Sunday, October 03, 2010

You Aren't J.A. Konrath

"Sure, J.A. Konrath is selling a lot of ebooks. But you aren't J.A. Konrath."

I hear that a lot. Not directed toward me, since I am, in fact, J.A. Konrath. But I hear other authors being told this. And to my face I hear that I'm an anomaly and no other self-pubbed author will ever do as well.

In a previous post, I listed almost 100 self-pubbed ebook authors by name. Some of those I mentioned are doing as well as I am. All are selling in the thousands.

But then I hear that a hundred names, out of the hundreds of thousands of ebooks being released, still don't mean anything.

So I got to thinking. Am I wrong to believe that a lot of self-published folks are doing well on Kindle? Or am I blinded by my own success, and oblivious to what is really happening in the ebook world?

Surely, if I'm the only ebook success, the only other ebook bestsellers are those being released by major publishers.

Right?

So, on a whim, I began to check Kindle Bestseller lists. Kindle has many such lists, for every subgenre you can think of.

I began on Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror. I perused the entire Top 100 Bestsellers on that list, and counted how many were self-published books.

I found that 29 out of a 100 were self-pubbed.

Hmm. Seems like almost one third of that list is from indie authors. That sort of spits right in the face of doubters and critics, doesn't it?

"But J.A." you might be saying. "That's only one list."

Indeed. So let's look at a few more.

Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror > Occult
50 out of 100 are self-pubbed.

Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

15 out of 100 are self-pubbed.

Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Technothrillers

36 out of 100 are self-pubbed.

Now, I'm not a guy to jump to conclusions, but it seems to me that some indie authors who aren't named J.A. Konrath are doing pretty well on Amazon.

I could spend the next two hours counting more books on more bestseller lists to prove my point, but I'm not going to. You're more that welcome to do that on your own. I encourage those jumping on the "You Aren't J.A. Konrath" bandwagon to do so. You'll find, as I have, that indies make up a good percentage of most bestseller lists. In fact, I urge all folks with opinions to do a bit of research before spouting those opinions, lest you look foolish.

Oh, and those who say, "The only reason these indie books are able to compete with traditionally published books is because of their low price" should take a look at some of the prices of traditionally published books on these lists.

Some of the Big 6 are pricing ebooks at $2.99 or less.

I wonder where they could have gotten that idea?

(One of these publishers is Grand Central, who is now offering my first Jack Kilborn novel, AFRAID, for $1.99.)

And yet, even at these low prices, indies are still able to compete.

"But we need gatekeepers, J.A.! We need people to bring order to this untamed ebook landscape!"

I agree. Those gatekeepers are essential.

But they don't have to be the Big 6. Readers seem to be doing a fine gatekeeping job all on their own. And Amazon, with its bestseller lists, and genre categories, and reviews, and "explore similar items" tags, and "customers who bought this also bought" lists, are doing a terrific job helping these readers find stuff that interests them.

No, you aren't J.A. Konrath.

But you don't have to be.

119 comments:

Ty Johnston said...

As always, Joe, a great post.

My overall numbers are in the thousands now, but I'm not quite hitting a thousand sales a month.

Yet.

I'm expecting to hit that mark this month or next, at least if my sales keep growing the way they have the last several months.

And ya know what? Even my measly 750 to 900 sales a month is paying all my basic bills. Looking forward to when it's more than that.

I'm sticking to four basics for success: Quality, marketing, patience and quantity. So far, it's been paying off.

By the way, while I'm thinking of it, Joe, do you have anything to say about Pubit?

Moses Siregar III said...

Good rebuttal, Joe. You're right about those lists. Being in the top 100 of those lists doesn't mean an indie is making a ton of money, but it does mean you're competing with the big boys in the Kindle store. I had a day about a month ago where I was #1 on one Kindle category, and #2 or #3 on two others, including epic fantasy. But I'm still a tiny little fish in the ocean.

On the one hand, I think people are right to point out that you had a lot of advantages: huge backlist, previously published, popular blog, years of experience, years of vigorous self-promotion, professionally edited and produced books (meaning, at the very least, your traditionally published books), hardcovers in bookstores, guts, passion, and talent.

Newbies shouldn't expect to turn into J.A. Konrath overnight, or even in five years unless they are massively talented, lucky, and/or hard-working (and probably all three). Some people are getting close, though. Look at Amanda Hocking's meteoric rise this year. And we've talked about Karen McQuestion.

On the other hand, anyone else out there can achieve similar things if they can put together similar advantages for themselves--though that's easier said than done. The idea that you can't do that as a newbie is bogus. Expecting overnight success would be silly, but for anyone putting out a good number of quality works over a long period of time and doing some intelligent promotion, I am convinced that the door is wide open to their success and potential.

That's the point you seem to make, and you're entirely right.

Derek J. Canyon said...

Don't worry, Joe. They'll learn, eventually. When more and more unpub authors make careers with epub, they'll learn.

I learned just two months ago, and I just published my first ebook this weekend. I sold 3 copies in a few days and I made it up to #26,000 or so. I'm on my way. ;)

When I get up to the thousands of sales a month, all those doubters better not be doubters any more.

How to seduce a woman said...

Wonderful article,thanks for putting this together! "This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. Keep it up!"

Christy Pinheiro said...

Right on time, Joe. I just blogged about a news story on Forbes about how agents are now repping self-published authors. Nathan Bransford admits that he picked up a self-published manuscript and sold it recently.

Agents Rep Self-Published Authors

If super-agents like Bransford are starting to rep people like us, then you know that the industry is really changing.

Claire Farrell said...

*Waves from the occult section*

Lots of indies have proved you don't have to be JA Konrath to do well on Amazon. A lot of readers don't care who published the book as long as it's good.

I find the success of so many indies to be very encouraging and although I'm selling less than 200 copies a month, I'm absolutely delighted with that and can't wait to get my first novel ready for Kindle. It's an exciting time and like anything some will do very well, some will flop and the majority will probably settle somewhere in the middle. How is that any different from trad?

I honestly don't understand why so many people feel the need to deny or detract from people's successes. Either join in or let it go, it's not destroying the world as we know it. If people can earn money by being entrepreneurs then let them. There's no reason to detract from what other people view as a legitimate success.

The next few years will be interesting.

wannabuy said...

" And Amazon, with its bestseller lists, and genre categories, and reviews, and "explore similar items" tags, and "customers who bought this also bought" lists, are doing a terrific job helping these readers find stuff that interests them."

100% agree. Add to that list 'follow reviewers you trust' any you have the new gatekeeping.

Clair said:
" A lot of readers don't care who published the book as long as it's good. "

If I may rephrase, "a lot of readers are willing to try new authors as long as the book is good." Readers care when they find a good new author. They'll buy again.

I'm getting tired of the indie authors not being given the respect they've earned. About 60% of what I'm reading is indie. So they must be doing something right...

Neil

Demon Hunter said...

Love it! These post are so encouraging. I'm going to learn all I can from this blog. Thank you so much!

Louis Porter Jr. said...

This was a SMART post for all the right reasons. Keep up the good work.

Belinda Kroll said...

I can only hope one day I'll make it in the top 100. Until then, I'll keep writing, editing, marketing, producing, and trying to find my readers.

Thank you for the uplifting post.

K.L. Brady said...

I don't think the issue is whether self pubbed author can find success on Kindle. For me, the issue is whether you can make a $100K and write full time...like J.A. Konrath.

I stayed in the top five (usually #1 or #2) in most categories my book was listed in and my novel often outranked a few NY Times Bestselling authors. But even with 500-600 (sometimes up to 900) sales a month for my one lonely title, I could barely pay my electric bill. LOL

I think the point I'd make to self-pubbed authors is that if your goal is writing full time, you need to have multiple books (dare I say tens of books) out there, at a minimum, to really rake in the bucks necessary to make a living from them...or even to supplement your income in any significant way.

High ranking books are great and will give you lots of exposure. You'll just need to publish several of them to make a real living...like J.A. Konrath. :)

Ellen Fisher said...

The thing is, K.L., that most of us aren't going to be making a living anyway. I certainly never made a living writing for small presses. If you do get an offer from a major publisher, you might get a decent advance (although I get the impression that at least for genre authors like me, advances are tending to get smaller). But spread that advance out over the year or two you spent finding an agent and publisher, and over the year and a half or so it takes for your book to see print, and you're not likely to be making a lot for a while, really.

The good thing about indie publishing is that the money (IF you make money, which I agree is far from a guarantee!) begins flowing quickly and regularly. I'm certainly not paying all my bills, but I'm happy to have some regular income.

Martin said...

You're right. Indie publishers are out of the box. But I think there's a direct link to publishing and promotion, no matter what the book format. Do you have any views about marketing using social media. Is it helpful or a waste of time?
thanks,
Martin

Jon VanZile said...

Curious, I decided to check out the Kindle Top 100 list in my genre and found exactly ... zero indie books. I dunno. Maybe I missed one.

I write middle grade fiction, and as far as I can tell, there is no ebook market for MG at all. There may be at some time in the future, once schools start moving into e-readers so the kids all have devices. But I've looked in vain for any evidence of a current indie market in my genre and haven't found even a whisper of one. If anybody can prove me wrong, I'd be grateful.

Joe Konrath said...

James Patterson has some advantages too. It's doubtful anyone will ever sell as many books, or make as much money.

But that's not the point.

While it would be great to earn and sell as much as Patterson, one can be successful doing only a fraction of his business.

There's room for everybody. It's not a matter of making a billion dollars or nothing at all.

Joe Konrath said...

I write middle grade fiction, and as far as I can tell, there is no ebook market for MG at all.

Yet.

Tuppshar Press said...

An interesting post, Joe, but it's only part of the story. Self-publishers and small presses shouldn't look for instant success, but steady, growing success. Even in our little niches we are seeing steady growth at a rate of about 30% per month, breaking the bestseller lists only occasionally so far. And yet we're still pulling in good money on most of our titles.

What this means is that the potential for growth for good work in ebooks is tremendous, and that with patience and an eye toward quality, self-publishers and small presses can look forward to many happy returns.

Pale Rambler said...

Always a source of encouragement for newbies like me who are still working on our first books.
Thanks!
Mark

Victorine said...

Great post. And you're right, you don't have to be JA Konrath to do well self-publishing on the Kindle. I lowered my price to 99 cents, and I've sold 239 books this month so far. And it's only the 4th. I only have one book available, but if I had 13 titles all selling that well, I'd be making $100,000 a year. And I'm not JA Konrath.

BTW, do you know what's up with all the indie books marked "free" right now? They're saying it shows in their DTP that they'll get paid for them. (Can you say awesome??) Whuzzup?

Poppak said...

I'm not J.A. Konrath, but I was in the Amazon top techno-thrillers list when Joe counted.

Thanks as always for the post Joe!

Larry Ketchersid
author of Dusk Before the Dawn, Software by the Kilo and others

Joe Konrath said...

BTW, do you know what's up with all the indie books marked "free" right now?

I don't. But I think it's very cool.

JL_Bryan said...

I'm seeing rapid growth in sales, like 50-100% a month. I'm pretty excited to see what happens when Kindles are in all the Walmarts and Targets.

Never Say Never said...

I'm definitely not a JA but I've managed a few sales and made a few lists. It's very cool.

L.J. Sellers said...

I'm one of those indie authors doing well with e-books. I thank you for that, Joe. You inspired me to let go of my publisher and to e-publish my backlist. As a result, I will soon be making a living for the first time as a novelist.

Gary Ponzo said...

My book was #23 in Police Procedurals when Joe made this post. My novel is about to hit the 1000 mark this month.
I would make one comment about this--don't expect to post a novel and find people downloading it just because it's there. I have a Twitter account, Facebook, Blog and Webpage. I've also done some advertising. This isn't Field of Dreams. You still have to market your work.

D K Gaston said...

Great post. I know my mystery novel is constantly hitting the 100 list in the hard boil detective spot. And my sales are growing higher each month. Keep us encouraged J. A.

M. R. Mathias said...

The Sword and the Dragon by M. R. Mathias sells for around $7 and is Indie. Here are its rankings today, (Oct. 4th) The low price theory does not apply here.

#80 in Books > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Mythology
#99 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Magic & Wizards
#79 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > World Literature > Mythology

The Daring Novelist said...

I've been expecting someone to chime in with the idea that doing well on some of those specialized lists on Amazon isn't such a big deal. After all it doesn't take a lot of sales to make it to some of those lists.

And if someone had made that point, I would have said that indies have to make the same number of sales as the traditional authors do to make it to those lists.

But it seems like more and more people are beginning to get it, so maybe I don't have to make that point.

David Stoddard said...

I have loved your blog since I came across it 6 months ago. Always inspiring and motivational. For me, I had my record month with the sale of my ebooks (the one that sells is the prompt book). Sold 32 last month. That's 1 per day. To me, that is motivating me to keep going with things and do even more. Thanks Joe for the boost.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, do you know what's up with all the indie books marked "free" right now?"

There was a piracy scam at Mobilereads and I think the free price is to put a damper on the pirates ability to compete.

Dori said...

Joe, you are an Encourager, a Trailblazer, and a Guide. Every time you write a new post, I feel a firm kick in the flanks toward working deep into the night on the re-write of my unpublished novel
Once again, thank you !!

Maureen Mullis said...

I really like reading your blog. You seem so grounded, and your posts help keep me grounded too.

The question I have is, did you start out a bestseller? How long did it take you to get to selling well on Amazon. In my first month on Amazon I only sold 8 books. Pretty dismal, right? Or can I chalk it up to I'm just getting started??

Aaron Patterson said...

Again... good post. I am Indie in every way and publish others in the same way. Just this weekend my first book "Sweet Dreams" sold 238. Shaping up to be a great month.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the education and the inspiration. I'm new to this blog, but I just read through all of the 2010 posts.

One of the most fascinating aspects has been the way Joe's opinion on self-pubbing evolved in real-speed through the months as the reality of the situation changed and clarified. Readers can follow the journey to an exciting new opinion with a clear trail of logic-breadcrumbs. That's a great thing, Joe. Thanks again.

As someone with a new novel* I have a question for Joe and the group.

If I'm self-pubbing on Kindle with the idea of building a following, and perhaps self-generating enough buzz to interest mainstream publishers, what are the upsides and downsides to also doing Print on Demand, for instance through Amazon's Createspace?

In a much earlier post on self-pubbing, Joe mentioned the dangers of having an ISBN assigned and having the low sales tallies stuck to what amounts to "your permanent record." Should this still be a concern? Or is there a reason why I SHOULD get an ISBN for my novel?

At the moment my thinking is that the ebook is way more important than the POD version and I should just start with the one method. Am I making sense or missing the broadside of the barn?

Thanks to all, Steve

*As an fyi to help anyone who can answer - I'm a professional writer in another field. The book is a first novel, it has been professionally edited and even honored with an "Outstanding Fiction Award" at a writers conference. Not that this is a big deal, but it hopefully shows a degree of competence. I'm not trying to cut corners. The book is "ready" in my estimation. It's just the publisher (me) who needs to get up to speed so the operation will be first class all the way.

evilphilip said...

I'm not J.A. Konrath, I'm P.D. Hansen and I sold 115 copies of my short story on the Kindle last month.

I'm thrilled beyond my ability to express it.

BOOM, there goes the dynamite!

Ellen Fisher said...

Maureen, I'm not Joe, but in my first month on Kindle (in February) I sold a mere 27 copies. I'm up to close to 8000 copies overall sold now. So don't let a bad first month discourage you:-).

Christy Pinheiro said...

"what are the upsides and downsides to also doing Print on Demand, for instance through Amazon's Createspace?"

Steve, usually I don't do this, but I wrote a book about publishing with CreateSpace-- you might want to pick it up. I think that CreateSpace is easy to use and cheap as a POD service (don't buy any of their "author's services,though". I use CreateSpace and I make about the same money as Joe on my POD books.

You can choose to use CreateSpace and use their free ISBN or you can purchase your own ISBNs through Bowker. There's drawbacks and benefits to both methods.

If you plan to earn the majority of your revenues through Kindle, then you are losing nothing by offering your book as a POD. I keep pushing Joe to do it, too. Either way, the POD book will drive sales of the Kindle edition, and vice-versa. You just have to make sure that the two editions are linked when they are both active (Amazon will link them for you).

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I think all this original epubbing is great. But just to keep things in perspective, on one of the Kindle bestseller lists referred to above, monthly sales of 150 will get you in the Kindle top ten (I have access to some e-book sales figures). Nothing to sneeze at, but not exactly J.A. Konrath territory, especially if you only have a couple of books available.

Joe Konrath said...

But just to keep things in perspective, on one of the Kindle bestseller lists referred to above, monthly sales of 150 will get you in the Kindle top ten

As I said, this isn't about being me. It's about authors being able to actually compete with traditionally published books. If the numbers are low, it means they're also low for the traditionally published authors on the same list--and those traditional authors earn less money ($2.99 self pub vs. $9.99 traditionally pubbed.)

Self-pubbed can compete. And in many cases, this is more money than they ever could have earned in regular publishing, which may have never published them in the first place.

If I have any concerns about the future, it is that the Big 6 are going to start signing self-pubbed authors who are doing well, which will result in a smaller income (and ultimately smaller sales) for those authors.

Thomas Brookside said...

And in many cases, this is more money than they ever could have earned in regular publishing, which may have never published them in the first place.

I think this is important to realize.

Some of the indie stuff on these lists is "pro indie" - guys like Konrath or Harry Shannon or Lee Goldberg putting up backlists or stuff from the trunk.

But a lot of it is material from authors with no publishing credits at all.

How much money would those authors be making if they had thrown those books onto the slush pile and crossed their fingers? In the overwhelming majority of cases, they'd be making $0 because they would have sat in the slush pile until the cows came home.

Victorine said...

If I have any concerns about the future, it is that the Big 6 are going to start signing self-pubbed authors who are doing well, which will result in a smaller income (and ultimately smaller sales) for those authors.

Hopefully indie authors will be smart when signing contracts. I for one wouldn't sell my ebook rights. If they want to publish me in print, I'm all for that. But I'd be dumb to give up my ebook rights.

Lorraine_Bartlett said...

I'm not J.A. Konrath, I'm P.D. Hansen and I sold 115 copies of my short story on the Kindle last month.

Last month I sold 203 copies of one of my short stories, but that's only $71.05--and as someone said, it doesn't pay my electric bill. And there's no (or very litte) crossover to my other e-published work. It seems to be the subject matter and cover that sell that one story. One of my other stories sold 3 copies in all of September.

I'd love to sell hundreds of my 2 novels, but I can't seem to sell more than 25-40 a month (and last month hit the low end of that range). I've got fifteen 5-star reviews for the first book, too.

I'm not J.A. Konrath--but I sure want his sales and I don't now how to get them.

AscensionForYou said...

Hi Joe....loving the info / tips. As a relative newbie i find your motivation and insightfulness amazing! Good luck to all. Dave AscensionForYou-Knight

Ellen Fisher said...

Victorine, I'd be very surprised if a new author could manage to sell a book to a major publisher without signing away e-rights as well. I don't think that's a right publishers are willing to let go at this point.

Anonymous said...

@Christy P. Thanks! And thanks for the link. Nothing wrong with that. You just sold a book to someone who needed it! - Steve

Selena Kitt said...

I'm not J.A. Konrath--but I sure want his sales and I don't now how to get them.

To obtain the level of success Konrath currently has, you have to spend the time to build a brand, like Konrath did.

But first you have to write good books, make sure they're well-edited and have good cover art and blurbs. And then you have to write a LOT of them like that.

His blog traffic also helps. ;)

Dr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin McLaughlin said...

On the flip side, you don't *need* $120k a year to write full time, either. If I was earning $36k a year writing, I could quit my day job (and that plus our rather limited investment income would cover a family of five).

That's "only" 18,000 books a year, or 1500 a month. Still a lot of work involved in getting there, but it's doable.

Maybe I need to do a blog article on "right sizing" your life. ;)

Selena Kitt said...

I'd rather we all have far more gatekeepers/oversight about what goes into our foods and medicines, than what goes into our books.

Yes! Yes yes yes!

Tuppshar Press said...

"How much money would those authors be making if they had thrown those books onto the slush pile and crossed their fingers? In the overwhelming majority of cases, they'd be making $0 because they would have sat in the slush pile until the cows came home."

Actually, if they had to mail a hard copy to the publisher, they would be losing money in postage and printing.

"But first you have to write good books, make sure they're well-edited and have good cover art and blurbs. And then you have to write a LOT of them like that."

This bears repeating, because it is absolutely true.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I'm not Joe Konrath either, but I'm proud to be a Joe Konrath Wannabe. GO, JOE!!!

I wrote a four-book suspense series and published it as POD via Lulu, then directly through Lightning Source. Through 2007-2009 I was selling a few print books a month. Not enough to think I was ever going to make a living as a writer.

Then Amazon introduced the Kindle reader and the Kindle Store. I had little interest. But I continued to follow this blog, and I listened to Joe. And I saw his sales numbers.

So, I added my suspense series to the Kindle Store. I began to see a few sales each month. Then in June of this year, things began to pick up. Here are my total Kindle sales numbers for the past few months:

June - 75
July - 232
Aug. - 763
Sept. - 1194
Oct. - 2000 (projected)

Why did my sales suddenly begin to triple/double? It's my marketing powerhouse. And it's FREE to every author:

A M A Z O N.

If you create a well-written, entertaining novel in a popular genre, and then give it some free promotion via friends, Facebook, meaningful blog commmenting, etc., you're good to go. It may take a while. But every time Amazon sells one of your books, they try harder to sell another one. After a while it begins to snowball. The effect is amazing.

WARNING: This advice may not be valid regarding other booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble. They still just don't get it. They assume readers would prefer to buy books from the BIG 6. They do very few of the things that Amazon does so well. Hopefully, they will learn soon. ;)

K.L. Brady said...

@Anonymous 11:13? I think.

I have a blog called Indie Publishing on the Cheap, on which I explain all the steps I took to get my novel, The Bum Magnet, published (ebook and trade paperpack). I not only take you through every step, but I provide you with my reasoning for doing things the way I did them, such as selecting certain printers, avoiding certain services meant to drain you of your money, and lots of other tips on marketing and such. You can find it at www.cheapindiauthor.blogspot.com.

It's all free. Might save you from unnecessarily buying a book that will tell you less. LOL :)

Joe Flynn said...

Who knows what success any of us might have before we try something; the point is to make the effort. I'm going to have 10-12 novels up as e-books by next spring, including two titles that sold a combined 135,000 copies when they were published by Bantam.

I don't know how well they'll do as $2.99 e-books; I don't know how well my other titles will sell. But I'm certainly going to make the effort to find out.

K.L. Brady said...

whoops!

www.cheapindieauthor.blogspot.com

Tara Maya said...

Anonmyous said: Thanks for the education and the inspiration. I'm new to this blog, but I just read through all of the 2010 posts.

One of the most fascinating aspects has been the way Joe's opinion on self-pubbing evolved in real-speed through the months as the reality of the situation changed and clarified. Readers can follow the journey to an exciting new opinion with a clear trail of logic-breadcrumbs. That's a great thing, Joe. Thanks again.


I want to second that.

I hurt my eye over the weekend and couldn't read. So I bought Joe's Newbie's Guide to Publishing and listened to it on Kindle text-to-speech. Even though it was organized by topic (which was helpful for other reasons) the part I found most fascinating was the gradual change of opinion of ebooks.

It was a real wake up call about the state of the publishing industry.

My sf & fantasy anthology, Con mergence, is coming out at the end of this month -- it's my own little experiment in indie publishing. Otherwise, I might not found this blog. I am so glad I did.

For those like me, coming to the blog just now, the Newbies is a great resource.

Lori Brighton said...

Just started reading your blog. A wealth of information!

I have my first self published book out right now. The thing I keep hearing from people against self publishing is "yeah, she'll do okay because she's published with a New York publisher."

I have one book out with a mediocre New York Publisher (some would say less than mediocre) who did pretty much nothing to promote me and paid crap (hence the self publishing). From what I can tell, the people buying my self published book haven't even read my NY published book.

Seems to that people against self publishing are constantly looking for any excuse to destroy the idea that a self published author can actually be successful.

jtplayer said...

I think it's been well documented that indies can sell on Amazon and other ebook sites.

It's the level of success compared to Joe's that's been debated.

He's making a lot of money right now. Most of the indie authors highlighted are not.

Besides that, in my mind, Joe's not a true independent author.

Sure, he's going the indie route now, after years of mainstream publishing.

Quibbling?

Perhaps, but a valid point nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I think this just shows how small the ebook market really is. If you can make one of the kindle "bestseller" lists with only a few hundred to a few thousand downloads, then that's more a statement about the size of the pond and not about the success of the author.

The 3 or 4 big fish in the pond can't take up every slot on the lists with their 'books for under a buck', and since the major publishers won't devalue their product to 'impulse buy' prices, those slots have to be filled by someone, right?

Enter the kindle mid-listers, the ones who's books are downloaded a few hundred times a month. Those slots are theirs for the taking.

What I'd love to see is their actual sales numbers compared with yours. Then, and only then, can we tell if you're an exception to the rule or not.

Anonymous said...

@KL Brady,

Thanks! Looks like a great blog. Bookmarked and reading :)

evilphilip said...

"If I have any concerns about the future, it is that the Big 6 are going to start signing self-pubbed authors who are doing well, which will result in a smaller income (and ultimately smaller sales) for those authors."

I think this is a choice everyone will have to make for themselves. I know I would be happy to sign with the "Big 6" if my sales were taking off -- as long as I knew exactly when I was getting my rights back, what percentge I was getting from E-Book sales and how big the check was going to be for my advance.

Joe Konrath said...

Perhaps one of my publishers was paying attention. They just released AFRAID for $1.99.

http://www.amazon.com/Afraid-ebook/dp/B001VLXNWO

Jenna said...

I've been arguing this on a forum lately - they always seem to think that "You aren't J.A. Konrath" is the end-all argument.

When I respond "hey, I said it CAN work, not that it *definitely would*. You still have to put a lot of work in, have a good cover, and the work has to be good. "

I got a pooh-pooh response from someone who thought I had no point, and said that I must be implying that they were no good, because they weren't selling AT ALL. Um, the guy had 1 book of poetry listed.

*facepalm*

Some people just don't get it. They think that because it didn't work instantly for them or someone they know, it won't work at all.

Let them fall behind. I'm working on an anthology, a series of shorts, and a novel. Time to check this for myself.

Selena Kitt said...

"Perhaps one of my publishers was paying attention. They just released AFRAID for $1.99."

I've been hearing the rumor that the big 6 have been dropping prices to the $2.99 price point... can anyone confirm?

bowerbird said...

k.l. brady said:
> But even with 500-600
> (sometimes up to 900)
> sales a month for my
> one lonely title, I could
> barely pay my electric bill. LOL

you must have a big electric bill!

or else you priced your book at
less than the $2.99 sweet spot,
which means you're only getting
35%, and not the 70% you could.

so raise your price up. it'll mean
your climb takes longer, yes, but
you shouldn't pass up that 70%...

***

lorraine said:
> Last month I sold 203 copies
> of one of my short stories,
> but that's only $71.05

you too, lorraine. charge $2.99.
if it's too much for a short story,
bundle something else with, but
don't take the 35% shortchange.
that's too big of a handicap...

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

I've been hearing the rumor that the big 6 have been dropping prices to the $2.99 price point... can anyone confirm?

I saw several Big 6 ebooks for low prices on the bestseller lists while I was researching this blog entry.

It's about time. It's also about to get interesting.

$1.99 or $2.99 will definitely take a bite out of backlist paperback sales. That'll mean fewer paperbacks sold, which is a less money for bookstores--and for authors.

For every copy of Afraid that sells in paperback, I make 64 cents.

For every ebook copy of Afraid that sells for $1.99, I make 35 cents.

Now if the ebook vastly outsells the paperback, which I predict, that will be smaller royalty payments for me.

But...

The paperback won't be able to compete, and will go out of print.

Meaning...

I'll get the rights back to Afraid, price it at $2.99, and make $2.04 per copy sold.

So the bookstores will suffer. The publishers will suffer. The authors will suffer initially, until they get their rights back.

Or, the authors may outsell the paperbacks by so much that they'll make up the royalties in quantity.

But however you slice it, the bookstores are going to be hurt.

It remains to be seen if this is too little too late for publishers.

Tara Maya said...

If Big 6 ebooks go to 2.99, I wonder if it will make it harder for indies to compete, or free up more reader $$$ to buy more books and benefit everyone.

Christy Pinheiro said...

I must be implying that they were no good, because they weren't selling AT ALL. Um, the guy had 1 book of poetry listed.

Amazingly, I've seen this a LOT. I get a book review requet for poetry at least once a week, and I always decline. I haven't purchased a book of poetry since high school (with the exception of one book by a friend).

Seriously. Is there a genre that is less marketable than poetry?

Writers can be successful at self-publishing, but they have to be savvy, as well.

Kevin McLaughlin said...

Will Afraid go out of print, Joe? Or will they continue to trickle out a few copies per year in order to maintain those ebook rights?

I know which I'd bet on.

I think the rest of your guesses are pretty close. B&N may hang tight even as paper book sales go down the tubes. I just wrote an article on my blog about the upcoming Kindle/Nook war in *retail* (Best Buy carrying Kindle this holiday season vs the new 1000 square foot Nook boutiques popping up all over). I think B&N sees that print is going away, and that it could accelerate *very* fast, and is trying to get on board. They also closed a net of over fifty stores in the past year.

Publishers...? Publishers need to find new ways to add value for authors, and they need to do it fast. If the print market degeneration accelerates a lot, we could see Borders go bankrupt next year, and B&N close a *lot* more stores, and ebooks replace those sales. If we end up with a 50% ebook market in under a year, I don't know how many publishers will survive the experience.

Not many, is my guess.

HL Arledge said...

Curious, I decided to check out the Kindle Top 100 list in my genre and found exactly ... zero indie books. I dunno. Maybe I missed one.

Checking the Thriller genre, no sub-genre, the only indie I found was Trapped by guess who?

Regardless, Joe, I think this is one of your most inspiring posts yet. Thanks a million!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Hey Joe, I agree that there are indie authors doing quite well with ebooks and yeah, they're not you yet they're still are seeing a good measure of success. Unfortunately, the majority of indie published authors selling ebooks aren't doing even close to these kinds of sales.

So why is that? Sure, some books have crappy covers and terrible jacket/cover text. Some just aren't written well. Some aren't edited well. Some authors do nothing to promote themselves.

The most common thing I see with these authors is that they did not get the head start or leg up by being traditionally published by a major publisher--like you have. You owe those publishers a huge thank you for getting your name out there over the years and for helping you build your brand.

I know, I know...there are some authors who've gained success with their ebooks that haven't had a major publisher behind them. Some. Not all. Not the majority certainly. I'm a big dreamer, but I'm also realistic when I have to be.

Does this mean I think it's impossible to achieve Joe's sales numbers without having a trad publisher behind you? No. Anything is possible. But having a trad publisher definitely helped give Joe a huge audience that knows his name. :-)

Luck plays a very big role in this industry, as many published authors and agents will tell you. I've been traditionally published (small pub) and indie published. I was lucky--AM lucky--in many ways. I have great covers, professionally edited works, great jacket text and have built a small fan base.

I wasn't able to jump into ebooks as earlier as I'd have liked. Amazon only opened the DTP to Canadian authors about 6 months ago. Damn! Bad luck there.

One thing that's for sure, with more authors coming on board daily, the competition is fiercer than ever before. Consumers will have to wade through some crap to find the jewels and decent authors have a better chance of being buried in the slush of too many ebooks than getting noticed and selling well.

Marketing books--something I don't have a problem doing since my nickname is "Shameless Promoter" hehe--is something every author will have to learn to do efficiently in an ever-changing industry where surprises wait around every corner. :-)

One question I'd like to know from an author who's doing well (1000 sales/mth or more with 10 or less titles) and who was never trad published is HOW LONG DID IT TAKE SELLING EBOOKS ON AMAZON BEFORE YOU REACHED THE 1000 SALES/MTH MARK?

I'd be very interested in hearing more from these authors in order to determine some kind of average. I've heard from a couple of US authors--one said it took a year and a half, the other said it took a year.

Thanks!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling suspense author
aka Cherish D'Angelo, author of the romantic suspense Lancelot's Lady

Suzanne said...

I want to thank you....thanks to your blog I finally decided to take the plunge and self-publish my novel on Amazon's Kindle and on B&N's Pubit. I can't wait to begin this new adventure.

Thank you for leading the way!

Joe Konrath said...

Checking the Thriller genre, no sub-genre, the only indie I found was Trapped by guess who?

Kindle thrillers list? I stopped counting indies after I hit 10 of them, and I still have 40 more to go.

Tara Maya said...

Being published in print may indeed have helped Joe. But remember, he also started publishing in the 90s.

The question we newbies have to ask ourselves is if it is worth it NOW to publish in print first, especially since, as someone mentioned, you will probably have a hard time selling your print rights without also selling your ebook rights. With bookstores closing, some publishers switching entirely to ebooks, and Ingram going POD, is this a good time to sign on to the status quo?

Still, I think there is one element of truth in the statement, "You aren't J.A. Konrath."

1. Few people are as funny as Konrath.
2. Few people work as hard.
3. Success doesn't come overnight.

For myself, I know I'm not as funny, but I will try to work hard. I don't expect I can quit my day job after one or two books.... any more than I could after the two books I published traditionally.

I hope I can once I have ten or twenty ebooks out there.

Joe Konrath said...

You owe those publishers a huge thank you for getting your name out there over the years and for helping you build your brand.

LOL

I haven't felt thankful toward publishers in quite some time. But I have made them a nice amount of money by busting my ass. Perhaps they owe me a thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Happy to see Afraid is available at B&N for $2.99 as well.

The Daring Novelist said...

Cheryl:

The thing to remember is that most authors who are traditionally published don't actually get any support from their publishers.

The important thing about this post is that when you stop trying to compare yourself to Joe Konrath and start comparing yourself to the authors who are where you want to be... odds are you'll find they aren't in a very good situation at all.

Sure there are some deluded indies who think they can make millions with no effort, but most of us are not so much attracted by Joe's success, as we are repelled by what has happened to many of our favorite authors in recent times.

When you compare yourself (not Joe, but you or other authors like you) to your fellow authors on the traditional side of the fence, it's pretty clear that traditional publishing is no bed of roses.

As I've said before, I went into indie publishing because it was fun. I stayed because I realized that distributors tend to kill off series in my genre after three books. Unless it's a thriller, mystery tends to be very "midlist" and have a small loyal following. Traditional publishing no longer supports that.

Debbi said...

It's interesting that you should mention price. I sold my novel IDENTITY CRISIS for .99 all summer. At the end of August, it reached #1 in the hardboiled mystery category on Amazon (print or ebook).

I raised the price (as planned) to $2.99 on Labor Day. Since then, my Amazon rank in that category has dropped. All the way down to #4 in the Kindle Store and #5 on all of Amazon. :)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Daring novelist,

You may have misconstrued my post to mean I was defending traditional publishing at the expense of Indies. I'm not. I am pro-Indie/self-pub. But I've always had a good head for business and one thing any business leader will tell you is to keep your options open and not cut off possibilities. :-)

The thing to remember is that most authors who are traditionally published don't actually get any support from their publishers.

I've been traditionally published, so I know authors don't get much support from their publishers when it comes to marketing and other areas. I did 99% of my marketing even WITH a trad. publisher. But they do get wider distribution and tehrefore your book is in front of more eyes/readers. It's a numbers game. The more people you're in front of the better chance you have at succeeding (getting read and getting the sales).

...when you stop trying to compare yourself to Joe Konrath and start comparing yourself to the authors who are where you want to be... odds are you'll find they aren't in a very good situation at all.

If an author is where I want to be, they'll be making good money and have terms and advantages I want or strive for. :-) Isn't that where we all want to be?

I don't compare myself to anyone, but I do watch those who are successful carefully to see if they're doing anything I'm not doing that would improve my chances. I've done pretty much everything Joe has done with regards to marketing online (no surprises for me in his marketing book)--just not as long and with no help from traditional publishers (mine was run by dimwits who drove the company into the ground).

I've worked harder than most authors I know and anyone who knows me will agree with that statement. I've done hundreds of physical book signings, events, been on TV, radio etc too many times to count, so I'm more interested in trying to determine what else I can do or what someone who is successful with sales is doing that is different.

I'm very pro-self-publishing and always have been. But I do see the advantages to traditional publishers, though I'm the first to admit the gap is closing fast and they aren't doing what's in the best interests of authors (they never have; it's a business first).

I did not go into Indie publishing because it was fun. I went into it because I'm a professional writer who wants to get my works into the hands of readers. It's a smart business decision to do my own ebooks and I jumped in as soon as the opportunity opened. I've always been an entrepreneur. I'm used to running my own business; I prefer it and I work full time at it. It's a career, not a hobby.

Traditional publishing has less and less to offer a writer. If my agent gets a deal on one of my works, I may not accept it.

But I won't cut myself off from opportunity. If a publisher offered the right terms (right for what I want), I'd take it BECAUSE of distribution. Will this ever happen? Probably not. But I have nothing to lose right now from keeping my options open. In the meantime, I'll write, edit and get my work edited as always and I'll release a new ebook when I'm ready. :-)

Wishing everyone huge success.

By the way, I never did hear from anyone about time frames. I am very interested to know when authors are seeing substantial sales. How long did it take you to see decent sales of $1000/mth or more?

Feel free to email me via my website

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Daring novelist,

I hope you didn't think I was defending traditional publishing at the expense of Indies. I'm not. I am pro-Indie/self-pub. But I've always had a good head for business and one thing any business leader will tell you is to keep your options open and not cut off possibilities. :-)

I've been traditionally published, so I know authors don't get much support from their publishers when it comes to marketing and other areas. I did 95% of my marketing even WITH a trad. publisher. But they do get wider distribution, so your book is in front of more readers. It's a numbers game. The more people you're in front of the better chance you have at succeeding (getting read and getting the sales).

...when you stop trying to compare yourself to Joe Konrath and start comparing yourself to the authors who are where you want to be... odds are you'll find they aren't in a very good situation at all.

I'm not sure who's comparing themselves to Joe, but if an author is where I want to be, they'll be making good money and have terms and advantages I want. :-) Isn't that where we all want to be?

I watch those who are successful to see if they're doing anything I'm not doing that would improve my chances. I've done pretty much everything Joe has done with regards to marketing (no surprises in his marketing book)--just not as long and with no help from traditional publishers (mine was run by dimwits who drove the company into the ground).

I've worked harder than most authors I know--online and off. I've done hundreds of physical book signings, events, been on TV, radio etc too many times to count, hit bestsellers lists and have a national bestseller, but I'm not where I want to be with my ebook sales. YET. I'm more interested now in trying to determine what else I can do or what someone who is successful with sales is doing that is different.

I did not go into Indie publishing because it was fun. I went into it because I'm a professional writer who wants to get my works into the hands of readers. It's a smart business decision to do my own ebooks and I jumped in as soon as the opportunity opened. I'm used to running my own business; I prefer it and I work full time at it. It's a career, not a hobby.

Traditional publishing has less and less to offer a writer. If my agent gets a deal on one of my works, I may not accept it.

But if a publisher offered the right terms (right for what I want), I'd take it BECAUSE of distribution. Will this ever happen? Probably not. But I have nothing to lose right now from keeping my options open. In the meantime, I'll write, edit and get my work edited as always and I'll release a new ebook when I'm ready. :-)

Wishing everyone huge success.

By the way, I never did hear from anyone about time frames. I am very interested to know when authors are seeing substantial sales. How long did it take you to see decent sales of $1000/mth or more?

Feel free to email me via my website

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...
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Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...
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Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...
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Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...
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Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Joe, I don't think blogger can keep up to all the comments you get. I keep getting the weirdest error messages when I try to post. First it says the comment is too long. Then it asks me to login but won't log me in. Then I find out it DID post my comment.

I've never seen this before on a blogger blog. Jeesh...hehe

Gerald M. Weinberg said...

Big NY publishers have a great interest in maintaining the myth that you're not a "real author" unless you publish with them. They're going to have a difficult time of it as these stats on indie publishing keep growing exponentially.

Their strongest argument so far has been "it can't be good literature if it sells so well--just popular." Too bad, Charles Dickens.

Myself, I've published more than 40 books with NYC publishers, including some of the biggest. But, they've all been non-fiction, so now I'm trying to build fiction sales on that "platform." And looking everywhere for ideas on how to do it. I've got nine novels on all the bookselling sites, plus a handful of non-fictions. Just started seriously in late August, so I'd be watching those stats closely (if I only knew where to look).

Any ideas would earn my perpetual gratitude.

wannabuy said...

Tara said:
If Big 6 ebooks go to 2.99, I wonder if it will make it harder for indies to compete, or free up more reader $$$ to buy more books and benefit everyone.

Short term, it hurts indie authors. Long term, $2.99 big6 e-books drives everyone to e-readers. Well written indie will thus sell even better.

Imagine indie sales when e-books have 4X of the market... Long term, they will gain market share too.

Neil

Russell Brooks said...

Excellent post, Joe. I'll be self-publishing my action/thriller via Amazon and other locations. After reading your blogs I have more confidence in my work. I've taken the necessary steps by having it content edited, then copy-edited, setting up the blog tour, I'm still working on the press release. I'm keeping my figers crossed, but at least I don't feel as bad that I'm going to go the ebook route anymore.

Robin O'Neill said...

I have my backlist partially epubbed now. I started my career in middle reader, then moved into YA. It's true, as categories, they're not there yet unlike police procedurals or fantasy which are. It's also true for me that one of my horse books for 10 year olds is keeping pace with my women's fiction. Nowhere near the numbers of some here, but steady and growing each month.

Once the price of readers comes down, we'll start to see a change.
Patience is required, we'll all get there eventually.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I'd like to know how many indy writers were or are established Big 6 writers. But then I'm not THAT interested to research a hundred names...

Did you see the court ruling in the wall street journal affecting iTunes? Wonder how that will play out with books.
http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/09/03/federal-court-sides-with-eminem-in-royalty-dispute-record-business-does-not-implode/

Anonymous said...

It's pretty amusing to read so many people "debating" whether to pursue a NY print deal or self-publish, like they are choosing from a menu.

The reality for 99% of writers is that self-publishing is the only option - you won't get a NY print deal. It won't happen. Get over it.

Given that fact, work as hard as you can to create a good product and stop with the hand-wringing.

It would be nice to know at which price point these successful indies sold. At $.99, 5000 copies is about $1750. Which I guess is better than $0 from NY pub houses.

I agree with the above post - "You're not Konrath" because you simply are not as talented and haven't been working your ass off for 20 years.

It's like wondering why the house you built is all creaky and slanted, and doesn't compare to the expert carpenter's house down the street.

Never Say Never said...

"It's like wondering why the house you built is all creaky and slanted, and doesn't compare to the expert carpenter's house down the street."

Good slam, anon!

As long as you're looking down on us from your high tower and smirking at $1750, why don't you tell us how much money you made last month (either via NY or otherwise).

Personally, I made $7,100. From your tone, though, I'm sure that's chump change for you.

Anonymous said...

Wow Never, you sold over 3500 ebooks last month at $2.99 (just guessing as you don't provide any details).

That equates to over $85,000 per year from ebooks, that is Konrath country.

Why don't you share with us the title of that book? Then we can verify by checking Amazon and your best-seller status.

Kevin McLaughlin said...

I don't think it's a slam... I think it's accurate. I am already starting to see a little bit of "oh, I'll get my book up on Amazon, sit back, and watch the bucks rolls in" attitude floating about.

It's always there with anything new.

Where I disagree is with this:
"I agree with the above post - "You're not Konrath" because you simply are not as talented and haven't been working your ass off for 20 years."

More about the "working ass off", less about the talent. Talent is a myth used by those who want to be lazy to excuse a lack of effort. There's luck involved (in just about anything), of course. It helps to be lucky. But hard work is the key ingredient to success in just about any part of life.

The thing is, that expert carpenter didn't start off as an expert. He earned his expertise through (drum roll) hard work.

So can I. So can you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Kevin, absolutely.

My point was that people writing for a year or two, maybe completed one novel, wonder why they don't sell like Konrath.

The man has completed dozens of novels and worked as a pro.

A writer has to finish dozens of novels and get lots of feedback to improve his or her trade.

Dawn said...

I'm not JA Konrath, but I did just launch my short story collection and am getting ready to upload some rights-reverted published titles as well....

Kudos Joe--
* Then again I think it's worth pointing out that the writer who reads JA's blog and expects to instantly make a huge success overnight would probably be the same writer who orders the latest ab equipment from an infomerical and expect to have a six-pack in two days.

Good post, Joe.

The Daring Novelist said...

Cheryl -

One thing I think I didn't express well was the idea of what happens to writers who are "where I want to be."

I do want to make a living. But I want to make a living writing in my genre - which you could call "cozy mystery" although what I actually prefer to read and write is not being published much any more at all. Frankly in the past twenty years, every new series I have loved has been shut down in the first few books.

I've talked to the authors and to editors, and the sales numbers were good, profitable... but not good enough for B&Ns distribution system.

And those authors are stuck in a black hole. They can't get their rights back, and they can't continue the series no matter how loyal their fanbase. All they can do is change their pen name and start a new series.

I can't speak for any other kind of book, but that's the thing that struck me as completely untenable as a reader and a writer. The cozy mystery is a "long tail" and long term genre.

You said something about not cutting off your options... that's exactly the point. For a long term series that ISN'T a thriller, traditional publishing is a great way to cut off your options.

It's not that I'm ignorant of the industry (I've been in it for quite a while). I don't recommend my solution as best for everyone - it's the right decision for me in terms of business and career longevity.

Everyone needs to educate themselves about what is happening to their favorite authors. You can't look at other genres and think that applies to you. You have to look ahead too.

IMHO, if you are unpublished, this may not be the time to commit to ANY publishing options yet. Write, keep writing, build up your portfolio. Publish short fiction and a blog and get yourself an online presence. Then when Traditional Publishing gets its act together, maybe you can make a better informed decision.

But whatever you do, make an informed decision.

Rebecca Stroud said...

No, I'm not "Joe" and doubt I ever will be yet that's not my goal in this indie endeavor. Not to say I'd sneer at $100K but I digress...

I am, however, a dedicated writer who has spent the last decade in the newspaper business. And, as of yesterday, I am an Amazon author.

My book, The Animal Advocate, has gone live and I'm so proud I could spit nickels. Why?

Because I wrote every column in that book; I edited every column in that book; I formatted (in HTML) every column in that book; I provided the cover photo; and now the marketing marathon begins.

And you know what? After all my blood, sweat and tears during this process, I learned an immense amount regarding the publishing business. Enough to know that doing it my way beat the hell out of traveling the traditional highway.

Sure, I may only earn back a few of those nickels I'm spitting right now. But the bottom line is that if I'd have fiddle-farted around waiting for responses from an agent/editor/sales team/etc. to get my work "out there," I'd have probably said the hell with it out of pure frustration.

Yet what I'm doing now is on my terms, my time, and my dime. And as this particular e-book is a niche nonfiction work, I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I chased that elusive ace instead of holding my pair of kings...

Anonymous said...

I think Joe should sell "I'm not Joe Konrath" caps and t-shirts.

Stephen Prosapio said...

To paraphrase a Monty Python quote: "I'm not JA Konrath and neither is my wife!"

I so support the t-shirt idea!

My novel has several times hit several top 100 catagory lists. It doesn't take that many sales to elevate it provided it has consistant sales during the off-peak times. Regardless, as of this moment there are 717,867 eBooks on Kindle now and to be ahead of nearly 700,000 of them is a pretty cool place to be.

My novel Dream War is selling in the hundreds per month right now but I'm hoping that by maintaining its 5-star ranking and adding additional titles it will continue to be bought, read, and enjoyed!

Ellen O'Connell said...

The t-shirt idea is a good one. However, not long ago on Kindle Boards someone posted a quote from a friend: "Not having the status and legitimacy of being a 'real writer' sure does burn... guess I'll just have to rub some money on that."

I printed that one out and stuck it on my PC as a reminder. It's already taking some of the sting out of recent attacks.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Daring Novelist,

You're right--writers should make informed decisions. Always. that's why it's always good to look at publishing from all angles and from a variety of experiences.

My advice to writers is to put something out there is they have a completed work that has been edited by others. That is the true test of whether something will sell. Writers shouldn't have to wait. That's what sucks about the whole traditional publishing world. Who's got the time to waste? I know I don't. :-)

Ebooks are a great way for aspiring authors to test their work on real live readers, so if you're a budding author, go for it. What have you got to lose? :-)

Ellen, you're a "real writer" if someone else reads your work. ;-)

As for T-Shirts, I'd rather buy one with my name and book cover on it.

One day I'm going to create a t-shirt that says "GET LOST..." on the front. On the back it'll say, "...in THE RIVER by Cheryl Kaye Tardif."

That's branding. lol

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
aka Cherish D'Angelo

Redstarsix said...

So if I don't have the benefit of being Joe Konrath and would die in the self publishing world, how would a 'legit' publisher treat me?

Tara Maya said...

It's pretty amusing to read so many people "debating" whether to pursue a NY print deal or self-publish, like they are choosing from a menu.

The reality for 99% of writers is that self-publishing is the only option - you won't get a NY print deal. It won't happen. Get over it.


A year ago, I asked a friend who reads slush for an agent, if my writing sucked, and I should just give up and self-publish. (Note, back then I equated the two: one only self-published because there was no other option.)

She nearly made me swear in blood I wouldn't self-publish because my writing was "too good" for that, and with the right book, I would break in. The problem was that I was trying to write epic fantasy for adults (not trendy) when I should write paranormal urban fantasy for YA (trendy).

I have gotten to the "full" stage with agents a couple of times, and it's the same story. Good writing, intriguing story, but it won't sell right now. Come back with another project.

My friends in publishing and writing groups warned me away from self-publishing because it would be the kiss of death. So even though no one wanted the epic fantasy, I decided I didn't dare self-publish it either.

There are plenty of us who are made to feel as if we have to make a choice between NY and indie -- even if you are right that for most writers, that's just a delusion.

I really wish I had received different advice last year. My fantasy would have been edited and formatted and published by now.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Great post, Joe! I fully believe that while I'm not going to make a living off just my first book, I'm laying the groundwork for future books (building a fan base). Hope to have another one out in 6 mos. or less.

I will definitely be making lots more money off of them on Kindle/etc. than I'd make with them sitting on the shelf. And the 70 bucks that one of the author talked about...that would TOTALLY pay my electric bill! haha!

Selena Kitt said...

I really wish I had received different advice last year. My fantasy would have been edited and formatted and published by now.

What are you waiting for? Go for it! Prove NY wrong.

8 Women Dream said...

I think what the publishing industry is slowly learning what the music industry had to learn (which the fashion industry learned in the 60s) is that content is being driven by the people.

People want to watch, read, wear what they want to wear without someone filtering their choice.

It's why YouTube is so popular - people get to watch what they want when they want to about whatever they want - without an advertiser choosing it for them.

This doesn't even cover all the self-publishing of e-books through e-junkie/PayPal/Google Checkout options that is happening in the blogging world.

Great post.

Catherine

Anonymous said...

I may be anonymous but I've been reading this blog for a couple weeks and, since so many of your comments have been just as helpful to me as Joe's posts, I wanted to chime in with some support on the recurring theme of self-doubt and "is this the right thing to do or not?".

Of course it's the right thing to do. You are waiting for nothing.

You know how to "make it" in Hollywood? Make your own movie. Use all your talent and powers of persuasion to scrape together enough talented and hungry people to do the job. Then work 10 times harder than that to figure out a way to get somebody to invest an insane amount of money (even for your little indie picture). Then make something great.

If you can do that, you know what you are? A movie producer. Then, the big studios will know your name. Before then, they don't care. Your other option is to repeatedly submit screenplays to be read by the 23 year-old USC grads who hold the keys to the gate. Sound familiar?

And it doesn't even have to be an "insane" amount of money. Your iphone shoots video in HD. Google the film "Catfish." The point is it's a just do it world. And the big money contracts in Hollywood are for people who already did it by themselves first.

Best way to be a rock star? Start a band. Sleep in your car for three years and work your ass off, etc...

You get the point.

Best way to be a novelist?

Assuming you've got talent and have put in the work to be skilled... talent and skill are wasted on those who worry or hesitate.

Today, right now, the audience who wants to read stuff exactly like what you write exists in the tens-of-thousands, tucked away among the tens-of-millions on the internet.

There has never been a time in publishing when such specific audiences gather in such large but easily find-able groups to discuss their passions.

Find them, give them something to talk about, and don't look back.

My novel has been "ready" for a year. I've wasted time trying to understand a very silly industry when I should have been writing the next book. I just woke up to this fact.

I'm publishing my novel. I'm going to just do it myself. If I sell only 100 copies by next Christmas, then that's a base of 100 people to start with when I release the sequel.

Why will it take so long to write the sequel? Because one of my award-winning, yet dust-gathering screenplays was found by a director with a couple awards of his own and a fire under his butt. Awards don't mean much. But we're making this film, together, guerrilla-style, because we can. When I use every bit of talent I've got outside of writing-talent to raise more money than I've ever seen, then risk it all on this project, I'll be a movie producer too.

I'm never going to hesitate again. Waste of time, waste of your work, waste of you.

Good luck and thanks for all the informative and encouraging posts

--Anonymous Steve

Tara Maya said...

Well said, Anonymous Steve.

Selena: What are you waiting for? Go for it!

Thanks. I am. I am bringing out an anthology of my own little backlist (such as it is) first -- short stories and flash fiction and a novelette or two -- in an anthology Conmergence. That will be my practice run to learn the ins-and-outs of formatting, etc. Then, if all goes well, the epic will follow. I'm fairly nervous about it all, but also exited. People like you and Joe and Zoe Winters have been very inspiring to me.

S.L. Naeole said...

Tara - the only person who can hold you back now in the world of publishing is you.

I was told by many agents that my books weren't "marketable", "salable", or "trendy" enough.

Finally, after several form rejections, I received an email that changed my life, from an agent at a large house. She told me that my writing was better than many she'd seen but that my subject matter (angels) wasn't going to be purchased by any houses right now because it wasn't trending. She told me "if you write a book about mermaids, you'll probably get a deal in no time since that's what's coming up as vampires die away" but "if you want to sell your series, do it through self-publishing."

So, I followed her latter advice. I'm mildly successful in several genres - #7 in Kindle Family Saga, #28 in Books Family Saga, #31 Kindle Juvenile Romance - and all without marketing but merely word of mouth.

Yes, I've made some mistakes along the way, and I'm not going to deny that. I'm just as new at this as anyone, and I'm learning and improving as I go. But, even with my mistakes, I've already proven all of the agents who said I wouldn't sell a single copy of my book wrong.

Someone said...

Anonymous Steve:

That is one heck of a motivating comment. Deserves to be a guest blog post. Thanks for the shot in the arm.

The Vampire Years said...

Seconding the hurrah for Anonymous Steve's post. People get blinders on and think the only way to do it in an industry is the way it's "always" been done without looking to similar industries and new, successful trends within their own.

Lakisha Spletzer said...

As always, excellent post JA. Figured it was time to throw in my two cents worth ;)

After stumbling across this blog via a poster's comments in one of the Amazon forums, I decided to heed the wise advice and lowered the price on my ebooks (I have 2 out). I had initially priced them at 4.99 and 5.99. I dropped them to 1.99 and 2.99.

After two months my sales started to climb. Then I decided, why not go the distance? I dropped the price again to 99 cents and 1.99.

That was back in August. In September, I watched my 99cents ebook bring in 20 sales, which was more books sold in that one month than in 4 months when it was priced at 4.99. My other novel brought in 10 sales which was still more than when its four months out on the kindle where I sold a grand total of 6 copies at the 5.99

I have of course being doing blog tours, submitted both novels to review sites like crazy, tweet/facebook about my novels, use word-of-mouth and last but not least, I've attended conventions this year.

The conventions were more for the print side, where I do fairly well but I make sure to have flyers available with information about ebook formats of my novels.

I've never believed in instant success, because nothing like that has never happened to me. I've always had to work extra hard (I'm a single parent) to get ahead in life and I kept that mentality when I decided to self-publishing after failing at submitting to publishers.

I felt that my stuff was good and I had let a pair of retired English teachers as well as my writer's workshop group friends go over both novels with the proverbial "fine tooth." I'm so glad I trusted my instincts and decided to self-publish.

Chris said...

Anonymous... (the one who is giving the attitude)

You do realize that Joe's best-earning books, the ones that he makes so much money off of, are the ones that traditional houses didn't want, right? He had to write an (admittedly awesome) crime series partly because he had an idea it would sell better than his previous novels.

Because for all of your telling people that they aren't good enough to publish traditionally, you seem to lack real knowledge of how publishing works.

You have a very small number of people deciding what will sell. That's it. They don't know for sure, but they hope that what they pick will sell. Sometimes they're right, mostly they're wrong. But this group of people are who make the decisions, and they aren't always worried about the best writers or stories.

So, for every Harry Potter or Twilight that took the world by storm (largely because of luck), there are a million clones being published while better authors go unpublished since they write stuff that "isn't popular right now".

You can't necessarily fault the publishers. They need to make money to survive. However, it leaves a lot of people in the unenviable position of being told they "aren't good enough" by a handful of people (including people responding to blog posts).

Take me for instance. I'm not a "normal" writer, scratching by with "a writer job". I make really good money as a software engineer. But I love to write, and have since I was 10.

However, the further I got into my SE career, the more money I made, the less it seemed I could really be a writer. Not because I lack talent or drive, but because I could never make enough as a writer (traditionally published) to leave, even if I wanted to (not that I do -- I really enjoy my work).

So then, I'm left with the problem of "is it worth the effort to go through writing a book, likely getting rejected a bunch, writing another book, just to get a check for less money than I could have made doing a web development side job for a month?" So, I stopped writing... just couldn't get the heart for it. Not because of the rewards, but because of the pre-conceived fear of all the rejection (mind you, I've had short stories published, and have been rejected only one time -- with a "this was a great story, just not what we're looking for" non-rejection).

Then came the e-readers. Once I started to see that it was a viable alternative, I've been SERIOUSLY considering it. I've started writing again. Will I be putting out crap "just because I can"? Of course not. Will I expect tons of money for no work? Of course not. It isn't even about the money -- it's about getting my stories read, without having some jackass temp in an office somewhere tell me that they're only publishing stories about emo zombies vying for the heart of a vapid Hollywood princess.

There's something to be said for lack of pressure -- lack of fear -- helping some people to write.

Will there be a lot of crap? Sure. But there's always crap -- Paris Hilton has a book out, for God's sake! People will decide what they want to read, and they should be ALLOWED to decide what they want to read -- not told to by some intern at Harper.

Jordan Castillo Price said...

*waves hello from the occult list* First time poster, JA. Thank you for this blog; I've been enjoying it for a few months now.

I'm not JA Konrath and I was able to quit my day job this year!

I've been publishing on the Kindle since 2008, and have seen my monthly bank deposit go from "pizza money" level to "paycheck" level. One key thing is that I never publish anything unedited. So many people think "self-published" is synonymous with unedited, and I can't see why that would necessarily be so. Hire an editor! Even if your book is structurally sound, it's likely you'll have dropped words or sneaky typos if you don't have that book line edited/proofread.

Shaun said...

Thanks thanks thanks, Joe.

Your information is just great.

Thanks for all the details, all the posts, and all your generosity.

Shaun

PV Lundqvist said...

No, I'm no J.A. Konrath. But I did want to report on my own genre, children's books.

There aren't a lot of indies in the top 100. Just two. Karen McQuestion and, for a brief moment I'm sure, me.

I didn't sell thousands, or even hundreds to get there. A few sales can really skew the numbers in this category.The reason being that there isn't a huge demand for kid's ebooks — yet. Kindles haven't trickled down enough.

But before Karen, there was nobody. Now there are two. Soon...a flood.

Inferiority Complex said...

No I am not. That's a good reminder on the importance of realism.