Friday, July 23, 2010

Konrath on Wylie

Quite a few people have asked me what I think about the Andrew Wylie situation.

In a nutshell, here's an agent who is taking some of his star clients' books, which were sold prior to ebook clauses existing in contracts, and publishing these ebooks himself.

I predicted something similar to this would happen, last October.

There are a few potential problems with this scenario.

First, Wylie is an agent. His job is to sell his clients' work. If he is also the publisher of his clients, there is a HUGE conflict of interest there, as well as some ethical considerations. After all, why bother to try to sell any rights at all when he can make money publishing them himself? Is that truly in his clients' best interest? Does he deserve a commission off of this sale? Is he taking a publisher's cut of the profits?

Second, a lot of folks are annoyed that he made this deal exclusively with Amazon, cutting out other retailers and platforms. Personally, I have no problem with this at all, as I've done basically the same thing with SHAKEN. If Wylie can make more money for his clients by signing with one platform, he should be able to do that without everyone whining.

The publishers, in response to Wylie, have declared they will no longer make deals with Wylie.

Now, I don't really care about the outcome of this little tiff. It doesn't effect me either way. From a purely intellectual standpoint, this is yet another mistake big publishers are making, and they're shooting themselves in the foot once again. If they want the erights, frickin' BUY them.

Publishers are punishing their customers with high ebook prices. Now they're punishing their authors. This is a big sign of an industry flushing itself down the tubes.

A smart publisher would be kissing author ass and offering them big ebook royalties, because if they don't, they're going to get cut out of the equation completely.

As for Wylie, I believe agents are set up to be great estributors, as long as the rules and guidelines are ironed out. It's a complicated issue, and could easily be abused, sort of like making your lawyer the primary beneficiary in your will. But it also gives agents a chance to do something they all really want to do; get their clients' books in front of readers.

So as the digital revolution marches forward, it looks like the writers, and maybe the agents, will be able to survive, and even thrive.

The publishers? I haven't seen any evidence yet they'll make it. But I have seen a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Since I'm a generous guy, and people often ask me for advice, I'll offer it to these three groups.

For the Writers - If you have an out-of-print backlist, or books your agent couldn't sell, or books in print that have no ebook clauses in the contract, I suggest self-publishing them as ebooks. For all other writers, first decide what your goals are, and learn as much as you can about ebooks and traditional publishing before making any hasty decisions. And, of course, make sure you're writing damn good books.

For the Agents - Wylie is taking a lot of heat, perhaps justifiably so. But remember that your clients are your authors, not the publishers who buy you lunch. If you can serve your clients by helping them epublish, you should learn how to do so. And fast, before someone else does.

For the Publishers - Stop trying to stave off the inevitable. If you want to survive, you need to start embracing ebooks, even if they cannibalize your bread-and-butter print sales. If that means downsizing and restructuring your business, do it. And you'd better start treating your authors fairly, starting with bigger ebook royalties, because the authors, and their agents, are going to figure out that once ebooks reach a tipping point, they won't need you anymore.

206 comments:

1 – 200 of 206   Newer›   Newest»
Anna Murray said...

Interesting development. Is it possible the agents are finding they can make more by taking their 15% cut of the ebook sales from Amazon (70% royalty to the author/publisher) than their cut of what the publisher generally gives an author for hard copy (8-15%) ?

Selena Kitt said...

Agents will follow the money. Because that's what agents do. And those that predict the trend correctly will do well.

Problem is, there's no real way to accurately predict what's going to happen in the long run.

I think there's a euphoric feeling about what's happening in ebooks now - like the little guys might win this one. But I'm also afraid this story doesn't have as happy an ending as those of us who root for the underdog might want to believe. But I tend to be a cynic, and only time will tell.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

And you'd better start treating your authors fairly...once ebooks reach a tipping point, they won't need you anymore.

This might be the quote of the year, and it came sooner than I expected.

To be fair, Wylie is breaking new ground, and they created their own independent division in order to make more money.

This might backfire, but it also might make Wylie really, really rich and set a new standard for the industry.

Remember all the screaming when Harlequin added a vanity press division? Everyone's looking for new ways to survive.

The old business models don't apply anymore.

The Daring Novelist said...

I've been expecting agents and small publishers to start acting more like Hollywood managers.

The problem with managers right now is that they are unregulated (agents are regulated in California), and don't have a professional organization with ethical standards.

A manager can be anything from a paid mentor, to a business/producing partner to a scummy parasite.

But the reasons the scummy parasites thrive in Hollywood is because there are still major "gatekeepers." You can't easily self-publish your acting or set decoration or editing skills.

We writers, at the moment, can do without any of them, and that means they have to fork over some real services to earn their percentage.

Robert Carraher said...

Great insight as always, Joe.

CJ West said...

> And you'd better start treating your authors fairly...once ebooks reach a tipping point, they won't need you anymore.

I like this Joe. I think there is a huge void in this space right now and that is someone to help readers sift through the flood of books. Blogs are about as numerous as ebook authors.

What role can publishers play to identify talent and market quality books?

CJ

EFKelley said...

Hmm. If you publish yourself, does your agent get a cut? I'd say he gets a cut of everything he helped sell. Since I'm the one putting things up as ebooks, I'd say there's no percentage there for the agent.

Thomas Brookside said...

Selena -

I don't see how the little guys lose unless the big guys can contrive - or re-contrive - a closed shop.

Their best hope is a total Apple or Barnes and Noble victory. Both Apple and Barnes and Noble have demonstrated no interest in making their stores browsable or customer-driven. They are perfectly content to have stores where you have to know what you want when you get there, and that favors larger publishers and established names.

If Amazon wins, the publishers lose, unless they can convince Amazon to cripple their own store.

Selena Kitt said...

"I don't see how the little guys lose..."

I can see 100 scenarios where they lose... but like I said, I'm a cynic. A hopeful cynic, granted... but still. :)

You know, Indie pubs have been doing ebooks for a LONG time. Ten years, some of them more. They've already got a working model, and they've been MAKING MONEY doing it, giving authors a great deal more royalties than print pubs (anywhere from 35-50%) and everyone wins. Now with self-pubbing an option for some with an already marketable name, the profit margin for the author is even more. But the big boys stubbornly want their own (old) ways of doing things, even in the new electronic market. Because their bottom line is profit margin and shareholders - corporate takes care of corporate. It's not just the way the world works - it's in the bylaws.

But as someone said here recently in a comments section - eventually they're going to come into the digital age, and they'll all be congratulating themselves on their success and how wonderful ebooks are and aren't we all so amazing?

And that's when the little guys may have something to really worry about.

But I am hopeful that, as Joe has postulated, maybe David and Goliath can peacefully (and profitably) co-exist. Maybe. Just maybe.

DeNae said...

My question is the same as CJ's: How does an unknown writer - even one who has written a "damn good book" - market that book in the e-publishing world? And is that perhaps where the agent / publisher can adapt rather than be phased out? I'm a good writer. Not such a good salesman.

CJ West said...

DeNae,

The other problem is, no one wants to hear about your book from you. They want an unbiased third party to trumpet your praises.

Just who is that?

It is very hard getting reviews in the million-title-a-year ebook world.

CJ

Anonymous said...

A million titles a year? Who are the people with the time to write all these books? I thought everyone was working harder at their jobs and crunched for time more than ever. I'm a writer and I don't have enough time.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

This is a very fair assessment of the situation, Joe. And your advice is sound. Publishers are going to have to change with the tides--or be swept under. Agents too.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
suspense author
www.cherylktardif.com

robert w. walker said...

I was thinking about my past thirty-thirty five years of having my ass handed to me by publishers--groveling for a mere 8 percent quite often on paperbooks, 10-12 on hardcovers....last to be paid, least paid. This kind of arrangement goes back to the suffering, starving Edgar Allan Poe if not futher back. Of course the big six want to hang onto the past. Why not? It is a few years back unimaginable that an author can have a split like that which he/she gets in partnership with amazon/kindle. I dreamed of being a writer since fourth grade, and I dreamed of a time whenI could make enough at it to feed a family of four, and I am sixty now and it would appear if you hang in there long enough 'miracles' do happen. There is also the sense of freedom that comes along with it worth a fortune in itself...no agent telling you "Nobody in NYC wants to see another serial killer book, no on wants to see another psychic detective book, no one wants to see a book set in Chicago 1800s, no one wants to see another book about the Titanic, no one is interested in a Cuban female lead as she is unAmerican....ALL of which I was advised against, and all of which are selling wonderfully well as ebooks, avg. 1000 books sold per month - modest sales compared to some here but damn pleasing to this old storyteller.
I had been wondering about what's to happen with good editors and have blogged on why there not more ebook editing services on the rise along with those doing covers and doing the work of putting books up on Kindle as a service, and what's to happen to agents. All quite in flux and whether you think Wylie is putting their authros first or themselves first, they are doing a First Ever step here. Will be interesting to see if other agents get savvy, if editroial folks get savvy.
Then it makes me wonder if in the long run the eiditorial departments in major houses ever get their groove back - that is they once were the powerful dept. before the bean counters took over. After the bottomline corporate thinking and all the conglomeration of houses fused, the most powerful voices in the boardroom became the accountants and the Marketing team and one of the strongest voices a guy or lady called the Art Director as the thinking went that we in the public will buy any book by its cover and if it has some sort of Disney doll tie-in or film tie-in or TV tie-in. Good quality writing became secondary to all the profits, and meantime in allllll those years, authors never got a raise.
Joe's a good prophet, not a false one. I am following every word that comes outta his mouth. Do you understand the words that're comin outta my mouth?
Embrace the new deck of cards, toast to it, celebrate that we are out of economic bondage.

Robert W. Walker (Rob)
Titanic 2012 - launching soon to a kindle near you.

notesfromnadir said...

"NEW YORK — It's war between Random House Inc. and a top literacy agency."

LITERACY Agency???

cassandrajade said...

Things are definitely interesting at the moment and watching all this unfold is certainly going to teach us all more about the industry. Thanks for sharing.

Selena Kitt said...

Rob - that's brilliant. I can see a huge business opportunity for bundling editing, cover art and formatting/uploading to Kindle and other distributors, too.

I hope you're right - I truly do. It would be nice to see the underdog/little guy truly win. It's always good when the artist sees the real fruits of their labor.

I just hope this ship doesn't hit an iceberg somewhere along the way...

and @ notesfromnadir re: LITERACY

*snerk* That's too hilarious for words.

Anonymous said...

It is a time of uncertainty for everyone save the author. No contest for what the industry labeled midlist authors.

rob walker again

Anonymous said...

Anyone else see the 35 dollar "IPad" like device coming out of India? Joe predicts Kindle will sell for 99 bucks at Christmas...may actually be far, far less given this news.

rob walker again

evilphilip said...

Who are the people with the time to write all these books? I thought everyone was working harder at their jobs and crunched for time more than ever. I'm a writer and I don't have enough time.

I have a full time job and a family and I have around 5 hours a day to write and I spend an additional hour working on my website.

The time is there if you want it to be.

Ruth Francisco, author said...

Why are Wylie's authors allowing him to epublish rather than doing it themselves? I don't see how an agent would contribute to the equation.

Scathach Publishing said...

I have been lolling my ass off all day at this. Finally we get to see someone noticeable standing up to the publishers. No offence, Joe, but you are just one man. Wylie has 700 authors on their books and even though only 20 have been part of this deal, the publishers are right to panic.

The end of the agency 6 is coming. I can see ways they could survive but each one would involve the publishers taking their heads out of their asses, and I don't think they even realise thats where their heads are.

Anonymous said...

What if the agents, rather than marketing a single novel, begin to publish collections? Once they establish themselves as choosing winners, readers will scan those agents' suggestions first - and the novelist? - well, they'll be scrambling to sign on with those popular agents. Popular agents will be able to charge higher fee's, collect higher percentages.... And the novelist? Scrambling to write the best damn novel and join the 'in' club. A new big six. Or perhaps the publishing houses will jump in, signing on the agents to do just that, thus staying on top themselves. Either way, the cream will rise to the top and readers will find quality writing. Lesser known novelists or poorer writers: they will still have the option to self publish, just like now. Same system, new format. Does any of this make sense?
Debbie

Mark Terry said...

"The old business models don't apply anymore."

Maybe.

That's certainly what webvan, Pets.com, kozmo.com, flooz.com, eToys.com, Boo.com, MVP.com, Go.Com and hundreds, if not thousands, of Internet companies said in the late 1990s, right before the Internet bubble burst.

Doesn't mean it doesn't apply this time, but in the late '90s major business journals like the Wall Street Journal and others were suggesting that the old business models were going to cave in to the new Internet models. Didn't quite end up that way. I don't think we know what's going to happen.

Mark Terry said...

Here's a question I've never heard asked, so I guess I'll ask it.

On a $2.99 e-book, with the 70% royalty, Amazon earns about 90 cents. If an e-book sells 10,000 copies, excellent, Amazon gets $9,000. If it sells 1,000 copies, which is probably more typical, it gets about $900.

The question becomes, how much per copy, does it cost Amazon in terms of programming, computer storage, etc., i.e., overhead?

The assumption we're hearing is that it must be far cheaper than traditional publishing because of returns and the cost of warehousing, paper, ink. Yet Amazon has a fairly significant infrastructure (from what one of my friends has told me who's involved in high-end computer stuff, Amazon's computer infrastructure is astonishing) in terms of IT, which does not run itself.

At the moment it's hard to tell what Amazon's profit margins are on all this--they're doing a lot to drive sales of the Kindle, including, some would argue, making deals with writers and deflating the cost of e-books.

Just wondering. I honestly don't know, but I'm wondering.

a-r-williams said...

As always, Joe, a great post. Your comments were fair (and correct) for all parties involved.

@Selena Kitt

I think what you're worried about is that a lot of authors are standing around doing nothing and waiting for someone to take charge.

They have a negative view of self-publishing and a golden view of the traditional method.

While they wait, it gives time for the publishers to get their act together. Once they do they will try to change the game and the rules by which it is played.

Those authors that just assume the publishers are the only way to work will be happy and satisfied.

What I think can prevent this is the fact that there are a lot of players in the game who want to make the terms better for themselves. Authors need to learn more about everything in the industry to make sure they choose the right path.

Anonymous said...

The question becomes, how much per copy, does it cost Amazon in terms of programming, computer storage, etc., i.e., overhead?

The database record structure for the Kindle store already existed -- it's the same as the regular online book and product store (the product pages are identical in layout).

Amazon, with millions of products, achieves economies of scale. Yes, it costs something to host a product page, but this price (per product) is continuously going down as more products are added.

It's the same as adding products to a physical store. The incremental costs of the first 1,000 are high, but when you are adding the 30,000th item? Not so much. As programming costs are spread over more items, the cost per product added plummets.

Amazon is rabidly recruiting the indies because it really doesn't cost them much (almost nothing at this point) to have them onboard, and the benefits (profits, draw to their bookstore) are significant.

rex kusler said...

Amazon can't be spending much for DTP support. My name was spelled right for a day. Now it's back to "Kulser" again.

Anonymous said...

I think most of it is done in India (low cost labor). The last time I got an email from their tech staff it someone with an Indian name. Dameesh or Ravi or something.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

The question becomes, how much per copy, does it cost Amazon in terms of programming, computer storage, etc., i.e., overhead?

Let me clarify this. The highest cost, in terms of actual employer cost and liability, is always employee labor. Always. That's why companies outsource, use temps, and sub-contract. It's cheaper.

Labor costs are always the highest costs, and some jobs cost more than others. Any employee that does physical labor usually costs more that an employee sitting at a desk-- this is because Amazon must absorb warehouse cost labor into their inventory because of uniform capitalization rules.

Here are some examples of costs that are associated with a physical inventory that an e-inventory will eliminate:

1. Physical storage and warehousing costs
2. Postage
3. Packaging
4. Shrinkage, employee theft of physical inventory (averages 3-15% for most industries)
5. Spoilage (usually around .5-1%); with books, it would be scuffed covers, physical damage, etc
6. Worker's comp for warehouse employees (much higher than clerical/office workers)
7. Warehouse labor cannot be expensed; it must be capitalized.
8. Payroll and employment taxes for warehouse employees

The list goes on. You need a human being involved somewhere in order to ship 100 books in a day. You don't need a human being to manage 100 kindle downloads.

I estimate that the costs associated with e-book inventory on the Amazon side is less than 5% of the costs of managing, conserving, shipping, and warehousing a physical inventory.

I have accounting software and I might be able to do a better estimate. Maybe I'll work on that this week.

rex kusler said...

Dinesh Pawar & Padmanaban Guruswamy (aka Paddy G.) I think that's the extent of the DTP technical team.

JimJ said...

Interesting post. I think I'd take this:

because the authors, and their agents, are going to figure out that once ebooks reach a tipping point, they won't need you anymore.

And go a step further. Once authors are e-book savvy and are self-publishing, they may not need agents either.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Robert and Selena, there are already many editing services springing up. I've been contacted by at least half a dozen in the past 6 months, and I've come across even more just browsing online.

Same with cover designers. In fact I just connected with an awesome graphic designer who does websites, banners and other graphics, print and ebook covers, book trailers and more.

A company called GumboWriters, run by a friend of mine, Jeff Rivera, gathered together many of the book industry people who were laid off 2 years ago due to the recession and downsizing of pub companies. Some of the editors now affiliated with GumboWriters worked with big name authors. They now freelance through GumboWriters.

We're going to see even more of these services offered, along with more marketing services. But they're going to have to do what authors are doing--lower their prices in favor of more projects/sales.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
author of Remote Control
www.cherylktardif.com

wannabuy said...

Back to Joe's original post.

I find it interesting and exciting that the 'backlisted' books are making their way onto Kindle.

I've posted before that the "Tyranny of shelf space" is over. There is no reason to discontinue a series just because unit volumes have stopped growing.

DaNae,
I think agents and PR companies will adapt. For now, how does a publisher adapt to that little of a cut? 8% for an author was non-viable. That is a model waiting to be under-cut.

Amazon has to watch it. The 'early adopters' I watch now have Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader apps on their Android or Ipad.

I wonder what other backlist stuff will come out soon?

Neil

g d townshende said...

Konrath wrote: "As for Wylie, I believe agents are set up to be great estributors, as long as the rules and guidelines are ironed out."

I'd rather have an editor in that position than an agent. An agent's job is to sell books to publishers and, from what I've read, many of the newer agents do a half-assed job of that. An editor's job, by contrast, is to buy books that are publishable, to know what the reading public wants.

Agents who think they are editors are in the wrong profession.

David W. Goldman said...

Be careful what you wish for...

A passage from a science-fiction story I sold way back in 2004, in which the Artificial Intelligences running literary agencies have made a similar move:

“The agency AIs—have you ever really considered their capacities? A century and a half ago they’re running traditional literary agencies, each year finding publishers for, what, a few hundred manuscripts? Then finally it occurs to them: using readily available technology, they can distribute directly to readers. Bypass the publishers completely. Which does work out very nicely. A few years later comes interactive composition—and the agencies usurp the author’s role, too."

(Full story available here.)

Alex F. Fayle said...

@Ruth Francisco

Why are Wylie's authors allowing him to epublish rather than doing it themselves? I don't see how an agent would contribute to the equation.

Because authors see themselves as ar-teests who need to be taken care of. Check out Dean Wesley Smith's great article on that... http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=1520

John McCarthy said...

Hey JA another insightful post showing the birth pains of "Change." For good and ill, Wylie's actions will force all parties to move sooner--Publishers under the threat of more agents assuming their role, and agents tired of publishers holding a more illusionary position of power.

Authors have a critical opportunity to insert themselves in the conversation & decision-making; abdicate such influence at your peril.

John McCarthy said...

I wonder if the bigger news is Amazon's exclusive rights. In the war of eReaders with Nook, Kobo, and others, Amazon does not play well with others by not sharing their format and refusing to publish in epub format. What's good in the short term for Wylie's authors, may backfire if non-Kindle reader users have no access. That's why authors should be involved in the decision.

On a related point, will Amazon, Borders, BN, Fictionwise, and other ebook stores become the new gatekeepers? While there will be a place for anyone to publish, I wonder if based on the concerns expressed by others, if many will migrate to a publisher turned ebook store, or the ebook giants will take over the roles held by traditional stores in the present?

A-R-Williams said...

@Alex

Great link. What he says has a whole lot of truth around it. In today's technology level learning how to do something is often as simple as searching for it on the internet, reading good blogs, or buying a book.

Mark Terry said...

After posting my questions here, I went and read Amazon's quarterly report. It's an interesting company. They earn billions of dollars in sales, but their costs are so high their net revenue is in the millions. Most of their revenue comes from sales of electronics and other products, rather than "media" by a loose ratio of 3:2.

None of those are necessarily strange and they don't break out e-book sales revenue compared to other things, and don't break out self-published e-book revenue at all.

I guess the question I keep asking myself is, "Why is Amazon doing it this way?"

In other words, why give authors a 70% royalty? Why allow very low pricing?

Some of it is to drive e-book sales. I suspect a lot of it is that they wanted to drive sales of the Kindle, which would presumably drive sales of e-books. And they may very well want e-books to sell more than paper books not because the profit margin is necessarily higher--if Amazon has the typical retailer's 40% pricing structure, but it gets eaten by shipping, handling, warehousing, etc.--but because the overhead is lower.

The fact that they sell electronics over media by 3:2 and they were able to drop the price of the Kindle from $250 to $180 to remain competitive against the iPad, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc. (how low will they go?????), makes me think that their costs on the device are rather low (now, maybe they've hit their sales threshold on that already and are moving into pure profit, hard to say), although their R&D is going to kill them now that there are other products on the market like the iPad.

Seems to me that all of their DTP and royalty structure and loose pricing structure is designed to sell Kindles, more than anything else. I don't know what the ramifications of that are, but companies change things to adapt to changes in the marketplace, so it's kind of hard to predict where this is going.

Joe Konrath said...

If books go fully digital, think about the amount of money Amazon can save in labor, warehousing, and shipping. It's a no-lose proposition.

As for why they went to 70%, the publishers forced them to by forcing them to adopt the agency model. The publishers crowed about this "victory" which only showed how nearsighted they were. Once Amazon went 70%, they began making profits on ebooks (they weren't before) and then had the incentive to lure authors to DTP. Publishers hastened their own demise with that little power play.

Suzanne White said...

All hail Andrew Wylie! May his tribe increase.

I remember when if you (author) had the audacity to submit a manuscript to a few NY publishers at the same time, it was publishing suicide. "What? You made multiple submissions? That is not done here."

Of course it was the martini lunch publishing people covering their asses. Buy who knew?

40 years later, after being lied to and shafted and dumped on by the biggest publishers in the world, I see they were just protecting their pitiful little territories. In those days, agents agented. Publishers published. Authors starved. You did not step out of line. It was all part of their established system which has just turned into a mud slide to oblivion.

The professions are a conspiracy against the laity.

Suzanwhite@aol.com

Patty G. Henderson said...

As always, Joe, the words of a modern day author prophet....

But I'm thinking, in the case of Wylie or any agent publishing eBooks, aren't we just exchanging the publisher for the agent? You still have a gatekeeper.

wannabuy said...

In the war of eReaders with Nook, Kobo, and others, Amazon does not play well with others by not sharing their format and refusing to publish in epub format.
Kindle's lack of support for e-pub is a weakness in the long run. Yes, there are conversion programs, but enough people have epub libraries who will want to use them.

At a minimum Kindle will need a software upgrade to read e-pub. But will Amazon avoid that to keep the Kindle bookstore humming?

Patty,
If the agent becomes the publisher, it is an easy to bypass gatekeeper. The main issue is that 8% to 15% for the author was not viable long term. I think with a higher fraction spent on PR and less on lunches, the end model will probably be around 30% for authors.

Before the pitchforks come out... I see a need for PR (advertising) to stand out from the crowd. That costs. Those that are good at PR will want their cut and be able to demand a bit more.

But the $14.99 e-book is dead except for exception works (long works? Collections?)

E-book readers on smartphones are the most dangerous thing this industry has ever seen. It will take away some fraction of the one book a year crowd (who buy for that vacation a book at the airport).

I agree with Selena, there is no way to predict where this will go. But for now, there is opportunity.

Neil

Stephen Prosapio said...

In order to follow your advice, publishers would need to first come to one mirror-shattering realization: Everyone else in the equation isn't stupid and has (or will) stop/ped bowing to them.

If agents can negotiate a 70% commission rate for their writers vs. a 25% one, they'll get the 70% if at all possible. Every other element in the "Book Creation" process is creative--can think outside the box. Writers do. Agents do. Book sellers do. Publishers haven't... and aren't (for the most part). Time will tell how many of them will survive and how many will go the way of the newspaper.

One thing is for sure—they're missing a massive opportunity to lead this foray into the future.

Timothy James Dean said...

My question is: did Wylie's authors authorize him to epublish their books? I assume they did, since a contract must have been in place. If the authors went along, or suggested it in the first place, then they're the ones the trad-publishers should be looking at. (I know agents see themselves as stars, but they are the tail that ought not be wagging the dog!).

It is fascinating that Stephen King published "Ur" himself. Not his usual posse of agent/publishers, but the author. Solo. The big dino-publishers' blood must have run cold!

It's easy for an author to publish his/her own ebooks! If an writer authorizes anyone else do it, then that person is always an "agent," because the old idea of "publisher," i.e. printer, warehouser, primary distributor, marketer, no longer exists.

In fact, the eworld revolution requires that we reinvent the entire industry, and the words to describe it: right now we are still using language that's about as quaint as "the horseless carriage" was to describe a car. It's a description that looks backwards, not ahead to a transformed future.

I don't see any reason why an author should not be "publisher" of his ebooks,: he prepares the MS as a digital file, controls the rights, and uploads it to various online distributors. The only reason not to is 1) stupidity or laziness, or 2) his "traditional publisher" (if he has one) has strong-armed him into giving up control, and the bulk of sales revenue, in return for getting hard-copies into bookstores.

When an author distributes his books with Amazon and B&N online, etc., they essentially become glorified paperboys: they get paid to deliver content over which they have zero creative input or control.

Where "publishers"/agents/middlemen/financiers still have a place is to invest the $$$ required to market authors and their books. As we indies all know, the problem we face is to get an unknown book by an unknown author in front of readers. Advertising/public relations campaigns can do that - but they require significant upfront investment most authors simply can't cough up.

Bottom line remains this: if an author has any business savvy at all, s/he can get back in the driver's seat of her or his business. The old-style industry captains who set themselves up as the gatekeepers will have to get back in a subordinate place to the free-agent author.

Maybe I'm dreaming, but people like Joe and many others have proven it's more than mere wishful thinking.

Joe - a question: you describe yourself as "the hardest working author in the business." But I'm wondering - do all those years of pressing the flesh in bookstores actually have real impact at all on your ebook sales?

Is it in fact working harder that sells more ebooks? If you analyze what really sells ebooks for you, (apart from having well written stories, of course), what is it?

Your readers are online people. What exactly makes them search you out and buy one or more of your ebooks? That's the million dollar question.

Joe Konrath said...

you describe yourself as "the hardest working author in the business."

I'm simply repeating what others have said about me.

do all those years of pressing the flesh in bookstores actually have real impact at all on your ebook sales?

Impossible to determine. There is no direct, traceable causality.

That said, it certainly didn't hurt. But my personal belief is that a large number of ebooks on Kindle (I have 24) plus my low prices have lead to me being discovered by more people than those who have sought me out. No way to verify this. It's just a feeling, corroborated by the email I get.

This mimics success in print. If you have twenty books in print, you take up a lot of shelf space in the bookstore, meaning more people have a chance of discovering you.

The more you have available, the better your chances. But, ultimately, luck still plays a part.

Adrian said...

Mark Terry raised some good questions about Amazon's business model.

It's true that Amazon has a vast IT infrastructure in order to do all the amazing stuff it does in terms of scale, recommendations, customer reviews, etc. And while that's a significant cost, most of it is to handle the scale in terms of customers and sales, not the scale in terms of how many products they offer. Product search, recommendations, data collection, UI experimentation, ordering from suppliers on demand--all that takes horsepower. The incremental cost of having one more ebook title available is trivially small.

Some products are very popular (e.g., bestsellers), and you can make a good business focusing on those. Amazon's plan all along has been to exploit the "long tail"--all those products that don't appeal to the masses, but have massive appeal to a niche group of customers. Adding a few of them to your inventory doesn't help much, because you won't sell very many of them. But if you could offer zillions of less popular product and help customers find them, then you can make a lot of money by doing tremendous volume in the less popular products as a category.

It's true that Amazon wants to promote Kindles, but not because they make a lot of money on the devices themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if the devices were originally sold at a slight loss (and they may be again with the price war). The profit is in the books. It's the disposable razor sales model. If you own a Kindle, you're almost certainly buying your ebooks from Amazon, and not from a competitor. Kindle is also another sales channel--another front door to their virtual store. That helps them sell even more titles.

Amazon wants to sell ebooks cheaply (1) to build a market that they're poised to dominate, (2) to cannibalize sales of lower margin merchandise (physical books), and (3) to make it difficult for newcomers to scale up to the point where they can compete (building all that IT infrastructure took years). Even at low prices, they have huge margins on ebooks compared to any of their physical goods.

evilphilip said...

"Same with cover designers. In fact I just connected with an awesome graphic designer who does websites, banners and other graphics, print and ebook covers, book trailers and more."

I did the cover for my short story, Z is for Zombie, in about 15 minutes using an older paint program called Paint Shop Pro.

I may be biased, but I think it came out pretty good.

Chris Bates said...

@Mark

I'm guessing Amazon probably didn't want to give up 70% - no business ever wants to decrease profit margins.

However, the fact will always remain that Bezos is a businessman who is very aggressive in his company management. I'd be very surprised if Bezos doesn't believe that Amazon will one day be the biggest company in the world.

Pretty hard to get to where he is already without that kind of determination and focus.

As you would have discovered, retail sales are only a portion of their business. They run their (growing) Amazon Web Services (AWS) which provides cloud computing as well as maintaining infrastructure for web functionality for many third party businesses. Their a diversified company in that sense.

So, I'm sure Bezos is comfortable with his book sector dominance - even if it means reduced profit.

One last thing, Mark: After reading the reports can you advise me on whether to invest in Amazon?

And - if yes - could you loan me a few grand? And don't tell me you're not good for it ... I know you independent authors are becoming the new rich! Especially that shrinking violet, Konrath! :)

wannabuy said...

Adrian,
For not everything in the 'long tail' sells poorly. There will be examples that become best sellers. :) The cost difference between offering 10 million books and only 100,000 books is minor.

Joe said:
Once Amazon went 70%, they began making profits on ebooks (they weren't before) and then had the incentive to lure authors to DTP. Publishers hastened their own demise with that little power play.
I'm amazed at that suicide move by 5 of the 6 'big 6.' Amazon's new model barely became live in the 2nd quarter. Think of what the impact will be at Christmas.

Now to have Amazon fix the production issues so that that there are enough 'physical' Kindles to meet demand.

Although long term they must improve their profit margins. Low margin companies are vulnerable in the long run. :(

Neil

Norm Cowie said...

It's pretty exciting. I took your suggestion (during the first Men in Robes meeting in Galena) and finally published my first ebook.

Then I put it out on CreateSpace where I can get author copies way cheaper than through my publishers.

My rights revert to me on my first book in a few months, and it's kind of exciting to ponder the possibilities, since I'm working on the third book in the series now.

Norm

http://www.normcowie.com

Linda Pendleton said...

You wrote: “First, Wylie is an agent. His job is to sell his clients' work. If he is also the publisher of his clients, there is a HUGE conflict of interest there, as well as some ethical considerations.”

Joe, In 1998, N.Y. literary agent Richard Curtis, president of Richard Curtis Associates, Inc., founded E-Reads, an ebook publisher. Other than Wylie apparently going only to Kindle with his client’s books, is there much difference in what Curtis has been doing for years? The NY F.E.W. seem to be in a panic. They are sure getting touchy with all these changes taking place.
:-)

The Vampire Years said...

@ g d townshende

Yet I hear about how many agents, having accepted a client, do major edits with the author before ever submitting to a publishing house. From the sounds of it, the bulk of editors' time is spent acquiring, in marketing meetings, arranging jacket copy, monitoring cover and distribution. Do editors even edit anymore?

rex kusler said...

Editors--part of their day is spent reading Joe's blog--the rest of it, writing their own novels to eventually upload to Kindle.

Helen Hanson said...

Am I the only one that thinks Wylie's response to the NY pub-house reaction seemed a bit naive? He needs to think about it? What was he doing before he pulled this trigger?

A quote from the New York Times:
Mr. Wylie said he was taken by surprise by Random House’s move and was not sure how he would respond.

“I’m going to think about it a little bit,” he said.

Seriously?

@ Joe - I agree about the potential conflict of interest. An agent has a fiduciary responsibility to the client.

@ notesfromnadir - Ha Ha Ha!

Anonymous said...

My $.02 -- In a digital & POD world, the biggest things publishers offer are investment banking and connections. Superagents like Wylie can do those things, and so can smaller versions of Random House and others. But independent authors and publishers are still left behind.

The problem now and in the future isn't distribution or the ability to produce a top-notch product -- it's getting on Oprah's Book Club, or the Today Show, or reviewed in the New York Times, or even just being on the front page of Amazon.

It's a problem of gravity, man. If you've got no weight behind your project, you're going to get blown away.

Robin O'Neill said...

Maybe I've just been stiffed all along but even with some very nice people who agented for me and even some fine people who edited me, they never lifted a damn finger to market any of my work once it was published. Zero. Did nothing, that includes Penguin who couldn't get me into B&N. They are all overrated as to them serving writers IMO. This 15% in perpetuity thing--wow what a deal for agents.
It's broken. The tradpub system is busted.

Anonymous said...

@Anon Getting on Oprah doesn't guarantee a hit book.

I've seen more cringe inducing interviews with authors on the Today show than I have seen good ones.

@selena. You are correct. I
woudln't think so short term, either. It's good to at least entertain the thought of the long term possibilities, but who can really predict 5 years from now??

Writers will just have to realize that the Kindle isn't a snap-your-fingers to success type of thing. Careers are still built over time, with good writing, and compelling stories.

I don't see a total doomsday scenario for the little guys. Corporations can do alot to block the little guys if they band together. But that is the question: will they?

Anonymous said...

As for people doing kindle services. So far on this board two people have been mentioned who are way overcharging, and taking advantage of newbies.

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author Scott Nicholson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
author Scott Nicholson said...

Now there's breaking news that--GASP--agents are asking for 40 to 50 percent of ebook net proceeds for their clients.

How about 70 percent of gross?

I have yet to see a good argument (beyond the obvious publicity for someone with Wylie's roster) what an agent is adding in an ebook transaction that an author can't do alone. I keep hearing "they can add scale." Well, so can a publisher. How much extra did Wylie take above his usual commission?

I am rapidly becoming uninterested in how agents and publishers will survive--it's now at the level of looking at a car crash as you're driving past on the way to your true destination.

My Kindle sales of the past four weeks (with only about 10 days at 70 percent royalty) exceeded my mortgage payment. No agent or publisher ever did that for me. I did it myself, with a little help from Mr. Bezos (and a shout-out to Joe for the inspiration to get started). What's so exciting is that there is absolutely no limit, no control. It's almost scary because it's so simple.

I'm in no hurry to share that with people who add nothing to the reader experience. Every layer between me and my reader is someone taking money from both of us. I'm publishing, and this time it's personal!

Scott Nicholson
http://hauntedcomputer.com

wannabuy said...

Scott,

Congrats! I'm always uplifted when I read about authors doing what they love and finally paying the mortgage. :)

Authors: Get out your name. Do PR. I do wonder how many of those bookstore signing sessions have helped certain authors. I do not dismiss PR. It is a required step to get going.

E-books were ~2.8% of the market for the first 5 months of 2009. Now they are 8.48% (same 5 months). A market must break 20% to break through 'into the mainstream.'

I wish the authors well as that breakthrough could happen as early as 'Chinese new year 2011' or as late as 2012. Either way, this is an exciting change.

Neil

miltonkeyneswriter said...

Spot on! And for writers who court controversey or risk, e-publishing is probably their only real option.

Take my latest novel, Sugar & Spice. A leading agent described it as well-written and compelling, but declined to take it on as she felt the subject matter (the hunt for a child-killer) was too risky.

You can see their point. A mainstream publisher invests all in a chilling thriller of this nature and in the week of release a real-life tragedy occurs and the whole thing has to be pulled. A financial disaster.

Perhaps if this agent was better acquainted with epublishing she might have seen a way forward.

Wylie may be treading on a lot of people's toes just now, but he's recognising the future of the publishing model.

Not that I'll say no if a mainstream publisher does run with my novel, of course. I'm of a generation that values the tactility of a book. But the next generation will view books like we view parchment scrolls.

And having tried out some modern e-reading devices recently I can't really blame them. Sorry, but they are simply remarkable, and as prices come down thay are going to change the way we read.

Prof. Hex said...

@evilphilip - that looks good! I guess no sales yet? Still waiting on the description?

Ty Johnston said...

Scott, you should be concerned about the future of publishers and agents. Why? Because the future is so uncertain.

You might not need either at this point in time, and you might not need either at any point in the future. But big business has a tendency to eventually cut out the little guy.

Who's to say in a couple of years Amazon won't cut out the indie publishers? I admit, at this point it's not likely to happen, but the rules could change overnight somehow. A nightmare could come true and the publishers and agents and online distributors could somehow sign a bunch of deals and get together and cut out the little guys.

Again, I don't think it's likely. But it's not impossible.

All I'm saying is, "pay attention." Because this roller coaster ride could plummet at any time.

On the flip side, it's also possible (however unlikely) some deals will eventually be worked out that would make publishers and agents attractive to writers once more. I'll believe it when I see it, but ya never know.

Oh, and Scott, sorry. I didn't mean to pick on you, just responding to one of your posts. I realize you're not an idiot and will be paying attention. But others need to be paying attention as well.

Anonymous said...

@Milton. I couldn't agree with you more.

Anything that isn't dead center Disney mainstream cotton candy has almost no chance with traditional publishing. From your description it sounds compelling.

But I too went through that "it's well written, but..." scenario.

1st it was running into the next, next, no really this is going to be the next Da Vinci Code buzzsaw. Then it was something else, and something else, and yet again something else.

It's the "only" a blockbuster/following a trend mentality that stifles creativity.

Ken V. said...

Wylie is destroying his career with this idiotic move, not to mention the career of his writers. Sad to see, but not surprising. The guy is a walking ego. See how many writers want an agent who can't get them a print deal.

What a moron.

Nille said...

Take my latest novel, Sugar & Spice. A leading agent described it as well-written and compelling, but declined to take it on as she felt the subject matter (the hunt for a child-killer) was too risky.

Sounds like they let you down easy, to me. Granted, I haven't read your book, but the hunt for a child-killer is far from a risky subject. This subject has been tackled so many times. most recently by Denis Lehane and Alice Sebold, that it's far more likely it was too much of a cliche for them to waste time on... Not to mention the title is a blatant James Patterson rip off that will set off alarms on anyones cliche meter.


Anything that isn't dead center Disney mainstream cotton candy has almost no chance with traditional publishing. From your description it sounds compelling.

One again, here's the rallying complaint of those who aren't good enough to publish. This idea is such bullshit, spewed from someone who obviously doesn't read enough, that it barely deserves a comment. I will say this... If you think Joe's books are Disney, mainstream cotton candy, why are you here? Why not go hang out at Shocklines or Absolute Watercooler or any number of countless forums where all the other unpublished wannabe's gather?

Traditional publishing and ebooks aren't separate entities. Traditional publishing creates ebooks to be sold, and Amazon sells them. The dispute is over pricing, rights, and their place in the overall publishing picture. Anyone who pops up with this "Us vs Them" mentality isn't paying attention and is most likely harboring resentment and feelings of inadequacy after being rejected by traditional publishers, and seeing this as their opportunity to tell publishers to fuck off.

Sorry to break it to you, but ebooks aren't going anywhere, and neither is traditional publishing. They'll adapt, just like they always have. All we can hope for is that the new adaptation is more author friendly, which it's looking like it will be since ebooks are so easy to create on our own.

Exciting times. Let go of your resentment, and come on in. The water is fine.

Joe Konrath said...

Let's remember to play nice.

Sorry to break it to you, but ebooks aren't going anywhere, and neither is traditional publishing. They'll adapt, just like they always have.

Actually, traditional publishers haven't had to adapt to anything in hundreds of years. They printed the books and got them into a distribution network. That's the #1 thing they do, and that hasn't ever been threatened. Until now.

I'm not optimistic about the future of publishing. Once ebooks reach a critical mass, the print business is going to implode. Publishers may morph into some other type of role, but it won't be like it has been.

Joe Konrath said...

Wylie is destroying his career with this idiotic move, not to mention the career of his writers.

I don't think so. I think he's the first of many to come.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Joe, The CreateSpace mods are talking about you on the messageboards. Looks like you picked up another title: "The King of Transparency"

Joe is the King of Transparency

Ken V. said...

I don't think so. I think he's the first of many to come.

Nah, this is a huge mistake on his part. All I can think as to why he'd do something this foolish is that he's old and trying to cash in before he retires. I think he realizes he made a mistake, too. He had to come home from vacation to deal with the backlash from Random House since they won't deal with him anymore, and now that other publishers are following suit, I'm sure his clients are panicking. I can't imagine they're happy about having to forgo future print deals because their over-zealous, arrogant agent jumped the gun on the ebook movement.

A lot of this seems based on the "news" Amazon sort of released about ebooks outselling hardcover books last quarter. Personally, I won't believe a word of what Amazon says until they show actual numbers. I'm sure if they cut out the 200,000 self published books that sold 10 copies each, that report would read a lot differently.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Penguin Chairman just weighed in--
John Makinson says he will "continue to talk" to Wylie, but that Penguin's position is "to not separate print and digital rights."

I think that this is where the main issue lies; was there a time when publishers asked for film rights as part of the "overall deal?" I know that certainly isn't the case anymore.

I think that if a publisher wanted e-rights from me, they would have to really convince me that I would make more money publshing with them then publishing on my own.

Archangel said...

just two cents from my own little forays, some great and some very not so hot, re new york publishing:

I dont think Wylie is destroying his career. The ways of Andrew Wylie... well, he's not even close to dumb or without strategy, and not close to retiring.

Re Dohle at RH, who seems to be using Applebaum to send the first volley at the moment, I think Wylie likely has thought through everything that can be thought through at the moment. Knowing a little via face to face contact, about how 'the Titans' work, I'd imagine his 'surprise' at RH's response is more akin to, 'Oh, there are bears in the woods, really? I just did not know that.'

Wylie and those his agents, represent about 700 authors and estates across the world, ...and as JoeK points out, there may be more clarity needed about how this will play out ethically to both represent and publish authors...

although as others here have pointed out, that's been done by other agents before, but with nowhere the sway nor list count.

Wylie is'nt my agent, though I'm pub'd by two of 'the big six' which were once the Big 43 or something a mere 18 years ago. Talk about earthquakes, not even mentioning the folding of thousands of dedicated indie booksellers in the wake of 'corporate snarfing up' of formerly independent publishers. Been a member of the authors guild board for a long time and value the them (I dont speak for them here, just from my own personal experiences as author) and see that ongoing opptys for authors, and battles for authors, has been going on for decades.

Except this time, at least half of what used to be underground machinations in 'the mystery' of publishers' ways, are now exposed above ground. I think this is good for writers so they can finally see for themselves, weigh for themselves the situs in pub now. I am. Many others are too.

Many yet dont realize that the Rodans and Gozillas of the publishing world are duking it out because they suddenly woke up, not just kinda-sorta, but really really have-to-run-to-the-bathroom-right now-or-else awake now to: 'thar's gold in them thar hills.'

In my opinion, the big pubs management at the very top were slow as a broken canebreak to wall off their authors from others who would play more fair. Although Alberto Vitale CEO, before RH was sold to Bertalsmann and the Mohn family form Germany by the Newhouse Brothers from NY, in about 1993 tried to write clauses into RH contracts that claimed literally (was offered one, and paraphrase here), not only erights, but 'all rights not yet invented.' Serious. When Bertalsmann took over, they fired Vitale.

IMO, JoeK and other authors here and elswhere, hear like dogs do... they can hear the high and low tones that others might miss or misinterpret... and to mix metaphors, such authors who have sixth sense or the hearing of canids are smart to hitch their wagons and provision their mule teams, and jump up and as we say out here in the West, 'ride hell bent for leather.'

There are many ways to ride, and I can see that we're in a time when there is profound choice that never existed before.

The weakest wall is global publicity and marketing. Many of us find it hard to pound pr and also to write our works, giving equal weight to each.

Yet, as many see w JoeK, he leaned into a format that will in many ways do that for him with a jillion person customer base to broadcast pr /mktg to.

For readers and authors' sakes, I think as an author, I am finding my way forward too. I admire those who take on being point man/ point woman in our times. Gives us all much to think about and act on as we can/will.
Thanks JoeK and all.
dr.cpe

Archangel said...

well, that post was way longer than I realized. Sorry all, I wont go on like that again. Geez.
Thanks,
dr.cpe

evilphilip said...

"@evilphilip - that looks good! I guess no sales yet? Still waiting on the description?"

I am still waiting on the description to populate. I have no idea how long that takes.

I sold what I consider to be a pretty decent number of copies over the past few days. I'm pretty happy.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure if they cut out the 200,000 self published books that sold 10 copies each, that report would read a lot differently."

Where did you get the 200,000 self-pubbed books on Kindle store number?

I'd be surprised if there were even 20,000 self-pubbed books on Kindle store.

Joe Konrath said...

All I can think as to why he'd do something this foolish is that he's old and trying to cash in before he retires.

I'd say he believes, rightfully, that 25% royaly on ebooks is disgraceful. Why should publishers get so much when they aren't doing anythign an author can't do himself?

As for Amazon's numbers, publishers have confirmed that Amazon was correct--they're sellign 180 ebooks for every 100 hardcovers.

evilphilip said...

"All I can think as to why he'd do something this foolish is that he's old and trying to cash in before he retires."

It is worth mentioning that none of the books in the Wylie exclusive Amazon.com deal were available from the print publishers in eBook form.

I would say that he saw a void in his clients portfolio and saw an opportunity to fill it. He did was an agent should be doing -- selling the books of his clients.

I'm not sure why the publisher had such a negative reaction. It isn't like they were doing anything on the eBook frontier with those products so their loss here is nothing.

Deirdre said...

I'm not sure why the publisher had such a negative reaction. It isn't like they were doing anything on the eBook frontier with those products so their loss here is nothing.

But they were going to, any day now. Just as soon as they decided that ebooks weren't some sort of flash in the pan.

Zoe Winters said...

Why do all of these publishing antics suddenly make me feel like I'm watching Jerry Springer? It's pretty funny sitting on the outside of it.

A lot of writers talk about the validation they receive through traditional publishing channels. But I can't imagine feeling more validated about my choice to self-publish than I do every time I see some goofy thing someone is doing in this industry, that thankfully doesn't affect me.

Archangel said...

@evil phillip "I'm not sure why the publisher had such a negative reaction. It isn't like they were doing anything on the eBook frontier with those products so their loss here is nothing."

I think they are Phillip, RH has sent all authors and our agents letters congratulating us on our wonderful new ebook program we are now enrolled in (when we had NO agreement with RH on ebook anything) except none of us agreed to such. We've also rec'd letters from RH recently saying they consider any contract post 1993 to include electronic rights to RH even though they are not specifically stated in the contracts as such. RH has huge plans for ebook products starting with colonization of thousands of authors' works. Just my two cents worth from the trenches

thanks,
dr.cpe

evilphilip said...

"RH has sent all authors and our agents letters congratulating us on our wonderful new ebook program we are now enrolled in (when we had NO agreement with RH on ebook anything) except none of us agreed to such. We've also rec'd letters from RH recently saying they consider any contract post 1993 to include electronic rights to RH even though they are not specifically stated in the contracts as such."

What is your plan (and/or your agents plan) to deal with that letter? I know I would be a little miffed if someone came back to me after the fact and claimed they had my eBook rights when I know that they have no such thing.

I wouldn't want to shoot the horse that has been bringing the water down the mountain, but I'm not sure I would want to be praising it either.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I wouldn't want to shoot the horse that has been bringing the water down the mountain, but I'm not sure I would want to be praising it either.

I would make horse sandwiches.

Seriously. Forget all that "don't bite the hand that feeds you" bullshit, those days are over.

Authors don't owe any allegiance to their publishers. This is business, pure and simple. The publishers will do whatever they can to make money, and the authors need to look out for their best interests.

Archangel said...

@evil phillip

well, this is what I/we have done thus far. Told the RH people we dont want to be in 'their' ebook program without negotiation, that I hold those rights and want to keep them at present. Agent was strong and thus far that seems to hold. Meaning they cannot just go publish whatever, whenever as they suddenly choose.

However, the second letter puts most all RH authors in line of fire to 'test' that if they epub by themselves, will RH sue the author who dares to publish by themselves. Right now, this is partly why Wylie's move is impt. to watch. Many of his authors are RH published. The MSM missed the part where Wylie is flying in the face of this erights-grab letter from RH. Seemingly purposely testing Dohle's stifling of authors' ability to self-pub if they choose.

Wylie has deep pockets to defend his agency just as Rosetta did-- another big ebook enterprise who tangled with RH. But individual authors are tense, most of us, about going up against a bank of RH lawyers who have big guns, and we only have cap pistols.

hope that helps sett more.

@Christy, I hear you loud and clear, and also those of us who are straddling two worlds right now, know many good people in mainstream publishing. Like JoeK, I'm grateful to the ones who helped me and others. And you are right, many of them are gone now, fired in the heavy cuts a year ago. Some remain.
Thanks.
dr.cpe

author Scott Nicholson said...

Ty, I know things will change--that's the ONLY thing I'm counting on in this new era. I just found out Tor Books and Medallion Books, two publishers on approved lists of professional writing orgs, are paying a 10 percent ebook royalty. Yes, you heard right. Generous, aren't they? Tor escalates to 15 percent AFTER 10,000 copies--nice little reward for lifelong servitude, huh?

Selena Kitt just said on Kindle Korner she is making $10k a month from her erotica. Of course publishers and agents are horny for a cut of that.

Sure, publishers will connive and try to cut deals, but Amazon holds all the cards. Wylie's authors would make FAR MORE using Createspace anyway, depending on how big a cut Wylie was taking for himself. Amazon can do everything a publisher can do and better--except issue inane press releases frowning about the "threat to literature" anytime somebody does something inventive and original.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Anonymous said...

I have a book published with Tor and my e-royalty rate is 25% with a clause that I can re-address the rate in 2011.

Sounds like whoever fed you that 10% bullshit has a shitty agent.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Wylie's authors would make FAR MORE using Createspace anyway, depending on how big a cut Wylie was taking for himself.

Agreed. But many authors don't want to do anything (except write, that is) and those are the ones who are going to feel batted between these two warring giants.

Business-savvy authors with a great product will make more money self-publishing with LSI or CS. That's been my experience, anyway.

Mark Coker just said, "To survive and thrive in this new world order, [publishers] need to serve their authors better than their authors can serve themselves."

'Aint that the truth-- the publishers aren't gatekeepers anymore. They need to really become service providers to their authors-- and fast.

Somebody said...

But many authors don't want to do anything (except write, that is)

--

Thanks to ebooks, I'm finally getting around to reading Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, about 234 years late. Early on he writes about specialization of labor being a hallmark of advanced economies and societies. An example would be writers who do nothing but write.

The idea that we all have to churn our butter and make our clothes seems very, very backwards. I want David McCullough doing nothing but writing -- writing is enough! If things are so broken that everyone becomes a one-man band, we're in deep trouble.

Zoe Winters said...

Authors don't owe any allegiance to their publishers. This is business, pure and simple. The publishers will do whatever they can to make money, and the authors need to look out for their best interests.

@Christy I totally agree. I think a big sign of someone with little to no business savvy is that they make business about "social obligation" and "what people will think" rather than making the most fiscally sound choice for them.

Zoe Winters said...

... cont. from above:

This is reflected in the authors who have to have a NY publisher, NOT because it's the most fiscally sound choice, necessarily, but because it will "validate them" in the eyes of their peers. (When you make a business decision for any other decision than business, you're already screwing up, IMO.) Or the author who thinks they owe their publisher some debt of gratitude for publishing them. Both situations aren't smart from a business perspective.

Zoe Winters said...

Any other *reason than business. I swear Zoe, freaking proofread!

Joe Konrath said...

Business-savvy authors with a great product will make more money self-publishing with LSI or CS. That's been my experience, anyway.

Money is great. But there is something to be said about numbers.

I never got rich writing, but I made a pretty good living, and I wound up with hundreds of thousands of books in print around the world. I couldn't have done that without traditional publishing, especially going back two, three, eight years.

Publishers have done well by me. They've made some mistakes, and perhaps have cost me a nice chunk of money (money they're still costing me because of poor decisions), but I'm not going to jump on the publisher-bashing bandwagon.

I'm grateful for my career, thankful for the opportunities I've gotten, and proud that I did managed to break into this industry--which is one of the hardest industries to break into.

I also wouldn't judge an industry that I was never a part of. That's armchair quarterbacking. It's also Monday morning quarterbacking.

Unless you were part of the team, throwing the ball, your opinions really don't mean much.

Anonymous said...

Hell hath no fury like a woman rejected, or a woman who thinks she'll be rejected if she were to apply.

To all the publisher bashers who troll the internet with a keyboard cranked up into full criticism mode, why don't you do the world a favor and fax your resume to those poor saps out in NY. I'm sure with your tremendous experience and considerable people skills, they'll invite you right into the board room so you can save them from that certain doom like only you can. They'll probably send a lear to pick you up.

Help them please! Their fate is in your hands.

rex kusler said...

don't be bitter,
reconsider

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I also wouldn't judge an industry that I was never a part of. That's armchair quarterbacking. It's also Monday morning quarterbacking.

Point taken.

My argument wasn't intended to sound angry. I'm not-- I don't have any vested interest either way; my material is highly technical non-fiction and would never get traditionally published.

The point that I was trying to make (obviously failed) was that creative control and freedom do not have to be divorced from profit. Why is the ONLY acceptable model for traditional publishing a model where the author gives up all his rights in exchange for a small percentage of a book's overall profit?

Perhaps in the past, that was acceptable, because publishers absorbed huge expenses, including huge offset print runs, promotion, marketing, etc.

But lets be honest-- publishers simply aren't spending the money on marketing and offset print runs the way they used to.

Why can't publishing be a partnership, rather than a complete surrender of rights and creative control?

It's not like it's some foreign concept. Some artists have done this successfully-- Daft Punk did it. They turned down dozens and dozens of record deals because they didn't want to give up creative control.
Many record companies offered us deals... we turned down labels that were looking for more control than we were willing to give up.
We chose. Control is freedom. People say we're control freaks, but... We're not trying to manipulate other people, just controlling what we do ourselves.


Maybe you're right, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

Let's put it this way-- if big publishing was Hollywood, I'd love to see more Kevin Smith and less Michael Bay.

Zoe Winters said...

Joe,

I don't really think anyone is bashing publishers here. It is a fact that publishers are doing stupid things. It's also a fact that most people who are traditionally published end up in some way screwed financially. SOME people get very lucky, get tons of marketing push, sell lots and lots of copies, get front table space in B&N, hit the NY times list, etc. etc. But that's not most authors.

Most traditionally published authors are chugging along on the midlist. And financially they'd be better off on their own. While it's not smart from a business perspective for an author to make a choice based merely on validation... it's a little too simplistic to say calling a spade a spade is publisher bashing.

It's nothing personal. It's all just business. I don't hate publishers. I'm pretty sure Christy and the others who have made similar comments to what you quoted don't hate publishers either.

I don't recall most of us ever saying we hated publishers or that they were evil. Just that they make stupid business decisions that we don't want to be affected by. We want to control our own publishing destinies. That's not quite the same thing has being a hater.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon

Why does the assumption persist that someone cannot make a decision for business reasons? Why does it have to be so emotionally charged? Why does someone have to be rejected or else "fear they'd be rejected?"

Is it really that hard to believe some people truly do not WANT on the NY publishing hamster wheel?

Some people can't seem to see beyond their own goals and dreams to understand anyone who wants anything different in life from what they do. I pity those people. Because there is a wide range of human behavior, emotion, wants, and needs out there. We aren't all the same.

Not everybody wants or needs someone else to "validate" them when the cost is losing all their power to control anything about their work.

Some of us take a strong pride in ownership in being indie and doing things ourselves.

Joe Konrath said...

Maybe you're right, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

My comment was general, not specifically meant in response to anyone in particular.

Why is the ONLY acceptable model for traditional publishing a model where the author gives up all his rights in exchange for a small percentage of a book's overall profit?

That is ultimately one of the big reasons publishers are going to fail. If they were making great decisions and making the author a lot of money, there would be no reason for the author to leave.

But now it has gone so far the other way, with publishers making such harmful decisions, that the author has no choice but to leave.

Why can't publishing be a partnership, rather than a complete surrender of rights and creative control?

It's supposed to be a partnership. That's how I've always looked at it. But I was always working harder and getting paid less than my partner.

All I'm saying is that I came by my opinions through direct experience, not hearsay, and that I don't believe it is fair to bash unless you've lived it. If you're not bashing, this doesn't apply.

Joe Konrath said...

Most traditionally published authors are chugging along on the midlist. And financially they'd be better off on their own.

You really should watch out for statements like this. They can get you into trouble if you're pressed for specifics.

I've made a lot more money traditionally publishing than self publishing. In fact, every single one of my published friends have made more traditionally publishing, though we're at the tipping point where that is changing.

A $25k advance is a nice amount of money, and more than just about every self-pubbed author on Kindle has made. Yet I have dozens and dozens of friends who have made that, and more, through print deals.

The fact is, at this point in time, most self-pubbed authors--even the really successful ones--aren't making a living at it.

Will they? I'm pretty sure they will. But I'm saying this knowing a lot of writers and what they've earned, and I'm saying this based on my own experience.

Yes, I'm making $3500 a week. I know of a few other authors--all erotica--that are doing as well or better.

But is anyone else on Kindle doing that? Coming close?

Christie is doing very well with her tax books, but she's a non-fiction niche market. It's a stretch to look at her success and say it can be the same for others.

The future may be a cornucopia for writers. Or it may not be.

It's great to have opinions, and good to share success stories, but a friend of mine just told me I'm guilty of standing where I sit. In other words, I tend to make assumption for others based on what has worked for me.

That's a little bit reckless. It's even more reckless if you don't have experience to back up your opinions.

Ty Johnston said...

It seems to me ... I need to be writing erotica.

Anonymous said...

Joe, I really appreciate that last post. It is so true. So many people have had a knee-jerk reaction that "NY is bad" and "Self-Pub" is good.

90%+ of the book market is print and B=NY publishing. The vast majority of authors make way more money with a print deal.

To completely discount the publishing industry based on these early days of ebook publishing is pretty amateurish, and reeks of sour grapes.

I get a feeling that there are many bitter people out there who get a lot of pleasure from just the thought of successful publishers failing, maybe because they failed as writers themselves.

Anonymous said...

Zoe said:

I don't really think anyone is bashing publishers here. It is a fact that publishers are doing stupid things. It's also a fact that most people who are traditionally published end up in some way screwed financially. SOME people get very lucky, get tons of marketing push, sell lots and lots of copies, get front table space in B&N, hit the NY times list, etc. etc. But that's not most authors.

Publishers are doing stupid things? You are a publishing exec are you? Here's a hint: publishers are there to make money for shareholders, not to foster author dreams of glory. If I were a shareholder you can bet I'd want them to look for best sellers and reject anything that couldn't sell in big numbers.

I have no idea why they are making the decisions they are making but I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm smarter than everyone working in publishing. I suspect they have a lot of numbers and business plans and make informed decisions based on those, not on comments from self-pubbed writers who sell a few copies here and there.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

"It seems to me ... I need to be writing erotica."

Ty, I was thinking the same thing... well, all of you might as well know-- I'm working on a teenage-lesbian vampire-erotic-romance. It's fantastic!

The checks are going to be rolling in.

Just kidding. I couldn't write fiction to save my life.

I'm just jealous.

Selena Kitt said...

It's a lot harder to write good erotica than you might think! :P

:)

Joe said: "I never got rich writing, but I made a pretty good living, and I wound up with hundreds of thousands of books in print around the world. I couldn't have done that without traditional publishing, especially going back two, three, eight years."

I dunno... my POD books are being sold all over the place... I've found them on EBAY, being sold used. They're getting out there. Not in libraries, of course, but I frankly wouldn't want my books available in libraries. :x But they're going global. Not translated, though. ;)

@Scott - I've stated here, too, on this blog, how much I'm making on Kindle. It's not a secret.

I'm actually on pins and needles at the moment, because Amazon is trying to fix an issue with their MOBI vs DTP feed (their plan, according to them, is to migrate everyone from MOBI to DTP and then close the MOBI feed to Amazon). So far, I've been making that 10K at 35%. Not 70%. Imagine how much $$ I'm making for Amazon? I get ill when I do the math. Even in this more lucrative self-pubbing market, I'm feeding the big dog a LOT of "my" money.

@Joe - it seems to me like you're backing up a little bit from the "everyone can do this" stance. I'm glad. Not everyone CAN do this, successfully. Marketing is HARD.

I came at this whole thing backwards from most of the people here - I was a relative unknown with a small following for my work on a free story site. I never published in NY, and hearing the stories here and elsewhere about how little you get paid (even with that $25K advance!) how feast and famine it seems to be, I cringe.

But as you say, I've never been (and don't intend to be) on that side of the equation, so I can only judge by what I hear, your experiences, not mine.

A majority of what I hear is that it feels great to be a "published author"... but the money? Well... don't quit your day job.

Me, this IS my day job. And I don't really care if I ever have a book on the NYT bestseller list. *shrug* But that's me! YMMV!

Verilees said...

I have no idea why they are making the decisions they are making but I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm smarter than everyone working in publishing. I suspect they have a lot of numbers and business plans and make informed decisions based on those, not on comments from self-pubbed writers who sell a few copies here and there.

I'm not an author self published or not, but I do not think you can make than assumption. Look at how the US just had a financial melt down based on assuming that banks, insurance companies and mortgage brokers knew what they were doing. Oh, yes and car executives and newspaper and magazine publishers.

The main problem is that publishing houses are now run by accountants not book people. That has not been a change for the better.

There used to be a lot of little family owned publishing companies that took pride in their history and product. Now there is the Big Six who are, as you noted. obligated to maximize profits for the stockholders. I don't think this is an improvement.

I don't think they know what they are doing. And the Andrew Wylie issue clearly shows the soft underbelly of the strategy of US publishers.

I haven't bought a book from the best seller list in years, but I do need a new copy of Martin Amis' The Pregnant Widow. I've worn my old paperback out. And this may be the last copy I have to buy.

Ty Johnston said...

To quote the movie "Being John Makovich":

Malkovich: Charlie, I don't know anything about the girl, man! She could be like a f***ing witch or something!

Charlie Sheen: That's even better! Hot lesbian witches!

Back on topic: Publishers generally try to do what is best for their company. That's understandable. They also generally try to do what is best for their authors, the thinking being what's best for the authors is what's best for the publishers. But that's not always true. Sometimes, what's best for the publisher isn't what's best for the authors.

I'm not nay-saying the big publishers. They have their place and do their thing. They make money. But the old business plans are needing updating, and eventually, I think, the publishers will get around to it. It's just a slow machine that needs to be sped up.

From a writers' point of view, however, often enough the publishing companies do make decisions that (at least from the outside) appear silly, if not downright stupid. And there are enough horror stories out there that will turn off some writers and trend them towards indie or self publishing.

All forms of publishing have their place, and each writers road to success or failure is different from another's.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> A smart publisher would
> be kissing author ass
> and offering them big
> ebook royalties, because
> if they don't, they're
> going to get cut out of
> the equation completely.

the big publishers of today
are corporations. their goal
is to make profits, big profits.
if they can't do that, they will
go off and sell somethin' else.

they can't make big profits if
they give authors a big split,
so they aren't gonna do that.
they're just not gonna do that.

i chuckle when people call you a
"prophet" and laud your "insight".
reality came up and kicked you
in the shin to get your attention,
and you're reporting the results.

but some of us have predicted
these developments for a long,
long time, based on the simple
application of basic principles
like "corporations want profits".

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

but some of us have predicted
these developments for a long,
long time


Please point me to your old blog posts and predictions. I'd love to be enlightened.

As for me being a prophet, I'm anything but. I'm simply one of the only people looking hard at what's happening and realizing the potential to make a lot of money.

Are you making a lot of money? Since you predicted this so long ago?

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe

I know plenty of writers make a living traditionally published, but plenty of them don't. Advances are far too low and getting lower and you have to have an established career over several books before you start making money worth writing home about. (In most cases. I know there is always an exception, but that's why it's the exception. Not the rule.)

The midlist is a pretty BIG wide range. And while some people on the midlist are making a good living, others can't seem to get out of the 10k or lower advance per book range. And for an author who can't churn out 2-3 books a year, or can't seem to get decent foreign rights deals (or any foreign rights deals), and isn't being marketed right, etc. etc... it's just a bad deal for them all the way around.

While you say I shouldn't make the mistake of talking about things I don't know about because I haven't done it, I also haven't stuck my finger in a light socket, but I feel pretty confident that through using my powers of research and observation that I can figure out it's not right for me.

I'm not talking about what was a smart business decision 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. I'm talking about now and in the future. And it's just not looking good for anyone just getting started in publishing right now... going the traditional route.

I'm sure there will continue to be those exception stories, but I just don't believe most people starting out can or will ever make a living in the traditional system of publishing.

There is plenty of information out there and authors willing to talk about their experiences in publishing. Your friends may be doing well, and that's great, but for every one of them, there are many others with sob stories.

Joe Konrath said...

I also haven't stuck my finger in a light socket, but I feel pretty confident that through using my powers of research and observation that I can figure out it's not right for me.

You'd make a lousy empiricist.

What if sticking your finger in the light socket got you a $40k advance? That's quite a bit more than you've already earned.

Note that I'm not saying you won't get to $40k on Kindle--I'm betting you will. But until that actually happens, you're operating on hope and luck, not facts.

And it's just not looking good for anyone just getting started in publishing right now... going the traditional route.

I agree. And yet, if given enough money, I would go this route. I would never dismiss it 100%.

Absolutes are tough to prove. Absolutes about an uncertain future are impossible to prove, until they happen.

It's easy to get misquoted and misinterpreted. Don't make it even easier for the naysayers by saying things you're unable to defend--that's just giving them ammo.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon

NY isn’t the right business decision for *me*. I think it’s pretty smart to look very carefully at both options before making a decision. Right now NY pubs are doing too many stupid things for it to be a good bet for any but a lucky few who get all the right things. Not just a “yes, we will publish your manuscript.”

A yes means crap if the publisher won’t actually support the book or they drop the ball somewhere in the production process. Or they price ebooks too high for the new author to gain any traction. Especially when many readers won’t pay full price for a book on a new author either in print or in E.

Since sales numbers determine repeat contracts, one would think publishers would price books of debut authors to sell, but they do not. Not even in E where it wouldn’t cost them anything.

To act like those of us who recognize these poor business decisions and would rather invest and take risks for our own work are amateur whiners with sour grapes, is to completely ignore half the crap going on in publishing.

This isn’t publishing 10 years ago. This is now.

No one here has said they “hate” NY publishers. No one here is crying or whining about how they were rejected. We’ve all made a business decision. Attaching a bunch of emotional stuff to it that just isn’t there is baffling to me.

And to the other Anon, yes, actually I own a small imprint I created for the purpose of producing and distributing my work. So yes, I make publishing business decisions every single day. And yes, I can and will commentate on the business end of publishing and continue to say exactly why I don’t want to be involved with a NY publisher.

The reason I’ll say it is because some people continue to be mystified by why anyone would self-publish as a first choice, laboring under the misconception that they must have been rejected 700 times or else are “afraid” of being rejected. Obviously someone needs to say clearly why they don’t feel NY is a smart business move for them in order for anyone to understand it was a business choice rather than an emotional choice.

And ANY business decision that harms MY business is a stupid one. Why on earth would I get into business with someone who would not benefit me? You say they aren’t there to prop up author dreams... and hey, that’s fine. They can do what they want, but I don’t want to be involved with it. They’re in it for the bottom line and that’s fine. So am I. Happily I can do my business and they can do theirs and our paths never have to cross.

As for my numbers, while there are many self-pubbed authors doing far better than me, and I’m nowhere near my goals (I’m still a start-up)... I’ve sold a total of 17,000 ebooks. That’s hardly a copy here or there.

Zoe Winters said...

And to the other Anon, yes, actually I own a small imprint I created for the purpose of producing and distributing my work. So yes, I make publishing business decisions every single day. And yes, I can and will commentate on the business end of publishing and continue to say exactly why I don’t want to be involved with a NY publisher.

The reason I’ll say it is because some people continue to be mystified by why anyone would self-publish as a first choice, laboring under the misconception that they must have been rejected 700 times or else are “afraid” of being rejected. Obviously someone needs to say clearly why they don’t feel NY is a smart business move for them in order for anyone to understand it was a business choice rather than an emotional choice.

And ANY business decision that harms MY business is a stupid one. Why on earth would I get into business with someone who would not benefit me? You say they aren’t there to prop up author dreams... and hey, that’s fine. They can do what they want, but I don’t want to be involved with it. They’re in it for the bottom line and that’s fine. So am I. Happily I can do my business and they can do theirs and our paths never have to cross.

As for my numbers, while there are many self-pubbed authors doing far better than me, and I’m nowhere near my goals (I’m still a start-up)... I’ve sold a total of 17,000 ebooks. That’s hardly a copy here or there.

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe

Since my metaphor was using an ACTUAL light socket as an example, I am 100% certain that I won’t get a 40k advance for sticking my finger in one. Also... 40k, seriously? Screw that. I wouldn’t get out of bed for a 40k advance. The cost isn’t worth it.

Thanks for thinking I can make 40k on my own. I know I can.

I’m still in the startup phase of my business. Most people in business don’t turn a profit until their third year, I’m still in my 2nd year. Already turned a profit. Barely have a backlist. Don’t have all my formats out. Don’t have all my distribution channels up yet. I am a long long way from having done everything on the plan.

When I get to the end of that plan if I haven’t made very good, then we (meaning me and whoever, not necessarily meaning ‘me and you’ cause I know you don’t spend all day naysaying me) can talk about how I should have looked for a NY publisher. But I’m betting I made and continue to make the smart move.

I mean look at Selena. She’s proving it can be done. She’s cleaning up.

Honestly, if a publisher offered me a 40k advance, I’d turn it down. I would never sell all my control for such a small sum of money.

Regarding absolutes, you’re right. I’m not nearly careful enough in how I phrase things.

I’ve always said I would be willing to part with subsidiary rights, but never primary rights UNLESS the offer would make me rich and allow me to maintain creative control. I know that won’t happen. I’m just saying that’s my price. I realize we all have one. But mine is so high I never have to worry about it.

People can call me crazy or stupid for that if they want to, but when they do, it’s clear that they really can’t fathom how I have different wants and needs than them. Creative and business control is my highest priority.

Zoe Winters said...

Oh, and Joe, my last post to you should have included some smileys like this one: :P and this one: ;)

Otherwise I just sound like a little shit when I'm not trying to. (And now I'll shut up since there are like 70 posts in a row with my freaking name on it.)

Anonymous said...

We interrupt the episode of the Zoe Show on the Konrath Channel to bring you a special weather alert:

"Cloudy with a chance of ebooks."

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program. When we left off, Zoe was telling us that she would reject NY even if they offered her $40,000. Meanwhile, 6 NY publishing houses are pulling out their hair in frustration and arguing about just how much it will take.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon

You're welcome to scroll through my posts. I indicated I felt bad about having thirty posts in a row. And I don't think NY is going to chase me down. That would be silly. I'm just saying, I would turn down 40k. I'm sorry if you find that offensive, unbelievable, silly, or mockworthy. Not sure why me not wanting a 40k publishing deal matters to you one way or the other. :O) (Oh look, I used a smiley that time.)

Anonymous said...

Zoe: I like you. The enthusiasm and rugged independence you exude are the same qualities, in the same measure, that built everything worthwhile in this world. You're going to do great things.

But never close out your possibilities, Zoe. Sometimes smart business is going for a smaller piece of a bigger pie.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon

I think that's a valid point. And if I didn't actually love self-publishing, as in the act itself, it would be an option to consider. But I love what I'm doing too much. There really isn't a price in the stratosphere of what others would consider sane that would make me want to give it up.

Alastair Mayer said...

Please point me to your old blog posts and predictions. I'd love to be enlightened.

I'm not going to speak for Bowerbird, but I can say that people like the late Jim Baen (of Baen Books) were talking about this even before blogs and the web existed, back on his "Baen's Bar" section of Jerry Pournelle's forum on the old Byte Magazine BIX online system. He knew that the ebook revolution was just a matter of time.

Of course, in this as in any business, timing is everything.

VigRoco said...

The internet overpowers all!

I am interested to see how things will exactly shake out after this.

rex kusler said...

I envision, in the future, a Zoe Winters doll. Anybody gives me any shit, and I don't have to waste my breath. I get the doll out, pull the cord, and she lets them have it. If they have more to say, I pull the cord again.

It'd be like a verbal machine gun--no way they'd survive.

Kyle said...

Wow, Rex. You're easily impressed.

rex kusler said...

This is what I'm talking about. Let him have it, Zoe.

Zoe...?

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

AUUGGGGH!!!

This blog is the reason why I can't get any goddamn work done.

They... keep... sucking... me... back... in.

Seriously, though guys, great flame thread.

rex kusler said...

Yeah, I swore I'd never post here again. That was four months ago.

Robert Christopher said...

@Zoe LOL Holy cow. These posts are right up there with your snarky rant on thin mint cookies!! LOL

And by the way, what are you recording your podcasts with? Or what did you I might ask at this point. I listened to the one with all the crackle and pops. I might be able to clean some of that up for you.

@Joe Why do you always discuss money in terms of earning the most? Can't someone be happy selling 1/10th of what you have self pubbing? Or be content with their decision to not deal with all that being NY pubbed brings?

And by the way, just about all the greatest musicians got screwed too -- even the Beatles! So don't feel bad this isn't stictly about writers getting bad deals.

Linda Pendleton said...

Joe,

You mentioned you'd like to see articles from the past concerning electronic publishing. My article is from 2002 and has been on my website since. I even mention agent Richard Curtis and his company, Ereads.

A prediction...maybe. I am known to be psychic. LOL

Read it here: http://bit.ly/9f3VLb

Robert Christopher said...

Further proof the revolution is coming.

$139 kindle!!!

Anonymous said...

FYI, Here's a new prediction from Jeff Bezos on Kindle sales: I predict we will surpass paperback sales sometime in the next nine to 12 months. Sometime after that, we'll surpass the combination of paperback and hardcover. It stuns me. People forget that Kindle is only 33 months old.

Joe Konrath said...

Can't someone be happy selling 1/10th of what you have self pubbing?

Sure, they can be happy. But they can't live on that.

Ty Johnston said...

Um, Joe, I could. You said above you were making $3500 a week. I could live relatively well on $350 a week, which is about what I'm making a month now with my writing alone.

Heck, my wife would be thrilled if I was pulling in $350 a week on my writing.

'Course we live a pretty simple lifestyle currently.

Ben Jammin' said...

Anon said:

"FYI, Here's a new prediction from Jeff Bezos on Kindle sales: I predict we will surpass paperback sales sometime in the next nine to 12 months. Sometime after that, we'll surpass the combination of paperback and hardcover. It stuns me. People forget that Kindle is only 33 months old."

Yes, this is great, but he's only talking about books sold by Amazon, which isn't that many compared to the chains and the monster stores like Walmart and Costco.

A few years ago, some bestselling novelist listed her sales, and she'd sold something like 40,000 copies from places like Walmart and Costco, 17,000 from B&N and Borders, and less than 400 copies through Amazon.

Amazon is really good at telling you only part of the story.

Anonymous said...

Can't someone be happy selling 1/10th of what you have self pubbing?

Sure, they can be happy. But they can't live on that.


It saddens me that the vast majority of writers (who work hard) can't even make a living wage when publishing along the traditional path.

I don't think big publishing is evil; I just wish they could pay a writer their worth.

That's pretty much what this is about. Authors aren't asking for the moon -- they just want to pay their rent this month.

Bezos saw an opportunity to give writers a decent wage -- to bring their trade out of abject poverty -- and he's taking advantage. At the same time he is satisfying his soul he's improving the economy by elevating a new middle class in this profession.

He's doing the right thing, and as it happens the right thing also benefits his business. The guy is going straight to heaven when he dies, IMO.

This is what good business looks like. Bezos is building loyalty (a stable of authors who can (with decent compensation) and will continue to produce for years to come. He's satisfying readers with value pricing ($2.99? What's not to like?). He's giving traditional authors a chance to resurrect dead backlists, he's enriching the Kindle catalog at the same time.

This is capitalism at it's best. Seriously, Bezos is a true patriot. Anyone who creates jobs, helps others to make a living wage (and that's what we are talking about here, these are not greedy Wall-street type authors complaining about making only a million dollar bonus this year) is building a better world.

Authors taking advantage of this new model are thrilled. Many are doing well, and some are doing VERY well (Joe). After years of wandering in the desert they have reached a place of opportunity. It makes sense that they want to shout about it, tell their friends, and invite their colleagues to share dive into the pool.

I think Joe is a very generous person. He knows other writers (his peer group, for pete's sake) who have suffered financially, and he wants to help them. Nothing wrong with that, and it's admirable. His method won't work for all, but he's showing how he did it in the hopes that others will benefit to varying degrees.

I have 3 books on Kindle store and I'll make close to $1,000 this month. No, it's not Joe level, but it makes a difference to my family by covering more than the food bill. I'm hoping to double my monthly (with new books added) in the next year, and then triple that amount. That's real money for most families in this economy, and it beats what I was making from tradiitonal publishing (0).

This is about giving people accessible opportunities. Big publishing is a crapshoot (if they accept your work). I like the control I have with Kindle publishing.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, this is great, but he's only talking about books sold by Amazon, which isn't that many compared to the chains and the monster stores like Walmart and Costco."

Amazon is now the largest book retailer in the world.

http://www.fonerbooks.com/booksale.htm

Deirdre said...

"A few years ago, some bestselling novelist listed her sales, and she'd sold something like 40,000 copies from places like Walmart and Costco, 17,000 from B&N and Borders, and less than 400 copies through Amazon." Got a link? And "A few years ago". How many?

The Vampire Years said...

@anon 9:39 am, 7/29
"...Anyone who creates jobs, helps others to make a living wage (and that's what we are talking about here, ...) is building a better world."

I've put this forth elsewhere. Bezos, Apple (for all its negatives that go with its positives), etc., are helping to build an entrepreneurial (gosh I hope I got those letters all in the right order!) creative economy in a country that has been bleeding jobs for decades.

Anna Murray said...

Stieg Larsson is the first author to sell 1 million ebooks on Amazon.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/28/stieg-larsson-1m-ebooks-amazon

Selena Kitt said...

"I've put this forth elsewhere. Bezos, Apple (for all its negatives that go with its positives), etc., are helping to build an entrepreneurial (gosh I hope I got those letters all in the right order!) creative economy in a country that has been bleeding jobs for decades."


Hm. I dunno about Apple. They're too fascist for my tastes. The censorship leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Anonymous said...

@selena And they wont admit when the messed up. They think everything they do is magic.

And when it doesn't work out that way they can't just fess up to it. The whole 4G debacle is a prime example.

Zoe Winters said...

I envision, in the future, a Zoe Winters doll. Anybody gives me any shit, and I don't have to waste my breath. I get the doll out, pull the cord, and she lets them have it. If they have more to say, I pull the cord again.

It'd be like a verbal machine gun--no way they'd survive.


LMAO, Rex. :P I'll make those along with the "Zoe Who?" t-shirts. ;)

Zoe Winters said...

@Robert

I was using Audacity, which is fine. I think there is either a sound card issue, or a microphone issue. I need to upgrade some equipment. I also need to learn how to do post production editing. (You know, I went away and thirty people are talking to me. So if it's the Zoe Show right now, I didn't instigate it this time. :P )

I'm waiting until I fix that to do the Blood Lust podcast. I can't have those snaps and crackles in the recording. The book will sound like paranormal romance meets Rice Krispies.

Anonymous said...

"And when it doesn't work out that way they can't just fess up to it. The whole 4G debacle is a prime example."

Interesting reaction. Did you watch Jobs' presentation?

They are giving full refunds to those who want to return the device, and providing free cases (or a credit for those who bought a case) to all purchasers.

Most interesting to me was the fact that only 1.7% of buyers reported a problem. Like so many things on the internet, it was blown way out of proportion. Everyone I know with the 4G won't let anyone pry it from their cold, dead hands.

Selena Kitt said...

I don't pay much attention to Apple (aside from my old iPod, which seems to work just fine) but I couldn't help but conclude that Steve Jobs is kind of an ass, after reading this recently: http://gawker.com/5539717/steve-jobs-offers-world-freedom-from-porn

He seems very arrogant and ... oh I don't know. Napoleonic? Like he's got something to prove... and a world to build... so get out of his way!

Kind of scary.

Rebecca said...

@selena Obviously Steve Jobs never saw the musical "Avenue Q." - The Internet is for.... porn!"

Anonymous said...

Jobs is a genius. Vertical integration of MP3 player and software/iTunes store was brilliant, and it hasn't been replicated by ANYONE. iPhone and apps and iPad are groundbreaking products. Jobs is the Edison of our times.

The porn thing? You can get all the porn you want on Apple computers, iPhone, iPad. Just pull it off the internet. Or jailbreak your iPhone and get it from a third party provider.

Apple has made a business decision to keep their app store family friendly (lots of children and teens are buying from the App store). Jobs also sits on the board (and is a major stockholder) of Disney ("family values" company), and was CEO of Pixar.

This is the same as any private business that decides not to sell porn -- it's their business, their right to decide what they sell. My local grocery store doesn't sell porn magazines. Should I be angry with them?

What Jobs found is that they'll sell more iPads with the family friendly approach in their online store than the "anything goes" approach. It's just better for business.

You can still get all the porn on an iPad or Apple computer -- just use the browser and pull it from the internet.

With the Apple policy they are offering the CHOICE of freedom from porn (for those who don't want porn -- people like that do exist). Those who want it can still get tons of it.

If you don't like the policy you don't have to buy Apple products. I get all the porn I need on my Mac (thanks Mr. Jobs).

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

iPhone and apps and iPad are groundbreaking products. Jobs is the Edison of our times.


Agreed. I have PCs and Apple products in my house (typing on a PC right now), but my PC crashes a lot, and runs much slower than my Apple. And my PC cost a LOT more than my MacBook. I know that people knock Apple over price, but if you want something good-- better than some POS Wal-mart laptop, you are going to have to pay big money for a PC (assuming you don't know how to put one together yourself-- I don't.)

I think that Apple products are sleek and beautiful.

The Vampire Years said...

@anon 7/30 11:53 AM

But Jobs hasn't kept "porn" out of itunes. Explicit lyrics aren't censored, playboy and products from penthouse (arguably more deserving of "porn" moniker than playboy) are available. Jobs is selectively defining what is porn. And what does he censor next?

And now it's legal to jailbreak, and more companies will have ipad-ish devices out within the next year. The $700 in device money apple was going to get from me this year is staying in my pocket at this rate.

Thomas Brookside said...

90%+ of the book market is print and B=NY publishing. The vast majority of authors make way more money with a print deal.

Wrong.

Absurdly wrong.

Once again, the discussion is completely skewed by survivor bias.

If only 1 in 1000 [or less] of people who try to get published traditionally actually gets published, it is absurd to say something like "The vast majority of authors make way more money with a print deal." When the vast, vast, vast majority of people who attempt to make money at something make $0, anything that lets them make $1 is automatically the better deal.

This is basic game theory, and it applies to publishing as much as it applies to anything else.

Right now there is an "installed base" of published authors, many of whom will continue to make more money from print than from ebooks for a good while yet. But they are not relevant to the ultimate outcome. Attempting to analyze the situation from their perspective makes about as much sense as analyzing the sensibility of spending money on lottery tickets by interviewing lottery winners. "Lottery A Great Investment, Say Megabucks Winners!" reads the headline. Except it's a headline from the Onion.

The publishers' real problem will be generational. They have set up their business in a way that requires new authors to ritually humiliate themselves and make $0 for months or years while agents and publishers decide whether or not they've paid enough "dues". It will become progressively hard to get people to voluntarily submit to that process when there's an alternative available that offers readers and cash on the barrel within days to anyone who signs up.

To be a better deal for anyone not currently published, traditional publishing would have to pay not just "more" than self-publishing, but a multiple of what one can expect to make from self-publishing - and that multiple is equal to the odds against actually getting published the traditional way. If those odds are 1000 to 1, you'd have to make 1000 times as much by going the traditional route as you'd make doing it yourself for it to be a good investment of your time. And traditional authors just don't make 1000 times what even a no talent two bit hack schmuck like me makes. Not unless they're Stephen King.

Jude Hardin said...

They have set up their business in a way that requires new authors to ritually humiliate themselves and make $0 for months or years while agents and publishers decide whether or not they've paid enough "dues".

Absurdly wrong.

There is no secret handshake, or "dues" to be paid, LOL.

The reason it is so hard to get a traditional print deal is because 9,999 out of every 10,000 manuscripts suck and should not be published.

Joe Konrath said...

The reason it is so hard to get a traditional print deal is because 9,999 out of every 10,000 manuscripts suck and should not be published.

While I agree a lot of unpubbed books suck, I think this statement gives publishers too much credit.

In fact, only 1 out of 5 books they publish makes a profit. It isn't like they have ESP and only pick books that succeed.

Publishers make a lot of mistakes, some of them just plain dumb. My JD books have earned over $300,000, and my publisher dropped me. Dumb.

AFRAID earned out its advance almost immediately, yet my publisher let me go. Dumb.

ORIGIN and THE LIST have earned more than $40k, yet they were rejected by just about every major publishers. Dumb.

I visited 600 bookstores in a summer, but got very little press for it, because my publisher didn't promote it. Dumb.

In fact, I'd venture to say that any publisher who didn't see the potential goldmine in my career was flat out dumb. Their loss. My gain.

I can list dozens of authors--good authors--who had major deals and now don't because of dumb publishers.

That said, the majority of what publishers reject is, indeed, crap.

But being anointed by Big NY Publishing really doesn't mean much.

rex kusler said...

In case anyone is interested here are my sales numbers for the last six months, comparing Amazon to Smashwords for my mystery novel PUNCTURED:

Amazon: 9,111

Smashwords: 1
Kobobooks: 1
Apple: 2

Amazon doesn't even want to spell my name right, but guess which site I will no longer be uploading to.

Jude Hardin said...

But being anointed by Big NY Publishing really doesn't mean much.

It means industry professionals--generally a committee of them--have decided your work is ready for public eyes. It means someone besides Aunt Martha is willing to take a chance on you, to gamble that your work will be received well in the real world.

No, I would say that being accepted by a legitimate publisher is very meaningful indeed.

rex kusler said...

Industry professionals. 80% of the people in this country are incompetent at their jobs. They get in the way of the 20% who are trying to get it done.

The only thing meaningful that I've noticed--is how high the bullshit can get stacked--before it falls over.

Jude Hardin said...

I never got rich writing, but I made a pretty good living, and I wound up with hundreds of thousands of books in print around the world. I couldn't have done that without traditional publishing, especially going back two, three, eight years.

Publishers have done well by me. They've made some mistakes, and perhaps have cost me a nice chunk of money (money they're still costing me because of poor decisions), but I'm not going to jump on the publisher-bashing bandwagon.

I'm grateful for my career, thankful for the opportunities I've gotten, and proud that I did managed to break into this industry--which is one of the hardest industries to break into.

I also wouldn't judge an industry that I was never a part of. That's armchair quarterbacking. It's also Monday morning quarterbacking.

Unless you were part of the team, throwing the ball, your opinions really don't mean much.

--Joe Konrath

Just in case anyone missed that part.

rex kusler said...

There's a lot to be said for not starting a blog.

jtplayer said...

Re: "But being anointed by Big NY Publishing really doesn't mean much."
-----------------------

I may be an unpublished newbie here, but it would definitely mean something to me.

At least I'd know my work was indeed good enough.

Thomas Brookside said...

Jude and JT,

I hate to break it to you, but the people at publishing houses are just people.

If you went to a Tier 1 school, you have already met a cross-section of the people in every profession and at every level of management in every industry.

I don't really see how a "committee" of girls from Williams and Smith are supposed to validate your identity for you. And that's who the people in publishing are.

Because of where I live, I drive by Williams quite frequently. And you know what I'm not thinking, when I have to slow down so the kids can cross Route 2 in the crosswalks? I'm not thinking, "Gee, I wish I could pick out 5 of these kids at random and put them on a committee to validate my entire life and my intellectual capacities!" Generally I'm thinking, "Bleeping hurry up and cross you lazy piece of bleep!" instead.

You know who impresses me? The electrician who comes to my house when the dishwasher isn't working or when I want to install a new light fixture. Because he's got an actual skill that I know nothing about, and he didn't just sit in a room with 12 other liberal arts majors and talk about "The Yellow Wallpaper" for 90 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday for four years and then ask me to be impressed. If he says, "You really shouldn't have tried to fix this yourself," I feel dumb. If he says, "Hey, you had practically fixed this before I even got here!" I feel validated. Flakes who went to Colby? What they say doesn't impact my feelings as much.

The reason it is so hard to get a traditional print deal is because 9,999 out of every 10,000 manuscripts suck and should not be published.

Yes, like mine. Absolute piles of crap. And once I concede that and decide to own it, what's your next card? You've got no next card.

I completely suck, but on the day when the first Big 6 publisher closes, I will drive down to NY and stand on the sidewalk and heckle as everyone carries out Staples boxes full of their personal crap. And then I'll bid on the office equipment at salvage - maybe pick up a nice Dry Erase board or something. All the poor dears who need validation will then have to enter $25 poetry contests, I guess.

Joe Konrath said...

I hate to break it to you, but the people at publishing houses are just people.

This was a terrific rant. I agree about 90%.

The other 10% isn't because I feel validation from a bunch of editors truly has meaning, but because a big business taking on the financial risk of publishing one of my books is a badge of honor, even if it is a subjective one.

Being part of an industry that has spawned so many fabulous authors that I love is like being invited into a super-secret club. And up until this point, it was the only way a writer could earn anywhere close to a living.

However, I won't mourn the death of the Big Six. It was far from an ideal system. But it was the only system in the game, and as flawed as it was, it did produce some good stuff.

jtplayer said...

Re: "I hate to break it to you, but the people at publishing houses are just people."
-----------------------

Wow, really? No shit. Well thanks for hipping me to that dude.

And here I thought they were like Yoda, all seeing and all knowing.

Sheesh, rant indeed.

And who in the heck said anything about wanting my identity "validated"?

I said "at least I'll know my work was good enough". That statement has nothing at all to do with how I feel about myself as a person and how I feel about my work.

Personally, I feel my work is great. No really, I do. Is it good enough to get by the evil "gatekeepers"? Who knows. Maybe some day I'll find out.

And if it does I'll be very happy about that, regardless of how much they rip me off financially. Because I'm not in this for the bread. I make lots of it in my "real"profession. I'm in it to see if I can do it.

One thing I'm not going to do is get all defiant and militant about it. And knock people I don't even know and collectively denigrate them for their chosen profession and insinuate they suck at what they do.

All because they won't publish my work?

You've got a serious chip on your shoulder, as do many others that post here. Truth is, your work probably does suck. If so, be a man about it and don't take it out on others.

And Joe, I only know about you what I read here and on your website. But if you buy into 90% of that guy's garbage, well then I guess you've revealed a lot more about yourself than I wanted to know.

You've reinvented yourself quite well, and it would seem developed a nice following of minions ready to tear down the walls of the nefarious "Big 6". Apparently they think they can be like Joe Konrath too. Deep inside you know that's not true, but it doesn't stop you from pushing the agenda anyway.

Joe Konrath said...

And who in the heck said anything about wanting my identity "validated"?

This is a very old argument on this blog, going back years.

Validation by the Big Six was a way of proving a book was good enough, since it is impossible to truly be subjective when judging your own work.

Personally, I feel my work is great. No really, I do.

Search my blog for "ugly baby" and a post called "How Good Am I?"

You've got a serious chip on your shoulder, as do many others that post here.

Speaking for myself, I'm chipless. I've never wanted to prove anything to anyone. I simply want to earn a living wage as a writer. This blog follows my journey, and shares what I've learned.

Again, "what I've learned." Not what I think based on zero experience.

You've reinvented yourself quite well,

You should go back to the beginning and read my blog from Day 1. I haven't reinvented myself at all. I'm exactly the same. My ability to change my mind as evidence comes in is a trait I've always had, not a reinvention.

Apparently they think they can be like Joe Konrath too.

If my legacy is a whole bunch of writers making money they couldn't have made with the Big Six, I'll take it.

But I could give a shit about my legacy, or who likes me, doesn't like me, follows me, opposes me.

I simply want to succeed.

And that's what I'm doing. I'm also more impressed by electricians than editors, having dealt with many of each.

Robert Christopher said...

@Zoe Doesn't sound like a mic a crackling and popping.

It does sound like a soundcard issue. though I can't imagine 1 track open to a single mic creating such a problem, unless its stressing your comp with CPU usage.

It doesn't matter which DAW you use. If you like Audacity, then that's what works for you. but simpler methods work equally as fine. I've used Mini-disc, digital recorders, and even an ancient 4 track casssette recorder!

Some people like the handheld digital recorders with built in mics. The only problem is they go bonkers with the plosives "P" and fricative "F". But something like the Zoom H4 allows for an XLR input. So you could set up a quality mic, mic stand with wind guard, and still have the flexability to be just about anywhere.

If you have a closet with clothes hanging in it. That might be the most ideal place to get a could recording without the fear of a picking up noise from the outside.

If you're using one of those computer mic's with a USB input, you might pick up the sound of your computer because you are so close to it.

jtplayer said...

Electricians? Meh.

I work with them every day, they're nothing special.

I'm a project superintendent for a large general contracting firm in Los Angeles. I work with all trades. I'm a carpenter and cement mason by trade myself. Been doing this for over 30 years.

But anyway, insinuating that the electrician is somehow more "skilled" than someone else, or that their line of work is more honorable perhaps, is lame IMO.

My daughter is 18, just graduated high school and is going off to college in the fall. She wants to be a book editor, of all things. She loves books, and is fascinated by all things publishing. I've tried to encourage her own writing, but she seems more interested in helping to shape other people's work. Good for her I say, and I support her on her journey.

But when I see some clown post this:

Generally I'm thinking, "Bleeping hurry up and cross you lazy piece of bleep!" instead.

I'm thinking, who the hell are you to judge?

As far as my confidence in my own work Joe, I'm not sure where you're going with your reply.

I personally believe in my story and my ability to tell it. Is it good enough for mainstream publishing? I don't really know. That's where the self doubt comes in. Time will tell.

Is is good enough for Amazon and Kindle? Hell yeah it is. I can have it online and "live" baby in no time at all. Put it right up there next to all that other fine writing the world hasn't yet discovered.

Joe Konrath said...

insinuating that the electrician is somehow more "skilled" than someone else, or that their line of work is more honorable perhaps, is lame IMO.

An electrician has quantifiable skills.

Writers and editors don't. What they do is subjective.

It takes actual knowledge to rewire a kitchen. Even with training, not everyone can do it.

But anyone can write a book. And editing? I think Brookside's assessment was pretty funny, while also containing some truth.

I'm thinking, who the hell are you to judge?

I've thought the same thing, about editors who rejected my books. Even my published books were rejected by other editors.

And these are the smart people gatekeeping for the industry?

Again, I like editors, I've worked with some great ones, and I know it's a tough biz. But too many newbie writers deify them, and they shouldn't.

jtplayer said...

So I pull up Joe's "ugly baby" post.

Interesting. I had actually read that a long time ago and forgotten about it.

But....I still believe my work is great, and I believe in my ability to tell "my" story. In other words, I have confidence in my work.

What I don't have confidence in is someone else believing enough in it to put money behind it and publish it. For many of the reasons Joe points out in his blog post.

It is a crap shoot, and there's no rhyme or reason as to why one person succeeds while another fails. But for me, trying to achieve mainstream publishing success is still a viable goal.

What I don't buy into is this:

"We all think we deserve success"

I certainly don't believe I deserve anything. I never have.

Jude Hardin said...

Yes, like mine. Absolute piles of crap. And once I concede that and decide to own it, what's your next card? You've got no next card.

Why would anyone want to publish piles of crap? That's my next card. Why?

Every writer has some work that simply is not publishable. It's part of the learning process. Why anyone would want to try to sell something that they know is garbage simply baffles me.

I hate to break it to you, but the people at publishing houses are just people.

NFL coaches are just people, too. After years of training and practice, would it be meaningful to make it onto one of those teams? Same kind of deal.

Electricians have to study and go through apprenticeships. They have to make it past the masters and the licensing board. As it should be. Would you want just anyone wiring your house?

Every profession has hoops that must be jumped through to succeed. Yet anyone with a computer and a little spare time can be a "published author." Amazing.

Jude Hardin said...

But anyone can write a book.

But not everyone can write a book that other people want to read. That's the trick, isn't it?

There are exceptions, of course, but I believe most of the manuscripts rejected by agents and editors are rejected because they're not good enough to be published. You can say it's subjective, but anyone with an eye (and, yes, some training) for it knows bad from good. Usually after reading the first page.

jtplayer said...

Take it from me Joe, it ain't that hard to rewire a kitchen.

Just like you know the ins and outs of publishing, I'm expert in construction.

Once you get inside any occupation, the truth is revealed.

When I was a kid growing up I was fascinated by radio DJ's. I grew up in the sixties and the seventies, listening to Boss radio here in So. Cal. That was what I wanted to do.

Fast forward to 1981. I flunk out of college, while pursuing a communications degree so I could get that radio job. I go to a 3 month radio trade school, land a part time gig at an AM station out in the desert, and spend the next 2-1/2 years working weekends at various stations in my "dream" job.

Sadly, I finally gave up radio. Why? Because the reality never matched the fantasy I built up in my head all those years growing up. The industry was full of douche bag losers and backstabbing no-talents, there was no money it it unless you "made" it, and making it had little to do with real talent. In short it was a disappointing awakening. And today the radio business is far worse off than it ever was back in the day.

I have zero illusions about what publishing is all about. Just like I have no illusions about what epublishing has to offer. In today's information age, there is no reason why a person should be clueless about any endeavor they choose to pursue.

jtplayer said...

Re: "Every profession has hoops that must be jumped through to succeed. Yet anyone with a computer and a little spare time can be a "published author." Amazing."
-------------------

Well said Jude...well said indeed.

This is the "revolution" Kindle has brought us.

And Bezos is laughing all the way to the bank.

Along with Joe ;-)

Joe Konrath said...

I believe most of the manuscripts rejected by agents and editors are rejected because they're not good enough to be published..

I agree. But "most" isn't really helpful.

If it were "all" then it would be much easier to prove your point.

In fact, there is an "all" that can be used. "All" publishers screw up and reject things that go on to sell well. "All" publishers publish books that flop.

What does that say about the system?

Joe Konrath said...

"We all think we deserve success"

I certainly don't believe I deserve anything. I never have.


I don't either. I believe it's luck.

But a lot of writers have a sense of entitlement, which bugs me.

Jude Hardin said...

What does that say about the system?

It says, of course, that the system is not perfect. What is?

But there is a huge difference between what is released by legitimate houses and what I've seen from the self-published crowd. Are there diamonds in the rough? Sure there are. Unfortunately, the gems are few and far between, and I really don't have time to wade through slush.

That's what agents and editors are for. ;)

So as a reader, I'll stick with the current system until something better comes along. It's not perfect, but it's better than trying to find that one book in ten thousand that's actually readable.

Anonymous said...

I am a little late to this discussion so I will only say that writers and editors do indeed have quantifiable skills - there is both a technical and non-technical set of skills involved in writing.

Not anyone can write a book. Not anyone can learn to write a book. They can put a lot of words on paper (or in a save file) but that does not make it a book. Yet anyone can learn to be an electrician.

I laugh at Thomas Brookside's derision towards 'Liberal Arts' majors, and 'girls' who work in publishing houses, yet he wants to be a writer. Then he says his own stuff is 'absolute piles of crap'. When and if he realizes what those liberal arts majors are really doing in those classes, his writing may improve.

TL Pouliot

Anonymous said...

@Joe Agree on the entitlement. Add in unrealistic expectations.

Anonymous said...

@Jude The current system pushes out just as much crap.

Though, you could argue its easier to find a gem.

Joe Konrath said...

When and if he realizes what those liberal arts majors are really doing in those classes

Getting stoned and preparing for temp office positions after graduation? :)

I say this having been a liberal arts major.

Anonymous said...

"Speaking for myself, I'm chipless. I've never wanted to prove anything to anyone."

That's why it is so easy to epublish. It costs nothing, and for the egoless (such as myself) there's nothing to lose. I'm not afraid to find out it's crap. Self-pubbing to Kindle will let me know -- in short order -- if I've got a dog with fleas.

I have a friend who has been sitting on a great book for 2 years, fearful of self-publishing. The story is incredible (based on a true story). I couldn't put the book down, it's a page turner.

He's fearful --he fears rejection and lacks confidence. He's the profile of a writer who needs the big 6 validation, and it's a real shame because his book is so long (and would probably be rejected on length).

I feel like I'm pushing on the back end of a 4 ton elephant. I want him to get it up on Kindle (so badly, the world should see this story -- unique and beautiful -- a coming of age during Vietnam era).

I'm more worried about all the great literature sitting in desk drawers, because somebody didn't get the green light from the big 6, than the possibility of a slush pile on Kindle store.

I want to find the gems.

Anonymous said...

I was also a liberal arts major. Best thing I ever did.

Jude Hardin said...

The current system pushes out just as much crap.

No way. I can walk into any bookstore, anywhere in the country, blindfolded, randomly select something from the shelves and be guaranteed that it meets at least a minimal set of criteria.

Try that from the self-published titles on the Kindle store. It's almost guaranteed that what you pick won't meet at least a minimal set of criteria.

Joe Konrath said...

I was also a liberal arts major. Best thing I ever did.

I agree. The sex and drugs were awesome.

Joe Konrath said...

No way. I can walk into any bookstore, anywhere in the country, blindfolded, randomly select something from the shelves and be guaranteed that it meets at least a minimal set of criteria.

Try that from the self-published titles on the Kindle store. It's almost guaranteed that what you pick won't meet at least a minimal set of criteria.


You're correct. But so what?

We're getting close to a time when there won't be any bookstores to walk into.

Amazon has infinite shelf space. That's the future. They also make it very easy for customers to find books.

The crap won't sell. The good books will. No publishing gatekeepers needed.

Jude Hardin said...

The crap won't sell. The good books will. No publishing gatekeepers needed.

So who gets the job of downloading infinite samples to find the few readable titles? Any volunteers?

Or perhaps that role will once again be filled by publishing professionals. That's my prediction.

Joe Konrath said...

So who gets the job of downloading infinite samples to find the few readable titles?

Don't be silly, Jude. You make decisions every time you buy a book, or buy anything at all, for that matter.

Do you buy every book released by every major publisher? Of course not. You've got your criteria for browsing and buying. That won't change. If you can already find stuff to buy on Amazon when it sells 5 million different products, adding an extra million or two won't make a difference.

You'll find books the same way you do now: browsing, name recognition, word of mouth, reading reviews, and checking out a few sample pages. That isn't going to change. Especially since there is no longer a point-of-purchase.

I can download a sample, then if I like it, I can buy the ebook instantly from my Kindle. If I don't like it, I delete it. It's actually a lot faster than going to a brick and mortar store, and much more convenient.

If you foresee a future where people are downloading and deleting hundreds of samples to find a worthy ebook, you aren't taking people's buying habits and preferences into account.

Anonymous said...

@Jude Ohhh, you must go into the only Updike/Shakespeare/Faulkner etc etc etc bookstore when grabbing for those titles.

No. The publishing world doesn't continually foist pure unadulterated overly-hyped garbage onto the masses. They'd never do that, would they?

Jude I could name you names if you'd like.

In fact I got handed a book that was soo poorly edited I finally got a yellow HiLiter to go through all the typos. I gave up halfway through; lets just say it was more than just a mistake here and there.

And the sorry excuse for a plot was the characters tedious, overwrought, over analyzation of their relationship -- and how big the male werewolf character penis was!

But maybe you've never heard that writer.

What about the late, great Robert B. Parker (RIP)? Did you know his mantra? 5 pages a day everyday. NO REWRITES! That's right Jude, he just pounded away at the keyboard.

I'm not the only to have noticed these observations.

So what makes you think that it's impossible for a self pubbed author to not only 1.create a quality product, but 2. have the mental capacity and discipline to do it at a professional level?

Oh, and if you haven't noticed but the name authors with the big salaries. Most simply don't care anymore.

Jude Hardin said...

Joe:

Here's an article on the subject. I found it interesting and thought-provoking. Not silly.

Jude Hardin said...

D'oh! Forgot the link.

http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/06/22/slush

Jude Hardin said...

So what makes you think that it's impossible for a self pubbed author to not only 1.create a quality product, but 2. have the mental capacity and discipline to do it at a professional level?

I never said it was impossible, but in my experience it does not happen very often.

BTW, anon, I got a yellow highlighter to mark all the mistakes in your comment, but I gave up halfway through.

Anonymous said...

@Jude You attack me. But you conveniently don't attack the argument because???

If you buy books for the sole purpose of going through it like a literary Inspector Jacques Clouseau, then you are one miserable bastard.

Things don't sell based on logic, good writing, or good plotting. Tons of great books that never get sold.

I've read (or started to read) plenty of bad books that were hyped and got tons of bad reviews, but sold very well.

And why is that, Jude? Why do bad books continually sell well?

Riddle me this Batman.

Jude Hardin said...

It was a joke, Anon. Relax.

Of course horrible books make it through the cracks sometimes, just as great books are sometimes self-published.

But I would say both instances are relatively rare.

Anonymous said...

Of course horrible books make it through the cracks sometimes ... (But I would say both instances are relatively rare.)

Horrible books getting published is a relatively RARE event...?

Man, I really need to hear what book store you're going to.

Jude Hardin said...

Horrible books getting published is a relatively RARE event...?

Let's just say that the worst traditionally-published novel I ever read was better than the best self-published (not counting writers who had previous book deals with legit presses) novel I ever read.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I've read (or at least started, where the self-pubbed titles are concerned) quite a few of both.

Anonymous said...

@Jude Well, comic timing is not your forte. If you had framed it more as a joke then I would have taken it as such.

@Anon I don't know what drugs Jude is on, but I want some.

Sorry to be harsh Jude. But I would be astounded at the "rare" comment too.

At your age I can't say it's being naive. Maybe you haven't bought a calendar in a decade or two. Or you are just completely oblivious, but to call it a "rare" event is absurd.

And I like all the same stuff you do. Tess writes great books. Thomas Harris wrote two brilliant books, one pretty good book (Hannibal), but the last one was phoned in and atrocious; but I can't blame him for taking the big payday.

But there are PLENTY of name authors who are living off the couple of good books they wrote 20 years ago. Or old fame.

jtplayer said...

Re: "We're getting close to a time when there won't be any bookstores to walk into."
-------------------

And that day would truly suck.

Jude Hardin said...

Truly.

JT, I'm glad to see there are still some aspiring writers around here who haven't completely lost their minds.

Anonymous said...

@Jude I guess we now file you under the oblivious category.

No one wants bookstores to go out of business but Borders has been in dire financial troubles for quite some time. The economy has forced some indy's to close shop.

I don't know if you've noticed the record stores closing down Jude, but its the same principal.

It's nothing we are wishing for or take any glee in, but it is something we see happening. Maybe you live in a bubble where this isn't happening.

It also has nothing to do with losing our minds.

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