Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Henry Perez on Ebooks

I've known Henry Perez for years, and have had the pleasure of seeing him leap into the publishing scene and make a nice, big splash. I asked him to blog about his recent Kindle experience, since he managed to hit a milestone I haven't reached yet.

If you're interested in what it's like to be a new published novelist, check out his blog at http://henryperezbooks.blogspot.com.

Here's Henry:

I Dipped a Toe in the E-book Ocean…Then My Publisher Gave Me a Push

My name is Henry Perez and I’m a number 1 bestselling Kindle author.

I’m the author of two thrillers, Killing Red and Mourn the Living. Both feature a Chicago newspaper reporter named Alex Chapa who has a habit of getting into trouble with some very bad folks, pissing off important people, and breaking big stories.

It seems like a relatively short time ago, three years, four at most, that I stood in a Borders and held a Sony Reader in my hands for the first time. I remember how that night I told my wife that I had seen the future of publishing.

But I had no idea…

If you had asked me then I would have told you we were still five to ten years or so away from the point where e-books would begin to have a significant impact on the publishing business.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Back in early 2008, Joe and I were each asked to write a short story for an anthology titled Missing. We had often discussed the possibility of writing something together, so we asked the publisher if we could collaborate on one long story instead of two shorter ones. We got the okay, and that story became Floaters, a 14,000 word novella that featured my protagonist Alex Chapa teaming up with Lt. Jack Daniels.

I had a great time writing it, but I didn’t give Floaters much thought after that, as I was busy working on the final revisions on my first novel, Killing Red. Then, in the summer of 2009, Joe approached me with the idea of putting Floaters up on Kindle. By then he was beginning to have some success in the e-book market. I liked the idea, so we each added short stories with introductions, as well as an interview, in order to give the reader more bang for their buck, and launched it in May of that year.

I didn’t see it as a money-making opportunity, necessarily, but more as a way to introduce readers to my work in advance of the release of Killing Red, which was due out in early June.

It turned out to be both.

From the beginning, the sales numbers for Floaters have been steady, and growing. I’ve received many emails from readers who purchased Killing Red after reading Floaters. It worked out exactly as I had hoped, and we began planning a follow-up. Originally, the idea was to have a new Chapa-Daniels novella ready to launch this past July, but other projects and time constraints pushed the date into this fall.

That was no big deal as far as I was concerned. After all, as a conventionally published author, original e-books were primarily a way of generating publicity while making available material I cared about that publishers wouldn’t handle (like novellas). Though I have long believed in the great potential of e-books, I remained unsure of just how big an impact they could have at this time for a relatively new author like me.

Then a lot of things changed all at once.

Mourn the Living, my second thriller, was released on August 3. For two weeks its Amazon numbers, both for the print version as well as the Kindle, were okay. I assume the same was probably true for the retail numbers, but that’s only an assumption at this point.

But on the morning of August 16, when I checked my Amazon numbers, I saw that the e-book version of Mourn the Living was now available as a free download. I knew this was coming—sort of—I knew my publisher planned on doing that as a promotion, but I did not know when, or on which site.

The real shock, however, came when I looked at the book’s rank—number 12 among the freebies. An hour later it was ninth. By midday Mourn the Living was second on the list, and later that afternoon it reached number one.

I was thrilled. What a great way to introduce an unknown author to some of the world’s most dedicated readers. I only wish my publisher had done that with Killing Red. For the next three days, Mourn the Living remained at number 1 on the free download list. The Kindle version of Killing Red (not a freebie) also spiked during that time. All the while, however, the Amazon ranking for the print versions of both books improved only slightly.

When I checked my Amazon numbers on the morning of August 19, I immediately noticed that Mourn the Living was no longer available as a free download. For a moment I thought, Well, that was fun while it lasted.

Then I scrolled down to check my rank—Number 1 on Amazon’s list of bestsellers, ahead Stieg Larsson’s three novels, and Eat, Pray, Love, and Carl Hiaasson, and James Patterson. Number 1 in Books > Literature & Fiction. Number 1 in Books > Suspense, etc. You get the idea.

Mourn the Living held the top spot for several days. During that time, the e-book version of Killing Red moved into the top 100, then the top 50. Floaters also moved up into the top 250.

Over the next week, Mourn the Living was mentioned on numerous blogs, tweeted about, and my inbox traffic jumped from 2-3 pieces of reader and writing business email per week, to 4-6 per day. There was something viral going on, maybe not a full blown pandemic, but something significant.

Mourn the Living stayed in the top 10 for more than a week, in the top 100 for over two weeks. The Amazon numbers for the print versions of my books also improved significantly.

So how did all of this happen? Well, first, it speaks to the awesome power of Amazon. There’s never been anything quite like it in publishing. The opportunities that it affords a writer or publisher to connect directly with readers is unlike anything in the history of publishing.

Second, there is now a definable e-book community. It is large, enthusiastic, and growing exponentially. I say “enthusiastic” because I’ve noticed how many of my Kindle readers have made a point of identifying themselves as such in emails. It’s a community that is plugged in, turned on, and hungry for the next big book or new author discovery.

Now, none of this is meant to suggest that authors should turn their backs on conventional publishing. On the contrary. I’m not one of those who claims to know for certain that the publishing industry will collapse in two, or three, or (insert your own number) years.

The big publishers in New York have the power, resources, and personnel needed to continue to dominate the industry. That may well require a significant change in their business model, but they also have the ability to develop and implement that. Consider that it would have been far more difficult, if not nearly impossible, for me as an individual to achieve the results my publisher got out of a promotion on Amazon.

Ideally, authors should a have a foot in both conventional publishing and e-books, including Amazon exclusives—especially Amazon exclusives. The good news is that being rejected or dropped by New York publishers is no longer a death sentence, not for a book, a series, and certainly not for an author.

Every author, regardless of their success level, now has a powerful outlet for their work. E-books are more than just a tool, though, they represent an important and necessary market for every author. Miss out on the e-book readers, and you’re missing out on the future.

A year ago, I looked at Amazon as a sort of safety net, in case a future book of mine didn’t find a nice home in New York. Three months ago, I thought of it as a viable option, in case a future book of mine didn’t garner the sort of offer I wanted from a traditional publisher. Today, I see it as a vital market, one that I’m certain I will write for directly in the not too distant future. Any other approach would be foolish and short-sighted.

It’s amazing how one’s outlook can change in just a matter of days.

As for that future I thought I saw a few years ago—it’s here, and it’s a lot bigger and much more exciting than I could have imagined.

Joe sez: A few things jump out at me when I hear Henry's story.

The first one is: His publisher had no idea what they were doing. They spent a few bucks to get Amazon to release Mourn the Living as a freebie, but they did it for just four days--one of the shortest free periods I've ever seen since watching the Kindle boards. This was not a vote of confidence on their part.

The fact that it jumped straight to the #1 Paid Bestseller list is impressive, and not a feat I've seen repeated too often. If it was that easy, then every publisher would do that with every book.

This is yet another instance of the Spaghetti Theory so many publishers subscribe to--throwing a bunch of ideas at a wall and seeing if any stick. This one stuck, and it resulted in a decent amount of sales, along with an instant fan-base that Henry will be able to tap into for future books.

I disagree with Henry that NY Publishers will continue to dominate. In fact, this shows why they won't dominate. They simply have no idea what works and what doesn't. You would think that having a #1 Kindle Bestseller would have caused his publisher to somehow capitalize on the notoriety, or follow it up somehow. Perhaps with ads. Perhaps with longer coop. Perhaps by beefing up his Amazon page with an interview, or a video clip. Perhaps by mentioning it on their freakin' website.

Nope. Epic fail. Kensington is not ready for an ebook future.

The second thing I find intriguing is how little his print numbers jumped in rank, even though he had two ebooks in the Top 50. The gap between ebooks and print seems to be widening.

Henry hasn't gotten his numbers yet, but I have no doubt he sold thousands of ebooks. And his rankings on both Chapa titles are still holding firm. While Henry was lucky that his publisher did this promotion, he now needs them less than they need him. He will always be a #1 Bestseller, and the fans he's accrued will no doubt buy more of his work, because he writes good books. He's the brand, not Kensington.

Third, it's pretty obvious but worth mentioning that if readers like something, they buy more. Floaters has sold a modest 200 copies a month since we released it last year. In August it sold over 500 copies, all thanks to the boost Mourn the Living gave it.

Why am I selling 250 ebooks a day? Because I have 27 different ebooks for sale on Amazon.

The more ebooks you have, the more you'll sell.

I'm thrilled Henry is making money and finding readers. And at this point in time, going through a traditional publisher is the only way to make a splash as big as he did.

I've known for years that publishers create bestsellers. Only they have the money, connections, and distribution networks to get books in front of a lot of eyes at once.

But give it time. Amazon is smart, and they're doing a lot right. Plus, authors are figuring this new frontier out faster than publishers are. We've already seen some self-pubbed bestsellers. I have no doubt we'll see some of them hit #1 in the near future.

48 comments:

rex kusler said...

For myself, I don't care at all about, someday, having my books in print. I'm only interested in my e-book sales. Eventually everyone will be purchasing that way, so future customers will migrate to my stuff.

If I ever get a box with 25 of my books in it--I'll put it in the closet.

Aaron Patterson said...

This is a hard time for most publishers. They have created this empire around printing and now that it is changing they cannot or will not change. They have people to pay, presses to run and this overhead cost is killing them.

What this means for authors and small publishers is HUGE OPPORTUNITY!!! At what other time in history can a no name author break into the top 10 in sales? What other time can a brand new author sell thousands of books a month without leaving the house?

There is a small window and as the big guys figure it all out we can get in and play. The walls are coming down but like most things they will adapt.

The publishing world is open and we the future authors will shape this future, so what are we going to do with it? As for me, I am going to write as fast as I can and help as many other authors to do the same and take back what is rightfully ours.

Devon said...

A free giveaway that puts you at #1 on the Kindle freebie list does not make it a bestseller. It makes it a street pamphlet that you might glace at before tossing it in the back of your car.

A lot of people download every single free kindle book they see regardless of genre, and I'd be surprised if more than 10% of those folks actually read them.

Still, if you get 10,000 people downloading your book for free, and 10% of those read it, and 5% of those enjoy it, you've increased your audience. So it's definitely worth it, but not as big of a deal as it sounds.

Stacey Cochran gave away tens of thousands of his ebooks for free and I don't see him topping the book charts. If that was all it took, then things would be different. Obviously, a free giveaway isn't the answer. Maybe it's a small piece of a larger marketing plan, but that's about it.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Congratulations, Henry! That's incredible.

My series of four suspense books sat at around the 10,000-15,000 rank for a year before they began to move up. And I wasn't doing anything much different. It must have been word of mouth.

One of my books, Hideaway Hospital Murders, hit the Top-100 Romantic Suspense list several weeks ago and is still there. And when your book is on one of Amazon's Top-100 lists it helps your sales tremendously. All four of the books rank high for a Kindle Store search of "suspense series."

It seems to me that if you're not able to rank for some list or popular search, your book is just lost out there in the sea of 600,000 ebooks.

Linda S. Prather said...

Congratulations, Henry. I love hearing success stories.

another good thing said...

Great post. I've just dipped my toe into the e-book sea a few weeks ago: http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Intent-ebook/dp/B00413QN2G
An international electronic publisher asked me for something longer, after having published some of my short stories in their online journal. I gave them a manuscript that I'd stopped shopping, think it would make me too much of a limited author. I didn't give them the manuscript my agent is shopping traditionally in NY. Nor the new one I just finished. Part of me was embarrassed, thinking, "It's not a "real" book.. and also, it's not my best work, But I stand by the story and i like the characters, so I figured what the hell, let's see what happens. So far, I can only see problems and questions.
Seems I need more e-reader loving friends, seems I need to pay someone to review the damn thing and seems like i-books is way, way slower than B&N nook, sony reader or the kindle as far as getting new books posted. But I'm willing to learn. I accept this is a change that will happen with or without me. I choose- WITH me.
thanks again. You are always a great go-to source.

linda

Joe Konrath said...

A free giveaway that puts you at #1 on the Kindle freebie list does not make it a bestseller.

No. But when the freebie goes for sale, and it stays #1, that's a bestseller.

Henry got more than a little bump. He got a huge push. So huge, I'm sure his publisher hadn't expected it.

Ken Marable said...

@Devon - I may have misread, but my understanding is that the PAID version went to #1 after it stopped being free. So, sure, free download numbers don't mean a whole heck of a lot. If it's free and even the slightest chance of interesting me, I download it, even if I never get around to reading it. But when you start charging and the numbers stay high, that is significant.

However, I do agree that "give it away for free" = "more sales" is far too simple and I don't think anyone is trying to argue that. But "giving it away for free" + "more stuff available to buy" + "actual writing ability" (that's pretty important, too) = "more sales". And it apparently comes out to far more sales than just good writing ability alone.

webster223 said...

"Actual writing ability" is critical--I read Mourn the Living in one sitting and promptly ordered Killing Red and Floaters. I told all my friends. I'm pretty sure I'm responsible for several sales.

Here's the thing--the reason I read it in the first place was because I spotted a dead-tree copy in B&N, and recognized it as one I'd downloaded for free from Amazon. I download a lot of freebies, but many of them I never get around to reading. The fact that B&N was stocking this book pushed me to actually open it on my phone; and I was hooked immediately. Good for Henry Perez, not so good for B&N.

I think there's still a major role for publishers and brick & mortar booksellers in getting good writers' names in front of the buying public, even though Kensington appears to have done it accidentally. One thing they did right--pricing Mourn the Living and Killing Red under $5, making them attractive as impulse purchases.

Helen Hanson said...

Congratulations, Henry! Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks to Joe for another fascinating e-profile.

On a related tangent, there’s an intriguing article in the October issue of Writer’s Digest, in which Jane Friedman asks four agents what they think their role will be in the murky future of publishing. The agents acknowledge that there are too many of their rank chasing the same limited number of deals. They tend to see their future opportunities in the author-groomer arena. While the details remains undefined, these services will include fees. Two of the four, Richard Curtis and Scott Waxman, have an e-publishing arm to their agencies. Curtis’ has been in play since 1999.

The publishing rules are being rewritten, and no one is sure who is holding the pen.

Jude Hardin said...

Terrific results, Henry! I'm going to suggest something similar to my publisher for my debut next year.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Ideally, authors should a have a foot in both conventional publishing and e-books, including Amazon exclusives—especially Amazon exclusives.

Why not have the best of both worlds?

Excuse Me, Miss said...

Excellent post. And Devon, I've noticed a great trend where the free giveaways move to a high spot on the paid list once the free promotion ends. This tells me that the readers are out there and they are HUNGRY for material to read. It's up to authors to understand this and get the material out there for the readers to consume. Joe said it best when he noted the number of books he has available to his fans (27). I'm looking forward to having more of my titles available through Kindle and the like. Sky's the limit.

wannabuy said...

Congrats Henry! You put your name out and found a larger audience.

The good news is that being rejected or dropped by New York publishers is no longer a death sentence, not for a book, a series, and certainly not for an author.

That is their weak link. Where is the 'power' when a rejection means fast turn time to into reader hands and more income for the author? The only 'Publisher power' is controlling *low* author residuals into print.

I'm not an author like Rex. But I'm done buying p-books. There is a better use for the space than a bookcase. :)

I find these author marketing strategies facinating

Neil

N. R. Williams said...

This adds to the many encouraging post I have read about the e-publishing business. One that I'm excited about and plan to us. You're comments regarding how many e-books you have available is also important and duly noted.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

P.J. Alderman, author said...

Great publishing story, Henry! It shows what can happen when a publisher--even obliviously, lol--takes advantage of the Kindle platform to generate interest in an author's books. Add is some great word-of-mouth, and you have a huge success.

I appeared on the Magical Musings blog today as a guest and advised writers to do essentially the same as you have: diversify across publishing models. If an author is traditionally published, she should consider adding digital-first publishers to her career plan as well as self-publishing titles on the Kindle. I think it's important in these uncertain times to spread risk across more than one publishing industry business model, because no one yet knows which model will prevail. (Though I think we all have a pretty good idea, lol!)

These are exciting times for an author, with many, many more opportunities available than even a couple of years ago. No one can afford to ignore the e-book revolution.

Thanks for sharing your story--it's inspiring!

--PJ

Moses Siregar III said...

Congrats, Henry. It's good to hear about your success.

Archangel said...

dear henry, that is swell. And I am glad to know about your works set in Chi-town, my town, nothing like it. Will look forward to reading your opus. Keep going, you are more than well on your way!

Thanks Joe for bringing such a nice guy to us who can also grok the windy city.

dr.cpe

Mark Asher said...

@wannabuy: "That is their weak link. Where is the 'power' when a rejection means fast turn time to into reader hands and more income for the author? The only 'Publisher power' is controlling *low* author residuals into print."

The NY publishers still have plenty of power. They are still the gatekeepers for the brick and mortar stores where the majority of books are still sold. They also confer professional status upon an author that self-publishing doesn't automatically do. And reviewers (newspapers, magazines, etc.) pay much, much more attention to traditionally published books than they do to self-pubbed books -- especially from authors who have never had a traditional publishing contract.

All of is changing now, but no one has a clear picture yet of what the end result will look like.

I suspect midlist authors will be hit the hardest by the changes, but will have the most opportunity for self-publishing. If the NY publishers see profits dwindle, they will probably put more resources into what they consider to be surer bets -- the bigger authors -- and devote fewer resources to midlist authors.

I think eventually the publishers will have to offer greater ebook royalties to authors, and that might keep them as the most attractive publishing option for authors.

And it's also possible that authors working with publishers might be required to put some of their own money into projects in return for those greater royalties.

I'm sure there will be a lot of new models tried.

Mark Asher said...

I'll just drop this into the conversation here also. I think it's a good weathervane to note when wondering where digital books are headed.

The music industry has been dealing with the reality of digital downloads for some time now. It's at a more mature stage than the book industry finds itself at in terms of DDs. So put this into context:

"Digital music, meanwhile, made up 40 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2010, up significantly from 5 percent during the same quarter one year ago." That's from NPD, which tracks sales.

Sixty percent of sales are still CDs. Even now. And while digital is growing, clearly the pace of growth is slowing. It's entirely possible it will stagnate at some point. Some people just like physical goods. And the power of brick and mortar retail is still there.

And while there are real advantages to MP3s over CDs (I buy the one song I want for $1 instead of paying $15 to get it and a bunch of other songs), there's not nearly the same kind of compelling advantage to digital vs. physical with books. I get the same product and if it's from a traditional publisher, I'm paying about the same price. There is convenience with a Kindle, but I've never thought a book inconvenient except perhaps when traveling.

And in terms of making writers money, the music industry is again interesting. From what I've been reading, musicians are making more money now in the digital age, but less from actual music sales. They are playing more gigs now to make the extra money. The digital stuff seems to have helped them promote their music and build fans but it hasn't helped sales revenue.

I'm not sure what all this means, but it's interesting. I believe there were something like 720,000 self-pubbed books last year, and there are 20,000 new self-pubbed books added to Lulu alone every month. There's going to be more and more competition from the low end (more and more new indie authors) and the high end (traditional publishers experimenting with ebook pricing). It's anybody's guess where it all ends up.

Moses Siregar III said...

I think eventually the publishers will have to offer greater ebook royalties to authors, and that might keep them as the most attractive publishing option for authors.

This is actually what I'm waiting for. When a good publishing house is ready to offer 50% of retail on ebooks (or a large enough advance--that's always nice), I'll be interested. Until then, I'm the Lone Ranger.

Henry Perez said...

First, some gratitude - Robert, Linda, Helen, Jude, Neil, P.J., Moses, Archangel (probably not your real name), and everyone else, I very much appreciate the kind words. Webster223, thank you for taking a chance on a new author. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed my books.

Now on to business -
Joe - Thank you for letting me take up some valuable space on the best freakin’ blog on the Internet. I'm not saying the big publishers will continue to dominate the business, I'm saying they could continue to dominate. It's still way too early to dig a hole and begin to bury them.

The future of publishing remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is Amazon's expanding role.

Also, while I may share some if not many of your views on the way books are marketed, I must say that Kensington has done a number of things for me that most publishers do not do for new authors, or even established ones in some cases.

Finally, my print rankings on Amazon did jump quite a bit, but at a slower rate. I'll address the reasons why in a moment.

Aaron: I'll ignore the "no name author" remark :) and address a very good point you made -

There is a small window and as the big guys figure it all out we can get in and play. The walls are coming down but like most things they will adapt.

An author friend of mine has compared this time in publishing to the Old West, I believe that's apt.

There's chaos right now, and things will likely become more chaotic over the next 2 to 3 years. But order follows chaos, and that's what I believe will happen here. I won't begin to guess what that new publishing world order will look like, but I think it's too early to assume the big boys will not have a major role in it.

Devon - You misread something, or maybe I didn't make it clear enough in my post. After three days at the top of the Kindle freebies list, the promotion ended and the book began selling, immediately moving to the top of the bestSELLER list.

Also - It makes it a street pamphlet that you might glace at before tossing it in the back of your car.

I don't believe that's a good analogy. Unlike a pamphlet, an e-book stays on an e-reader. It's there for the owner to discover six months, a year, later. If more than one person share a Kindle someone else could read it.
E-books last forever.

Don't dismiss the value of creating a buzz, which is exactly what I believe happened here. As I mentioned, the promotion created a great deal of Internet traffic for my books, which is exactly what it was supposed to do.

That brings me to my Amazon print numbers. I believe the reason those took longer to rise is that one can safely say the e-book community, as a whole, is more tuned in to the Internet than traditional print readers. So there was something of a trickle down effect. It also explains why my e-book rankings remain strong, while the print numbers have returned to about where they were before the promotion.


Helen - The publishing rules are being rewritten, and no one is sure who is holding the pen.

Well said, I couldn't have put it better.


Jude - You're spot-on with your comments. I hope your publisher agrees to do that for you.

Why not have the best of both worlds?

Yes. It's vital for an author to have as many irons in the fire as possible.


P.J. - These are exciting times for an author, with many, many more opportunities available than even a couple of years ago. No one can afford to ignore the e-book revolution.

Absolutely, that's exactly the way I feel. Every author should spend a little bit of each day working on strategies for increasing their Internet presence, and e-books must be viewed as a key component of any author's long and short term business plan.

Mark Asher said...

@moses: "When a good publishing house is ready to offer 50% of retail on ebooks (or a large enough advance--that's always nice), I'll be interested. Until then, I'm the Lone Ranger."

What if someone like Del Rey started a new line of ebook only books. Say they offer you 30%, give you professional editing and cover design, and some promotion (you get in their catalog, they include your book in an email to their subscribers, they furnish review copies to their list of reviewers, and they give you some idea of how to self-promote it), and sell the ebook for $4.99.

I bet that would be attractive to a lot of writers.

I think as ebook sales rise, you'll see more and more publishers start to fund ebook-only publishing. It just makes sense. They can figure out a way to do it to minimize their expense in taking on a book and still make money.

But no one really knows what is going to happen. I do think readers will flock to gatekeepers who do a good job of separating the good from the bad, whether self-pubbed or traditionally pubbed. I consider Smashwords to be unusable. I don't have the patience to wade through all the terrible writing in hopes of finding something good. I need someone to point me directly at a good book.

thepureindie said...

What really hit home for me, even after reading this blog for some time and seeing the numbers before, is Joe's remark about 27 books. If I had 27 books available, and if each one did as well as the lesser seller of my current 2 books.... Oh, my. The problem is I can't imagine living long enough to have 27 books out.

Henry Perez said...

First, some gratitude - Robert, Linda, Helen, Jude, Neil, P.J., Moses, Archangel (probably not your real name), and everyone else, I very much appreciate the kind words. Webster223, thank you for taking a chance on a new author. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed my books.

Now on to business -
Joe - Thank you for letting me take up some valuable space on the best freakin’ blog on the Internet. I'm not saying the big publishers will continue to dominate the business, I'm saying they could continue to dominate. It's still way too early to dig a hole and begin to bury them.

The future of publishing remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is Amazon's expanding role.

Also, while I may share some if not many of your views on the way books are marketed, I must say that Kensington has done a number of things for me that most publishers do not do for new authors, or even established ones in some cases.

Finally, my print rankings on Amazon did jump quite a bit, but at a slower rate. I'll address the reasons why in a moment.

Aaron: I'll ignore the "no name author" remark :) and address a very good point you made -
There is a small window and as the big guys figure it all out we can get in and play. The walls are coming down but like most things they will adapt.

An author friend of mine has compared this time in publishing to the Old West, I believe that's apt.

There's chaos right now, and things will likely become more chaotic over the next 2 to 3 years. But order follows chaos, and that's what I believe will happen here. I won't begin to guess what that new publishing world order will look like, but I think it's too early to assume the big boys will not have a major role in it.

Devon - You misread something, or maybe I didn't make it clear enough in my post. After three days at the top of the Kindle freebies list, the promotion ended and the book began selling, immediately moving to the top of the bestSELLER list.

Also - It makes it a street pamphlet that you might glace at before tossing it in the back of your car.

I don't believe that's a good analogy. Unlike a pamphlet, an e-book stays on an e-reader. It's there for the owner to discover six months, a year, later. If more than one person share a Kindle someone else might read it.

And don't dismiss the value of creating a buzz, which is exactly what I believe happened here. As I mentioned, the promotion created a great deal of Internet traffic for my books, which is exactly what it was supposed to do.

That brings me to my Amazon print numbers. I believe the reason those took longer to rise is that one can safely say the e-book community, as a whole, is more tuned in to the Internet than traditional print readers. So there was something of a trickle down effect. It also explains why my e-book rankings remain strong, while the print numbers have returned to about where they were before the promotion.

Helen - The publishing rules are being rewritten, and no one is sure who is holding the pen.
Well said, I couldn't have put it better.

Jude - You're spot-on with your comments. I hope your publisher agrees to do that for you.
Why not have the best of both worlds?

Yes. It's vital for an author to have as many irons in the fire as possible.

P.J. - These are exciting times for an author, with many, many more opportunities available than even a couple of years ago. No one can afford to ignore the e-book revolution.

Absolutely, that's exactly the way I feel. Every author should spend a little bit of each day working on strategies for increasing their Internet presence, and e-books must be viewed as a key component of any author's long and short term business plan.

Henry Perez said...

First, some gratitude - Robert, Linda, Helen, Jude, Neil, P.J., Moses, Archangel (probably not your real name), and everyone else, I very much appreciate the kind words. Webster223, thank you for taking a chance on a new author. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed my books.

Now on to business -
Joe - Thank you for letting me take up some valuable space on the best freakin’ blog on the Internet. I'm not saying the big publishers will continue to dominate the business, I'm saying they could continue to dominate. It's still way too early to dig a hole and begin to bury them.

The future of publishing remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is Amazon's expanding role.

Also, while I may share some if not many of your views on the way books are marketed, I must say that Kensington has done a number of things for me that most publishers do not do for new authors, or even established ones in some cases.

Finally, my print rankings on Amazon did jump quite a bit, but at a slower rate. I'll address the reasons why in a moment.

Aaron: I'll ignore the "no name author" remark :) and address a very good point you made -
There is a small window and as the big guys figure it all out we can get in and play. The walls are coming down but like most things they will adapt.

An author friend of mine has compared this time in publishing to the Old West, I believe that's apt.

There's chaos right now, and things will likely become more chaotic over the next 2 to 3 years. But order follows chaos, and that's what I believe will happen here. I won't begin to guess what that new publishing world order will look like, but I think it's too early to assume the big boys will not have a major role in it.

Devon - You misread something, or maybe I didn't make it clear enough in my post. After three days at the top of the Kindle freebies list, the promotion ended and the book began selling, immediately moving to the top of the bestSELLER list.

Also - It makes it a street pamphlet that you might glace at before tossing it in the back of your car.

I don't believe that's a good analogy. Unlike a pamphlet, an e-book stays on an e-reader. It's there for the owner to discover six months, a year, later. If more than one person share a Kindle someone else might read it.

And don't dismiss the value of creating a buzz, which is exactly what I believe happened here. As I mentioned, the promotion created a great deal of Internet traffic for my books, which is exactly what it was supposed to do.

That brings me to my Amazon print numbers. I believe the reason those took longer to rise is that one can safely say the e-book community, as a whole, is more tuned in to the Internet than traditional print readers. So there was something of a trickle down effect. It also explains why my e-book rankings remain strong, while the print numbers have returned to about where they were before the promotion.

Helen - The publishing rules are being rewritten, and no one is sure who is holding the pen.
Well said, I couldn't have put it better.

Henry Perez said...

A few more responses-

Jude - You're spot-on with your comments. I hope your publisher agrees to do that for you.
Why not have the best of both worlds?

Yes. It's vital for an author to have as many irons in the fire as possible.

P.J. - These are exciting times for an author, with many, many more opportunities available than even a couple of years ago. No one can afford to ignore the e-book revolution.

Absolutely, that's exactly the way I feel. Every author should spend a little bit of each day working on strategies for increasing their Internet presence, and e-books must be viewed as a key component of any author's long and short term business plan.

wannabuy said...

Henry,
I'm impressed you went though that many posts! Keep up the hard work. As you know, each book helps drive interest to the rest of your catalog.

And don't dismiss the value of creating a buzz
Well said Henry. Get more 'irons into the fire!' ;) (I mean, keep writing.) :)

Mark said:
The NY publishers still have plenty of power. They are still the gatekeepers for the brick and mortar stores where the majority of books are still sold.

Agreed. But note I said 'low' residuals.

8%(what publishers give)*$0.85 of the market is about $0.07.

70%*$0.15~$0.10

So as far as I can tell, e-book market share has hit the tipping point in terms of where author loyalty should go financially. The publishers should never have forced the agency model...

Besides, what will the p-book market be like at the time a book submitted today finally goes through the long delays to hit the store shelves? Half the p-books are sold at 'big box' stores and I've seen the shelf space (locally) cut in half... :( It might be the publisher only releases the e-book anyway; the precedent has already been set...

Neil

bowerbird said...

mark asher said:
> no one has
> a clear picture yet
> of what the end result
> will look like.

well, some of us have an
extremely clear picture...

we might be wrong.

but i don't think so.

indeed, i am _quite_
confident we're right.

corporate publishers
have deep pockets, yes,
but they are also allergic
to losing money, and
they will quickly leave
any arena once they
learn there's no chance
for continuing profits.

and once they decide to
leave, their speed will
make your head spin...

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

I must say that Kensington has done a number of things for me that most publishers do not do for new authors, or even established ones in some cases.

That's an easy to make assumption, but it still is very much "blame the victim" and fallacious.

Kensington has done a number of things to sell the books they acquired. And damn right they should. What sort of idiot business model is it to buy rights and then not try to properly exploit them?

They did it to make money. They didn't do it for you. They don't care about your career, or your personal life, or your finances, of the efforts you've put in. They care about making money. Period.

Being grateful to them is like being grateful to a deadbeat dad for paying the court ordered child-support.

Contrast that to my current experience with AmazonEncore. They've listened to me and followed my direct suggestions on several key issues. They still aren't doing this for me personally, but they are acknowledging that I may have some ideas on how to sell books. That's a level of respect I've never had before.

It's still a business relationship. But so far it's much more evenly keeled. It's a partnership, not a dysfunctional parent/child situation.

Had Kensington released your ebook for free based on your suggestion, that would be one thing. Doing it and not even telling you when, where, or for how long, is yet another example of a publisher not factoring the author into their marketing plans. A mistake, because I know the work you put in to announce the freebie on various blogs. Had they coordinated with you, and made a real effort rather than a half-assed one, your book might still be in the top ten.

Big bag of fail, Kensington. And I hope they learned from it, and are kicking themselves for missed opportunities rather than slapping themselves on the back for dumb luck.

Henry Perez said...

Being grateful to them is like being grateful to a deadbeat dad for paying the court ordered child-support..

It's not about gratitude, Joe, I was merely stating a fact.

And of course, I agree that it's the job of every publisher, just as it's in the best interest of any business, to do all that it can to promote its product.

rex kusler said...

Amazon has the most bizarre publishing model I could ever imagine. If AmazonEncore puts you under contract, and rejects something, you just convert it to html and upload it to Amazon's website that day.

They act like a Silicon Valley startup.

rex kusler said...

re: "...level of respect I've never had before."

I think they're planning to construct a Konrath statue, much like the Civil War statues of the south, complete with a horse and sword. It'll be next to the front door.

Joe Konrath said...

It's not about gratitude, Joe, I was merely stating a fact.

I didn't say you were being grateful. But you did mention they've done a lot for you.

It's not for you. Everything they did is for them, and they didn't do a very good job at even doing that.

I'm not pointing at you Henry when I say a lot of authors are stuck in a Stockholm Syndrome, and defend the very people exploiting them and treating them poorly. This business has been so lopsided against the artists, for so many decades, that a lot of authors really feel they owe their publishers.

I've worked with some great publishers. But it's a business, and no one is doing anyone favors.

Joe Konrath said...

If AmazonEncore puts you under contract, and rejects something, you just convert it to html and upload it to Amazon's website that day.

True. But you can't send out 40 million emails yourself to promote it.

rex kusler said...

Bottom line: don't get rejected.

Mark Asher said...

@Joe: "I didn't say you were being grateful. But you did mention they've done a lot for you.

"It's not for you. Everything they did is for them, and they didn't do a very good job at even doing that."

What's the other side of the coin? What should publishers expect from authors?

Every book a publisher decides to print is an expense. It's not trivial. There's the author's advance, the time and wages involved in getting a manuscript ready, the printing costs, the shipping, the marketing, and handling the returns.

What should publishers demand from authors in return for taking on that expense?

Henry's book was taken on by a traditional publisher and promoted and hit #1 on Amazon. Are you saying he would have been better off self-publishing it?

Scott W. Clark said...

What should publishers expect from authors?

What’s left? Loyalty? For thee but not for me?

As I see it, authors have treated writing as a matter of lifestyle. Any statements about wanting to be taken “seriously” are a symptom of this but there are others. Problem is that everyone else has treated writing as a business. Guess who comes out on bottom with that kind of scenario?

Some writers remind me of those “pilgrims” Conrad put in his novel Heart of Darkness. They’re always at the way stations close to the action but not quite in it, forever gathered around near the office waiting every day for the chance to go into the interior to make their fortunes in ivory. And they’re there the next day and the next day and the next. They’re there for months and months and some of them die from disease, waiting, all the time waiting.

They wait because their opportunity is in someone else’s hands and they won’t move until they are given it, touched on the shoulder by the blessed hand of fortune, so to speak. And they can do nothing or will do nothing about it until they are. And they wait and wait.

We writers or aspiring writers need to treat it like a business. That’s the best advice I’ve seen. Joe says this and people like Dean Smith and Michael Stackpole. And its good advice. Get the best deal and look at every opportunity and do some sort of assessment to see if it’s viable or not, viable from a business point of view, that is.

The problem is that many writers may not want to take that advice and that might slow down Joe’s end of times timetable some. People don’t always act rationally and that applies to writers (maybe even more so) so publishers may have their slush piled high still even with the other options out there.

But we ought to see the opportunities put on our business hats and get the best deal wherever it coems from. In other words, it should be business on both sides.

Scott Clark
Author of I Am Legion

Joe Konrath said...

What should publishers demand from authors in return for taking on that expense?

Henry wrote the book, and earns a measly 8% of the cover price on a paperback sale.

He's also supposed to give his publisher a pound of flesh?

The publisher takes on that expense because they believe they can make money. These days, they also expect the author to have a platform, promote the book online and in person, and handsell as many copies as possible.

That's like me buying one of your children, then expecting you to still teach it how to walk and talk.

Henry's book was taken on by a traditional publisher and promoted and hit #1 on Amazon.

They paid for three days of promotion and got lucky, and then didn't do anything else. Sticking with the "I bought your child" analogy, that's like me giving the kid $500 and saying, "Now go be a successful."

If that kid shows it can be successful, thereby earning my money back, shouldn't my support continue?

Are you saying he would have been better off self-publishing it?

I'm saying he would have been better off getting some ongoing, continuous support, ideally from a publisher who kept him informed and worked with him to sell books. Hitting #1 isn't common. His publisher should have recognized that and built upon it.

There's a reason I'm not pursuing any more print deals. It's because I can make more money on my own.

Henry got lucky. His publisher hasn't capitalized upon that luck, so he should.

Tuppshar Press said...

One of the strengths of larger publishers is their ability to promote, which creates a larger market more quickly for a book. Success breed success in any commercial field, which even for a small publisher like us is translating into increasing sales. It looks like what Henry's publisher did was experience a promotional success and then hope to coast on that rather than continue it, and that's what I don't understand here. If you can proclaim that your book was #1 on Amazon, that's going to attract sales every time you say it, and any sensible publisher who wanted to make money should be proclaiming this far and wide.

Certainly I hope Henry does. The goal, as Joe mentioned somewhere, is to build up fans, people who see an author's name and buy on that basis. And the way you do that is to write a book that really connects with as many people as possible to set up your next book(s). It's a numbers game, since not everyone who buys book one will become a fan, so the number of people who do becomes important.

And that means you (both author and publisher) promote the heck out of every success.

Arthur said...

Congratulations Henry! You're an inspiration to me as I revamp my writing career.

http://www.arthurlbain.com

wannabuy said...

The big 6 do have a PR advantage. Bummer they so rarely chose to exercise that option. It worked for Henry, but what else are they doing?

Seriously, the 8% cut of p-books is chump change. That has to go up. 15% might be fair. Anything less makes the revenue too low for an author to surrender e-book rights.

I agree, authors need to become business people. Is that the industry change?

Side comment:
I've been googling and have been unable to find a recent e-book marketshare.

However, most retail sales increased in July, but the census bureau notes p-book sales declined:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/44471-july-bookstore-sales-dip.html

Since most retail went up, did e-books gain 2% (or so) of market share in July? That would be impressive.


Arthur,

The stripped background and low contrast text makes your site tough to read. Since you are selling illustrations, please revise.

Neil

Selena Kitt said...

It doesn't matter how many freebies you give away...if the book isn't good, it isn't going to sell actual copies.

So kudos to you, Henry. You obviously wrote a good book :)

I happen to agree with you that the Big Six are slow and scrambling now, but they won't be forever. They're going to catch on.

Then it will be a whole new ball field we'll be playing ball on.

Rai Aren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rai Aren said...

Great post! Very good debate going on in the comments section, too.

I will just add my two cents in that the novel I co-authored, Secret of the Sands, has been enjoying consistent Amazon kindle bestseller status for the last few months. Currently it's in the Top1000 (it pops up in the top 1000 from time to time, and then often in the 1100-1400 range), on two bestseller lists:

Secret of the Sands kindle edition

The print sales have been slow over the same period. So it's been interesting to see that my results (print vs. ebook) are reflective of what the overall community is experiencing. I don't have the numbers yet, but I think there will be a big (relatively speaking, considering my minnow status, lol!) difference in the # of print vs. ebooks sold. The kindle reading community is certainly alive & well...

Very much enjoy reading your posts Joe! Big congrats to you & Henry on your continuing success!

Rai

P.S. I deleted my previous comments b/c there were a couple more things I decided to add to it...

Dakota Pratt said...

@wannabuy

"The big 6 do have a PR advantage. Bummer they so rarely chose to exercise that option."

BINGO, BABY. In my opinion, you have just nailed down everything that is wrong with the NY publishing industry in twenty words or less.

Could not have said it better myself.

Jon Guenther said...

I have to say that I agree 100% with Joe about publishers today; I'd agree more than 100% if I wasn't asked to justify the physics.

The plain fact of the matter is this: some established authors are sick and tired of playing the "raise-the-flag-and-see-who-salutes" game of traditional publishing. They have their place, certainly, for authors like Patterson or Evanovich or King. No warm place in my heart, however; at least not for the BIG 6. Probably because I've watched them screw more good midlist writers than help.

This is a game about money. And I find it particularly laughable that so many agents and editors were crying ANATHEMA a year ago when so money authors began to move to self/alt/indy pubbing (call it whatever the hell you like, I don't really care). It was the "how dare you circumvent us" axiom.

Now that we're making money off our work (and the highest percentage, which is as it should be) they're freaking out. They don't like it. Tough. We told you we were going to take it back and we're doing it; and we don't care if you don't like it.

I applaud, nay... cheer, those like Joe, Henry, myself and anyone else who are being successful at this game. It's about time!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Fascinating post. Turns things upside down, huh? I love folks willing to think outside the proverbial box. Who invented the darn thing anyway?!
Sylvia Dickey Smith

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