist that my agent tells me sells well for any publisher. Yet I don't make a living.

So I've epublished the work to which I own rights, and I'm tackling the vagaries of internet promotion of those works, as well as my printed books. This is my year to assert some control over my destiny. Thanks for the roadmap.

Mary Anna Evans
Blogging at "It's like making sausage," http://www.maryannaevans.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Joe,

Where do you think literary fiction writers are going to end up over the next few years? Hard to get trad pubbed, of course, but perhaps harder to go the self-pubbing route and find your audience?? Are we just fu%&ed?

jongibbs said...

I got offered an 'e-book only' contract at the end of last year. After reading this, I'm even more glad I accepted.

Thanks for sharing :)

Zoe Winters said...

Jack, that's great! I was considering doing short discount and no returns as well.

I don't *want* NY to fail, but I think they will unless they change how they do things significantly. Too many factors IMO are coming together. Though a world in which NY and indies happily coexist without so much nastiness would be nice too.

Zoe Winters said...

@Jack,

Oh and I wasn't implying that you thought I wanted NY to fail. Rereading that, that's how it sounded. I meant that I don't want them to either. But the wording sounded off. *head desk*

A.P. Fuchs said...

Your last bit about the authors being in control because they are ones with the content was similar to what I said in my recent interview with The Horror Fiction Review.

It's in the following link for those interested. I also give my prediction of the future of publishing since the stuff I've been talking about for the past 5 or so years has all come to pass.

http://www.freewebs.com/hfrzine/hfrinterviewapfuchs.htm

In the end, the standard commercialization of fiction as we know it won't exist. I foresee the future of publishing to be kind of like the movie biz: a bunch of small independent outfits turning out stuff that sometimes gets picked up by those with longer reaches distribution-wise.

I also foresee cult-following-type of books outnumbering mass-following-type of books in the years to come. i.e. fans of an author's blog being his/her main fanbase rather than Joe and Jane Reader off the street, or something similar.

whatbrickwall said...

Congrats Joe
Your an inspiration

bowerbird said...

> I'd always assumed that
> print publishers would begin
> to lose market dominance
> once ebooks took off
> in a big way, and they'd have to
> either restructure or die.
> But now I'm predicting
> another death for them.

the corporate publishers have to
cover huge overhead on each book.

it's been clear for a while that
they can't compete against the
writer who delivers product at
a significantly lower pricepoint.

-bowerbird

KFran said...

Wired Magazine calls iPhone Apps the indie developer's dream and I think the kindle is the indie writer's dream. There are many iPhone app millionaires because they can develop and sell apps cheaply. For instance:

The iPHone game app TRISM made 250,000 in the first two months.

Tap Tap Revenge, a music rhythm game has sold over 1 million.

and the iPhone FART app pulls in $10,000 a day!

Now, if a FART app can pull in that much money on the iPhone, surely a well written book on Kindle will do the same!

Cheers
KFran

JHHK said...

Joe,

WHISKEY SOUR had a badass climax. The entire story had a tight structure. I’ve been breaking it into chapters and beats in a notebook to study the pacing, progression, and general craftsmanship. Your plotting is elegant. And you know how to bring the funny.

I like reading first works. Stephen King’s debut was Carrie. David Mamet’s debut was Lakeboat. Whiskey Sour was better than both. You have earned the moneybomb.

Jack H.H. King
Author of 'Midget DeathSport'

Donna Ball said...

First, terrific post! My thoughts exactly. I've followed your blog for some time and I've decided to give this a shot. I've been publishing steadily for 25 years, have a back list of almost 100 titles, have 4-5 well-reviewed books in print with two new books scheduled in the next 12 months, sooooo.... I think I'm a pretty good candidate to see if your results with e-book sales can be replicated. Over the next few months I will be publishing updated e-versions of some of my reverted titles,with a goal of 20 books by the end of the summer,and will let you know how it goes if I may. So far I have 4 titles on Kindle and my observation has been that if you do absolutely nothing at all in the way of promotion, they sell at a rate of about one copy per day. (I think it has something to do with chaos theory:)) Now we'll see what happens as I make some attempt to get the word out. Thanks for the encouragement to all working writers who are ready to take control of their careers!

J.A. Marlow said...

@Donna

I'll be interested to hear how it goes for you. That's an impressive number of books on your backlist! I hope it works out well for you.

It is so exciting to hear more and more people trying this.

rex kusler said...

Robert Randisi has written more than 540 books. Imagine if he put all of those on kindle, and each book sold 1 per day at $2.99. That would be $412,530 per year.

Go tell it on the mountain said...

Dear KM TOLAN:
You said, "there still needs to be a way for readers to sift through the huge amount of poor writing out there in the self-pub areas..."

My response is : The same way people sift through material they don't want in a bookstore (those that are left open anyway).

Readers aren't as dumb as you think. They don't NEED someone to lead by the hand like children for them to find a book they want to read. If that were the case then EVERY single book on bookstore shelves would be bestsellers...and they're not. Why? Because despite publishers taking them by the hand & saying "This is a good book. You should buy this book", people don't.

Zorica Gojkovic said...

I'm reading this kind of late, given when it was written, but my response is a 15-minute standing ovation! Hurrah!!!