Thursday, October 28, 2010

Observations at #8

Currently, SHAKEN is #8 on the Top 100 Kindle Bestseller List.

Ranked lower than me are four authors and a game, EA Solitaire. If we disregard the game, I'm the seventh bestselling ebook on Amazon.

So who is outselling me?

Stieg Larsson is a phenomenon that really hasn't been seen since the DaVinci Code. He's an anomaly, a supernova, and his three titles have been bestsellers for years with no clear end in sight.

The other folks currently beating me are Lee Child, John Grisham, and Vince Flynn--all #1 NYT bestsellers. They sell well in all formats, even at the $9.99 to $12.99 they're priced at in ebook.

But here's the kicker--at $9.99, Child and Grisham are earning $1.75 a pop, and if the current trend applies, they're selling more ebooks than hardcovers. So they're making less money than they did on previous books.

Their publishers, in the meantime, are earning $5.25 per ebook sold--a much better profit than they make on hardcovers, especially when you consider the smaller amount of work and overhead it takes to publish an ebook.

Flynn, at $12.99, is making $2.25--also less than he would on a hardcover. But he's also selling fewer copies, because Kindlers HATE anything over ten bucks.

Now, these guys got huge advances. Advances they will likely never earn out. In this volatile publishing climate, I encourage authors to take the money and run if given a huge advance, knowing full well they'll probably never get their rights back.

But what if you don't get a million dollar advance? Should you not sell your books to publishers?

Let's look at the 30 year plan, using simple numbers.

Assuming a perennial ebook will sell 1000 copies a month self-published at $2.99 (a low estimate, but a reasonable one) we'd be talking about $24k per year, or $720,000 over the thirty year period for the self-pubbed author.

Now, let's say you get an advance from a big publisher. Not a million dollar one, but a nice one, say $300,000. Will you get your rights back at the end of 30 years?

No, because it isn't likely you'll ever earn that advance out, so your publisher will fight to keep the rights.

Why won't you earn out?

First, because the royalty is too low. Second, because when the book is first released and "hot" it is priced too high.

Let's say the book sells really well the first year, because it's new. 40,000 copies sold, at $9.99, earns the author $70k. But then the next year the price is dropped to $6.99, and only sells 12,000 copies. That's $14,768 for the second year. Let's say it has steady sales for five years at the price, then the price drops to $2.99 (the number I believe publishers will eventually settle at, and some already are.)

Selling 12,000 copies, that's $6300 per year to the author. Ouch.

Year 1 - $70,000
Year 2 - $14,768
Year 3 - $14,768
Year 4 - $14,768
Year 5 - $14,768
Year 6 - $6,300
until
Year 30 - $6,300

Total royalties: $286,572

So you haven't even earned out your $300k advance in 30 years, even though you've sold 388,000 eooks. Compare that to the $720k you could have made on your own, selling fewer copies.

Now, these numbers are hardly accurate. No one knows how well ebooks will be selling 30 years from now, and I'm just assigning numbers whimsically to prove a point. I also haven't factored in print sales, even though I just read a report that Kindle versions of the Top 1000 ebooks are outselling ALL print versions combined, 2 to 1.

But even if my numbers and predictions are fanciful, the trends I'm talking do seem to make sense.

1. Publishers are charging too much for ebooks.
2. Publishers are paying too little in royalties to authors.
3. The price of ebooks will come down.
4. Publishers are fighting harder than ever to maintain control over erights (and all rights.)
5. Ebook sales are increasing, while print sales are declining.

If you get a huge advance, run to the bank. It doesn't matter if your books ever revert back to you, or if you ever earn out your advance. You just won the lottery, go celebrate.

But if you're being offered less than $500k per book, like 99.9% of us mere mortals, really think about the long term ramifications of your actions. Especially since your agent and the taxman will take a big hunk of your advance money, when you could have kept a much greater percentage of it if it had been paid out over three decades.

Also keep in mind that if you do earn out an advance, like I've done with my print books, you will be forever losing money because of the high price/poor royalties set by your publisher.

I don't think Shaken will climb higher than #8. Too much competition.

This doesn't bother me. I've already made peace with the fact that Amazon will sell Shaken forever, and I'll never get the rights back. But that's okay, because with Amazon's help, I was able to hit the Top 10--something I haven't managed on my own yet. And though I'm making better royalties, and will probably earn more in royalties than Child, Flynn, and Grisham over the next few decades, I really didn't sign with Amazon for the money.

I did it because my backlist sales, spurred by Shaken, have all shot up. Shaken is not self-published, but its success is allowing me to earn more money from my self-published ebooks, by introducing my work to a whole new audience thanks to Amazon's marketing power.

Whiskey Sour is now ranked #115. That's as high as it has ever been. My publisher priced it at $4.69. Of that, I make 82 cents per copy sold.

If I had my rights back, I'd price it at $2.99, earn $2.04 per copy sold, and guaranteed it would be in the top 100 by now. So how much money am I not earning because I signed with a traditional publisher? It hurts me to think about.

As for ranking, it doesn't matter that Child, Larsson, Flynn, and Grisham are outselling me. My ego can handle it.

Especially since I'm currently outselling the following celebrities and bestselling authors also in the Top 100:

Keith Richards
Glenn Beck
Ken Follett
Jonathan Franzen
Rick Riordan
Suzanne Collins
Richard Castle
James Patterson
Jogn Sandford
Robert B. Parker
Danielle Steel
John LeCarre
Dean Koontz
Iris Johansen
Dan Brown
Stephen Hawking
Philip Roth
Bob Woodward
Janet Evanovich
Harlan Coben
Time Magazine
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal

Not a bad group to be outselling. I think my ego is pacified for the moment. :)

105 comments:

Boyd Morrison said...

Hi Joe,

You begin your comparison by assuming that a book will sell 1000 copies per month for the next 30 years. That's a huge assumption. Even if a book is selling 1000 copies per month now, I don't believe you could say what's going to happen 2 years from now, let alone 30 years. And for the majority of self-publishers, even getting to the point where you're selling 1000 copies per month at $2.99 per copy is a feat. I know that there are self-published authors who have done that, including me, but I know many others who are struggling to sell 100 copies a month.

If you sell a book to a publisher for a $300,000 advance, there's a good likelihood that the publisher will do publicity on your behalf that will get the book in front of a lot more people than you would be able to on your own. I believe you are an exception, not necessarily because you were previously published, but because you have a very popular blog and because you have many books available for purchase, which helps cross-promote your work.

There are also opportunity costs to consider. If you are offered a $300,000 advance, it may give you the chance to quit your day job and write full time, producing more books than you might have been able to by earning $24,000 per year on that book. There's also the present value of money to consider. Assuming a 4% inflation rate (another assumption), $24,000 in 30 years is only about $8,000 in today's dollars. The price of books may go up in that time to make up for that discrepancy, or they may not.

I do think there is some level of advance where you are better off self-publishing than going with a traditional publisher (for example, it's an easy decision if you are only offered a $10,000 advance--quite typical--but you're selling 1000 copies a month on your own). But when you're getting into higher advance numbers, there are lots of risks to consider. If you turn down that $300,000 advance, you should be aware that you are taking a risk, just like the publisher is taking a risk offering it to you in the first place. That risk may pay off for you by turning it down, but just do it by considering all the alternatives and how it fits your budget and lifestyle.

Anne R. Allen said...

That's quite a list. Awesome.

Stacey Cochran said...

Awesome post, Joe. I've simply been amazed by you, others, and even the sales of my own books... which continue to remain on bestseller lists nearly a year and a half after self-publishing.

Here's my thing. I've received like 3,000 rejection letters. Have written twelve novels over the past 15 years. Literally no one will touch me in the business. Yet my books sells remarkably well.

What the heck is going on with the publishing business when so many legitimate authors are constantly getting passed over only to sell exceptionally well on their own?

___________________

Stacey Cochran
Author of CLAWS

Steve Peterson said...

Thanks for posting facts and figures, Joe. I think it's really helpful to authors thinking about making the leap.

And it is amazing the soothing effect that piles of money can have when applied to a bruised ego. Takes the sting away almost immediately, doesn't it?

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks.

Boyd, what happened to your post? I though it was smart and relevant. Can you repost or rewrite it?

David Wood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boyd Morrison said...

I don't know, Joe. It just got deleted for no reason. Is there a glitch in Blogspot?

David Wood said...

Amazing news! I'd just like to add that, this week, I purchased a Kobo at my local Borders store for $99. I seem to recall someone predicting $99 e-readers by the end of the year...

Nicole MacDonald said...

so if those 'big' authors get monster advances and don't earn out, don't they have to pay it back?

www.damselinadirtydress.com

Boyd Morrison said...

Joe, unfortunately I didn't save the post, but here's the best I can recreate it.

I think writers should also consider the long term ramifications of turning down a $300,000 advance. You make a big assumption that a book will sell 1000 copies a month for the next 30 years. I don't think I can predict whether a book will continue to sell 1000 copies a month in 2 years, let alone 30 years. And for many self-published authors, selling 1000 copies per month is quite a feat. I know that there are many self-published authors who sold that many a month, including me, but I know many other authors who are struggling to sell 100 copies per month.

The real issue is the opportunity cost of an advance. If you are offered $300,000 now, it might allow you to write full time and produce many more books than you would be able to on $24,000 per year. There's also the present value of money to consider. Assuming a 4% inflation rate (another assumption), the current value of $24,000 in 2040 is about $8,000 today. Yes, ebooks may go up in price by then, making up for inflation, but they may not.

Another advantage of going with the advance is that a publisher spending that much money is likely to get your books in front of many more readers than you could by yourself. Some self-publishers like Joe are excellent at marketing. I don't necessarily think Joe is successful--as some suggest--because he's been previously published, but he does have a very popular blog and he's written almost 20 books which cross-promote each other. Few other authors have those advantages.

There is definitely a threshold where self-publishing is obviously better financially. If you're offered a $10,000 advance--quite typical for a debut author--and you're selling 1000 copies of your book on your own, then going with a traditional publisher makes no sense. But when you get into higher numbers, you have to consider the risk you're taking in assuming future earnings. You may indeed increase your income in the future by selling ebooks on your own, but you may also sell fewer books as time goes on. That's the risk you take, and that's the risk a publisher assumes in offering a large advance. Go through all the calculations so that you know what you're options are if you're fortunate enough to get offered an advance like that.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Um wow. Nice pacifier.

Stacey Cochran said...

Boyd, you story is every bit as inspiring to me as is Joe's. And it sort of supports my point that there is a fundamental problem with the vetting process for first-time authors.

The Ark is an amazing novel, and it makes no sense to me that editors could not see the potential in it before you decided to self-publish.

If these stories were unique, you could toss it up to oversight on editors' parts. But as y'all know; they're not unique. From Boyd, to John Rector, to Elisa Lorello, to Karen McQuestion, to Rob Kroese, to literally dozens and dozens of other authors... traditional publishing rejected their books. They looked at manuscripts or samples and systematically said, this won't work for us.

Only, these authors turned around and have sold tens of thousands of copies on their own.

Again, if it was only one or two, you could toss it up to slipping through the cracks. But it seems to me to be much more of systematic problem with how traditional publishers assess manuscripts of previously unpublished authors.

___________________

Stacey Cochran
Author of The Colorado Sequence (which has sold over 10,000 copies as a self-published novel and received 450 rejection letters from publishers and agents)

Ellen Fisher said...

Boyd makes some good points. I haven't sold a thousand copies of one book in a month since I started this. It could happen, but it hasn't yet. Therefore, I believe I'd gladly take that $300,000 advance if someone offered it to me (not gonna happen for romance, but let a girl dream). Lower advances (which I'm far more likely to be offered) are a different story, and would have to be considered more carefully. Every author really needs to look at his or her individual situation and make the best guess s/he can.

Helen Hanson said...

Joe,

For someone in Grisham's strata, doesn't he get a bigger chunk of the $9.99? If not, I'd say he needs a better attorney . . .

Anonymous said...

Joe, I'm posting anonymously, because I'm in the industry. I hope you understand.

You say: " ... at $9.99, Child and Grisham are earning $1.75 a pop, and if the current trend applies, they're selling more ebooks than hardcovers. So they're making less money than they did on previous books."

That's misinformed. Authors of that stature were able to negotiate e-book deals with "floors" ... i.e. they make the same on an e-book as a hardcover, through the life of the hardcover, and then the same as the paperback.

Also, while in the first few days on-sale e-books might run 50-50 with print for those guys, in the medium term they sell vastly more print books than electronic.

Then you say: "And though I'm making better royalties, and will probably earn more in royalties than Child, Flynn, and Grisham over the next few decades ... "

I'm sorry, but that's wide of the mark, too, and a blog that aims to be at least partly accurate and informative should touch base with reality at least occasionally. Authors at that level are making eight figures a year. Their advances are huge, but generally earn out within five years or so. We all wish you the best of luck, but don't get carried away.

D.D. Scott said...

Go, Joe, Go!

I don't think - at this point, if business remains as usual - I'd ever take any advance from the traditional pub world...and here's why...I worked in a major publisher's Returns Center...and the horrors I saw with the numbers that are presented and the numbers that are real...I don't EVER want 2B the authors at the end of those royalty statements!

Yikes --- D. D. Scott

Joe Konrath said...

Must have been a glitch, Boyd, because it just came back. ;P

Victorine said...

I would venture to say that *most* self-published authors are not choosing between a $300,000 advance or keeping their rights and selling on their own. Most of us are choosing between never getting published, or years of trying, vs. selling right now and earning some money, and gaining some fans.

Now, if I were to get offered a $300,000 advance, I'm sure I'd be selling more than 1,000 novels a month at $2.99. So, for me, it would be a hard decision. If I can do THAT well on my own, why sign away all my rights?

By the way, as kindles sell more and more, I really think the monthly sales will increase for all books. Just sayin...

Joe Konrath said...

That's misinformed. Authors of that stature were able to negotiate e-book deals with "floors" ... i.e. they make the same on an e-book as a hardcover, through the life of the hardcover, and then the same as the paperback.

This is news to me, and thanks for pointing it out. I know a few bestselling authors that are comfortable talking numbers with me, but I've never heard of this.

So rather than $1.75 on a $9.99 ebook, they're earning 15% of the hardcover price? So a $28 hardcover would be $4.20 a book for the first 12 months the hardcover is out (correct me if I'm wrong.)

A great deal, but one that probably won't be offered anyone other than the biggest of the big.

But if then it's the same as a paperback, that would mean less than a dollar per ebook (paperbacks a 8% of cover price.) Are you sure that's the case? That doesn't make sense.

Also, while in the first few days on-sale e-books might run 50-50 with print for those guys, in the medium term they sell vastly more print books than electronic.

I'll disagree there in regard to hardcovers. The NYT authors I'm chummy with have told me their ebook sales are higher than their hardcover sales.

If you're referring to paperbacks, that is probably true--for now. Give it five years. :)

Authors at that level are making eight figures a year. Their advances are huge, but generally earn out within five years or so.

Since you're anonymous, you gotta give me some numbers that bear this out. A 10 million dollar advance would require millions and millions of books sold to earn out, and I just don't see that happening, except for maybe the top ten authors in the world. The bestsellers I know (those that have shared details with me) have print runs between 100k and 500k, and they still get returns on those. And these include some #1 bestsellers.

Even making $200,000 a year on a backlist title doesn't equal an eight figures until the 50 year mark.

On the flip side, I will sell millions of ebooks within the next 15 years, making $2 a pop.

Please give me some more to chew on here.

Angie said...

Joe: A question about creating your own "publishing company" to self-publish an e-book....is that lame? Or is it using market-savvy since there are some readers who might scroll right by a book that doesn't have a publisher listed? Would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

A Anonymous said...

Of course you'te assuming that the 70% e-book royalty rate will remain so for the next 30 years. Who knows? It'll most likely drop but then again, it may even go up if the big publishers ever raise the royalty rates they pay out on e-books. Which they'll probably have to do to survive as the hardcover and paperback sales continue to decline. Places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many new companies that will crop up in the coming years to jump onboard this "new" e-book craze might raise the rates to 80%+ just to be a more enviable option for authors.

Joe Konrath said...

Hi Boyd--

I'll respond to both your posts. Thanks for recreating it.

You make some very good points, that are entriely valid. I was upfront that my numbers were wishy-washy, and I didn't include inflation, or opportunity costs.

But I also didn't include ebook growth. I'm doing 1000 sales a month on several titles, and these have been steady for two years. But these are also numbers in an ebook world where only 9% of trade sales are electronic.

It's a safe assumption that the percentage will go up. What happens when there are ten million folks with dedicated ereaders? 50 mil? 200 mil?

I wouldn't want to be locked into a longterm deal with a big publishing house for ten years if in 2020 there are 85 million Kindles. I'm losing a lot of money because Hyperion and Grand Central have my print rights, and this is now. If they still have them ten years from now, I'll have lost over a million bucks at current ebook rates. How knows how mich higher that could go as ebooks become more established.

And also, 1000 sales a month now is probably harder than 1000 sales a month in the future, as more people adopt ereaders. If I've sold to 1% of the market now, I can sell to .1% in five years and still be selling more, because the market has grown so much.

I agree that if the publishing advance is life-changing money, take it and run. But even then, realize that as the years go by, that advance will start looking worse and worse.

Another advantage of going with the advance is that a publisher spending that much money is likely to get your books in front of many more readers than you could by yourself.

I just did a blog post about this. Actually, comparing my ebook sales to my print sales, I'll reach more people with ebooks. I have eight years and seven novels to draw statistics on to prove this.

Now, it assumes my ebook sales will remain flat. I think they'll grow, like they have been. But they may begin to fade, in which case I'm wrong.

But I do have many examples of how print sales fade, and when I run print vs. ebook side by side, ebooks reach more readers. (Not counting the used book and library markets.)

Now the wonderful thing is, we can have print deals, then also dip in ebooks, and have the best of both worlds. At least, for as long as the print world is still around...

jtplayer said...

Btw Joe, his name is spelled Stieg, not Stigg, Larsson.

I know he's dead and all, but still it's nice to get his name right ;-)

Congrats on your success.

It's too bad we can't see the actual numbers of books sold, to get a better perspective on how the sales rankings actually stack up.

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting, and useful. I've tried for a long time to find something on the internet that will list the actual numbers of any title sold that has hit the best seller list. Every list I've found seems only to list the relative ranking. Many must have read the letter from a bestselling NYTR author who said in reality she only made 22-24,000 from her bs book, no more than a fast food manager, for several years of work.
Did Memory of Running earn out the big advance after Stephen King plugged it? Justin Cronin's monster three-book deal?
So many books are advertised as "bestsellers" but seem not to sell that many copies-how many copies does it take to be legally termed a "best seller" in an ad? Anyone know? Web site that lists actual numbers of each sold?
Thank you.

Boyd Morrison said...

Joe,

I have no doubt that ebook sales will continue to grow rapidly in the foreseeable future, but I do worry that ebooks will just continue to divide the world of writers between the haves and have nots, where the majority of sales go to the top 100 books in a particular genre.

On the iBookstore, it's very difficult to find books outside the top 100 in the genre unless you already know what you're looking forward. I'm sure recommendation tools will continue to get better as we go, but even those recommendations will most likely be subject to the same kind of co-op marketing that we see in brick and mortar stores. For instance, I'm sure that Amazon's promotion of Shaken is a big reason it shot into the top 10.

So writers like you who have a seemingly inexhaustible drive and creativity for marketing will do well, and writers who team up with publishers and other companies that can market them effectively will get noticed. Without that, I'm sure that good books will find their way to readers, but it will be a challenge.

This is not to be negative about self-publishing. I would not be where I am now without electronic self-publishing. It opens up a whole new world for writers and readers. I'm just wary of predicting so far into the future when, two years ago, I had absolutely no idea where I'd be now.

Boyd Morrison said...

And for those who want to see how many copies the bestselling authors in the US sold in 2009, check out this list from Publishers Weekly:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/financial-reporting/article/42695-facts--figures-2009-revised.html

Jude Hardin said...

For those of you interested in subjecting your manuscript to the same rigors it would face at a real publishing house, my friends Erica Orloff and Jon VanZile have started an editing service specifically for self-published authors.

Check them out.

http://www.editingforauthors.com/

Anonymous said...

"So rather than $1.75 on a $9.99 ebook, they're earning 15% of the hardcover price? So a $28 hardcover would be $4.20 a book for the first 12 months the hardcover is out (correct me if I'm wrong.)"

Correct.

"A great deal, but one that probably won't be offered anyone other than the biggest of the big."

Also correct - not that it's offered ... it's negotiated.

"But if then it's the same as a paperback, that would mean less than a dollar per ebook (paperbacks a 8% of cover price.) Are you sure that's the case? That doesn't make sense."

Typically 15% on premium format, i.e. a buck fifty. A decline from $4.20, yes, but they sell lots of paperbacks.

"I'll disagree there in regard to hardcovers. The NYT authors I'm chummy with have told me their ebook sales are higher than their hardcover sales."

Can happen, but you mentioned three specific individuals whose paper way outsells their electronic over the first year.

"Since you're anonymous, you gotta give me some numbers that bear this out. A 10 million dollar advance would require millions and millions of books sold to earn out ... "

I didn't mean eight-figure advances necessarily. I meant as-yet-unearned frontlist advances plus royalties from long backlists all around the world.

"Even making $200,000 a year on a backlist title doesn't equal an eight figures until the 50 year mark."

True. But 200k for each of 10 or 15 or 20 titles in their backlists, added to current frontlist income, plus movie and TV options and sales ... it all adds up.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, that list is a knock out, especially when I see how few copies (no offense intended to the authors) particular titles actually sold. My impression from the avalanche of advertising for the Katherine Howe book ALONE is that it sold...millions of copies. The reality is far different, and so pitiful. No wonder publishing and authors are in such trouble, as well as Barnes and Noble.
I work part-time at Costco, where members happily snap up Dan Brown and others for so much less than the traditional bookstores still charge. The old model can't work anymore. Many of the west coast stores host author talks...it's too funny, Carl Rove burbling amongst the aisles overflowing with bins of squash and eggplants.
Meanwhile, the official list confirms my worst suspicions once again, jammed top to bottom with senior rainmakers. The chances of breaking into that club are about zip, apart from Sara Gruen and whats-her-name Stockett. The big seven can't make enough on the rainmakers-why on earth would they ever take a chance on a new writer? You'll wait outside until you die. Forget it.

Anna said...

Joe, this is great advice. Except that honestly newbie authors should be aware that even a huge advance is the lottery win you'd think. I got one. And it was great, it really was, and I'm incredibly grateful, and always will be. But I'm also starting to feel like the poster child for the debut author's cautionary tale, because even a very healthy advance doesn't come with any real guarantees.

My trilogy got bought in a pre-empt deal, meaning that they wanted me so much that they assembled the board after hours on a Friday night to
authorize a huge advance before the competing publisher could even get a bid in. Every first-time author's dream. Then there was a sudden regime change: the publisher who had overseen the buying of my trilogy left soon after and there was an interim publisher filling in when my first book was in production and all the budgeting decisions were made, so my book didn't get much support. I don't mean that in a bitter or angry way, it's just true, everyone from my agent to my editor agrees, there wasn't much publisher support.

Sales were okay--not awesome, but pretty good, all things considered. And there was hope, because the new publisher came in with new higher-ups working, who took a second look at the trilogy and decided they were going to re-launch the books with much more support. Covers were to be re-designed, book one was to be re-issued. There was more money behind publicity, more money behind store placement. What could go wrong, right?

My editor left abruptly just two months before Book 2 of my trilogy was released, and within weeks of her leaving, all those decisions had been overturned. All of them. Honestly at this point I'll be shocked to my core if they even follow through on publishing Book 3, which had been scheduled for next year. Which means that worst case, they could demand a hefty chunk of my advance back.

Now, I still consider myself INCREDIBLY lucky, all things considered, to have gotten this far. But it's still such a crazy business and such volatile times and there really are never any guarantees about where your career is going to go. Except--possibly--if you control your own rights!

Joe Konrath said...

But 200k for each of 10 or 15 or 20 titles in their backlists, added to current frontlist income, plus movie and TV options and sales ... it all adds up.

Indeed. But assuming you know this, you're either an editor, or one of perhaps ten authors in the whole world who are able to earn that much.

As much as my sales may be an exception for the general masses, the sales you speak of are the top of the top of the top.

I believe the majority of my midlist peers (say 8 out of 10 writers I hung out with last Bouchercon) could come near or surpass my sales, which means don't take less than a six figure advance, lest you lose money in the long term.

But if you're selling one book every second, like King or Koontz or Child or Steel or Clancy or Grisham, then it's a whole different ballgame.

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to outsell most NYT bestsellers in the long term.

As for those three above me on the Kindle list, we'll see. When the world goes digital, and coop and discounting no longer matter, then your buck-fifty royalty for a $5.99 ebook vs. my two buck royalty for a $2.99 ebook will be an interesting competition indeed.

Naturally, I'd love to have my entire paperback backlist available in every Walgreens. But that's not realistic.

What I'm proposing is realistic. Even better, it is within an author's control, and not up to the whims of a publishing industry that has a crummy batting average.

Sure, every once and a while they have a megahit, and an author gets Rockefeller rich. But the rest of us still have to have day jobs.

Thanks for your comments, and for enlightening me about the higher-ups.

Joe Konrath said...

For instance, I'm sure that Amazon's promotion of Shaken is a big reason it shot into the top 10.

Absoultely. But I did managed to get two ebooks in the top 100 (at #44 and #50) on my own, without any publisher behind me.

I'm just wary of predicting so far into the future when, two years ago, I had absolutely no idea where I'd be now.

I've got about a decade of experience with publishing. That doesn't make me a sooth-sayer, or any better at prediction than anyone else. But I have seen digital dominate in other forms of media, I do know the publishing industry is flawed and making a lot of big mistakes, and I can look at six years of my own ebook sales and make a pretty good guess I'm going to continue to sell well for a while.

Marie Simas said...

But if you're selling one book every second, like King or Koontz or Child or Steel or Clancy or Grisham, then it's a whole different ballgame.

Of course it is. I'll bet that JK Rowling could take a shit in a blank journal and someone will give her a $1.5 million dollar advance for it.

If I was selling like that, I'd take the advances, too. Can you imagine the amount of brown-nosing and ass-kissing that these authors get?

Joe Konrath said...

But it's still such a crazy business and such volatile times and there really are never any guarantees about where your career is going to go. Except--possibly--if you control your own rights!

Here's the troubling thing: your story isn't unique.

Maybe the specifics are unique, but I just returned from two back-to-back conferences, and at those conferences I had well over fifty authors corner me and ask about ebooks. While asking, they told me their tales of woe, of how they were screwed by their publishers.

There are more authors screwed by their publishers than I ever could have imagined.

In fact, even those who do make a good living doing this have stories of being screwed, but they luckily overcame it.

Most media industries screw the artist. I just read an article to that effect.

But now, for the first time, the artist (the writer) can take control.

It's heady. And some authors are very much against it. They feel the system works, that good books will succeed, and that it's the only way to make a living.

That is, until they get screwed to. And they will.

jtplayer said...

Re: "I can look at six years of my own ebook sales"
-------------------

You've been selling ebooks for 6 years? I was under the impression it was a shorter period than that.

If so, hasn't it been just the last year and a half or so that your sales have really taken off?

Joe Konrath said...

If I was selling like that, I'd take the advances, too.

I casually know a few giant bestsellers, and I find them to be smart, self-effacing, and openly generous. They're also shrewd, and work their asses off.

Joe Konrath said...

You've been selling ebooks for 6 years? I was under the impression it was a shorter period than that.

Six years through my publisher, nineteen months on my own.

Comparing my publisher's ebook sales to my own has helped me draw a lot of my conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Joe, you said, "When the world goes digital, and coop and discounting no longer matter ... "

This belief is what genuinely puzzles us. If coop and discounting (and the hundred other marketing avenues) matter now, when you're competing with 150,000 other titles yearly, won't it matter even more when you're competing with a million or two million or ten million other titles these open e-platforms invite?

When Amazon (or whoever) want coop payments for thumbnails, or page placement, or whatever, will you pay? Could you?

So now it's your turn to enlighten me. In an even more crowded marketplace, how will marketing spend no longer matter?

And don't tell me "The customer will sniff out the good stuff," because they didn't with paper books, even on-line, where there is no practical difference between browsing and ordering paper books than e-books.

Simon Royle said...

In 30 years time ...

- The population of the world will be about 9 Billion.
- Comms devices far superior to the best we have today.
- Networks will be far more extensive. Always on everywhere.

30% will read in English
20% of people will read in Simplified Chinese.
15% Spanish
15% Hindu
15% Arabic
5% A mix of all the others.

4 translations turns your back list into over a hundred titles ...

Joe Konrath said...

And don't tell me "The customer will sniff out the good stuff," because they didn't with paper books, even on-line, where there is no practical difference between browsing and ordering paper books than e-books.

Actually, there is a difference.

Publishers, distributors, and bookstores have always told readers what to buy. They do this by limiting their stock.

If I go to my local Walgreens, there are two dozen titles. That's my choice. if I want a book, I buy what the publishers tell me to, because they paid to get their books into Walgreens.

When I go into a Barnes and Noble, my publisher never ponied up and got me 40% off on the New Release table at the front of the store. My books were spine out in section. I can't compete with that.

But when ebooks dominate, I can compete. I'm already competing, and outselling the vast majority of the writers who outsell me in print. Price is a factor. Along with the word of mouth from reviews, Amazon suggestions, Kindle forums, and bloggers.

Amazon makes it very easy to browse and discover new authors--much easier than going into a bookstore, and much easier than using your computer to buy print books from them. The browser is the Kindle itself. Finish a book, buy another without getting up, just by pressing a button.

Would I pay Amazon for coop? Hell yeah. Coop is why Shaken is #8 right now. But because Amazon is the publisher of that book, they do it for free.

My backlist titles, since Shaken was released, have doubled in sales. I'm selling 550 ebooks per day. Because of Shaken, and its coop.

But I've been doing just fine without coop, selling my 250 a day, making a good living without having to tour around the country like a madman.

Customers HAVE found me. They managed to sniff me out. And it isn't because I had a platform in print. It's because I write good books, with good covers, and sell them cheaply.

It doesn't matter how crowded the marketplace is. There are about a million ebooks on Kindle right now. Will it make that much of a difference when there are two or three million? Customers ARE able to find what they want, and certainly they didn't browse all one million titles before stumbling upon me.

Coop is awesome. I'll happily take it. It sells books.

But just as browsers kind find what they're looking for on the internet, which has billions of websites, they'll be able to find what they want on Amazon. Not because I'm their only option, Like Stephen King in Walgreens. But because Amazon is very good at steering customers to the type of things they're interested in.

Lyndsey Rose Davis said...

Thanks for sharing Joe. I am only working on a WIP, not even sending out yet. You give me a great deal to ponder.

For your insights and forthrightness, I am grateful.

Lyn Davis
http://lyndseyrosedavis.weebly.com

KevinMc said...

Joe, you said "wait five years" about ebooks outselling paper, and "what about when there are ten million people with ereaders?"

Amazon expects to sell five million Kindles in 2010. B&N expects to sell a couple million Nooks. Add that to the ones sold last year, and the smaller ereaders, and you will likely have 10 million dedicated ereaders sold by the end of this year.

And that's not including the 8 million iPads expected to be sold this year, many of which are being used to read books (Kindle, more often than not). Or the millions of people reading books on their iphones, ipods, blackberries, or android phones. Expect cell providers to begin touting their phones as ereader devices soon, even preloading the software.

That ten million figure alone is one ereader for every thirty citizens in the US.

We don't really know when ereaders will hit "saturation" and sales will start slowing. My guess is, it will not happen until after ebook sales have passed a critical point where many of the big box bookstores are no longer viable - and close. When your local Borders or B&N closes, what will most of those readers do?

Buy an ereader. Causing more sales, and more shift toward ebooks, and faster acceleration of the process. Once we hit a certain percent, things are going to tip, rapidly.

I don't think it's five years away. I don't think it's even three years away.

Ellen Fisher said...

Stephen King did a WSJ interview today in which he says he's made about $80,000 from Ur (his Kindle-only book). Just tossing that out there as a matter of interest.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I agree with Boyd on long-term prospects. That's like all those 80's paperback horror writers thinking they'd continue to sell 100,000 copies each.

But I also think each author can now find that tipping point of where a book deal would have to be. For me, it's $96,000, enough to pay off my house. Other than that, I am pretty happy where I am. A year ago I would have been happy to take $10,000. Now we each get to set the bar based on real experience and choice.

Joe, perhaps you should have bought your rights back from the publisher back before you made them so valuable!

Anna, that's the other valuable aspect of what Joe talks about that doesn't get enough play: control.

In a forthcoming post on my Kindle giveaway blog tour, I make the case that independent e-books are the closest thing authors will ever get to a pension fund.

Stacey, after 14 years in the biz, I've come to believe that publishers are much better at making their picks look like winners than in making winning picks. I really don't think they are that much more qualified than the average reader in deciding what is worth reading. And they may even be worse off, because they are right in the middle of all the noise. To paraphrase Harlan Ellison, "Don't confuse 30 years of experience with the same year of experience repeated 30 times."

Congratulations, Joe. You can say Amazon made it happen, but YOU made it happen.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Anonymous said...

And somewhere in here I sense that the every-other-author and book advertised is a "bestseller" is just one more facile falsehood slapped on the page. There can't be that many bestsellers every other month, and even if there were, why would you pay thirty-odd dollars at B & N when you can order up something equally engaging, or better, on a reader for under three dollars?
Glad someone mentioned the limited selection. I have searched in vain at airports for something cheap that was not a technothriller or the standard genre bodice-ripper now turned gyno-porn in order to stand out. At least those can be entertaining for a few pages or so, cheaper than getting a pap test for sure, but as far as good reads for adults, forget it. Lots of room for the future of print to arrive these days.

bowerbird said...

quick notes on lots of stuff...

first of all...

if the mayans were correct,
take the big advance now,
and party like it's 2011...

***

boyd said:
> And for the majority
> of self-publishers, even
> getting to the point where
> you're selling 1000 copies
> per month at $2.99 per copy
> is a feat. I know that there
> are self-published authors
> who have done that, including
> me, but I know many others
> who are struggling to sell
> 100 copies a month.

um... what am i missing here?
if they are "struggling" to sell
100 copies a month, then they
probably don't have to "decide"
whether to take a big advance
from a publisher, i would think.


> If you sell a book
> to a publisher for
> a $300,000 advance,
> there's a good likelihood
> that the publisher will do
> publicity on your behalf
> that will get the book
> in front of a lot more people
> than you would be able to
> on your own.

but if a publisher will give you
an advance that big, odds are
you'll be able to find audience
for the book yourself, i'd think.

remember, they're going to take
as much money as they give you
(or more) from the ultimate pot,
so keep that foremost in mind...

if you don't mind giving up half,
fine. or if they can double sales,
fine. just make it pay _for_you_.

(and yes, boyd, i'd say that you
_did_ make it pay for you, but
mostly because you got all that
press for being a self-published
writer who then got "picked up";
but that's not news any more.)


> If you turn down that
> $300,000 advance, you
> should be aware that
> you are taking a risk

i'd agree with this, completely,
especially a first-time author...
take the money and "validation"
and run with it, pretty baby, run
all the way to the bank with it...

but joe's right too. eventually,
you'll regret that decision. but
hey, you can write more books.

***

stacey said:
> Here's my thing. I've received
> like 3,000 rejection letters.
> Have written twelve novels
> over the past 15 years.
> Literally no one will touch me
> in the business. Yet my books
> sells remarkably well.

this is the kind of "choice" most
authors are facing these days...
it's not option 1 versus option 2;
it's something versus nothing...
_that_ is an easy decision; thus,
our explosion of self-publishing,
one that'll get bigger and louder.

***

anonymous said:
> Authors of that stature were
> able to negotiate e-book deals
> with "floors"

mega-bestsellers are exceptions.
of that there is clearly no doubt.
they negotiate great terms and
publishers yield so they can brag
about authors in their stable --
gets them into the a-list parties.

mega-bestsellers are off-scale...
no sense even talking about 'em,
unless you yourself are off-scale.

same with t.v., film, and so on;
out-of-scope for the dialog here.
these are always one-offs full of
the tug-of-war of negotiations...
if you pull down the big money,
it doesn't hurt to share a piece.

-bowerbird

msthriller said...

I love reading this blog and all the comments that come with it. Very entertaining even though some of it is over my head since I am new to the book publishing world. My wants are really simple though. I just want to write a good book. And I want someone (or a lot of someone's beside my family) to read it and say, "Damn that was a good book. I couldn' put it down." That would make it all worth it. If I pay a few bills with the income as well, then that is just a bonus.

bowerbird said...

there is one specific glitch here;
the assumption about royalties.

there is an issue there that will
come to a head, probably soon.

on the one hand, publishers are
insisting, via "licensing" terms,
that e-book customers do indeed
_license_ e-books, not "buy" 'em.

that evades "first-sale" doctrine.

thus, we cannot re-sell e-books,
like we re-sell cars or toasters...

however, then those publishers
turn around and do accounting
on e-books as royalty "sales", for
which they typically pay 5%-20%
to authors. see where i'm going?

because _licensing_deals_ are
usually split even, 50/50, 'twixt
publishers and authors. hmm...

sorry, can't have it both ways.

if it is a license when you sell it
to the customers, it needs to be
a license when you pay authors.

and a license pays 50%, not 15%.

when push comes to shove, this
will be decided in a court of law.

i haven't heard anyone else yet
discuss this in terms of e-books.
(you heard it here first, folks!)

but this very same question was
just decided in an eminem suit,
and the court decided it was a
licensing deal, requiring 50/50...

so it might not be long before
publishers give it up, and pay
authors 50% on their e-books.

if so, joe's equations change,
maybe slightly, maybe a lot,
as far as comparison between
self-publishing and otherwise.

_if_ you have a choice, that is,
and -- as we have established --
most authors simply do not...

it is also worth noting that --
for a good many publishers --
being required to share e-book
proceeds 50/50 with authors
will be the straw that breaks
the business-model camel's back.

they won't be able to stay afloat
if they cannot exploit authors...
they built the business precisely
to profit from that exploitation.
take it away and they will have
no reason left to exist any more.

this means corporate publishers
will pay lawyers and lobbyists
to try to change this, legally, or
stonewall it as long as possible.

so don't count your royalties
before the check clears. but...

there _might_ be some hope
for you authors caught inside
the corporate publishing hell.

***

joe said:
> Most media industries
> screw the artist.
> I just read an article
> to that effect

most? try _all_. every one.

***

scott said:
> I've come to believe that
> publishers are much better at
> making their picks
> look like winners
> than in making winning picks.

there's a quote that's a keeper!

***

joe said:
> Comparing my publisher's
> ebook sales to my own has
> helped me draw a lot of
> my conclusions.

it's a smart man who learns from
the mistakes of others... :+)

***

anonymous said:
> Carl Rove burbling amongst
> the aisles overflowing with
> bins of squash and eggplants.

thanks for this colorful image
of the turd blossom himself...

-bowerbird

KevinMc said...

Bower, that's a simple matter of writing a new contract. While a court might force publishers to pay back royalties for older books at a "licensed" rate, all this might do is force publishers to do is rewrite their contracts to specifically mention ebook licenses pay X% royalty to authors. I don't know, but wouldn't be shocked if many had done this already.

The Author's Guild is pushing for publishers to move to a 50% royalty rate on ebooks, though. I don't think that will destroy publishers if they go there (some small presses already have). What *will* hurt is the loss of hardcover sales we're seeing.

Hardcovers cost very little more to produce than paperbacks, but the dividends they pay to publishers are several times as much. Hardcover sales represent a much larger chunk of publisher income than the number of hardcovers sold would suggest.

But then again, is there really any reason to base in NYC today? Especially when an office could be had in a much smaller city for a fraction of the cost? I think we may begin to see more dispersion of the publishing industry, now that face time is no longer such a critical component of the industry.

Derek J. Canyon said...

This is a lot of great information. I just sent off my first query letter for my first YA novel. In the hopeful event that I get an agent and subsequently a publishing offer, I'll certainly keep all this great advice in mind.

PJ Lincoln said...

Great post and follow up conversation.

I'm just starting out as a writer, at least in trying to get published. I've decided to skip the traditional system and follow in Joe's footsteps.

Do expect to make anywhere near what Joe makes? Heck, no. I have too many other things going on in my life to be able to pursue writing and promoting in the style and intensity that Mr. Konrath does (although I wish I could).

My expectations? Well, at least initially, it will be hard for me to make back what I put out to get my e-books formatted, get a decent cover and pay for copy editing.

Eventually, I do hope to make enough to serve as a small supplement to my income. The market will decide if I'm good enough to do that or not.

That's the way it should be; I don't want to rely on an Agent to tell me if my project "works for them," or if said agent can sell my stuff to the Big Houses and maybe, just maybe getting something in print three years from now.

Screw that!

Derek J. Canyon said...

PJ, that's exactly what I'm doing with my cyberpunk novel. Spending money on a cover and editing, hoping to break even in a year or so, then supplement my income after that.
Check out my blog if you want to see how my newbie self-pub stuff is going. I relate my experiences with artists, editors, Amazon, formatting, sales, etc. My novel (Dead Dwarves Don't Dance) is in editing right now, and I hope to release it early in November.
(At the same time I'm trying to get a publishing deal for my YA novel. Gotta keep more than one iron in the fire.)

jtplayer said...

I found this link on the Kindle message boards.

It's short, but King has some interesting things to say about ebooks:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304173704575578241730802982.html

Kevin Sivils said...

Joe,

Your argument for self-publishing versus traditional publishing is thought provoking. It's not just that the traditional model for publishing is dying, technology makes it truly possible for authors to self-publish a quality product for their readers and do so profitably. Why should the middleman, the traditional publisher take such a big chunk of the pie?

Even with traditional publishing, authors have to do much of the work of promoting the book, etc. Why not just self-publish, deal with Amazon and other retailers direct, eliminate the middleman and make a better living?

wannabuy said...

JT,

A correction to King link on WSJ .

Interesting, in particular:
" I recently bought a print edition of Henning Mankell's "Faceless Killers" and the type was too small. "

My 50 something friends who were fighting adopting 'tech' are going Kindle due to the reading ease (and book availability). So the Kindle is a savior to them.

Neil

jtplayer said...

Thanks for fixing the link neil.

Stacey Cochran said...

Stacey, after 14 years in the biz, I've come to believe that publishers are much better at making their picks look like winners than in making winning picks. I really don't think they are that much more qualified than the average reader in deciding what is worth reading. And they may even be worse off, because they are right in the middle of all the noise. To paraphrase Harlan Ellison, "Don't confuse 30 years of experience with the same year of experience repeated 30 times."

Thanks so much, Scott, for recognizing my comment.

I think my concern has shifted in the past year or two from being personally miffed that no one will publish my work, to realizing (through hundreds of author interviews) just how common this occurs, to now actually realizing there is a serious system-wide problem with how traditional publishing acquires 1st-time authors. My heart is with the publishers, because if they fail, and Amazon becomes the only game in town that cannot be a good thing. From local bookstores and small press publishers going out of business to all the jobs in retail, sales, marketing, and publicity... it's a huge industry.

And the single biggest problem that I see is that publishers fail to predict what is commercially viable 9 out of 10 times with debut authors.

Picking a debut novel for publication based on subjective qualities of style and not on solid quantitative data is a major flaw in the system that needs to be fixed. Amazon has recognized this and is capitalizing on trad publishers' failure to do so.

Picking debut novels based on quantifiable data is at the core mission of AmazonEncore.

Traditional publishers need to find a similarly quantifiable way to acquire their debut authors.

Selecting a book for acquisition based on subjective qualities is is problematic at best in the 21st century. And a recipe for a 9 out of 10 failure rate at worse.

bowerbird said...

kevin said:
> Bower, that's a simple matter
> of writing a new contract.

i'm the bird, not the bower.
call me "bird", not "bower". +)

contracts do not just
happen in a vacuum.
there are always legal
precedents which need
to be attended to and
which form the bounds
around the negotiations.

any lawyer or agent who
neglects or fails to get you
what is "customary" is open
to a charge of malfeasance.

so if e-books are defined as
a _licensing_ arrangement,
then the precedents which
surround _licensing_ will be
those which dictate the deal.

and proceeds from licensing
typically are split 50/50 even,
between publisher and author.

can a contract be written with
a different arrangement? sure!
and that happens all the time...

but agents and lawyers are
generally loathe to give up
what they can easily grab as
"customary and usual" stuff.
and when they do, they need
_something_else_ in return...

furthermore, an entity like
the authors' guild is gonna
_insist_ on the better terms.

now, the push and pull of
hopeful claims is one thing.

but a decision from a court
in a directly-related matter is
quite another thing entirely...

-bowerbird

Wendy Kehoe said...

Hi Joe,
Thank you for such an excellent blog! We've been reading it for the last 6 weeks and have learned so much.

Just a comment~we started our own publishing company two years ago with the idea that we would sell our books primarily in the schools (We knew that the traditional book business model wouldn't work for us). Because two of your books are scary story books, we put them out as e-books on Amazon and BN at the end of September. They are for ages 9-12. We've had a great month and are thrilled with our success!

Also, I know you write a lot about Amazon, but Barnes and Noble has sold twice as many e-books as Amazon...not sure why..

Your blog continues to be an inspiration. Thanks so much~

Wendy Kehoe
You Come Too Publishing

"They're Coming For You: Scary Stories that Scream to be Read"
Books 1 and 2

KevinMc said...

Wendy, did you mean your books had sold twice as many copies on B&N as on Amazon? That'd be unusual, but certainly possible.

But right now Amazon has a virtual lock on ebook sales, with over 70% of the market. In contrast, only about 12-15% or so of ebook sales are made on B&N.com. It's the #2 player, but it's a *distant* #2.

Christy Pinheiro said...

Joe, CreateSpace just announced that it will offer Kindle conversion for $69. If this includes TOC and index links, that's a steal.

"CreateSpace, always ahead of the game, is now offering Kindle conversion for a low price of $69."

I'm sure Amazon had a hand in this. As far as I know, LSI doesn't offer this as a service.

Anonymous said...

Funny, the crowd worried about the lack of editing and poor quality of "ebooks"... might be missing the forest for the trees.

Check this BBC article, about the lack of editing in published books considered for this year's Guardian First Book:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11648471

Gary Ponzo said...

Thanks for your candor Joe. Without seeing real numbers a lot of us would still be waiting for acceptance from the black hole in NYC.

PJ Lincoln said...

The great thing about Joe is that he gives us all Hope.

Let's face it; under the traditional system, not many of us got the opportunity to be heard, to share our stories.

It was difficult, at times, in the past to keep writing when you knew in the back of your mind that you had basically no chance of getting your stories in front of people.

Hope is a great and powerful thing.

Thank you, Joe, for letting us all tag along on your journey.

Jude Hardin said...

Funny, the crowd worried about the lack of editing and poor quality of "ebooks"... might be missing the forest for the trees.

I think the point of the article is that we all need editing. The fact that some published novels don't get much doesn't negate that concept, but reinforces it.

wannabuy said...

Jude said:
" I think the point of the article is that we all need editing."
True. But the article points out the importance of a long term relationship between the author and editor too... Ironically, something more likely to happen with a start out indie author today than a newbie 'big 6 author.' ;)

Neil

bowerbird said...

barnes&noble does sell far fewer
e-books than amazon, it's true,
but their store is less crowded...

so authors in their store get in
on the ground floor right now.

so some of 'em do just as good,
or almost, some even _better_,
as they do at amazon, especially
if they're brand new at amazon.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

jude said:
> For those of you
> interested in subjecting
> your manuscript to the
> same rigors it would face
> at a real publishing house,
> my friends Erica Orloff and
> Jon VanZile have started
> an editing service specifically
> for self-published authors.

even when you tout your friends
who're targeting self-publishers,
you still have to get in your dig
by likening results to those of a
so-called "real" publishing house.

that's pretty sad, jude...

and i wonder: are erica and jon
_really_ your friends?

***

jude said:
> I think the point of the article
> is that we all need editing.
> The fact that some published
> novels don't get much doesn't
> negate that concept, but
> reinforces it.

but _your_ point, all along, jude,
has been that publishers _do_
provide editing. you didn't say
"they _might_ provide editing"...

you also didn't say "they might
bend your story so it'll become
easier for them to market"...

or "they might make changes
you don't feel serve the story"...

or "they might make you change
the ending in a way you hate"...

or "they might run you through
a half-dozen different editors in
a sad game of musical chairs"...

or "they might give you _one_
editor, a green kid who thinks
he knows about writing because
he studied it in college, who
makes your life a living hell,
and you have no recourse"...

or any number of other things
that you _could_ have said...

you also didn't say "if you
self-publish and hire your
own editor, you can avoid
all of these ugly scenarios".

but that might be the best
reason of all to hire those
"friends" of yours, jude...

-bowerbird

Wendy said...

Hi Kevin,
Yes, twice as many :) At this point for every ebook we have sold at Amazon, we have sold two on Barnes and Noble. This has been for the month of October. And today (on Halloween and we have 2 scary story "Halloween" books) we've sold 1 book (Amazon) to 4(BN).
I know it's not the norm (at least what I've read about), but those are our results. It's all pretty exciting!

And Joe, thanks again for such great information!

Wendy

Anonymous said...

Jude: I think the point of the article is that we all need editing. The fact that some published novels don't get much doesn't negate that concept, but reinforces it.


I think you missed the point entirely.

KevinMc said...

Thanks Wendy - and bowerbird (sorry about the name thing, there!). I really *like* that news. I was starting to feel like Amazon was the be-all of ebook sales, but it's nice to hear about books breaking out elsewhere. It means they *can* break out elsewhere. I was just talking to a publisher earlier today who had an iPad app created for one of her writers that resulted in a fast 20k sales on iBook, so there's some of that going around all over.

Which is good. Breadth is healthy for the industry, I would think!

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks for the enlightenment, Bower. I'm just wondering why an authority such as yourself chooses to remain anonymous. You obviously know more about publishing than ANYONE, so it would be nice to know where I could buy your book.

Anonymous said...

Bowerbird
makes me wish
for a bbgun

if for nothing
more than the
sentence stru
cture

Jon VanZile said...

Whoa!

Yes, Erica Orloff and I recently launched an editorial services company that offers editing to self-published authors (or, really, anybody who wants to hire a freelance editor). If you're interested, you can find us at www.editingforauthors.com. There are a million freelance editors out there, and I would strongly recommend that every book should be at least proofed before it's released. If you can get it done for free (like Joe does), that's great. If not, then consider it an investment in your business. Yes, I have a vested interest, but it's the kind of vested interest that a carrot farmer has: both carrots and editing are good things.

But don't pull me into this whole debate of "real" versus "not real" publishing. I've been working with self-published authors for a very long time now, even before there was a Kindle. If you can imagine such a dark age.

Here's the thing: self-publishers have been producing nonfiction for a long time, and some of them do VERY well. When POD technology came along, it was possible to self-publish fiction on a mass scale, but there were still competitive disadvantages to using a POD service. The Kindle and e-books are the first time I've seen anything resembling a level playing field for fiction authors.

As far as I'm concerned, the idea is to produce the best book possible, however it gets published. I'm an editor, not a prognosticator. If I could tell the future, I certainly wouldn't waste my time in publishing. I'd be betting on commodities like a madman and consulting with the builder on plans for my yacht.

And p.s., I would consider Jude a friend, and he hasn't even paid me to think so. I wish him, along with every writer, tremendous success in a very difficult, competitive business.

jtplayer said...

Hang in there Jude.

I for one appreciate your posts, and find your observations a good counterpoint to the majority opinion around here.

The bird obviously fancies herself the "enlightened" one, with her constant subtle digs and very thinly veiled criticisms.

On top of that, the formatting of her posts is beyond annoying, and she knows it, but could give a shit less.

Selena Kitt said...

"On top of that, the formatting of her posts is beyond annoying, and she knows it, but could give a shit less."

Any way to stand out in a crowd. It's like that annoying commercial you always remember the jingle to - damned ear worms.

BTW, speaking of bestseller lists, I remember I took a screen capture when I was sandwiched between Nora Roberts and Stephen King on the Fictionwise "bestseller" list. FW was the biggest ebook seller around at the time. Ah the good old days... back in ol' 2008...

The times, they will keep changing. No way to predict a certain future our outcome at this point, I'd say.

This message has been brought to you by your friendly neighborhood pessimist... *grin*

jtplayer said...

Re: "Any way to stand out in a crowd"
----------------------

Maybe so, but what good is it to stand out in the crowd if you choose to remain anonymous?

And Jude brings up a good point, if you're going to spout so much about so many things, perhaps you should provide a bit of a bio.

Just to keep it real, know what I'm sayin'?

jtplayer said...
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jtplayer said...
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jtplayer said...
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bowerbird said...

jude said:
> I'm just wondering why
> an authority such as yourself
> chooses to remain anonymous.

i'm a big supporter of writers.

because i love words...

so it makes me sad when
someone who claims to be
a writer shows that they
know so little about words
that they don't even know
the difference between
"anonymous" and
"pseudonymous".

anyone who has been following
the saga of electronic-books in
cyberspace discussion forums
at any time in the last 15 years
has encountered "bowerbird"...

now let me say that i am glad
that it is no longer just techies
who're involved in such forums;
but you writers who're just now
catching on should catch up...

just because you finally learned
you can make money off e-books
doesn't mean that's _all_ you will
need to know, now and forever...

because there are a lot of people
who you should be thanking now,
as they helped make it happen...

i, for one, don't need your stinkin'
gratitude... but karma is a bitch,
and if you remain ignorant about
the individuals like michael hart
who carved out the highway upon
which you are now cruising along,
she will find a way to punish you.


> You obviously know more
> about publishing than ANYONE,
> so it would be nice to know
> where I could buy your book.

well, since you're so interested,
jude, i'm a performance poet...

active on that scene here in l.a.
for some 25 years now, growing
performance poets to blossom...

and 15 years at slam nationals.
where the party happens, baby...

i rejected print -- or, as i put it,
"spelled-out words" -- in favor of
the stage a very long time ago...

but if you wanna come to l.a.,
i perform every tuesday night in
a duo named "opposed thumb" at
a venue called "da poetry lounge",
which pulls in a crowd of 150-300
each week for open-mike poetry!
it's hardly the place to perform if
you really wanna be "anonymous".

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jtplayer said...

So you're an L.A. hipster with a snarky attitude.

Figures.

But what the hell...since I live in So. Cal. I'll just have to cruise on over and check your bad self out. See how the cool kids do it.

bowerbird said...

jon said:
> don't pull me into
> this whole debate of
> "real" versus "not real"
> publishing.

jude already did pull you in.

in the very comment where
he told us about your service!

which i thought was cheeky...
enough so that i commented.

but i think it was clear to all
that you're working in support
of self-publishers. now if only
your "friends" didn't sabotage
that clarity with their own mud.

***

jtplayer said:
> The bird obviously
> fancies herself
> the "enlightened" one, with
> her constant subtle digs and
> very thinly veiled criticisms.

first of all, i'm a guy, not female.

second, i'm not "enlightened", but
i _pay_attention_, i always have,
for several decades now. it pays.
so i highly recommend it. really!

third, my "digs" might be "subtle",
or not, depending on sensitivity,
but my criticisms are not "veiled"
at all, let alone "thinly veiled"...

***

selena said:
> Any way to
> stand out in a crowd.

i control linebreaks in my posts.
because i'm a poet... so sue me...

but it's not to "stand out"...

it's to make a "subtle" point
about the inferior quality of
the tools that we are using,
i.e., about reading in browsers.

but your complaints make me
wonder if you're doin' it wrong.

are you reading the comments
on the "leave a comment" page?

that is, does the top of the page
start with "post a comment on:"?

if so, you're "doin' it wrong"...

the column for comments there
on that page is far too narrow,
and my lines break unnaturally.

instead, click on the post's title
-- it'll be listed in orange, here
the title is "observations at #8" --
and you will be taken to a page
where the original post resides,
with the comments underneath.

the difference is, on that page,
the column is slightly wider and
my lines won't wrap unnaturally.

if you jump from the main page,
don't use the "## comments" link.
instead, click on the post's title...

***

are we done talking about me?
can we get back to the topic?

and, in the future, when someone
starts discussing _me_ instead of
the topic, you should realize that
it's because they have no counter
to the argument that i just made.
you might wanna factor that in...

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

Re: "first of all, i'm a guy, not female."
---------------------

Well you got me there...I made an assumption and missed. Oh well.

As far as your criticisms being veiled or not, what can I say? We are often the last to see our own shortcomings.

Have fun with that one birdie ;-)

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> So you're an L.A. hipster
> with a snarky attitude.

no. i mean "yes".

wait, i mean "maybe"...

i mean "yeah, so what,
mister so-called 'player'?"

oh, i'm so confused...

what's the right answer? ;+)


> Figures.

ok good, yeah, player,
you've got me pegged.


> But what the hell...
> since I live in So. Cal.
> I'll just have to cruise on over
> and check your bad self out.
> See how the cool kids do it.

that'd be great.

da poetry lounge.
tuesdays, 9pm-midnight.
at greenway court theater.
544 n. fairfax, near melrose.
$5 entry. (sometimes free.)
free parking north of theater.

give me a call in advance
and i'll buy you a few beers.
(offer good for everyone!)
310.980.9202

(holy crap, a phone number!
that's not what a person who's
"anonymous" would ever give,
let alone a meet-up invitation.)


> See how the cool kids do it.

well, yes, you will see
how the cool kids do it.

urban kids love poetry.
which gives me hope
for humanity's future.

as a bonus, you'll also see how
this old fat ugly hippie does it.

two for the price of one...

(or maybe, just maybe,
the cool kids are indeed
old fat ugly hippies...)

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

Peace brother...it's all good man.

And art in any form is good.

Getting young kids involved is even better.

I have two and have gently pushed them in an artistic direction for years. Sports are good, but sometimes I feel there is too much emphasis put on that.

Anyway...I'm off track. Have a nice day bird.

bowerbird said...

and for those who'd like to
know more about bowerbirds...

> http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/07/bowerbirds/morell-text

> http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/07/bowerbirds/laman-photography

national geographic just
can't get enough of us...

-bowerbird

Jude Hardin said...
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Jude Hardin said...

As far as I'm concerned, the idea is to produce the best book possible, however it gets published.

Amen.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that Amazon includes all the free downloads in their ebook 'sales' so if that's true then Grisham is still selling more hardcovers - very much so.

wannabuy said...

Anon,

Your press release behind:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1486648&highlight=

"In addition, Kindle book unit sales continue to overtake print on Amazon.com, even while print book sales continue to grow. During the past 30 days, Amazon.com customers purchased more Kindle books than print books--hardcover and paperback combined--for the top 10, 25, 100, and 1,000 bestselling books on Amazon.com."


PURCHASED is the key word.

Note:
1. Amazon is selling more print books.
2. Ebooks now are *purchased* at a rate higher than pbooks.

No ambiguity. Amazon is gaining market share.

Neil

Stitch said...

Thanks for another great post, Joe.

One of the great strengths of this blog is the willingness of the readers to comment, I think, and I usually enjoy reading the comments as much as the actual posts.

I think it's always good to read other people's viewpoints. That's when you're forced to think about your own points.

If we all agreed, there wouldn't be much of a debate, now would it?

But I think it is generally true that when someone starts attacking your character, rather than your points, you've pretty much "won" that debate. They don't like your points, but they can't argue with them, so they attack you instead.

jtplayer said...

Re: "But I think it is generally true that when someone starts attacking your character, rather than your points, you've pretty much "won" that debate. They don't like your points, but they can't argue with them, so they attack you instead."
-------------------

You know man, I'm gonna have to call bullshit on that.

Plenty of people of dubious character make valid points. They just do it in a snarky, condescending, mocking, impolite, generally shitty way.

And sometimes that deserves to be challenged, or "attacked" as you put it (another overused word IMO). It does not mean at all that the argument has been won by the douche bag, it merely means they are being called out for their behavior.

Nobody wants to argue (or debate) with a knucklehead.

I also believe that a person's background is fair game. Opinions are fine, but when you start criticizing someone on specific points, perhaps even denigrating them in some way as you make your argument, then your own qualifications become relevant. If only to separate you from the blowhards spouting uneducated nonsense.

KevinMc said...

Sure, jtplayer... But when you are having a discussion on an issue, bringing up data, opinion, and thoughts about that issue - without getting into character smearing at all - and the other side drops into character smearing...well...it's a pretty good sign that you've won the debate.

When the other side runs out of talking points to bring up for their side, and resorts to attacking your credibility instead, in general the *attacker*, not the attacked, is the one who loses face.

Selena Kitt said...

When the other side runs out of talking points to bring up for their side, and resorts to attacking your credibility instead, in general the *attacker*, not the attacked, is the one who loses face.

Oh I don't know. Yesterdays elections tell a whole different story.

If you turn down that $300,000 advance, you should be aware that you are taking a risk, just like the publisher is taking a risk offering it to you in the first place.

Life is risk. What I like about Joe is he encourages folks to get off their duffs and ACT one way or the other instead of sitting on the fence, watching the parade march by them.

Robert Christopher said...

@Boyd- I don't know how many 300K advances are being given out now. I would venture to guess not too many; especially for a new author.

If someone is as lucky as you Boyd, I'd agree. But not everyone is in that position. Most people won't be in that position.

@validation- to me this is such a nebulous term. Validation will mean different things to different people.

@selena- The elections say that when the democrats are given the ball they have to learn how to run with it -- in the right direction! It wasn't fair what Obama inherited, but he also didn't take a good first step. Health care should have been something he dealt with in his 2nd term.

youtube.com/robchristopherwriter
www.twitter.com/robchristopher

Anonymous said...

Hey, I like the Borders proposal. Well worth it to me to have a professionally (one hopes) prepared book ready for multiple sites and only have to deal with one person from beginning to end of process. (one hopes.)
Meanwhile, in an age when so few have the time, money, and desire to read other people's books, but are BURNING to be published, what better way to find a need and fill it, than to offer to streamline the epublishing process for them? Fine idea there.
Would you rather have people fork over 5-14 bucks for a heavily discounted book at Costco, or hundreds to thousands and thousands (Harlequin sub press) in order to have their well-intended, but overwhelmingly amateur-hour manuscripts published, somehow, someway?
Doggone, they've seen the light. Traditional reading of dead tree books is largely over. Dying to appear in print is a boom market. Hand me the thousands and forget about wasting time pushing defunct hardcovers. I'm published, mom! Don't matter if no one reads the thing. It just feels good, and nothing wrong with that, folks. I still love the idea of everyone who wishes being in print. Hurts no one, makes people happy, and the publishers should be happy as heck with their hyper-enhanced end of the deal also.

KevinMc said...

Anon, are you talking about the Borders-Bookbrewer partnership? I have to say, of all the ebook platforms out there, this is the only major one which charges a huge up-front fee. And it's the only one (for that and a few other reasons) that I would probably recommend people skip.

"Printing" ebooks SHOULD not be a moneymaking proposition. It's too doggone easy. My first try using Calibre, I installed and opened the program. Never having read a lesson or viewed a training video, I loaded my ms. and had exported .mobi and epub formats in under five minutes. Both of them came out flawlessly.

Sure, some very complex formatting jobs will require special attention and some hand coding. But there are folks out there charging $200 to run your novel through free software that automates the process so well that they're looking at two minutes to export and another fifteen to scan the book for major errors.

This is NOT a Good Deal.

Of course, now Amazon is offering to take your ebook to Createspace for only $89... I could cry. Seriously; if you have a well formatted ebook, then you already have the well-formatted PDF file it was made from, so why are you paying someone to generate something you already have?

I am torn. If people are insanely stupid, then these sorts of things will earn the companies involved a lot of money. If people are even vaguely interested in looking up the process and trying it themselves first, then they will learn that your average eight year old can probably turn a manuscript into an ebook and Createspace ready PDF, so these offers should earn next to nothing.

Which do you think it's gonna be? ;)

Anonymous said...

@anonymous "Doggone, they've seen the light. Traditional reading of dead tree books is largely over. Dying to appear in print is a boom market. Hand me the thousands and forget about wasting time pushing defunct hardcovers. I'm published, mom!"

Sorry, I'm lost. I dont get what you're saying. I think your point is you dont like the excitement many writers feel about possible publishing ebks ... that writers are foolish to dream in this new world? Is that what you're saying?

thanks
dr.cpe / archangel

Tara Maya said...

Anon said, "Meanwhile, in an age when so few have the time, money, and desire to read other people's books, but are BURNING to be published..."

It's really an odd leap to assume that because someone is a writer who wants to be published one doesn't read. Most writers I know are voracious readers.

Ruth Harris said...

@ Tara...I agree about writers being readers. I've never known a writer who wasn't an almost obsessive reader. Additionally, ereaders encourage people who usually aren't big readers to read more. Just yesterday a friend who's never been much of a reader was raving about her iPad. "I LOVE reading on my iPad," she bubbled.

Moses Siregar III said...

I'm still reading through the comments on this post, but in the meantime ...

At the World Fantasy Convention last weekend, I recorded a conversation between Michael Stackpole and myself about the state of publishing, ebooks, ebook pricing (with a bit about $2.99 and J.A. Konrath that starts around minute 16:00), and so on. It's available on my blog here:

http://sciencefictionfantasybooks.net/?p=1419

Anonymous said...

0Yowch & thanks for the comments. If anyone feels "wild excitement" about epublishing, it would be me, having been in and out of full-time freelancing most of my life. If nothing else, i hope it will cut back on some of the "wild" envy I've seen among writers as a group. It is quite understandable, the feeling that if someone else is chosen, and blessed with an agent, it means there is even less chance it might happen for someone else, as in you. As said, I love the idea that everyone can now be let into the big tent.
As for reading, I've noticed for a long time that none of the large professional group I hang with has read anything for years but work-related material. Everybody "used to read" for pleasure, but now has no time. nobody likes this at all, but it is the way it is.

Tara Maya said...

@ Ruth. That's really encouraging.