Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Changing Face of Publishing

Things seem to be happening quickly in the publishing world. Quickly and, unfortunately, not optimistically.

I'm currently in Florida, having just spoken at a mystery writer convention. They flew me here to talk about ebooks. And people were excited to hear what I had to say, both newbie authors, and professionals.

It seems like a lot of people are being dropped by their publishers. In the past week, I've personally spoken to six authors this has happened to.

I've also spoken to three authors whose publishers are releasing "enriched" ebooks of their upcoming work, involving video, interviews, and extras.

I'm sensing a shift. And this shift will likely prove fatal for many of the parties involved.

If, as I suspect, publishers are going to print fewer books, that will result in a death spiral. Fewer books printed means fewer sold in bookstores, who will no longer be able to stay open. Without bookstore orders, publishers will print even fewer books. And so on.

Publishers might be looking at enriched or enhanced ebooks as their new big-ticket items to replace hardcovers. But the major ebook retailer, Amazon, isn't set up for video. Kindle isn't even able to do color yet. That leaves Apple, and according to my numbers Apple is a very small part of the ebook market. I sell 200 ebooks a day on Kindle. On iPad, I sell 100 a month.

Enriched ebooks seem expensive, and I don't see the money pouring in yet.

But if print goes the way of the dodo, publishers will have to rely on ebooks. Plain old non-enriched ebooks. And if they keep offering authors 17.5% royalty on the cover price, they soon won't have any authors to publish. After all, authors can get 70% on their own. And it doesn't take 18 months to release it. Plus the author gets to pick the price, cover, and title.

I know an author whose book debuted on the extended NYT bestseller list, who was told that more than half of her sales were Kindle sales. If this author had self-published the title and sold it at a reasonable price (other than $9.99 set by the publisher) I bet the ebook sales would have been quadruple.

My friend Henry Perez currently has the #1 ebook on Amazon, Mourn the Living. His publisher was savvy enough to give it away for free. As a result, his first thriller, Killing Red, is selling very well, and broke the top 100 Kindle downloads. The novella we wrote together, Floaters, is also selling better than it ever has in the past 18 months.

Update: The freebie promotion for Mourn the Living has ended, and Henry is currently the #1 overall paid Kindle Bestseller. Take that, Stieg Larsson.

And yet, even though Henry kicking ebook ass, this success doesn't appear to translate to his paperback sales--they're both ranked in the 200,000s and 400,000s.

We might be looking at the beginning of the end of print.

Naturally, people are bemoaning this. Here are some of the things I've heard so often, they're becoming cliches:
  • I love print books
  • I'll never get rid of my book collection
  • I enjoy seeing a book on the shelf
  • I like the tactile experience of paper
  • Print books don't run out of batteries
  • Ebooks hurt my eyes
  • Ereaders are fragile and too expensive
  • I love the smell of paper books
But these protests and professions of love apparently aren't being followed up with ACTUALLY BUYING PRINT BOOKS. All these folks are complaining and insisting that print will be around forever, yet I've read from several sources that ebooks are currently 8.5% of the total book market. By the end of the year, they may be over 10%.

A growing ebook market means a shrinking print market. Those who want print to stay had better start buying more books.

Writers also seem to be defending the status quo. Very few believe, or want to believe, that the old gatekeeping system is crumbling down. They insist that publishers will somehow adapt.

Maybe publishers will adapt. Maybe bookstores will survive. Maybe print will persevere.

But it's important to look at this coldly.

It doesn't matter what writers, publishers, readers, and bookstores say they want.

It matters what they're doing.

Right now, readers are voting with their wallets. They're making the ebook market grow at an incredible rate; up 6% in just 12 months. That's over a 200% sales increase in ebooks.

Publishers are publishing fewer books, dropping authors, and seem to be pushing forward with ebooks with no real business plan. They price their ebooks too high, give authors too small a royalty, and are adding movies that can only be played on devices that people aren't using to read on, like the iPad.

Bookstores are selling fewer and fewer books, and are trying to get into the ebook market to save themselves.

And writers, brainwashed through years of Stockholm Syndrome, continue to have faith in a broken system that seems ill-equipped to weather the oncoming tsunami.

Everyone may want things to stay the same.

But you can't always get what you want.

266 comments:

1 – 200 of 266   Newer›   Newest»
Einstein Esegbue said...

Many writers still feel they need validation from traditional publishers.

Great post as usual.

Daniel said...

I don't know about a lot of other aspiring authors, but personally I think the e-book market is a tremendous opportunity. I am, at this very moment, writing the final chapter of a book I've rewritten four times over the past several years, and plan to publish in the next few months. The more I read of your blog, the more I feel like there is only one good perk to traditional publishing: Advertising.

Based on the obsessive frenzy my book has put many of my friends into as I tease them with a few chapters here and there, I believe, after extensive editing, I've got a book that could sell excellently, and I'm excited to try it out on the e-book market. But I'll be honest, I'm scared to death of what will happen if I can't figure out a good advertisement strategy, and the nagging thought keeps coming into my head, "The only way I'll get publicity is if I contract with a traditional publisher. I can't do it on my own, but they have the resources, they can market it, get me reviews, etc etc etc."

But let's be honest here, I've never been one fond of the easy way out. Traditional publishing sounds to me like the cowardly way out. It fits nicely into tradition and pattern, it saves the author (me) from having to do the legwork finding cover art and publicizing, etc. But what fun is the easy way out? Especially when the hard way offers such phenomenal rewards if I succeed. I'll take 75% over 17.5% any day, and if it takes me more work to get that to pay off, so be it.

Thanks for being an inspiration!

John Platt said...

I think most buyers believe that print books cost too much. And they do. And publishers keep raising prices. Paperbacks are dying, being replaced by more expensive trade paperbacks.

Print can stay alive if it's affordable. (How to do that is a much bigger question.)

Coolkayaker1 said...

Borders bookstore will go under in late 2010 or 2011--it's nearly bankrupt now. The Barnes and Noble Nook is waning and they may go under eventually. Used book stores will be around for a few more years or a decade or so, selling silverfish-infested, broken binding print books to Luddites with checkbooks.

Romantic Words Publishing, LLC said...

Amen. After banging my head against the wall trying to tell everyone in my local RWA chapter and then all my new national friends at the conference about the money to be made in ebooks, I got frustrated.

That frustration has now turned to pity as I see plenty of talented writers with 20+ novels to their name throwing away TIME and therefore money through their faith in the old system.

This may come off wrong but I think a fair amount of this inability to adapt to change is an age issue.

Our lives today move much faster than 50/40/30 years ago. Those that make an effort to keep up with the changes, many of them technological, are having an easier time with the publishing world changes.

I've noticed that a fair amount of the younger writers I encounter are enthusiastic while some of the older ones are resistant. This is just my observation.

I think it also has to do with the new reality of being a writer. You HAVE to be an authorpreneur to survive, and hopefully, thrive. Just writing and letting someone else take care of all of the other details isn't going to cut it.

Although I do think this is what the publishers that remain will end up looking like-- a full service, coddle the brilliant writer establishment. The writer has to be brilliant to be worthy of such non-pay-up-front services.

Everything thing else will be DTP/Smashwords/Lulu/Createspace.

Like Harlequin, the other publishers will follow that bandwagon of making authors pay for their services. And more competition will be created as a result--good.

The credible vendors will rise and build a good reputation. Those may be publishers or they may be new as yet uncreated service companies.

Regardless, the time is now. Get as many titles out there as possible to build your brand. Ride this ebook wave as long as you can before the market matures.

Write like the wind, people!!

Kendall Swan

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I like the idea of multi-media books. The readers are ready for it quite yet, but give it 3-5 years and they will be. Maybe sooner.

I hope bookstores find a way to survive in this market, but I still don't see how that's possible. Maybe if they offered a method like the YouTube video you directed us to-- where a buyer flips through the physical book and then purchases the e-book at the counter. I don't know. Saving bookstores seems like a stretch at this point.

But business types come and go with technology... there aren't any more blacksmiths or apothecaries, either.

QVC's Today Special Value is the Sony ereader today, $100 off the list price. The prices are dropping on even the most expensive readers, and soon everyone will have them. As soon as the price hits $99, that will be the tipping point.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I have a question for you! A lot of people go on about the end of the bookstore due to the end of fiction book publishing as we know it but...

a) What about children's books? You're never going to be able to trust elementary school kids with e-readers.

b) What about non-fiction?

Are these going to become niche markets with specialist stores?

E.J. Wesley said...

Nice post, Joe. The message may sound bleak, but I think that's about the point we're at in regards to the evolution of publishing.

I've even noticed a few of the industry blogs I follow starting to backtrack a bit. One prominent blogger recently retracted his opinion/estimate that ebook sales would represent 50% of all sales by 2015 to something more like 2012/13.

I'm sad for anyone that may lose their job over this shift, I truly am. However, I'm also very excited for what this could mean for the average author. Artistic control and freedom, instant access to readers, etc.

I do think that the professionals who want to stay in publishing will be able to do so, provided they are willing to adapt. Authors will still need representation, there will still be a need for topnotch editors, and marketing will always be important.

When music shifted to a digital distribution-centric model, you didn't see everyone in the industry abandoning their jobs. If they truly loved music, I'm guessing they learned how to stay viable. The studio engineer learned the nuances of home recording, and went into business for himself, etc.

Authors have faced that kind of adjustment for years: 'Not enough people read XYZ, so you can't write XYZ any longer and expect to see it in print." Now it seems we may not be the only ones asked to adapt.

My greatest hope is that the digital shift will mean we can write what we want, see it in print, and that readers will determine if it was worth our efforts or not.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I'm selling about 35 Kindle books a day from my Greg Tenorly Suspense Series. One of them has been staying in the Top 100 for Kindle Romantic Suspense.

Yet the print versions of these same books are not selling at all. Nothing. Zero.

But that's okay with me. My Kindle sales have been growing rapidly as of late. So, I'm on my way to doing quite well. And I'll have my new book out there soon.

Zoe Winters said...

I love my kindle, but I still buy books in print that I absolutely LOVE. I want to own the physical product.

I think there are actually a lot of readers like this. The problem is... MOST books are not that great. And I'm not saying most self-pubbed books. I'm saying most books period are pretty mediocre. They're forgettable throwaway reads.

People read them, and like them... but they don't LOVE them. They may be "good enough to be published by NY" but that's not saying much since they aren't good enough to be unforgettable.

I think the books people love will continue to sell in print but mostly to the hardcore fans who want a physical object.

Most books don't have enough of those kinds of fans. So yeah, I foresee a future in which most books are digital, but also available in POD for the hardcore fans.

I think if we enter a world where everything is "just digital" and no one does print releases, then that's going to irritate the people who love a book enough that they want a physical product.

So I think the Dorchester thing is a bit of a glimpse into a future world in which books are mostly E and POD. In that world though, there is very little benefit a publisher can offer an author over what the author can gain for themselves with enough platform.

I don't think there is much to be optimistic about with regards to traditional publishing.

Anonymous said...

So are you all saying e-book publishing is the way to go for unpublished writers?

Anonymous said...

Joe,

Excellent post. Sorry to post anonymously, but I have to right now...I'd like to add a couple of additional observations:

First, you're right, many established authors seem to defend the old NY print system to me, and they don't want it to change. I consider that a well known quirk of human nature--not wanting things to change. The one that baffles me, though, is that number of UNPUBLISHED writers, who have struggled unsuccessfully to sell good manuscripts to NY, seem to be the most vehement about insisting that self-publishing is damaging to an author's reputation. That one surprised me, and I don't understand it!

However, Im also seeing glimmers of a new, positive trend in some authors' attitudes: They are standing up more for what they feel is a fair deal, whereas in the past, they would have been afraid to. And I think they're doing this because they sense they now have a viable alternative--self-publishing--to accepting that poorly negotiated, one-sided publishing contract that ties up their books and the money from their sales indefinitely.

I don't think this will help their situations with NY any more than you do. But I consider their change in attitude to be the first step in acknowledging that the coming changes in publishing will ultimately be good for every writer who wants a fair deal.

Daniel said...

Here's an option I don't think anybody has looked at yet: For those who are in the publishing industry because they love publishing and influencing the book market, why don't traditional publishers start offering certifications for self-publishing authors? The way the current market works is that in order to get your book published, it has to be approved, and the approver normally does the publishing. Just because we're taking away the publishing, doesn't mean we have to completely remove the stamp of approval.

Maybe I should state this more clearly: People fear the flood of trash e-books written and self-pubbed by authors who lack talent and diction, correct? Why doesn't somebody form some sort of union that puts stamps of approval on books that are worth a dime in order to make browsing the e-book market easier, and to open a new job market based around self-pubbing.

For Nintendo games, the majority of the best games were 1st party, developed by a company that Nintendo personally ran and operated. However, 3rd party developers could request the Nintendo seal of approval before publishing to prove that they hadn't just thrown together something in twenty minutes and called it a game. I'm not sure if this still exists, but it seems like a decent strategy to me.

Without a doubt, the stamp of approval idea would need a lot of refining, but I don't see why it shouldn't be a possibility. I'd feel a lot more confident self-pubbing if I knew for a fact that, despite whether it garners popular approval, that it had achieved the standards necessary to be approved.

Maybe that's just me.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I've read from several sources that ebooks are currently 8.5% of the total book market. By the end of the year, they may be over 10%.

Joe, these figures are for the total book market. Have you heard any numbers for strictly the fiction market?

Zoe Winters said...

Daniel,

I don't think trad publishers have "time" to do "stamps of approval". (I also don't think most indies really care whether they "approve" them or not.) Nor do I think they're going to want to stamp their approval on what might kill their business.

I mean if I was a traditional publisher I would NEVER acknowledge that a self-published book that undercut my prices by a wide margin could ever be as good as what my big NY house was publishing.

Moses Siregar III said...

Wild times, Joe. Thanks for the post.

For anyone curious about a new indie's journey, I released my first work of fiction on Amazon, a promotional 99 cent novella introducing my novel, six days ago. It's been an interesting ride.

There was a lot of excitement and anxiety at first. What would the first reviews look like? Is anyone going to buy it? I probably have about 20 review copies out right now (anyone interested can contact me), so now I'm waiting to hear from those folks. I've already gotten mentions on GoodReads, Shelfari, Smashwords, and soon LibraryThing.

I've had to adjust my expectations. 21 sales and 3 good reviews in six days is a start, but now reality is sinking in. Starting off as an indie is a *lot* of work and it's going to take a long time to get to where I want to be. I think I knew that before, but now I know for sure.

Now I'm back to feeling undecided about traditional publishing vs indie publishing. Unfortunately, I think both routes are pretty flawed. I don't doubt that it's the beginning of the end for publishing as we know it, but an up-front advance, greater exposure, better review coverage, and that chance at a winning lottery ticket are enticing me again.

Who knows? Maybe if the Kindle novella does well, I could also use that to get a better contract with a publisher.

But I have to be happy with the start I've had on my own, and I have yet to play two of my best promotional cards. Chances are that I'll use this novella to generate buzz about my novel before I release it next year (if I release it independently), then do all I can to promote the novel (I'm thinking about blog touring and going to Comic Con, Gen Con and Dragon*Con, among other things), and then reassess after seeing the results of those efforts.

At least I love a good challenge. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe.

Daniel said...

Zoe,

I understand what you mean by that, and you're probably right that a lot of indies don't care at all, but the fact of the matter is, if publishing is going to fall, there's going to be a lot of lost jobs, and a lot of people who can't find a job because their only talent is reading books. You're right that the big publishers won't start doing the stamp of approval anytime soon, and it would take a very long time before that stamp is even recognized as meaning a thing, but I think in the future, as the self-pub and e-book markets keep growing, there may be a need for people to tidy up the market so that the talented authors don't get drowned out by a market that is too large and too flooded by authors who just aren't that good.

But then again, look at sites like Myspace that host millions of indie bands. It gives a shot to all of the truly terrible artists out there, yet somehow the talented ones still keep surfacing, and big-label record companies still keep making money. The differences between the markets are vast, but perhaps there is plenty of prophecy in the way the music industry worked out to show the publishing industry what to do.

Mary Finney said...

Continuing with Icy Sedgwick's question:

* what about magazines? I admit that I no longer buy magazines. When I look at magazines now (in the library, in bookstores, wherever), they are so stupid. Everything is a soundbite and cutesy. No more longform journalism, the great narrative type articles that Joan Didion or Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe might have written, and no fiction either. I find it frustrating that magazine editors have said that longform narrative, fiction, and poetry are no-nos that don't sell, yet those are things I like to see in magazines! Now I pick up an Esquire and it's like Cosmo for Boys, really raunchy and lowest-common-denominator.

* What about literary journals? That's about the only place for "literary" short stories, and I don't see any of them dealing with publishing technology in a smart way. I don't think any of them are on Kindle ... heck, most aren't even putting their stuff on the web!

* Finally, a guy like you can self-publish now because you were a published author. But you can't forget about the unpublished authors who are starting out now! What can they do? I know most I talk to believe that self-publishing is the wrong move. They don't like the way publishers are handling ebooks, but the publishers still hold the key to being accepted as the real deal. If you are unpublished, aren't you kind of stuck with having to have something accepted by a (paper) publisher first? Then, once you are accepted as a real author, maybe you can drop the publisher and self-publish with Kindle. But I don't see any nobodies out there starting out by self-publishing with Kindle and making it in any way at all.

Thanks for the great blog!

K.L. Brady said...

I'm a believer when it comes to e-books and indie publishing having done it the hard way for more than a year now. Despite that, I still accepted a deal with a publishing house.

One thing that I hope to benefit from, as I'm sure Joe benefitted from during his days with Kensington, is the expanded distribution and access to some review and retail channels that you simply are not afforded as a self-publisher. I know because I did it. So many doors were shut...no unceremoniously SLAMMED in my face as a self-publisher it wasn't funny. I look forward to building my audience without so much push back from the "establishment" because I self published.

With that said, I have so much experience and a level of confidence many authors who got their start in traditional houses don't have. I don't sweat one of my books not getting picked up because I know I'll put it out there myself if they don't. If I get dropped tomorrow, my books will still get published and the process will be much faster and easier because I've done it before and I've done it pretty well, relatively speaking.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Joe! It's really motivating me to finish my 4th draft of my 15-year-old unpublished novel and get it up on Kindle by October.
Can anyone point me to some advice about pen names? My last name is difficult, so I'm going to use a catchy pen name. However, how do I ensure that I retain the copyright if it doesn't have my real name on it?

Karen Carr said...

I recently bought a hard cover copy of a book from one of my favorite authors because I thought I'd prefer to have it, but then I went and bought the kindle version because I decided I prefer to read on my kindle.

My favorite thing to do to my books is underline passages and with the kindle this is very easy. You even can download all the underlined passages to your computer to sort and review later. I keep thinking I want hard copies, but always go back to my kindle.

Scathach Publishing said...

I don't get it. Why would I want an author interview in a book? Surely I could just find an interview online.

It's like DVD extras. I don't watch them, so I always buy the cheaper DVDs.

Another random point: if I buy a Kindle will Amazon send huge big bailiffs round to gather my print books up? Didn't think so. I'll still have books on my shelf to look at.

Daniel, if you go with a trad pub, you'll have to do the marketing yourself anyway.

Moses Siregar III said...

But business types come and go with technology... there aren't any more blacksmiths or apothecaries, either.

Oh.

Well, there go my backup plans.

Mike Jastrzebski said...

You're right about traditional writers not admitting what's happening. I am an active member of the Florida chapter of MWA and I've had friends loose their contracts and all they can talk about is writing something different, bigger, even if it means using a pen name.

I aslo find it funny that if a writer sells a book to a recognized small publisher for $1000 paid out over 18 months to 2 years they can become active members of MWA. I on the other hand am not Eligable since I'm self-published on Amazon. It doesn't matter that in 6 weeks I've earned over $800 dollars selling 2 self-published e-books on Amazon.

I guess next year I'm not going to renew my MWA membership.

Anonymous said...

Traditional publishing has been very good to me. I've had great promotion, sold tens of thousands of copies of my books all over the world, and been reviewed in all the major trades and quite a few major newspapers around the country. I have no complaints.

As a result, I'm going to ride them until they take their last breath, or until I become a casualty of the dying industry. Once I'm out of the publishing game, I'll hop over to e-publishing, push aside all the amateur writers with their poorly written, shitty vampire books, and take my place at the top and sell a ton of copies to an already established readership.

Win for me, because if these no talent "writers" can do it, I certinly can.

Ty Johnston said...

Christy, your post gave me a good chuckle. Your point is valid, but actually, there are blacksmiths today. I live on a farm where there's still a working blacksmith's shop still set up, and the blacksmith himself just moved down the road a couple of months ago.

Not dissing you. As I said, your point is more than valid. But it gave me a good laugh as I stare out my office window at an anvil, an oven (or kiln or whatever they call it) and a pair tongs hanging on a work board.

mlouisalocke said...

As usual, not only thoughtful post but great comments.

To Kendal Swan, I am not so sure that age has that much to do with it-except that if you have spent a life-time as a traditionally published author-and don't have your rights-it is hard to break free.

On the other hand, if you are like me-60 years old and just starting my career-one of the major reasons I decided to go the self-pub route is "life is just too damn short!" My mother was dead at 67 and my father's alzheimer's began in his late 70s-why would I wait 18 mos at minimum to get a book published when I was able to do it in 2 weeks?

In addition, those of us in our late 50s and 60s were the generation who first adopted computer technology-and had to keep up with the rapid shifts (I remember punch cards-much less floppies!) so this really isn't such a stretch for us.

As for ereaders-the acceptance by romance readers of ebooks has lead the pack-and I can see the rapid shifts happening among readers of literary fiction, once they begin to realize the benefits of instant gratification and larger print!!!

Like Zoe, I still buy print books of those books I know I will want to reread-and I think with POD technology there really is no reason for any book not to be available in print for those who want it. I also think we need to support the idea that ebooks always have a print back up-if only for preservation reasons, and for libraries and those people in the world who don't have the money or accessibility for ereaders.

And for those who felt that it was only the already established authors like Joe who can be successful, that book I published (a month before I turned 60) has sold over 1000 copies in 8 months. Yes it started slowly, yes I do spend 1-2 hours a day on marketing related activities, but Maids of Misfortune (my historical mystery) is now averaging 10 books a day -about 8 Kindle, 2 paper) and with the 70% royalty rate that is nearly $600 a month. If I keep writing books people want to read, this will be a lovely supplement to my fixed income-and for you young writers, with more years to write-you just might be able to make a living.

Finally, the one unknown at this point, is am I, and others who are doing well on Kindle, going to hit a point when those books stop selling-just as often happens with traditional print books? Even if the long tail is easier to maintain with ebooks, this still might have an effect on writers who can't churn out multiple books a year. Yet if Joe is correct, and publishers are dropping authors, it may be that those of us who are self-publishing--for reasonable prices--will have an expanding market of people who can no longer find the books to choose from in print.

I can always tell how good Joe's posts are by how much I write in my comments. Sorry for my wordiness!

Jeila said...

Moses said: "I've had to adjust my expectations. 21 sales and 3 good reviews in six days is a start, but now reality is sinking in. Starting off as an indie is a *lot* of work and it's going to take a long time to get to where I want to be. I think I knew that before, but now I know for sure.

Now I'm back to feeling undecided about traditional publishing vs indie publishing. Unfortunately, I think both routes are pretty flawed. I don't doubt that it's the beginning of the end for publishing as we know it, but an up-front advance, greater exposure, better review coverage, and that chance at a winning lottery ticket are enticing me again."

I think this is going to be common. It's easy to come here and hear about Joe's success, then read about Boyd Morrison and the two or three other writer's who landed publishing contracts after publishing on the Kindle and think it's easy.

Well, it's not. Um, unless you write erotica or Vampire novels, then it's simple.

Traditional publishing might be close to death, but I'm not ready to count them out just yet. One thing I noticed, Amazon is turning into the place to go to buy bad, self published books. I was leaving on a trip, so I went out and tried to browse around the kindle store the other day for something to read, and the lists were flooded with $.99 to $2.99 books by amateurs. I have no desire to read amateur, unedited books by wannabe's, so I ended up going to the book store and buying a paper book for my trip.

If Amazon isn't careful, all they're going to be is a place for amateurs to sell their writing, and all the good books are going to be found elsewhere.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

a) What about children's books? You're never going to be able to trust elementary school kids with e-readers.

I saw a $55 COLOR e-reader for kids at Target last week. It used little cartridges and it was interactive like a video game. That's the future. All the "books" were nearly sold out.

b) What about non-fiction?

Non-fiction will live on in POD longer than fiction will, but eventually it will probably all go to ebooks, too.
Technical non-fiction such as college textbooks, will be the biggest challenge because college students love to bootleg, and who wants to pay $100 for a textbook that you can get for free from your dorm roommate? That's a challenge I'm dealing with myself. Don't know the solution yet.

Maria said...

It will be interesting to see if these enhanced ebooks sell. The only problem I have with it is "I'm not interested."

Will it turn out to be a gimmick? A product without demand?

Dunno, but I do vote with my wallet on that one.

Maybe people are still buying paper/print books. But maybe they lean more toward used books and ebooks because of the lower price...

Just a thought. Because that's the way I buy.

Anonymous said...

Joe,
Is there any chance Amazon/Kindle is using you as a shill?

Could they be they be paying you for 'Phantom Sales' in order to have you spread the gospel of eBooks on their behalf & writing off in their advertising budget?

I've noticed some odd statements, very counter-intuitive things, in your blogs over the past few months.

One thing is you don't have any idea why your best selling ebooks are your bestselling ebooks. A savvy guy like you, who touts himself as a (self/ebook)publishing guru, ought to have some idea why the book you judge as your best work is not one of your best sellers.

Another thing is the disconnect between ebook sales and paperback sales. It seems obvious to me there should be concomitant sales activity if only from word of mouth as non Kindle owners ask their e-reader enabled friends for recommendations. From what I've read here that does not seem to be the case.

Now I see your Kindle sales trounce iPad format sales by a factor of 30:1. How does this square?

It seems to me Kindle should be reaching some kind of saturation point while iPad users would be starved for good ebook content.

I've actually wondered about this before in regard to all Kindle authors. Even among unknown authors Kindle 'sales' far exceed sales on any other platforms to the point that there is no comparison.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

[Amazon]...is flooded with $.99 to $2.99 books by amateurs.

This worries me, too-- but just remember that the vanity presses have been publishing dogshit and posting it on Amazon for decades.

Here's irrefutable proof (read the reviews, you'll laugh your ass off)Birth Control Is Sinful!!!

I think that authors are just going to have to learn how to build a brand. Do their own marketing, in ADDITION to writing well. Bad reviews will kill the bad ones, and good reviews will lift the good ones.

It's the ultimate democracy.

Jana Oliver said...

@ Daniel - "Traditional publishing sounds to me like the cowardly way out... But what fun is the easy way out?"

Ouch. That's a really broad brush you're using there. I'll ignore the "coward" comment because it just makes me growl.

Traditional publishing has its pluses when it comes to promotion, but the author will still be out there busting their hump doing the scutt work for their book/series. Just because you signed with one of the Big Six doesn't mean you can just sit back and relax. What it does mean is that there is a better chance your books might get traction in an insane market.

Unless you can find a way to get that traction or have previously built your author platform (like Joe) you're going to one of a zillion authors out there frantically waving at a jaded audience.

The industry is in flux, but I'm not giving up on print books and traditional publishing quite yet.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Ouch. That's a really broad brush you're using there. I'll ignore the "coward" comment because it just makes me growl.

Jude and J.T. are late to the party. Just wait till they get here and read Danie's statement. It's going to be pandemonium.

*grabs popcorn*

Moses Siregar III said...

Once I'm out of the publishing game, I'll hop over to e-publishing ... and take my place at the top and sell a ton of copies to an already established readership.

Win for me, because if these no talent "writers" can do it, I certinly can.


Hey, leave some room for me, ya bastard!

AnneMarie Novark said...

Great post, Joe. As usual.

Kendall, I had to smile when you used the term "authorpreneur." I've never heard that word, but I love it.

That word describes exactly how I've felt the past several months editing my ms, making the cover, formatting it just right, planning marketing strategies, etc.

I also know about the frustration of dealing with RWA Chapter mates. I haven't been to a meeting in months because of the attitudes toward micro-publishing and indie-publishing. But I have to admit, I felt the same way 4-5 years ago. I had my sights set on a NY publisher and I thought nothing else would do.
I was very close to getting an editor, too.

But I wasn't having fun anymore with the writing. I noticed a few of my writing friends had published with micro-presses and they were having a great time. I decided to give it a try and succeeded. I began having fun, too.

One of my chapter mates asked if I really felt published. Well, yes I did. I liked being an ebook author.

Then I noticed the opportunities opening up to indie authors and started following Joe's blog. With Kindle and Smashwords, I would get the same distribution as my micro-press books.

I decided to give it a try. And I must say it feels awesome seeing my new indie book up on Kindle and Smashwords and knowing I did it all by myself.

I'm adapting and I'm having fun again. All I want to do is write my stories and publish them so readers can read them.

It's really sad about the bookstores, though. And what about libraries? I LOVE libraries.

The times they are a changing. You gotta go with the flow. Like someone said, many are kicking and screaming, not wanting the change. But change is inevitable.

Anne Marie Novark
Midnight My Love

Anonymous said...

It has been observed that any new idea is rapidly adopted by 10% of the population, then it slowly advances toward adoption until some tipping point at which the acceptance rapidly slides toward 90% and then that last 10% has to die off before it is universally accepted. Now at this point less than 10% of the population owns a dedicated e-reader. There are many other devices that are capable of displaying an e-book but an unknown number of those is used for reading books (except in Japan where phone reading is widespread), so we can expect the rapid rise in e-book sales to slow down when the 10% of the population owns and uses dedicated e-readers. E-readers (people, not books) buy more books per person than paper book readers. I don't know how many people own Kindle/nook/Sony/iPad/whatever but I see very few out in the wild and still get asked if "that is a Kindle". I think paper book buyers are going to be a major part of our population for quite some time. E-book readers are scarce, paper books are everywhere.

Todd Allen said...

Point of order: people reading e-Books on an eReader have the device specifically to replace printed books.

You can give away all the eBooks you want to an eReader-using audience, but you're not likely to sell many print books. (You should sell some more eBooks, though, as I think you found.)

If you were giving away eBooks to an audience that reads on the computer screen (i.e., desktop/laptop), you might sell a few print copies that way.

Otherwise, print is a collectible/fetish item, similar to a t-shirt from a concert. Figure around 1% conversion to print.

You want to sell more print books, you need a different promotion.

Ellen Fisher said...

"...unless you write erotica or Vampire novels, then it's simple."

That's an oversimplification. I've seen some horrid erotica novellas on Kindle that aren't selling at all (and for very good reason). Certainly there are some genres that sell better than others, but as in any other genre, if it's crap no one buys it.

Linda Pendleton said...

This began more than ten years ago ... and now more and more authors are seeing ebook (Kindle especially), and even POD publishing (free or $39 bucks at Createspace) as a way to generate good royalty rates and they don't have to battle some NY publisher and their Reserve games to have what is rightfully theirs.

Business strategies are definitely changing, at both ends...author and publisher...and then agents may even fall out of the equation.

Many people do not want to pay $28 for a hardcover novel... I would guess people are more willing to pay that price for nonfiction ... but NY is pricing themselves out of business. They do need to change their business model and go back to the days when they had more respect for authors.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Now I'm back to feeling undecided about traditional publishing vs indie publishing--Moses S.

Despite Joe's success at selling 20 books daily on Amazon.com, plus the changing tide of publishing, if you can get a ride with a traditional publisher, wouldn't you take it? I mean, if Random House wanted to publish your book, like Grisham and Faulkner and Nora Roberts et al, would you actually say, "no"? Of course not. This thread--and every one of them that is precisely identical that Joe has put out over the past few months, have become head-banging drudgery to read.

Writers, submit your books to all publishing sources, and take the best deal. If all of traditional publishing rejects you, then you now have an alternative, ebooks. It's elementary.

Coolkayaker1 said...

That should read 200 books daily. Out of the, what 17 books or so that he has written.

Daniel said...

Okay, so in response to the negative things being said about my "cowardly way out" comment, let me be clear.

Publishing with a big-name publisher is hard; I'm not downplaying that at all, and I'd never imply anyone is less of a writer for doing so.

It would be the cowardly way out for me to do that, because I know if I work hard enough, I can be a success self-pubbing. That's me- ONLY me. I wasn't trying to make a general statement, though I realize I quite obviously did, I was simply saying that for the place I"m at, just trying to get a publisher to pick me up would be me saying "I don't want to take the risk of failing on my own." I can say this, because I know my mindset. Other people will have their own reasons for the choice they make, I just know very well what my reasoning would be.

Joe Konrath said...

you don't have any idea why your best selling ebooks are your bestselling ebooks

I had no idea why THE LIST outsold ORIGIN, almost double the sales.

Now they sell at the same rate. Why? Dunno. Got me. Just one of those things.

who touts himself as a (self/ebook)publishing guru, ought to have some idea why the book you judge as your best work is not one of your best sellers.

Do I tout myself? Really? I believe other people tout me, but the only time I label myself is when I repeat what others have said.

As for the commercial value of my work, I still have no idea why some sell more than others. Could be covers. Could be genre. Could be premise. If I knew the reason, every book I wrote would be a huge bestseller. But no one knows why some books sell great and others don't sell as well.

Another thing is the disconnect between ebook sales and paperback sales. It seems obvious to me there should be concomitant sales activity

Tough to gauge, since my ebooks aren't available in print. But if you look at Henry Perez, whom I mentioned in the blog post, we're seeing the same thing; big ebook sales, not so big print sales.

And yet, WHISKEY SOUR just went into yet another printing, dashing my hopes that my publisher would abandon it.

It seems to me Kindle should be reaching some kind of saturation point

Not even close. By October, I'll have sold 100,000 ebooks. Assume there are 3 million Kindle owners, and 50 million people who have downloaded the Kindle app. That number will grow this holiday season, and next as well. We're a long way from saturation.

Joe Konrath said...

if you can get a ride with a traditional publisher, wouldn't you take it?

Hell no. Do the math. Consider the future. Look at the royalty difference.

You'd rather take 17.5% than 70% over the course of ten years? Twenty years? Because if you sign with a publisher, you might never get your rights back.

Anonymous said...

@anon so far i'd say this blog is running at about 80% bullshit, 15% delusional, and 5% factual. It does at times sound like a shill. If I read one more post by a supposed adult who says they couldn't sleep from reading his books I'm going to throw up.

@Joe Just because you have ADD and ADHD doesn't mean the world want's pop up videos in their books. Just what I need a behind the scenes with Hermes trhe bat or a full hour interview with you in your wonder twins outfit.

If you did any homework you'd know Jeff Bezos doesn't want that at all. And the Kindle is selling very well. Why mess with it? It doesn't need color or a touch screen. The very fact that its different and dedicated solely to reading is what makes it unique and not an Ipad wannabe.

Re Ipad sales: No shit your sales are poor. Because no one is buying the Ipad to read. They are watching movies on Netflix and playing games like "Angry Birds" on it. And there are legions of Apple fans that buy anything Apple so factor that into the equation of why the Ipad sold so well.

And one more thing for Joe, as you boldly stated, 99% of indie stuff is crap. So that means you would "need" NY publishing to sustain the Kindle. And why i say this is becasue of Moses.

@Moses Holy Moses!!! You went a whole 6 days priced at .99 cents before questioning your move. What did you expect? Another one to be put in the delusional category with WDG.

If nothing else, Joe broke his ass promoting -- for years! He's said time and time again it was luck and hard work. And you are frustrated at the six day mark!

This blog should be renamed The dreamers guide to publishing!

Selena Kitt said...

"if you can get a ride with a traditional publisher, wouldn't you take it?"

Joe = "Hell no"

I second that! Hell no! The math is pretty darned clear.

@Christy and the "Birth Control Is Sinful" link... I think I peed myself laughing! Thanks for that! *snerk*

Oh and btw, if any Joe Schmo writes a novel about erotic vampires, it's sure to be an instant Amazon bestseller.

(And monkeys will fly out of Andrew Wylie's butt...)

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Joe!

I'm squarely on both sides of the issue, with 23 books published with Penguin, St. Martin's, and Kensington (three active traditional publishing contracts) and another 18 books that NY didn't want, from suspense to PI to SF and Fantasy. My 'orphans' are now on Kindle and Smashwords, and I get a kick every time I sell one. As Tim Myers, Elizabeth Bright, Chris Cavender, Casey Mayes and more, I have close to 400,000 books in print, but I'm really excited about the ereader potential. As soon as I finish the book I'm writing for NY, I plan to write the 6th Lighthouse Inn mystery I always wanted to write!

Thanks for the inspiration to take the plunge!

Best,

Tim Myers (www.timmyers.net)

Anonymous said...

Come on Selena... I read your babysitter book and it's just one long penthouse forum letter. It's far from original or groundbreaking. All you need to write a book like that is to write like foreplay. Start with masturbation then build to the fuck scenes. And you'll also need an erotic thesaurus to help you figure out different ways to describe dicks and pussies.

Vampiers and erotica is an easy sell. The only people who can't do it are shitty writers.

Sorry, but it's the truth.

Zoe Winters said...

Daniel,

I definitely think some kind of "Good Housekeeping seal of approval" sort of thing will come up. I'm just not sure if it will originate from former big publishers or somewhere else entirely. I blog at Indie Reader which is a site dedicated to vetting self-publishing work and showcasing and selling the quality work.

So this sort of thing is already starting. I just don't know if it's going to be former big pubs who are out of work, places like Indie Reader, or some other system altogether.

And however it goes I don't think there will be just "one system" or "one way" of getting that approval rating to get readers to give your work a chance. But you probably weren't saying that it would be. I think I did slightly miss your point. On the general idea, I think we agree.

@Moses, I sold 6 copies of Kept the first 5 days it was out, and there were fewer books on Kindle to compete with. Be chill. Keep doing what you're doing. :)

Robert Burton Robinson said...

@Zoe, @Moses - It took quite a while for my sales to begin to take off. One thing that's really helping me right now is that I have a series out there. A lot of customers buy all four books at once.

I'm sure this helps your sales too, Zoe.

Jack H. H. King said...

Bookstores might survive if they evolve into restaurants. Make all their profit off food and drink. Use the bookstore trappings as decor.

Maybe Starbucks should buy Barnes & Noble. Install free wi-fi. Create a nice quiet place for the literary elite to read their Kindles. $9.99 per novel. $9.99 per coffee.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon, wow, classy and original to attack Selena's erotica. I haven't read Selena Kitt yet (though I definitely plan to... actually I take that back, I think I saw a sample once and really liked it), but if her sales and fan base are any indication, she's meeting the needs of her readers/fan base.

If you don't think her erotica is groundbreaking, then write something groundbreaking. Or is it just easier to attack than to actually do?

Zoe Winters said...

@Robert, it definitely does. I went from selling a few hundred copies a month for like a year and a half with just Kept out to selling several thousand copies a month when I released the other two novellas. It's leveled out a little since that first month, but in June I sold over 6,500 ebooks.

Justin Jordan said...

There are still blacksmiths (more than you might think, actually) and an apothecary is essentially a pharmacist.

Very few jobs actually go away entirely.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the "enhanced" ebook will start to help schools teach reading because as Christy said it becomes like a video game.

I have said this before and I truly believe that ebooks will replace text books and others because in the long run they are cheaper and the kids would like them better.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure HUnters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Lee Goldberg said...

Daniel wrote: "Traditional publishing sounds to me like the cowardly way out. It fits nicely into tradition and pattern, it saves the author (me) from having to do the legwork finding cover art and publicizing, etc. But what fun is the easy way out? "

Clicking a mouse to publish your book is "the hard way"... and selling your book to a publisher is the "easy way out" and the "cowardly way out"??

No offense, Daniel, but are you CRAZY?

For the most part, I agree with my friend Joe's assessment of the state of publishing. But if you think the only benefit of selling your book to a publisher is saving an author "the burden" of designing a cover, or publicizing their work, then you are living in a dream world.

The benefits of selling your book include professional editing, copyediting, proof-reading, cover design, marketing, publicity, distribution, etc. Not to mention the financial pluses. Now before you argue "but I can get 70% royalty on the Kindle," remember that few people are selling as well as Joe...or, to a lesser degree, me. The majority of what is being self-published won't sell more than a handful of copies (and don't even get me started on how bad much of it is).

There's no question that publishing is undergoing a massive change...and that the old paradigms are crumbling... but to say going the print route is "cowardly" and the "easy way" is laughably ignorant.

Lee

Robert Burton Robinson said...

It's leveled out a little since that first month, but in June I sold over 6,500 ebooks.

That's great, Zoe! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

@Zoe you have three novellas how do you call that a series?

Combined that just about makes a decent full length novel.

Anonymous said...

@Lee lots and lots of dreamers! No one wants to talk about art or story. It's all commerce. It's all money,money, money.

Jon Renaut said...

I'd love to talk to those six dropped authors if they're investigating alternatives. Feel free to send them to Manfred Macx, or they can email me directly.

Joe Konrath said...

Just a warning to play nice. I enjoy deleting rude people.

LK Rigel said...

It's hard to put your work and your name out there for the world to stomp on -- whether self-published or corporate published.

So easy to stand behind a mask and tear others down and say you could do it better. Heady stuff, Anonymous.

Jude Hardin said...

For those who are in the publishing industry because they love publishing and influencing the book market, why don't traditional publishers start offering certifications for self-publishing authors?

Or, you could work on your craft and maybe land a book deal or at least a literary agent, and prove to yourself and the world you're actually good enough to be published. There's your certificate, your non-hack license. Get that, then go indie if you want.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:54 PM you are GREAT.

Joe should allow you to be a guest blogger.

Love to read more that you have to say. Maybe I'm just dreaming but I hope you say it here.

LK Rigel said...

Or, you could work on your craft and maybe land a book deal or at least a literary agent, and prove to yourself and the world you're actually good enough to be published.

Yes, because we all know that every writer who is "good enough" to be published actually gets published.

Anonymous said...

Like what Mary Finney said earlier. I find it odd that Joe pops in here but ignored her questions. Could it be that he doesn't want to answer them? Particularly the last bit about newbies (nobodies) not being able to do what Joe did.

Moses Siregar III said...

It's good to hear from people like Zoe and Robert that it normally takes a while for Kindle sales to take off, and that makes perfect sense. The "customers also bought" and other recommendations, not to mention word of mouth, naturally take time. It's not unexpected news, but it's good to hear from the horses' mouths.

I didn't know what to expect regarding first-week sales. Considering there are millions of people with Kindles and tens of millions more with devices that read Kindle books, and Kindle books just became available in the UK, I thought maybe there's a sizable segment of readers who look for low-priced new releases and check them out right away. Despite those millions, I'm guessing not many will do that. That makes sense--I don't do that either and no one has free time these days.

If you do a search in the Kindle store on Amazon for the term "epic fantasy," my novella was top-ten over the last week (right now it's at #15 for whatever reason). With millions of Kindlers out there, I had to experiment to see how many would check you out once you're there. Btw, this doesn't mean my book is top ten in that "category" (I'd have to be selling a lot for that to happen), it just means that it's easy to find my ebook with a basic search for that popular term.

But it's fine for now and this is all an experiment. I knew going in that it was going to require a lot of smart promotion and time. I'm not lazy when it comes to doing that sort of thing, and I have some good promotional cards left to play. If the work is good and I do my part, people should eventually find it. If not, I could always open up shop as a blacksmith. Apparently, they're doing a lot better than we thought.

z said...

@Anon it's a series of novellas.

And it's the start of a larger series.

When an author is publishing a series and they only have two of the books out, is it suddenly not a series?

How many hairs would you like to split today?

Zoe Winters said...

that last post was me. I just got trigger happy and pushed "enter" before I got my name typed in. LOL

Ian Pattinson said...

I still buy quite a few paper books, though most of the time I pick them up second hand so I'm no help to the publishing industry. Several of my friends buy more books than me, and more of them new. Other friends have gone more toward ebooks or rtfs they can read on their phones. I'll read more ebooks when I can afford something with a larger screen than my smartphone to read them on. As I'm writing primarily for the ebook market it would be hypocritical not to.

I don't think you can extrapolate the shape of the future market from the reading habits of my friends and me, but I reckon it's fair to say that there will always be a market for prose on paper, much like vinyl never really died. You can spend thousands on turntables to get the most from your music. Perhaps, in a similar vein, we'll see premium books with artisanal bindings or individually painted endplates. Bookshops will wither away to Amazon and the occasional dusty place down a side street, but people will still be publishing books for them.

Ellen Fisher said...

Wow, there sure are a lot of angry anonymouses posting here lately. What are you guys so angry about? If you don't think indie publishing is the way to go, no one's trying to force you do it. Why rant so hard about the topic? It's bad for your blood pressure. Try to go relax in a hot tub or something, instead of reading a blog that gets you all worked up.

Moses, my advice is to wait and see what happens. It's too early to start stressing:-).

"I find it odd that Joe pops in here but ignored her questions. Could it be that he doesn't want to answer them? Particularly the last bit about newbies (nobodies) not being able to do what Joe did."

Perhaps Joe is just tired of answering the same questions over and over again?

Zoe Winters said...

@Moses

Here's what to expect:

At first people will tell you: "See? You suck. You put your 99 cent kindle book out and didn't sell thousands of copies immediately."

Later, when you sell well you'll hear:

"Well, it's 99 cents and we all know that just ANY bozo can put a 99 cent book on Kindle and sell like extreme! OMG!"

The cognitive disconnect between those positions never registers. And often they are said by the same people.

You'll get a little creative variation, but that's basically about what you'll hear.

Anna Murray said...

"@Zoe you have three novellas how do you call that a series?

Combined that just about makes a decent full length novel."

It's about shelf space. Zoe has 3 distinct product pages, and that gives her 3 times the visibility on Kindle store. I also have 3 novels out, and my sales accelerated greatly when I had more real estate on the Kindle store.

Anonymous said...

"It's all commerce. It's all money,money, money."

How is that different from the traditional publishing industry? Last time I checked they were motivated by creating profits for their stockholders.

Jude Hardin said...

I would never say that every writer who is good enough to be published actually gets published, but I would say that with persistence most writers with a book that's good enough to be published can at least land an agent.

As with anything, there are always exceptions. I just haven't found many of those exceptions in the self-publishing arena.

Zoe Winters said...

@Jude

I think at the end of the day an author has to make the decision that is going to net them what they want. If an author can get the money they want and the readers they want on their own, then to debate whether or not they are "good enough" seems silly.

I know there are plenty of people who think Stephenie Meyer isn't "good enough" and yet she was vetted. I'm pretty sure she doesn't care how many people think her writing sucks though, since she's laughing all the way to the bank. And she has fans so passionate about her work they make felt wombs complete with mutant fetus inside.

The way I see it, if someone can't write or connect with an audience, they will fail whether they went the traditional way or the self-publishing way, so they are no threat at all either way they go.

People who can write and connect with an audience, will likely do that whether they self pub or trad pub.

It all comes down in the end to what the individual writer values most. Whether or not you think they're a real writer or good enough will make no difference to their ultimate fan base or bank balance.

David Wisehart said...

Enhanced books are like pop-up books. They will never be a big segment of the ebook market, outside of children's ebooks, where multimedia can actually add value.

Anonymous said...

@Anna You said it yourself. re-read your post 3 novels compared to three "novellas."

@Anon 5:04 You don't get it!! do you hear Stephen King, Nelson Demille, Lee Child, James Patterson, etc etc etc complain on forums about sales?? Of course the corporation wants to make money but you don't hear a peep out of the writers about sales or money. It's called tact! Look it up in a book called the dictionary.

@Zoe sage advice from someone who hasn't yet put out a full length work and riding the coattails of the genre and .99 cent price point. No go have another nervous breakdown and pout like a child becasue someone ripped you on a board.

Sorry Joe can't attack the argument without attacking the actions of people here who state it publicly.

It's immature to pout and whine and ask your fans to be proofreaders.

It's delusional to worry/contemplate first week sales.

Anonymous said...

@Zoe You are showing your complete lack of knowledge.

1st)This female bonding cycle comes and goes. Rememeber Anne Rice? Oh, that's right you never read her books, so how would you know. Well she had the same thing 15-20 years ago.

2nd) Stephanie Meyer is a hack. She was barely vetted. The publisher needed the money to keep the lights on so she got pushed to the moon. End of story! If they plucked you out of obscurity and pushed you to the moon you'd get the same result.

Maggie said...

Well, maybe I'm the only one, but I still subscribe to magazines (5, in fact!) and I buy at least five books every month. Print books. I don't own a Kindle or want one. I'll be sad if print dies. Hopefully at least a few stores will be open because I'll still be buying print books, that's for sure!

Anna Murray said...

"@Anna You said it yourself. re-read your post 3 novels compared to three "novellas.""

?? A novella, last time I checked, was a valid literary form. If Zoe can find a good market selling those, well more power to her. She's obviously found a niche for her work, and she's making decent coin. This is capitalism, the free market in action. Ain't it great?

Zoe Winters said...

@Anonymous posters, fortunately for me, nothing you say stops my fans from loving and buying my work or me from making money. This impotent anger is rather cute.

Anonymous said...

6,500 x .99 Novellas sold at 35% return = $2,252.25

2,166 x 2.99 Combined Novellas sold at 70% return = $4,534.83

$2,282.58 loss in sales.

Increase in July and August sales? Since neither were mentioned. Doubtful.

The freebies and .99 cent deals clutter the search for valued fiction.

'nuff said.

bowerbird said...

joe, i too am perplexed by
the people who say they'll
"never" give up print-books.

they don't seem to realize
they'll have little choice...

when the bookstores go
bankrupt, and the major
publishers stop printing
their stuff in large runs,
their goose will be cooked.

p-books will be $50-$80,
versus $4-$7 for e-books.

even if the diehards _do_
still choose the p-books,
they won't buy very many.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

@Zoe Reality check. If you truly believed that your sales are by "so called" fans then why haven't you taken Joe's challenege to bundle them and sell for 2.99??

Is it becasuse you know you can skate by at 99 cents?

Is it that you actually like the safety of being 99 cents?

Or are you too afraid to make the move because you know deep down inside you actually like riding coattails on the most minimal amount of work?

Most romance writers can pump out 6-8 full length titles in a year. And here you are with a measly three novellas.

And you have to nerve to gripe about NY publishing.

This isn't about what's the right choice for you. That's a very thin veil you are hiding behind. At this point why arent there 10 novellas? Or 2-3 full length works?

Zoe Winters said...

@bowerbird I think all the resistance to E is protesting too much. I used to say I'd never own an e-reader too, and when I bought my Kindle I was still part of an early enough group of buyers to be called an "early adopter". We can see how long I held out! :P

I think that when people try an e-reader, most will want one. The convenience and instant gratification alone are huge selling points in our culture.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous

Why such concern about Zoe's writing career? Why are you applying arbitrary standards (6-8 books produced a year)? Productivity varies widely among authors. Harper Lee wrote only one book in her entire career. Did that make her somehow unworthy?

I don't get your backbiting. It comes off as bitter jealousy.

Perhaps you are a fan who is cowing her to get books out faster? I understand, it's hard to wait for the next Zoe Winters story, but geez . . . .

Jude Hardin said...

I think I'll become a brain surgeon.

Wait...that involves having at least a smidgeon of talent for such a thing in the first place, years of undergraduate study, being accepted into an accredited medical school, passing myriad written exams and clinical trials, being accepted into a surgical residency, more exams and interviews and certifications and peer reviews...

Forget that shit. I'll just push a few buttons and become an author! Anyone can do it, and there's no difference between me and all those so-called "professionals" who stupidly jump through flaming hoops to get a contract with a so-called "real" publisher.

I still want to do brain surgery on the side, though. I've heard it makes a great hobby.

rex kusler said...

fart>>>

Okay, that's my promotional output for the month.

Zoe Winters said...

@Jude

You can't compare brain surgery to art. Anyone can express themselves and their audience will decide the worth of their creation. It's subjective. There is very little that is subjective about brain surgery.

I also think comparing writing to brain surgery is part of the problem. We're just talking about publishing here. This isn't world-in-peril stuff. It's just not that epic. It's a book. No more, no less.

Frank Zubek said...

HEY JOE HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BLOG?

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2010/08/publishers-behaving-badly-again.html
IT WAS ON KINDLEBOARDS

ISN'T THERE A BETTER WAY TO GET THE WORD OUT TO WRITERS BEYOND JUST YOUR GREAT BLOG?

Sorry for screaming in caps but i thought you might have missed this blog about McMillian Publishing

I'm pretty sure there are a multitude of writers out there who have never heard of you and THEY are the ones who need to know about the e-revolution and the need to follow your blog and then need to research their rights etc etc etc

anyway wanted to do my part to keep you informed

rex kusler said...

I had to show my doctor how to take my blood pressure. So much for her advanced training.

Debbi said...

I've never quite gotten the appeal of so-called "enriched or enhanced ebooks." If I buy a book (print or ebook), it's because I want to read a good story. Not for author interviews. Not for reproductions of first drafts. Not for sound or visual effects. These are "bells and whistles" that publishers think readers want. I suspect they're wrong. (With the possible exception of certain children's and YA books. Or so I've heard.)

In any case, such bells and whistles won't entice me to pay extra for ebooks to compensate publishers for lack of hardcover sales. There's still this nice place called the library where I can check out books for free. This fact, as much as anything else, will influence ebook prices. Especially as more libraries start "lending" ebooks.

Jude Hardin said...

I think I'll become a violinist.

A sculptor.

A painter.

A photographer.

A dancer.

An actor...

Damn. All those things require talent and years of study and practice too.

Guess I better stick to author. Or maybe fry cook.

Joe Konrath said...

And a few jerks ruin anonymous posting for the rest of us.

Go play elsewhere. No more anon posts for a while. If you want to be a dick, have the guts to sign your name to it.

But you won't. We all know cowards when we see them.

Joe Konrath said...

I guess Van Gogh wasn't a painter, Jude, because the professionals never acknowledged him and he only sold one painting.

No one is denying there's a learning curve to becoming a good writer. But I do deny that we still need industry gatekeepers like agents and editors to be the only ones able to deem something worthy.

There are too many Kindle bestsellers that weren't vetted by the gatekeepers. That shows readers are able and willing to form their own conclusions, and that the formal need for acceptance by the publishing industry is archaic.

And let's be honest--the publishing industry has gotten a whole lot wrong when it comes to placing value on work.

Zoe said...

@Jude

No one says you don't have to practice to become good at any type of artistic/creative endeavor, but if you do brain surgery wrong, that's epic. If you dance or do pottery wrong, nobody usually dies.

I'm just saying.

Also, it's only relatively recently that this idea of commercial value and corporations as authority figures who are the gatekeepers to determining that value... even existed. A couple hundred years ago, art wasn't so commercialized. Nor was its value determined based on commercial interests.

Many well-respected names in literature have self-published: Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain. The list is much longer, but I'm too lazy to pull out my reference book.

The idea that self-publishing is somehow the equivalent of "talentless hack" is unfounded. I can't control what other people self-publish. I can only control what I self-publish, but when someone self-publishes, it shouldn't be assumed they don't care about quality or being a good writer. There is no shortcut to awesome.

Jude Hardin said...

There are too many Kindle bestsellers that weren't vetted by the gatekeepers.

Out of the 750,000 titles self-published annually, how many do you honestly estimate would stand a snowball's chance in hell if they landed on an agent's or editor's desk?

You've been a contest judge before. I'm talking about objective criteria.

Thomas Brookside said...

The whole "enhanced ebook" thing isn't that hard to understand.

Video extras cost money.

Anything that increases the cost to produce an ebook helps protect the position of established market participants.

If I was an established publisher I'd be desperate to differentiate myself using "extras", also.

Look what Hollywood has done. As the technology in the hands of hobbyists has improved, Hollywood has continued to up the ante to make sure that the standard of a "major production" remains out of reach for people with prosumer equipment. "Hey, prosumer hobbyists can make movies with special effects better than what we used to make in the 70's? Well, let's see those mofos do something in 3D!"

The problem for publishers is that their bid for continued differentiation will fail, because as there's no market for the extras they're pushing. When audiences see the Avatar trailer, they say, "Man, I have got to see that!" When they hear that some new ebook will have videos playing in it, they say, "Man, that sounds really annoying."

And to Anon - hey, maybe Zoe is "hiding" at 99 cents. And maybe she's "cluttering up the search". But you know what? You can't stop her. She's going to stay right there as long as she wants.

Joe Konrath said...

Out of the 750,000 titles self-published annually, how many do you honestly estimate would stand a snowball's chance in hell if they landed on an agent's or editor's desk?

Very few. But who cares?

If a writer writes shit, it won't sell. Let them waste their time. I'll tend to my own garden.

Readers will be able to find what they want, and separate the good from the bad all on their own.

You're complaining about closing the barn door after the horse has already gotten out. Nothing is going to stop newbies from self-pubbing ebooks, just like nothing stopped them from self-pubbing print books. And I expect they'll sell about as many.

frank zubek said...

Debbi

I agree with you about enriched e-books

The publishers will absolutely add a whole lot of bells and whistles onto the core "book" of the package JUST to compensate themselves for the hardcover losses

And unless it's a proven big selling author like Grisham, Stephen King, etc...they'll wind up taking a hit on the slim sales and then cancel future projects (which would be a loss for the reader) and just sell the e-book.

Which I guess is all they should do anyway.

Or, here's a thought, since publishers love to do limited edition "paper" collector books...why not set aside 1,000 units of an 'enriched book" so that those who would be willing to spend the money needed to buy such an item, could get it, and then publish 500,000 copies of the core e-book WITHOUT the bells and whistles for those who JUST want to read the story

This way the publisher can STILL get the money to make up for the hardcover losses without angering alot of fans who'd rather not buy an 'enriched version"

But then, this idea falls on deaf ears so i don't know why i just typed it all out. (well, yes I do. HOPE springs eternal!)

Take DVDs for example...
I love it when there are GOOD bonus features like behind the scenes or director/screenwriter interviews. These are people we rarely hear from and if they have something to really add to the experience of the film you saw than thats great. Although i have heard some audio commentaries BY the director or actor or production designer etc etc that added nothing to the film and was basically a waste of my time.

Anyway, I am longwinded as always
But I do agree with you. This too shall go through a shake out period and the dust will settle over time and readers will still find the book they enjoy at some point

Jude Hardin said...

Very few.

Bingo.

So, as a reader, why should I pay much attention to self-published authors when I know the vast majority of them would not pass muster when it comes to professional criteria?

Maybe, as a reader, I should start paying attention to the names of the publishers I enjoy as well as the authors.

rex kusler said...

What the hell is professional criteria? I remember reading a Bukowski novel describing how he was "wiping his ass, when the doorbell rang." That book sold a lot of copies. You can still buy it.

A.P. Fuchs said...

Weighing in on the flipside of all this (and this is coming from a hardcore self-publisher), traditional publishers and agents still have their place in this biz.

I blogged about it here and made a realistic prediction about the future of publishing as well: http://canisterx.com/?p=1955

Thanks.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zoe Winters said...

@Jude

Who the publisher is should never have to enter the equation. If the cover is ugly... it's a bad sign. But if the cover looks professional... take a quick look at the reviews. If the reviews are mostly good, and seem credible, then take a look at the sample. If you like the sample, buy the book. Who cares who published it?

You can't automatically count on a trad published book being satisfying. Just because a book has been "vetted" by a large publisher, doesn't mean that you're going to "like it".

And if we include small presses, well, anybody can start a small press. *I* started a small press. If you didn't know me and if I wasn't all rah rah indie all over the place, you wouldn't know my imprint wasn't a regular small press.

It takes a hell of a lot of legwork to determine the "legitimacy" of every single imprint, when it's just simpler to do the above listed things to figure out whether or not the book is right for you.

If all else fails listen to the recommendations of readers whose opinions you trust. And then check the Amazon "Customers who bought this also bought this" list for more books to check out. Check out GoodReads.

Lots of ways to figure out what to read.

I couldn't tell you the publisher of over 95% of the books that I own. I have a LOT of small press books on my Kindle. And I have no idea if most of them are a small press that isn't run by the author, or self-published. Nor do I care. A good book is a good book and a bad book is a bad book, no matter what label is on the spine. If an author betrays me once, I don't read them again.

Maggie said...

Actually, I *have* tried ereaders and even read a YA book with enhancements. It just wasn't for me. I feel like people who say "I prefer print" are villainized and I don't understand why. I really do prefer print. I don't mind spending my hard-earned money on books rather than clothes or makeup or whatnot. Maybe in another hundred years there will be no print books, which will honestly be disappointing. I have NOTHING against ebooks, but if the book is available in print, I would rather buy the print version. That's all I'm saying.

Dawn Kurtagich said...

I hate the idea of books going the way of the dodo. I buy print books before anything, even food. I am a loyal print-book gal, always will be. And I'm only 23!

People also seem to be forgetting the risk of digital theft (the rise of mp3s and downloading sound familiar?).

I spoke to many leading e-book developers, retailers and publishers at the 2010 London Book Fair, and all of them admitted that digital protection for authors, agents and publishers wasn't something they had given much thought to because people were basically "honorable". The music industry has changed dramatically because of music theft. Why will e-books theft be any different?

With compatibility and free availability, books, like music, will begin to lose their value. The book is more than the pages, it is the whole package. If print books disappear, I will be very sad.

Alexis Harrington said...

<< * I love print books
* I'll never get rid of my book collection
* I enjoy seeing a book on the shelf
* I like the tactile experience of paper
* Print books don't run out of batteries
* Ebooks hurt my eyes
* Ereaders are fragile and too expensive
* I love the smell of paper books>>

Another blogger made the observation that these same arguments are appearing with such ubiquitous regularity, that we could make a drinking game out them. Every time someone mentions the "smell of paper books," take a drink, "the tactile experience," take a drink, etc.

I figured we'd all be in the ER with alcohol poisoning if we played this one. It's everywhere.

And you're absolutely right, Joe. I started this e-book thing with a feeble hope that I'd be able to cover my monthly car payment and perhaps pay for a single prescription medication. It took a few months, but wow, my expectations have been blasted out of the water by reality. I feel better about myself as an author, *and* being able to connect almost directly with my readers without that annoying middleman (read: the publisher). I'm starting to remember why I wanted this writing gig to begin with 15 years ago. The problems, at least for now, are so minor, the information I receive from Kindle and Smashwords so much more meaningful, useful and timely, I feel positively liberated.

FWIW, my hat's off to you, too, Joe for being the digital text standard bearer who gave many of us hope and a good example to follow!

Thanks!
Alexis Harrington

AnnB said...

I've just finished a Master's thesis on the competitive impact of ebooks on the publishing industry. I agree completely with Joe's point. What struck me during my research was the completely outdated business model run by the Big Six. They wouldn't get away with it in any other industry. Their power is diminishing and they are pursuing a 'last man standing' approach which is threatening the entire industry. Like any anachronism they will be ignored, as people create, exchange and transmit content in a more democratic and business- savvy fashion. As for the demise of bookshops; well the Big Six model has already killed off thousands of independent stores and fed us with mass-market formulaic pulp for years -Big Six Publishing has always manipulated the market first with the NBA and now with the Agency Model. Ebooks represent choice without price fixing and that's a real threat to the Big Six power.

Coolkayaker1 said...

There it is, the giant teeters on the ropes!
http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/110381/clearance-sale-barnes-noble-didnt-evolve-enough?mod=career-leadership

Coolkayaker1 said...

"Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!"-Howard Cosell.

Mike Jastrzebski said...

Jude, I don't understand why you're so bitter about writers self publishing. I checked you out. You're published by Oceanside, a small publisher. This means that the major publishers turned you down. Don't get me wrong, I have friends published by oceanside, it's a good publisher, but you got what, $1000.00 advance and maybe a 3-4,000 print run. There are quite a few indies selling that many books and making more money than that.

Pale Rambler said...

Sounds to me like the same arguments people made when vinyl records disappeared.

In the end, the product remains essentially the same, it's only the medium that's changing. And the change is really for the mass market. I'll wager the demise of traditional publishing will be a boon for small business as smaller publishing houses and print shops pick up the scattered pieces to create limited-run specialized publications with local flavor to be sold by independent book shops.

Instead of the end of print, I can see a new dedication to the independents that will spawn more regional-centric publications, bookshops, reading groups, writing groups, and degrees of success for authors who never would have seen the light of day in the mega-mart stores.

And because it's all on the internet, the ability to achieve that dreamed-of national and international breakout success remains a possibility. Hell, if my stupid little blog can pick up readers from Italy, Bangladesh and Australia, then there should be no limit to how far around the world a really well-written book can spread.

Great post, by the way.
Mark

Thomas Brookside said...

I would hesitate to make any personal remark about Jude, but if the question out there is why authors without any great financial interest in the present publishing system are defending it so fervently, I think the answer lies in a statement made by Anne Rice a number of years ago to the effect that when anyone can publish literature becomes a folk art.

The current system hands out very few financial rewards to authors but provides them with a lot of prestige.

I think even if they can make more money in the new paradigm and even if they can still find good books they want to read without much effort, these authors will feel highly aggrieved if the current system continues to disintegrate. If the statement "I've got a novel out right now," becomes the equivalent of "I sell handmade jewelry at flea markets on the weekend," these guys will be quite pissed off, even if they make more money and even if the slush apocalypse does not actually come about.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, I don't understand why you're so bitter about writers self publishing.

I'm not. In fact, I might do it myself some day. All I'm saying is that traditional publishing is still relevant and serves more of a purpose than simply printing and distributing books.

The vetting process works for the most part, and I don't understand why anyone would want to self-publish without first honing their craft enough to at least garner interest from an agent.

Well, I do understand it. It's a lot easier to just bypass all that agent/editor rigmarole and be published instantly. But, like everything else, instant books are not usually among the best.

You're published by Oceanside, a small publisher. This means that the major publishers turned you down.

True! But it also means that I didn't succumb to the temptation to self-publish. I might not be making a lot of money on the front end, but I'm learning a lot and gathering some publishing cred and I think those things will benefit my career in the long run.

Oh, and for those of you still interested in crime novels that are among the best, Little, Brown and Company has a new imprint called Mulholland Books. Their first title will be released next April. Check them out. http://www.mulhollandbooks.com/

Lynne Connolly said...

I'm a specialist. I'm a writer. I want to stay a writer. I really don't want to have to spend my time doing things I'm not as good at - promoting, marketing, selling.
That's what I want a publisher to do for me, and I'm willing to pay for it. But not too much. There's also the synergy to be had in gathering with other authors, some of them big ones.
So I write for ebook companies. I get a reasonable royalty and I sometimes get to see my books in print. For anyone not too afraid to look, this was always the way things were going to go. I've been in ebooks for 10 years now.
I was also a new market development expert once upon a time, and this market is no different. The big companies will dominate the market, once it matures, with a few newbies, and others will drop out. Plus ca change and all that. Harlequin started a few years back and is managing the change very well, DRM excepted. (their ebook imprint, Carina, doesn't use DRM, tellingly). Penguin, S and S and Harper Collins have the money to survive. There might be room for a few lucky and savvy niche specialists, too.
But I really don't want to dilute what I do reasonably well, writing, in order to do things I don't do as well.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't understand why anyone would want to self-publish without first honing their craft enough to at least garner interest from an agent.

That we agree on. But an agent isn't the only person who can validate the worth of a book. Now readers can as well. And they can do it better than an agent can, because majority rules, not the opinions of a chosen few.

Mike Jastrzebski said...

I agree Joe, let the readers decide.

Jude Hardin said...

True, Joe. Book buyers have always provided the ultimate validation, but I'm not sure we can expect them to have a lot of patience when it comes to wading through slush.

A few minutes ago I downloaded a self-published sample from the Kindle site. The cover was nice, the description clever and compelling...I wanted to like this book. But, like so many other self-pubbed titles I've sampled, the writing just wasn't up to par. In fact, it was lousy. Epic disappointment.

On the flipside, I can download a sample from any legitimate publisher and at least know that the prose will be readable. How long do you think it will take the buying public to figure that out?

Ellen Fisher said...

"I hate the idea of books going the way of the dodo."

They aren't. They're just changing format. An ebook is a book, too.

Joe Konrath said...

but I'm not sure we can expect them to have a lot of patience when it comes to wading through slush.

That's the trade off for getting books instantly and cheaply.

And let's be honest; readers won't have a choice. They're going to have to wade through stuff. But they're used to it. We wade through the Internet, cable TV, YouTube, etc. We're good at finding what we like.

How long do you think it will take the buying public to figure that out?

A good segment of the buying public likes this aspect of it. it's like a rummage sale, finding the gold in the sand. Prowl the Kindleboards--I haven't seen a single complaint from browsers. On the contrary, they love discovering treasure. The crap they simply ignore.

wannabuy said...

JA,
At the convention, I assume you talked e-book marketing as well as the process and revenue?

Icy,
For kids books, have you seen the new 'ABC toys' (e.g., the "LeapPad" by Leapfrog)? My daughter loves it. Instant feedback and it has helped all of our friends' kids learn their ABC's. It is very close to being an e-reader already. Amazon has, at most, until Christmas 2011 to create a ruggedized child's e-reader.

I'll buy one for my child. I personally consider animated books for kids anyway (which distracts from teaching reading... but oh well).

I do not know if Amazon, Thinkpad, or FisherPrice will create the first great child reader. But it is about to happen. One of them will have a product out by Christmas 2011.

It seems like a lot of people are being dropped by their publishers. In the past week, I've personally spoken to six authors this has happened to.
I'm sad to hear this. Hopefully these authors, who were 'vetted' by the big6 (selected to be published) will start a Kindle marketing strategy.

After clearing out the clutter of 70 boxes of books (it was a problem), I never want to buy p-books again. I'm given more than I want anyway...

Zoe,
I love your posts! If I wasn't married... ;)


Bowerbird,
Most of those who will 'never give up print books' are realizing their kids already have converted to the Kindle and follow suit. I think POD will survive. Will it be for coffee shops or airport book stores? Otherwise print will be at Walmart

Off to Jury Duty... With the Kindle! :)

Neil

Vincent Eaton said...

The multimedia book already exists, although it is not called a book. It's called a web site. Multimedia is okay for some non-fiction; for fiction it is a bust. The whole point of fiction is to allow another mind to imagine based on the story details an author selects and gives. Video cancels the imagining, makes it blunt, takes its place. There "may" be a place for author interviews, unused chapters, etc., but that's like DVD extras. Of interest, perhaps, but not essential... Anyway, I've been published, and dropped, by Viking Penguin, N.Y., and have established my own company, and, onward, I say, and I do, onward I go.

frank zubek said...

Actually I'm waiting for the publisher to start putting ads in the Kindle books.

You know, three or four ads you have to click past before getting to what you WANT to read.....

Chapter One....

D.D. Scott said...

Joe, you are my "Wizard in Publishing Oz"!

Check out how and why at my blog http://ddscottauthor.blogspot.com/

And thanks, as always, for your fabulous info and out-of-the-box analysis.

You Rock --- D. D. Scott

Moses Siregar III said...

Jude (and friends), here's a free self-published ebook for you to check out. I hope it shows you that not all indie books by first-timers are poorly written (though you'll be the judge of that). Go to my book's page on Smashwords and enter code UK24D to get it for free. The code will work through this weekend only. After that, it goes back to a whopping 99 cents for promotional purposes.

I had a literary agent for a nonfiction proposal years ago, but even without her I would still be doing this since my agent didn't represent my genre and didn't vet my fiction (though the non-fiction proposal leaned heavily on imaginative writing).

Zoe Winters said...

@Thomas

LMAO @ "slush apocalypse". What I really fear is if the zombie apocalypse and slush apocalypse happen at the same time, or one triggers the other! You don't want to mess with zombies! :P

I agree with you with regards to this prestige thing. But you can't pay your electricity with prestige. And when prestige is the only real thing you're being offered, I think most authors will choose pragmatism over platitude.

R.J. Keller said...

I'm not sure we can expect them to have a lot of patience when it comes to wading through slush.

Jude, have you visited the places where ebook readers (the human kind, not the devices) hang out? The Amazon boards, the Kindle Board, Nook Boards, etc? I have. Here's the thing: They're not stupid. They're not impatient. They're able to figure out if an indie book is good or a steaming pile of crap very quickly. As Zoe mentioned, the professional quality (or not) of the cover, the blurb, the reviews. Word of mouth is important, too, even moreso than the reviews. The wheat and the chaff are sorted very efficiently.

Heteromeles said...

Just read this, and it's appropriate to quote it here as well.

Source Nassim Taleb (http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/robustness.pdf)

"I have just glanced at the desk in my business, nonliterary office (I separate the functional from the aesthetic). A laptop computer is propped up on a book, as I like to have some incline. The book is a French biography of the fiery Lou Andreas Salomé (Nietzsche’s and Freud’s friend) that I can very safely say I will never read; it was selected for its optimal thickness for the task. This makes me reflect on the foolishness of thinking that books are there to be read and could be replaced by electronic files. Think of the spate of functional redundancies provided by books. You cannot impress your neighbors with electronic files. You cannot prop up your ego with electronic files. Objects seem to have invisible but significant auxiliary functions that we are not aware of consciously, but that allow them to thrive—and on occasion, as with decorator books, the auxiliary function becomes the principal one."

The thing we forget as writers is that a book isn't just the words we wrote.

Mark Asher said...

As a reader, I think of self-published ebooks as representing the dregs of writing. I know there are some fine self-published ebooks, but how do I find them among the sea of poorly written ones? Just go to Smashword and randomly pick one and browse it and be prepared to shudder.

So while traditional publishing may be crumbling, I've yet to see what will replace it and do the things I enjoy as a reader -- provide me with writing that has been vetted and edited by someone other than the author.

What I'd really love to hear about is a self-published ebook fiction author who has never been published with a traditional publisher, and who has been successful and made decent sales with his or her fiction ebooks? Are they out there?

And as a reader, how do I find the good self-published ebooks without having to wade through the trash?

Zoe Winters said...

@Jude

You know... if/when you ever self-publish something... like a million tiny publishing angels will die, right? :P

I don't think a lot of serious indies are bypassing that system because they don't want criticism on their work. It's because an agent's opinion is fairly irrelevant to an indie. Agents are just people. They are not magical elves.

There isn't even a certification they have to pass or a professional organization that regulates them. Anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves an agent. So if one of these people likes or dislikes my writing... so what? In what way are they different from ANY other reader for someone not looking to join the trad system?

Plenty of indies go through the process of getting their work vetted by their actual readers and other writers higher up the ladder than them. They take crit and they edit and polish. If they choose NOT to do those things, unless they are a savant, they will likely fail. So they aren't a threat to anyone. Crap will always exist. That's a side effect of a free market. But it falls to the bottom and no one ever sees it.

@Joe I remember when I was having this argument with you. It's surreal to see you on my side on the "readers can vet work" issue! :P


Awwww, Wannabuy, are you flirting with me? ;)

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark

I'm a self-published ebook fiction author. I've never had a traditional publisher of any kind. I've been doing this for two years and I've sold over 15,000 ebooks.

Earth-shattering number? No.

More than the 150 copies people told me I was 'likely' to sell if I "foolishly self-published", yes.

Many others have done as well or better than me. Karen McQuestion comes to mind. She's sold over 30,000 ebooks I think.

Mark Asher said...

Interesting Zoe, thanks for the update. I'd consider you very successful at those numbers. I know you're not shopping for the winter villa in the south of France yet, but that's some real money you're making. Congrats.

I still run into the problem as a reader of the daunting prospect of sifting through all the ebooks that really shouldn't even exist, they are so poorly written, to find the good ones.

I do rely on a lot of word-of-mouth now from other readers, but these tend to be recommendations about traditionally published books. None of them look at places like Smashword because Smashword is at least 90% horrible, and that's being generous.

As a reader, one thing that a traditional publisher does that I appreciate is invest in a writer. They put their money into a book. They may not adequately promote, etc., but they are still spending dollars to edit the book and get copies to the stores. It's not a perfect process and many good writers get overlooked by publishers, but I've yet to see a kind of vetting system like this in place for self-published books. Readers are going to need one, at least readers like me.

It may be that the reading public will become even more fragmented, with readers of paranormal fiction relying on a top dozen websites for recommendations, readers of crime fiction doing the same on a similar set of sites, etc.

Oh well, I'm not trying to fend off the future, but merely wondering how I will fit into it.

Zoe Winters said...

I take that back, Mark. I haven't added it all up in a little while. I'm now up to 22,473 ebooks sold.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Mark, thanks!

There is a site, Indie Reader (full disclosure: I'm the paid blogger there, but I don't run the site or have any say in what gets sold there), that vets self-published work.

And I think you're right with regards to things like book bloggers. I don't think people necessarily need to go out of their way searching for good self-published work. I think most good self-pubbed work will eventually find them. Because people will talk about it when they've read it.

Moses Siregar III said...

This is my entry for a blog carnival about why different authors are indie publishing. Why I'm Indie Publishing (for now).

Selena Kitt said...

"If a writer writes shit, it won't sell. Let them waste their time. I'll tend to my own garden."

-----
The cool part is the whole garden is full of all sorts of flowers. Some people like orchids. Some people like daisies. Hell, some of us even like dandelions and purslane and Queen Anne's lace and stuff considered "weeds." ;)

But Joe's right... if it's *really* crap no one wants to read, it won't sell. Even if you personally don't like it, or you think it's crap (i.e. the Twilight Series) SOMEONE does like it. Lots of someones, actually.

So make fun of vampire fiction etc. all you like. *shrug* I'm sure Stephanie Meyers is laughing her way to the bank.

If you're in the top 500 on Amazon, there's a reason. Whether you approve of the literary merit of the work in question or not matters very little to the readers buying and reading the material. They're voting with their dollars.

Rebecca Stroud said...

A little late to the party here but I had to jump in with my take on e-publishing vs. traditional. Which, for the most part, is I agree that slush is slush no matter where it comes from.

I am an avid reader; I read and buy "paper" and the dreck that passes for vetted these days is making me ill. And I'm not talking "newbies" either. I won't name names but there are quite a few long-standing best-selling authors whose current works - IMHO - aren't good enough to line my trash can.

As a published writer, I plan on putting my nonfiction work on Amazon as soon as I can figure out the damn formatting. Not because "I need validation" from NY yet because I highly resent the "attitude" that unless you have an Oprahesque platform, no one will even give you the time of day, let alone a response.

I'm not waiting 6 months for an agent to give me a thumbs-up, then another year or so for my book to hit print. Not when I can get my work out there in under a week.

Furthermore, traditional publishers have all but said that authors must be prepared to do much of the marketing legwork themselves. Okay, fine. I can do that now. I may not have the blessings of an agent or a publishing house but what the hell? Again, I agree, cream will rise to the top if the work is good, the author is committed, etc.

Maybe I have my head in the clouds but I'd much rather it be there instead of in the doldrums of that interminable & nerve-wracking waiting game that traditional publishing has devolved into.

And, no, my stance is not so I can acheive instant gratification. But as a professional writer - as I said before - I highly resent hoity-toity attitude...

Chris Bates said...

@Daniel:

There is still a massive market for traditionally published print titles. Personally I'd use the ebook model to fund the print book ... but that's just my preference. That has to do with many things; offset costs, returns, distribution, discounts etc.

Now, I'm all for the ebook revolution but looking at the current state of play in Australia I'd still prefer to have physical books on shelves. It's where the market is.

Of course, that's the problem for self-publishers: getting books on shelves.

Traditional publishers offer mass distribution. This is one of the most powerful tools available to traditionally published authors. This doesn't necessarily matter to the ebook self-publisher but it is, and always has been, the killer barrier to print self-publishing.

If you want to have print titles easily distributed for sale then, yes, trad publishing is the coward's way out because you don't have to do the leg work. That said, I've known plenty of brave f#@kheads in my time!

The humbling experience of door knocking retail outlets, titles in hand, quickly makes you value the mass distribution available to trad publishers.

Doing it yourself is not only dumb ... it will more than likely send you broke. :)

Mark Asher said...

"The cool part is the whole garden is full of all sorts of flowers. Some people like orchids. Some people like daisies. Hell, some of us even like dandelions and purslane and Queen Anne's lace and stuff considered "weeds." ;)"

When it's a garden, you can see what's there in an hour or two. It's when it's a jungle and your ebook is one of one million ebooks that it gets harder for readers to spot your flower and pluck it.

One thing publishers do is open the door to the garden rather than make you crash through the jungle in search of the flower you're looking for.

We are all going to want maps and signposts to find the ebooks worth reading once the traditional gardens have gone to seed. It's a much bigger and more confusing world outside the walls of the garden.

bowerbird said...

mike said:
> Jude, I don't understand
> why you're so bitter about
> writers self publishing.
> I checked you out.
> You're published by
> Oceanside, a small publisher.
> This means that the major
> publishers turned you down.
> Don't get me wrong, I have
> friends published by oceanside,
> it's a good publisher, but you
> got what, $1000.00 advance
> and maybe a 3-4,000 print run.

don't forget he got _validated_,
important to his self-concept...


> There are quite a few indies
> selling that many books and
> making more money than that.

it appears you _do_ understand
why jude is bitter, after all... ;+)

-bowerbird

Jack H. H. King said...

Joe,

If you were a young author today, twenty years old, and you just finished writing your first novel, DEAD ON MY FEET, would you self-publish on Kindle, or query an agent?

I don’t think the problem with indie fiction is the quality of the prose. The problem is story structure. A sample chapter won’t tell the reader if the overall story is worth their ten hours.

Maybe I’m dumb. Maybe everyone else is a genius. I’ve been writing plays, screenplays, novels, for fifteen years. 5 hours per day. 365 days per year. It took me a decade to get to the point where I’m beginning to understand how to craft a solid story structure.

I have nailed one million words of final draft to the page. And every day, I thank the Gods of Drama that I have had storytelling professionals read my work and slap me around. Because the harder they hit you, the better you learn.

Sales/reviews can encourage and discourage, but they can’t teach craft.

Would ENDURANCE be as well-crafted, if you had never gone through your New York experience?

- Jack

Mark Asher said...

So do you think that the music publishing business is a good forerunner of the book publishing business? I ask because as much of a force that digital distribution is, I haven't seen a lot of bands making it on their own without signing with a record label. It seems like the big publishers still make the stars.

I think traditional publishing will adapt in a similar way for books.

I think we're in a transition period and that gives self-publishing a bit of an opportunity, but I see book publishing splitting between the publishers who adapt to ebooks and give authors a bigger cut, and self-publishers who give away their work just like a lot of musicians give away their music.

I think at some point self-publishing writers who want to charge will have a tougher go of it. They will be competing with ebook authors who have the cachet of being aligned with a publisher and the many, many authors who give away their work because they went to the trouble to write it and are starved for attention.

I can see it being tough for someone new to self-publish and sell with any frequency, especially if the surviving publishers up their ebook publishing and give readers inexpensive alternatives.

I'd say right now the Kindle and other ebook readers are the pioneers, and they are happy to experiment. As the ebook reading market grows, I'd expect the new ebook readers to be more conservative.

wannabuy said...

Joe:
Thank you for banning the anon posters. They all seemed to just want to rant and turn back the clock.

Zoe:
Thank you for the IndieReader link. I have bookmarked it!

As to flirting, Who me? Maybe... ;)

Salena said:
If you're in the top 500 on Amazon, there's a reason. Whether you approve of the literary merit of the work in question or not matters very little to the readers buying and reading the material. They're voting with their dollars.

As usual, well said and your garden metaphor is well written. :) I would expand on its conclusion though... A work doesn't have to be in the top 500 to receive a reader's 'vote.' As you note, different people enjoy different books. How many books per month is it to get into the top 500? I would call a book a success if it sells 500 copies at $2.99 ($1 grand, total to the author).

I tend to enjoy books others do not... It is part of the joy of being a reader. :)

Jude,
E-books are gaining market share at about 0.5% of the market per month. Thus by Christmas they will hit 10%. Probably by Christmas of 2011 we'll pass 20%. Why the Angst? It is too easy to find good books through reviews! Relax and let people try to sell their work. :)

Oh... I wouldn't be surprised if we break 20% by the Chinese new year. :)

Jury Duty stats (140 people):
Kindles: 1 (me) :(
IPads: Zero (I *looked*)
P-Books: 70+
Laptops: 20 (Mostly Dell)
Lady next to me read a book on her Thinkpad for a bit...
Itouch: 10+ (some reading on them)
IPhone: 10+
Blackberries: 30+
People reading paper news: tons (A dozen free and paid paper kiosks were in the 'jury area' including three local papers, USA Today, and the WSJ.)
Smokers: 10+

To those who keep posting about how hard it is to find a good book to read, please read what others keep posting each thread. It is easy to find worthwhile reads in little time. Posting an argument that isn't true is... tiring.

Neil

JaxPop said...

I thought you were one of the smartest guys around until you published THIS POST.

Take it from a Floridian - You don't visit Florida in mid August.

I'm okay with everything else, so carry on.

Mark Asher said...

"E-books are gaining market share at about 0.5% of the market per month. Thus by Christmas they will hit 10%. Probably by Christmas of 2011 we'll pass 20%. Why the Angst? It is too easy to find good books through reviews! Relax and let people try to sell their work. :)"

What would be interesting to know is if the self-published ebooks are rising or falling as a percentage of ebook sales. Anyone know? That might be a good predictor of where things are going.

wannabuy said...

Zoe,
I'm loving your blog! I'll keep this short so it isn't 'obligation reading.' ;)

To the naysayers on Indie publishing:

One thing that has been bothering me about the absurd suggestion that Indie writers charge more per book.

Yes, they might make more money in a month...

But with fewer readers, they will have less 'word of mouth' to sell their work. My recommendations at work probably help sell 6 to 15 e-books per month.

Oh, I did a mathematical equation of the optimal price for Indie authors.

Assumptions:
1. Cost of delivery $0.06
2. Demand Goest down by exp-P (where P=Price)
3. Demand is a function of author PR, 'known quality', and sticking to genre.

P=price
Cv= Constant (volume to sell)
K= Price to deliver e-book, 0.06
Ca= Amazon's cut (35% or 70% depending on price point)
Cp= Price sensitivity constant

Profit per book=Price*Ca-K

Volume of books=Cv/(exp(-P*Cp)
(Volume from standard supply/demand theory for elastic markets.)

Total profit=(P*Ca-K)*Cv/exp(-P*Cp)

Assuming for an indie author Cv=10000, Cp=1.0, K=0.06

I found the peak profit was selling at about $1.29 or $2.99 (70% cut). Since volume (and thus word of mouth) will impact future Cv... Every author must have a book at $1.29 or less.

Only when the cost of delivery starts to get high (such as with P-books, K>$4.99) or near market saturation (launch of a Stephen King book) does it make sense to price high at Amazon's payout (Ca).

In other words, the publishing business model is broken. Once e-books hit 20%+ market share, the 'face of Publishing' will change fast.

I am sad to hear authors are being dropped. Since they are only 8% to 12% of the cost, something smells funny. I suspect un-neeeded layers of 'fat' are being kept at the publishers. :(

Seriously, how can they justify cutting authors when they are so little of the cost? They should be focused on reducing the cost per launched title. Sigh...

Neil

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark

I think wondering whether or not more self-pubbed books are going to be bought isn't the point. I don't want people to give me a chance cause I'm "self-published". I want people to give me a chance cause the work is good, and it doesn't matter "how" it's published.

I don't think that most people are going to "actively seek out" self-published books to buy. By the same token though, I don't think readers are going to start checking to see if Random House published it either.

How is the average reader going to know the difference in a small press and a self-publisher? They won't. Not if the product presented is professional.

Are they going to run some kind of publishing background check on every single book they're thinking about buying?

That's a whole lot more time, work, and hassle than going through the suggestions already mentioned in this thread for finding a good book.

If an indie has their covers professionally designed and has their books properly edited, no "average reader" is going to know whether or not it's self-published.

Nor will they even care if they do know.

It's just not that serious.

The strangest thing I've ever seen is how clingy so many seem to be to this idea of "vetted work". For every other product you buy, you're expected as a consumer to check it out... buyer beware. But when it's publishing, suddenly people don't want to be responsible for their own buying decisions. It's a bit confusing to me, to be honest.

Zoe Winters said...

@wannabuy thanks. You just got upgraded to stalker!! Just kidding. :P Probably.

wannabuy said...

Mark Said:
I haven't seen a lot of bands making it on their own without signing with a record label. It seems like the big publishers still make the stars.
True. But I expect the 'long tail' theory of retail to be closer to theory for books. Partially as the $0.99 a song held

I also know of a lot more indie bands that pay their own way now...

As to the fraction of the books... I can only guess. Some publishers and bookstores will survive.

Neil

Mark Asher said...

"The strangest thing I've ever seen is how clingy so many seem to be to this idea of "vetted work". For every other product you buy, you're expected as a consumer to check it out... buyer beware. But when it's publishing, suddenly people don't want to be responsible for their own buying decisions. It's a bit confusing to me, to be honest."

This isn't entirely true. Where do you buy most of your consumer goods? From indie sites on the internet, or brick and mortar stores? We have an inherent trust in brick and mortar because we feel they do the vetting for us -- they don't want to offer too many unworthy goods because then we won't be repeat customers. They pay rent, utilities, the salaries of workers, etc. They are in it for the long haul.

I'd argue that when we go to Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc., we go and simply buy without doing consumer research. I'd say it's only big-ticket items -- HDTVs, washers/dryers, cars, etc. -- that we research before buying.

There is no vetting for many self-published ebook authors. Yes, they pay a cost -- their time to write the work -- but they also get an immediate reward once they self-publish. Their work is published! Vanity is a powerful force.

The slush pile of self-published authors is always going to be bigger than the slush pile of offerings from traditional publishers.

Authors who have a publisher behind them will get more interest from me than authors who don't. I like the idea that a writer's book was interesting enough for a publisher to invest a few thousand dollars in it. That makes my tiny investment in the book a bit easier.

I've also been in a few writing workshops so I've seen just how blind writers can be about their own work. They are often the worst judges of their writing, and when the only barrier between them and a published work is some formatting to be done and posting it on Smashwords and other sites, it makes me leery of that scene.

Even excellent writers benefit from good editing. I think the value that traditional publishers add to the published work is undervalued in this discussion because so much of it is about the profit to be had if you go this way or that way.

Anyway, this isn't meant to be a diatribe or aimed at anyone. I'm certainly intrigued by the ebook scene, but I suspect it will continue to change and will eventually be more dominated by the traditional publishers.

Mark Asher said...

@wannabuy:

"I also know of a lot more indie bands that pay their own way now..."

Yeah, but it's a bit of a different scene. Bands can get gigs that pay, so music sales are only a part of their revenue, and probably a minor part at that. Writers don't really have a comparable revenue stream.

So my question is if the digital distribution revolution hasn't displaced the big music publishers, is it likely to displace the big book publishers?

Jude Hardin said...

Even excellent writers benefit from good editing. I think the value that traditional publishers add to the published work is undervalued in this discussion because so much of it is about the profit to be had if you go this way or that way.

Yes.

MoJo said...

I've seen just how blind writers can be about their own work. They are often the worst judges of their writing, and when the only barrier between them and a published work is some formatting to be done and posting it on Smashwords and other sites...

Yeah, but... So what?

The running theme throughout this entire thread is that one should "go get" an agent or a publisher (token words about querying notwithstanding) as if you can run down to Wal-Mart and grab one off the shelf as long as you're driving the right kind of car.

Everyone keeps talking about the crap in the slushpile, but no one is talking about the worthy books that don't get picked up for various and sundry reasons. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more worthy books that don't get published than anyone really thinks.

Let's assume that 1/8 of all manuscripts out there in the slush pile are of excellent quality, however you define that. Are ALL those books going to have spots for them? No.

It's the odds. Simple as that. If someone wants to stop playing odds that are stacked against them...so what?

If they put out crap...so what?

If they publish a diatribe about the sinfulness of birth control...so what?

If Selena's walking through her savage garden all the way to the bank...so what?

And if they use an author "services" company...so what?

Why is this SO important to SO many people that they get SO upset about the choices other people make about what to do with their work and their resources?

Selena Kitt said...

Savage garden... ha! Love it!

BTW, anon, if you thought Babysitting the Baumgartners was like reading Penthouse Forum, please don't read Under Mr. Nolan's Bed... your head might explode. ;)

BTW, in terms of editing... why do people assume someone who self-publishes hasn't had their work edited? I've seen some horribly edited traditionally published work as well. Freelance editors are often MUCH better than in-house ones. I'm just sayin'...

Mark Asher said...

"Let's assume that 1/8 of all manuscripts out there in the slush pile are of excellent quality, however you define that. Are ALL those books going to have spots for them? No."

This is probably too generous. It's more like one out of twenty or thirty books on Smashword are good, not excellent, and I'm dubious of even those numbers. I'm a discerning reader. I'd guess that it's hard to even say one out of ten traditionally published books are excellent.

"Why is this SO important to SO many people that they get SO upset about the choices other people make about what to do with their work and their resources?"

You are confusing reasonable debate with some kind of anger. I haven't seen much in the way of anger or people being upset in this thread. It's more about some people believing that self-publishing the future and others thinking otherwise, and some earnest debate ensuing.

Zoe Winters said...

@Mojo, I have NO idea why people care so much if someone else self-publishes. It's just plain goofy to me.

@Selena, this just makes me want to read "Under Mr. Nolan's Bed" more! If it's going to shock me I'm all about it!

@Mark Have you read the whole thread? There are some people with some hardcore issues with self-publishing. You'd think it was high treason to self-publish. These issues are apparently serious enough to attack anyone doing it who refuses to keep their mouth shut about it.

Moriah Jovan said...

You are confusing reasonable debate with some kind of anger.

No, I'm not. There's plenty of anger in this thread.

The implication of the debate itselfis that those who self-publish are unworthy across the board, that they're a threat to those who choose to go the traditional route, and that they're somehow cutting the line--

--with all the usual caveats of "but it's totally okay if you're X, Y, or Z type of self-publisher." Yeah, I have a [insert minority group du jour] friend, too.

This is probably too generous. It's more like one out of twenty or thirty books on Smashword are good, not excellent, and I'm dubious of even those numbers.

Okay. Same question: Does each of those few books have a spot available in a publisher's pipeline? No.

That's not even counting the ones sitting in every agent's inbox.

So you're still dealing with odds.

And at some point, people who are seeking traditional publishing probably ought to start looking at where they're rights are going, for how long, and for how much and thinking about how that bodes for them in the future.

Moriah Jovan said...

*their rights, not they're

Zoe Winters said...

Holy Crap, Mojo! You never get into these discussions! Damn, girl.

Portuguese cunt said...

It seems like the big publishers still make the stars.


The cake is a lie.

Elizabeth K. Burton said...

I hate to break the news, people, but the "ebook market" has been around for more than a dozen years. It wasn't invented by Harlequin, and there have been successful ebook publishers since 1996.

Kindle wouldn't have gotten off the ground had Amazon not done their homework. They had moles hanging out in discussion groups and forums where ebook readers gathered, listening and taking notes. They knew going in what people who read ebooks considered important, and they incorporated them into the Kindle program.

Those of us who've been in the trenches since the beginning have heard all of the excuses why the traditional route is the only one, and they've gained no more credibility now than they ever had. They're nothing but barricades erected to protect the egos of those who "made it" and feel threatened by the idea someone else might get to where they are without jumping through all the hoops.

So, stop talking about the ebook industry as if it were a newborn, barely able to stagger, and so not to be entirely trusted. It's the traditional publishers who missed the boat, tried to jump on at the last minute and are now floundering around trying to stay up where the air is.

Zoe Winters said...

So, stop talking about the ebook industry as if it were a newborn, barely able to stagger, and so not to be entirely trusted. It's the traditional publishers who missed the boat, tried to jump on at the last minute and are now floundering around trying to stay up where the air is.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I completely have a girl crush on you right now.

Mark Asher said...

"Have you read the whole thread? There are some people with some hardcore issues with self-publishing. You'd think it was high treason to self-publish. These issues are apparently serious enough to attack anyone doing it who refuses to keep their mouth shut about it."

I confess to skimming some posts, but overall I will acknowledge some resistance to self-publishing, but not at any author in particular but because self-publishing results in an even greater flood of drek released upon the market. I defy any good reader to spend the next six months reading Smashword and only Smashword and find that satisfying and worthwhile.

By and large when self-publishing was a lot more expensive, which weeded out a lot of authors, we don't have much to show for it. Now that the internet has opened the floodgates, is it reasonable to expect that self-publishing will result in better books if authors bypass agents, publishers, editors, etc.? Or does working with an agent and an editor perhaps improve a manuscript? How many self-published ebook authors hire an editor, a copy-editor, etc.? As a reader wouldn't you rather read a book that has been edited at a high level by an editor and at a sentence level by a copy editor?

As a reader this is what concerns me. I want to read the best. I don't want to spend my time panning for gold among thousands of self-published books. When there are no barriers to entry, there's nothing to keep out the truly awful, and the truly awful is out there and is extremely happy now that it's so easy to self-publish.

I am probably coming off as hostile to self-publishers. I'm not, really, although they have to work harder to get my attention. What I'm really hostile to is bad writing, which I think the ease of self-publishing will encourage rather than diminish. As a reader that dismays me.

Jude Hardin said...

I want to read the best. I don't want to spend my time panning for gold among thousands of self-published books. When there are no barriers to entry, there's nothing to keep out the truly awful, and the truly awful is out there and is extremely happy now that it's so easy to self-publish.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I completely have a man crush on you right now.

(Really, don't take this the wrong way, LOL)

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark,

Most people who haven't run into my rah rah indie commentary on the Internet, don't even know I'm indie.

I've had several people find out after the fact that I self-published, and at the time they bought my book, they just thought I was with a small press.

Because my books don't scream self-published.

And that's my point. If someone hires a pro cover artist and an editor, there just is no real quick and easy way for someone to "know" it's self-published. It just blends in with all the other books. If it doesn't blend in and it looks unprofessional, I'm not saying anyone should "give it a chance". If someone can't do the work to put out a professional product consumers should not be expected to "give it a chance." They are free to just ignore it and go about their business.

So this idea that self-published books somehow all come with some mark that makes them obviously self-published to everybody is a strawman argument.

If an indie does everything right, there is no reason a reader's "OMG this is self-published and is probably CRAP" button should even be tripped.

Another strawman is this idea that you have to "wade through" all the crap. When you go to Youtube do you have to wade through 200 million crappy videos to see stuff you want to see? When you go online do you have to wade through all the crappy websites to see the ones you want?

How did you find Joe in the midst of all the crappy blogs?

This isn't even a real issue. It's imaginary. But some readers believe so strongly in it that nothing I or anyone else can say will sway them.

Zoe Winters said...

LMAO Jude! Copycat!!! :P

Zoe Winters said...

One other thing...

I shop on Amazon. Amazon has something like 2 million or more print books. And they have over 700,000 kindle books.

Guess how much of that I have to "wade through"?

Zero.

Because stuff gets recommended to me based on my other purchases. Sometimes I hear about a book that sounds good and I go search it out. Sometimes I sift through categories. Sometimes I look at the "customers who bought this also bought this" of books I bought. Or there are discussion forums. The list of book recommendations goes on and on.

I never have to wade through "anything".

Most books on Amazon, you and I will never even know they exist.

It wouldn't matter if no one else published another book self-pub OR trad pub, there are already so many freaking books on Amazon already.

How would anyone wade through all of what's already there? Yet, people seem to be doing just fine. I haven't seen any news bulletins about how people are keeling over in the streets from all the self-published crap they have to wade through.

It's not that serious. This is a fake problem.

Mark Asher said...

Hey Zoe,

I have no problems with any individual author who self-publishes. Both William Blake and Walt Whitman self-published. That's cool.

I just worry that self-publishing will result in more bad writing instead of less. And I think the discussion on this site is more about how can I line my pockets with more money instead of how can I produce a more interesting book?

My guess is that we are in a period of adjustment, and eventually things will level out and the good writers will make more money and the bad writers will make less, and self-publishing won't really matter much.

I'd hate to think of the opposite -- that bad writers will flourish at the expense of the good ones.

I do think that the value publishers add to books is being overlooked in this discussion. They weed out a lot bad books. They supply editing, at a high and sentence level. And they get the book in front of a lot of reviewers.

Mark Asher said...

"How would anyone wade through all of what's already there? Yet, people seem to be doing just fine. I haven't seen any news bulletins about how people are keeling over in the streets from all the self-published crap they have to wade through.

"It's not that serious. This is a fake problem."

Maybe, but what if your books were competing with five times as many similar books, as recommended by Amazon? What if a number of those books were offered by publishers because they opened up their ebook offerings? Would readers be more likely to purchase a $2.99 Harlequin paranormal romance or a $1.99 indie paranormal romance?

I can see publishers moving aggressively into the ebook market and shoving aside a lot of indie writers.

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark

They can try to shove indies aside. I'm not worried.

But ultimately it won't matter what they try to do because most readers just don't shop by publisher brand.

The real brand is the author.

There isn't anything particularly "wrong" with the way you think. It's just different from how many people think. It's easy to see the people getting worked up (negatively) about self-publishing and think this represents most readers, but it really doesn't.

From personal experience, I've run up against VERY LITTLE resistance to my work from readers.

The only people who resist and flip out are people who are in some way emotionally married to the traditional publishing industry and their way of doing things.

I also don't care if people traditionally publish. I have no beef with NY publishing or small press publishing aside from the fact that I'm just not interested in personally being a part of it. I do think they run business rather idiotically most of the time, but I opted out of that system so it doesn't affect me. In fact, it benefits me.

I'm not threatened by its existence. I don't really believe they're going to lower their ebook prices before good indies have a strong foothold and have developed their brands, but even if they do, it won't stop me or any other determined indie.

I don't *need* a NY pub to give me cover art and editing. I can get that stuff... professional level... on my own. And have no problem getting it on my own.

Will most self-published authors care that much about quality control? Nope. But then very few people will ever see their book at all. So it really doesn't make a difference.

I don't care how many books trad or self-pubbed are competing with me. If I'm not good enough to stay competitive and keep selling, I'll get better. Competition is what drives people beyond mediocrity.

Zoe Winters said...

Also, you say you're a reader, and if you are "just a reader" with no other horse in the publishing race... from what I've seen and experienced, you're a very rare breed.

Mark Asher said...

"Also, you say you're a reader, and if you are "just a reader" with no other horse in the publishing race... from what I've seen and experienced, you're a very rare breed."

Fair enough. I've written professionally for over twenty years. Software manuals, hundreds of articles in the gaming press (Computer Gaming World, Computer Games, PC Gamer, CNET's Gamecenter, Gamespot, and many others), and a computer game book published by Macmillan, local newspaper articles, and more.

I've won a few awards for poetry -- about $1000 total or so. I've dabbled in fiction but never really tried to publish much, but that doesn't mean I don't have aspirations.

I think of myself as a very capable writer, but I also know that writers like me are a dime a dozen. What separates one of us from the rest is the effort we put in.

All that said, as a reader I want a barrier to entry to publishing so at the least I know the work has been in front of other eyes and convinced them to invest in it. I think that's a good thing, even if it means a few authors are unfairly shut out.

I don't know what else I can say. I love a good sentence, a good paragraph. I want to reward good and clever writing, and ignore forgettable writing. I don't see self-publishing resulting in a greater percentage of good writing to bad. I see it the other way around and that worries me.

Good writing thrills me. I take it to heart.

Mark Asher said...

"But ultimately it won't matter what they try to do because most readers just don't shop by publisher brand.

"The real brand is the author."

Only after the author is established. Until then, Harlequin carries more weight than Josephine Schmoe.

I think you will find this to be true with other genres, too. A TOR SF book carries more weight with readers than an indie.

I mean what if I have a manuscript today ready to publish? Is the "Mark Asher" brand a viable brand? I don't think so.

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark

Because you're a writer and because you're somewhat immersed in "publishing", you don't see all this the way the average regular reader sees it.

You've got, IMO judging only from what I've seen just in this discussion, a rather romanticized view of publishing and what should be available for consumption. But it's a free market and that's not how a free market works.

Everything is competition and the good wins out, the poor falls off everybody's radar.

Yeah, there's going to be a lot more bad writing than good in self pub. But who cares? There are a lot more bad blogs than good and a lot more bad websites than good, but nobody is freaking out about it. And the bad doesn't drag down the good because most people only really see the better stuff that rises to the top.

You found Joe's blog just fine. I bet you find most of what you want to read just fine. Keep doing whatever you're doing to find what you want to read, and it will be just fine.

99% of crap will sink to the bottom. The other 1% will "get lucky".

Don't worry about the crap. It's a non-issue. Really. As far as the 1% that "got lucky", well we have that in traditional publishing, too. There is always that book that completely sucks and has no redeeming merit that anyone can see and yet it keeps selling anyway. C'est la vie.

Neither one of us will probably change the other's viewpoint. And that's fine. But I really think this fear about the self-pubbed crap is overblown.

Scathach Publishing said...

I have a slight problem. I can be very nasty on the internet. Once a week I have a day when I only say nice things. That day is not today. It's almost breakfast time, and I haven't pissed anyone off yet. This response might piss people off.

I came in here and posted a serious comment. What is the point in fancy toys being added to books? It is like DVD extras. I don't watch them (and I'm a film student, so I really should).

After I posted it, the thread was overtaken by anonymous abusive posts. That pissed me off. If you're going to insult someone, have the decency to put your name to it. Have the balls. I have. My name is Chris Kelly. If Joe bans me from his blog, fine. If you hate me, fine. I don't really give a damn. If you don't hate me, you can find me at www.scathach-publishing.co.uk or on my blog at http://dun-scaith.blogspot.com/

I thought about those anonymous posters for a long time. I asked myself what kind of total plebs would come on a blog and accuse the blogger of being a shill for Amazon. Obviously someone who has no sense of how a business runs. If Amazon were lying to Joe about his numbers and it went public do you have any idea how much he could sue them for?

Consider this. Joe is building a reputation. People say “He earns $200,000 a year. He must be good.” They buy his book. If he is an Amazon shill and it went public his reputation would be knocked so badly that it would drop far below what he would have earned had his numbers not been touched. He could sue Amazon for his projected yearly wage for the rest of his life plus the stress it had caused him. He could sue for millions.

Now maybe Sky News and CNN don't care about Joe Konrath. They do, however, care a great deal about huge companies like Amazon. If Amazon was revealed to be fiddling authors numbers to net free publicity it would hit every news network worldwide. Other indie authors would stop using Amazon, going instead to B&N or somewhere else.

The trad publishers would lose faith in Amazon. They'd try to sue, or put their books somewhere else. If all these books were being pulled, customers would stop shopping there. Having Joe as a shill could cost Amazon billions.

After I thought about this for a while, I started to think about what kind of people would come on a self-publishers blog and verbally abuse self-publishers. What kind of immature little (I'm editing this, and seriously running out of words to substitute for swearing. I don't like to swear) would tell Zoe to “have another breakdown?” What kind of brain-dead morons, with the business sense of a gnat, would think it worthwhile for Amazon to have a shill? What sort of coward hides behind an anonymity tag?

And then I realised... what if you're not cowards?

What if you dare not reveal who you are because we either know you, or can easily find you?

Who do we all know that A) has no fucking clue how to run a business and B) really hates self-publishers, especially ones that are doing well and don't want traditional publishing contracts?

All you anonymous commentors, I'm onto you. The game is up. I know the score. You're New York publishers, aren't you? :)

If you are, no wonder you did it anonymously. It really says something about the state of your business when your biggest argument against self-publishing is “You're either lying or Amazon is.”

Right, now that's bound to have pissed someone off (sorry if it's you, Joe). Now, what's for breakfast... I'm fancying chocolate covered toasted waffles. Mmm. Yummy.

Scathach Publishing said...

@zoe 99% of crap will sink to the bottom. The other 1% will "get lucky".

Hey, you stole that from my sinking ship analogy. :)

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark

Also, I apologize if my last comment came off patronizing. In my effort to be diplomatic sometimes I come off sounding like a patronizing schmuck. Rereading it I can't tell for sure. So if it came off that way, I apologize. I'm interested in a productive discussion, not meanness.

Zoe Winters said...

@Chris, I probably did! I've got so much jumbled in my head right now from visiting WAY too many blogs today.

Your analogy was really good!

Mark Asher said...

"@Mark

"Also, I apologize if my last comment came off patronizing. In my effort to be diplomatic sometimes I come off sounding like a patronizing schmuck. Rereading it I can't tell for sure. So if it came off that way, I apologize. I'm interested in a productive discussion, not meanness."

Hey, you're good. I've been doing internet discussions for nearly 20 years now. :)

This thread has never been personal. It's just an interesting discussion about publishing and writing.

My takeaway is that I want someone else to filter the good writing from the bad. I hope the internet revolution provides that. If I have to do it, oy vey, whatever work@

Zoe Winters said...

@Mark

I think it will. I think there will be lots of filters crop up. Human beings like to organize crap almost as much as they like procreating and eating. And we all know how much everybody likes doing that.

Scathach Publishing said...

@mark

Why don't you filter it?

Google adwords is dead. All the business blogs agree the new way to make money online is affiliate marketing.

Blogs will spring up where indie books are reviewed. Writers won't be able to go on these blogs and post reviews - it would lack integrity.

It will be readers that do it. They wil be brutally honest. If they aren't, folk will stop trusting them.

They will say this book is good, this one is crap, but obviously in more detail. They will include links to where the book is for sale.

Everytime someone goes through a link and buys a book, the blogger will get money.

The worst of these blogs will earn enough cash that the blogger never has to pay for a book again. The best will mean the blogger can give up the day job.

Gatekeepers don't need to keep the crap out, they simply need to highlight the good stuff.

Eric Christopherson said...

I can see publishers moving aggressively into the ebook market and shoving aside a lot of indie writers.

I don't see how the major publishers will ever push out the indies. They can't compete on price. They have real overhead. Plus they aren't winning by competing on quality even though they do produce at a higher quality (at least from my own POV). That's because enough readers are finding the bestselling indies to be of comparable quality or at least comparable value when price is considered.

These are the same readers, mind you, who wolf down James Patterson and Dan Brown and Stephanie Myers and Danielle Steel, etc. They value story above all else. Thin description, pedestrian prose and cardboard characters? A few typos? "So what?" say most.

As far as finding what you personally wish to read, there's a subset of readers who are daring and enjoy hunting for treasure (as I think Joe said), and they will do a lot of the work in identifying the best of the indies for the more casual readers, the majority of readers. There are lots of people who enjoy donating their time online for the benefit of others. This is how we ended up with Wikipedia and Linux, etc.

Meanwhile, there's bookish online social networking that is growing and online reviews and ratings, and the science of collaborative filtering or predictive analytics or whatever it's called that Amazon uses to make reading recommendations will only improve with time.

You want to filter out all the indies in the search for a book? I'll bet that option is coming, but don't expect most readers to use it.

Joe Konrath said...

If you were a young author today, twenty years old, and you just finished writing your first novel, DEAD ON MY FEET, would you self-publish on Kindle, or query an agent?

That's a tough question.

DEAD ON MY FEET wasn't very good. If it was, it would be on Kindle now. I may rewrite it someday, but in its current state it isn't ready for prime time. Publishing it on Kindle could have hurt me, as a new writer.

If I was twenty and wrote WHISKEY SOUR, no question--I'd go straight to Kindle.

New writers tend not to know how crummy their writing is. No one learns to play piano overnight. Same thing with crafting a narrative.

I've personally met thousands of newbie writers. I've only known two of these newbies that I knew were good enough to succeed--and both did.

I've met maybe a dozen others that have potential. But that's it. The rest just aren't good enough.

Maybe they'll become good enough, with practice. But putting starter novels on Kindle isn't good for anyone.

Would ENDURANCE be as well-crafted, if you had never gone through your New York experience?

Yes.

My sixth novel was SHOT OF TEQUILA. By then, I knew how to write a story, and it's one of my only books on Kindle that is rated a solid five stars (rather than four or four and a half.) Didn't have an agent. Didn't have a professional editor. I finally matured enough to sustain a compelling narrative, and I did so through trial and error, reading books, and asking friends for critiques.

My next book, ORIGIN, landed me and agent.

By the time I wrote WHISKEY SOUR, my tenth book, I required very little editing. Which is why TRAPPED was just an unhappy experience--my editor wanted changes that I felt weren't necessary. I was lucky to be able to get out of that contract.

Merrill Heath said...

I have found this blog to be interesting and the comments on this particular article entertaining. My father was a successful author back in the '50s and '60s so I learned a lot about the writer's side of the business from his experiences. I also worked for several years for a company that was, at the time, the 4th largest retail book chain in the nation. I worked as a store manager, district manager, regional manager, and then spent 5 years at the corporate office where I worked closely with the buyers and marketing group. Now I've gone full circle and I'm writing my own novels and hoping to "get discovered."

Having experienced the writing/publishing industry from both sides of the equation, I can assure you that the only "vetting" that goes on with the traditional publishers, and to a degree with the brick-and-mortar book stores, is purely commercial. Will it sell and will we make a profit? If the answer is "no" then it's on to the next one. It's a business. It's not about producing great literature. It's not about developing your craft over years of work with an agent or editor at a publishing firm. It's about the short-term, immediate, money-making capabilities of a book. This is evident by simply picking up many of the best sellers. They are published and sell because of their commercial appeal, not their literary merits.

I'm simply trying to get started on my writing career. My goal is to someday make enough money from my writing to be able to do that full-time. So I'm going to consider every opportunity to make a name for myself, establish a readership, and sell some books. Personally I would love to do that as an indie author so I could avoid having to deal with agents and editors. I've experienced that firsthand and it can be extremely frustrating and disheartening, especially for an "unknown" who is trying to break into the market.

Merrill Heath
http://merrillheath.wordpress.com

rex kusler said...

One of the smartest things I've ever done was to give up writing twenty years ago, even though I was on the doorstep. Even back then the publishing process was so screwed up--it was a waste of too much of my life--waiting around.

Now, one of the smartest things I've done--is to get back into it.

It's amazing the stuff you never forget.

Justin said...

You know the slush argument really doesn't hold up. Which is worse, a ten thousand foot fall or a thousand foot fall?

Answer: You're dead either way.

There are already more novels published than you can even sort into might want to read, not a chance I'll read it categories.

Let's say there are 25,000 novels published in English each year, which less than the actual number. That's about seventy books a day you need to read a synopsis of to be able to sort through them, just to keep up.

This doesn't include the millions that already exist.

Even if self publishing explodes so that there are millions of new books each year, the average consumer is going to be affected negligibly, if at all.

And part of my job is to read these things and select books, and even I only look at a fraction of a fraction of the books that come out each year.

For authors, you need to bear in mind that people that suck are not your competition. The only people you need to worry about are people that are actually good, because they are the ones who are going to be soaking up the attention bandwidth.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Publishing is a system. It serves the system. It was never meant to serve authors.

An agent or editor is just some liberal arts grad that moved to NY. Some are brilliant, some can barely read. I recently heard an editor of a major press mispronounce the one-word title of her own book. She clearly didn't know the word.

They're just people. They work for corporations> Decisions made by people who rarely read books besides "The Secret."

Trust them if you wish.

Leisure Books--some of these authors, with agents, signed for a 4 percent royalty with no valid "out" clause. No wonder Leisure dumped its print line. Who could resist such lucrative exploitation? That's why Leisure was the first to $2.99.

The one thing you can count on is that everyone in the "business" will ultimately do what is best for them and not you, even if it appears a few of the goals coincide.

Writers who sign paltry, never-ending ebook contracts are selling bullets to the enemy, with agents as the arms dealers.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Zoe Winters said...

@Scott I don't know why so many people think publishers are such sweet little lambs. That view is naive at best. Publishers aren't charities. They don't publish out of altruism.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Here's what has worked for my suspense ebooks on Amazon:
- Create a simple, inexpensive website using WordPress (or Blogger, etc.). You don't need a fancy site. It just needs to be user-friendly.
- Give away some of your writing on your website, and in the process, earn some fans.
- Write a good book in a popular genre.
- Publish it as a Kindle ebook.
- Promote it via your website and your existing fans.
- Promote it by commenting on relevant blogs and news stories. However, do NOT leave a comment unless you have something worthwhile to contribute.

Your fans, even though they be few, will help kick-start your Amazon rank, as will your comments on other sites.

The higher your Amazon rank, the more readers will notice your book, which will lead to more sales. More sales will lead to even more sales because of Amazon's "also bought" and other great features.

At this point your book has a chance to succeed. If people like it, some of them will post good reviews. But if they hate, your book will begin to sink, and soon it will be lost in the slush.

What a great system Amazon has built!

Debbie said...

Glad to see the hostility has subsided and thanks Joe for interceeding. Admittedly I love conspiracy theories. What if someone anonamously bad-mouths their own work here so people will check it out. What if Joe knows what Amazon is doing like the old quiz show scams. (Sorry Joe, just having fun with a conspiracy theory).
As for Kindles and kids, just check out the electronic tech. already availble for children.
What difference does it make who is reading or on what format?
I too worry about wading through the slush and there are some great ideas here for the future including dedicated sites. As for editing, Les Miserables would have been edited quite differently today just for the reader, nevermind the market and the bottom line. I'd have to agree that it's not as much how well written the novel is as it is can we sell this and make a good profit, boost our shares, keep our reputation?
Lastly, I like the YouTube/webpage analogy. If it's not what I'm looking for or poorly organized, I'll move on. I like the idea of dedicated webpages or awards of literary merit within a book store online but trust is a big element. I found this page from Alexandra Sokoloff. I don't know her but trust her info. http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/
As for self publishing having to do with talent, I'm not so sure. Motivation, yes but Paris Hilton could publish-she has the money, hell the influence, maybe even the following, but talent...who knows?

Zoe Winters said...

I think Paris Hilton HAS published. Sadly she was vetted traditionally. So it sort of shoots that "trad pub is the awesome sauce" argument right in the foot.

Ellen Fisher said...

Well, famous people are a special case. They have a built-in audience, who will probably buy their books regardless of the writing quality. The rest of us don't:-).

rex kusler said...

Here's what has worked for me:

-Act like you're nuts.
-Act like you're acting like you're nuts.
-People will read your books just see how nuts you really are.
-Others will read your books to see if you're more nuts than they are.

Zoe Winters said...

DUDE. Stop giving away my strategies! :P

Al.X. Ross said...

Hi I am a no name aspiring writer, I have finished 3 manuscript, none qualitative ready yet to publish.

While writing my very first story I also researched the publishing world. What I discovered was most writers fawning for an agent, getting many rejections before they got one.

Once they had an agent, the hunt for a publisher started, with uncertain results. It could take years.

I thought why not go directly to the publishers, but it seemed most publishers took only submissions by agents.

The idea to go through so many (in my opinion) senseless hoops despaired me. It almost got me to stop writing. I did not see the sense in doing so much work and be dependent on so many people so after years you may get one book published.

I got back at writing after I stumbled on Dean Wesley Smith site. I read his experiences with the publishing world and it opened my eyes to another way to look at it.

I've a long way to go before I am at the point I might publish one of my stories. I need to improve my grammar and my writing skill is still rough. However when I get there I will not publish the traditional way.

I concluded that either way I go, as a starting author I would have to put in the same energy to sell.

Advances on acquired books now a days are low, between $2000-$20000.

I estimate my active involvement marketing a published book could very well get me 1000 sales year.

If I were to be traditionally published and the e-book cost $9,99 that would mean $9999 on which I might get 15%-25% (Royalties publishers want to pay starting authors.)

That would mean between $1499-$2499
for the effort I put in. Not enough to cover an advance, unless the advance was just 2k.

Would I self publish on kindle for the same effort I would get $6999.

Then again if I would self publish I would sell the e-book for $2,99, making me $2093, Though at such low price I might sell more than 1000 a year for the same effort put in.

With the added advantage that by the time I gotten a publisher to want to publish my book and the book get published I could have written 4 more books and have them published myself.

It does not make sense to get a publisher unless they give a big advance and they spend a lot on marketing. Something very unlikely for a starting no name writer like myself.

Mark Asher said...

"It does not make sense to get a publisher unless they give a big advance and they spend a lot on marketing. Something very unlikely for a starting no name writer like myself."

You have to look at the other side of things. Everyone but celebrity authors started out as a no-name. And I think it's still fair to say that a book from a publisher is going to get more exposure than a book that is self-published.

I understand the argument for self-publishing. It's significantly more money per copy sold than a traditional publishing deal, and chances are the publisher isn't going spend a lot on marketing anyway.

However, it does seem to me that having a traditional publishing deal in hand opens more doors. Your book is more likely to get reviewed. Assuming it's not an e-book only deal, your book might make it onto the shelves of the chains.

You might make less with a traditional deal, but you might help yourself more in th long run because it might better establish you as a published writer. There's still a lot more cachet in saying you have published book with a publisher than a self-published book. Just my two cents.

And that said, I can see trying the self-publishing route. It has worked for Zoe so far. Joe is a different case because he established himself with publisher first.

Ellen Fisher said...

"And that said, I can see trying the self-publishing route. It has worked for Zoe so far. Joe is a different case because he established himself with publisher first."

It's worked for others, too. Vicki Tyley had great sales on her first book. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but her second, SLEIGHT MALICE, is already at #188 in the Kindle store.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 266   Newer› Newest»