Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guest Post by Lee Goldberg

I've known Lee Goldberg for years. He's a good writer, a good blogger, and a good all-around guy. One of the things I admire about him is his ability to debate, and his zero tolerance for BS.

If you haven't read Goldberg, The Walk is a great place to start. He's been blogging about ebooks for as long as I have, and he's got a somewhat different take on what's happening.

Here's Lee...

It’s astounding to me how much, and how fast, the publishing world has changed in the last nineteen months. On June 5, 2009, I began my Kindle publishing adventure with a post on my blog.
Here’s an excerpt:

My friend author Joe Konrath has done extraordinarily well selling his unpublished books on the Kindle, making $1250 in royalties this month alone. That's very impressive […] Joe is making a lot of assumptions based on the admirable success of his own Kindle titles. It's a big, big, BIG leap to think, just because his book has done well, that Robert W. Walker (or any other mid-list author) will sell 500 copies...or even 50 copies...of his out-of-print books on the Kindle each month. But just for hell of it, I decided to follow Joe's advice and put my out-of-print 2004 novel THE WALK and a short story collection, THREE WAYS TO DIE, up on Amazon for sale on the Kindle and see what happens…

A lot happened. I ended up putting my entire, out-of-print backlist – nine novels and two non-fiction books – on the Kindle. But let’s jump forward to February 2, 2010, when I wrote on my blog:

January (2010) was my best month yet in sales & royalties for my out-of-print books on the Kindle. THE WALK remained my best-selling title with 536 copies sold […] All told, I made $775 in Kindle royalties this month [...] I credit the jump in my sales to all the people who got Kindles as Christmas gifts and were eager to test drive their new toy for as little money as possible. I suspect my sales will slowly decline once the novelty of the Kindle wears off.

To say I was wrong would be a massive understatement.

I’m selling many more books than I did a year ago, but the big game-changer was Amazon upping the royalty rate in July 2010 from 35% to 70% for books priced at $2.99 and above.

This January, if sales continue at the current pace, I will sell about 3100 books this month and earn $6600 in royalties.

That’s a 166% increase in sales and a whopping 751% jump in royalties.

In just one year.

On out-of-print books that I wrote years ago that were earning me nothing before June 2009.
If those sales hold for the rest of the year, I will earn $77,615 in Kindle royalties, and that’s not counting the far less substantial royalties coming in from Amazon UK, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace.

Even if my sales plummet tomorrow by fifty percent, I’ll still earn about $38,000 in royalties this year…and I’d be very, very happy with that.

My most profitable title, in terms of hours worked and pages written, is THREE WAYS TO DIE, a collection of three previously published short stories. In print, it’s a mere fifty-six pages long, but it’s selling 24 copies-a-day on the Kindle, earning me about $1500-a-month. That means I could potentially earn $18,000 this year just from those three short stories alone.

That is insane.

But what would be more insane is if I took my next, standalone, non-MONK book to a publisher instead of “publishing” it myself on the Kindle.

That’s right. I’d rather self-publish. This from a guy who for years has been an out-spoken, and much-reviled, critic of self-publishing. But that was before the Kindle came along and changed everything. I was absolutely right then…but I’d be wrong now.

The Kindle offers mid-list writers a real option to consider before they sign their next, shitty contract extension with their publisher…and it has given new opportunity to every mid-list author who has been dropped…and it has dramatically re-energized the earnings potential of every published author’s out-of-print back-list.

That’s incredibly exciting. I believe that any midlist author who isn’t self-publishing, either their back list or new work, is making a costly mistake.

If a publisher came to me today and offered me a typical, mass market paperback deal for THE WALK, I wouldn't take it...because I don't see a scenario where I'd end up making more money on the book than I am making right now (selling about 1101 copies a month, earning $2268 in royalties) . I make more in one month from Kindle sales than I did during the two years that the book was in print in hardcover.

And unless I’ve got a book I think has the potential to be a blockbuster, a novel that could break me out of the mid-list and into the upper-ranks of mystery/thriller writers, I don’t see a scenario where taking an original novel to publisher makes financial sense for me anymore.

But I’m an established, professional author…there are a million copies of my 11 MONK books in print. I have a big back list I can exploit. It’s any easy decision for me to make.

But unlike my friend Joe, who is going to accuse me of clinging desperately to old paradigms that are no longer relevant, even today I still wouldn’t recommend self-publishing for a first-time author.

If you’ve never been in print before, I believe you’d be a fool not to take a mid-list paperback or a hardcover deal…even a terrible one…over self-publishing on the Kindle. Financially, you might make less (either in failure or modest success)...but the difference will be more than made up for in editing, marketing, wider readership, wider name recognition, and professional prestige (and that prestige does mean something, whether you want to admit it or not).

You can always go back to self-publishing... and when you do, you will be bring that wider readership, name recognition, and professional prestige with you. But a book deal doesn't come along every day, and that's still going to mean something for a long time yet...and I suspect it still will even if half the bookstores in America close tomorrow.

Of course, that’s assuming you have an agent or publisher interested in your work. What if you don’t? What if you just want to get your work out there?

You better be damn sure your book is up to professional standards.

If your book is awful, amateurish slop, you can embarrass yourself, create negative word-of-mouth, and seriously harm the reputation you are seeking to build.

There’s a gold rush mentality right now when it comes to authors and ebooks (which I am probably stoking with this article) and, like gold fever, it’s making people stupid. Keep in mind that for every Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking, there are thousands of authors who will be lucky if they can give away ten books-a-month at 99 cents each.

The majority of self-published books are unreadable crap… and that hasn’t changed just because it’s easier now to self-publish than ever before. If anything, it’s made things much worse.

Just because you can publish for free with a mouse-click doesn’t mean that you should.

But because of articles like this one, people with no discernible writing talent, or even basic writing skills, are rushing to get their atrocious, unpublishable garbage onto the Kindle as fast as they can.

The slush pile has gone digital and has unleashed a tsunami of swill onto Amazon and Smashwords. It’s going to get even harder for authors to get their books noticed by readers, who I fear are going to quickly discover that most self-published stuff is awful and, as a result, will be far less likely to take chances on writers they have never heard of… even at 99 cents.

I don’t have a solution to the problem…but I don’t intend to let the tsunami bury me and my work. I’m always looking for ways to get bring new readers to my books.

That’s one of the reasons I will continuing writing the MONK books as long as they remain success. I believe the “dead tree” editions and ebook versions of my MONKs bring thousands of new readers to my work.

It’s also one of the reasons why I’ve joined with Max Allan Collins, Bill Crider, Vicki Hendricks, Harry Shannon, Joel Goldman, Dave Zeltserman, Paul Levine, Ed Gorman, and Naomi Hirahara to launch TopSuspense.com, a site where readers can find professionally written ebooks by highly-acclaimed, award-winning novelists in a variety of genres.

This year, I intend to put at least two original novels on the Kindle, one of which will be the first in a series of books written with several well-known collaborators and a few new authors.

The publishing and bookselling businesses are in turmoil. Publishers are dropping authors, cutting advances, grabbing rights, and cutting print runs. Barnes & Nobles and Borders are struggling, closing stores and cutting back on orders. And beloved independent booksellers, like the Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles, are folding, unable to compete any longer.

It’s very sad and troubling.

And yet, this is also an incredibly exciting time to be an author…as long as you are motivated, out-going, and entrepreneurial.

For once, I feel like I actually have some control over my publishing career and that my success or failure will be due the decisions that I make, not someone else’s poor choices or lack of enthusiasm.

I am enormously grateful to Joe for leading me down this path…but most of all, I’m thankful for the readers, bloggers and fellow authors who continue to support my work.

Joe sez: I agree with 95% of everything Lee has said here. What's refreshing is that when he and I originally began discussing ebooks, he thought I was full of shit. But he put his money where his mouth was, and tried it out for himself. Then he drew similar conclusions, and wound up changing his mind.

The most difficult thing a person can do is change their mind. Lee gets a lot of flack for his opinions, but he always backs up his opinion with facts. If the facts change, his opinion changes. That's the mark of a very smart guy.

However, I disagree with him on a few bits, because he's clinging desperately to old paradigms that are no longer relevant.

While I agree that a lot of writers are putting crappy ebooks up on Kindle, and that there is a learning curve to becoming a good writer--a learning curve that previously required gatekeepers (agents and publishers) to vet new writers and nurture them along on their path to becoming competent, I disagree that publishers are still needed.

Agents are still needed. Mine sells my subsidiary rights, and is doing a great job with that.

Vetters are still needed. It's impossible for a writer to improve unless they know what they're doing wrong. This requires a second pair of eyes.

But that second pair of eyes doesn't have to be a publisher.

The vetters can be readers.

I've already seen several examples of this. But first, let's go back in time and look at something called pulp fiction.

Years ago there was a gold rush similar to the gold rush we're no seeing with ebooks. Except this one was paper, not e-ink.

Cheap paper allowed for the printing of mass quantities of paperback books and magazines. As a result, millions of these suckers were produced, feeding the country's voracious appetite for inexpensive fiction.

Of course, with a demand this big, the editors of these magazines, and the editors for these new paperback lines, needed to find writers to meet their quota.

As a result, quite a few writers who later became big bestsellers got their start in pulps. And guess what? A lot of their early stories weren't very good.

But the more they wrote, the more they improved. Sure, they sometimes had editors to help them. But unlike today, those writers were learning on the job. They got paid to learn their craft, making a living until they were good enough to go from pulp mags to novels.

Me? I have my peers vet me. I also have fans who are beta readers who spot typos and errors.

But what about green newbies who don't have bestselling author friends or loyal fans?

I've followed a few authors on Kindle who originally published some pretty unpolished stuff. But the readers point it out, usually with a bad review, and then more often than not the mortified writer goes back and fixes it.

The reader has become the vetter.

Is it ideal? No. Ideally, writers would only self-publish flawless work. Both both Lee and I originally put ebooks on Kindle with formatting errors in them, which were pointed out to us and we fixed. We learned on the job.

Yes, it is necessary to have a second pair of eyes on your work. But those eyes don't have to be an editor at a Big 6 house.

Taking a shitty publishing deal with shitty royalties just because it offers you the opportunity to learn has some merit, but I really believe these things can be learned independently of taking a shitty deal. If the writer can even get a shitty deal these days, with the way the industry is imploding.

If I were a newbie, I wouldn't sit on a manuscript, hoping to be discovered by an agent, when there is a perfect opportunity to test-market my writing on Amazon.

Lee also said: (readers) are going to quickly discover that most self-published stuff is awful and, as a result, will be far less likely to take chances on writers they have never heard of… even at 99 cents.

Again, I disagree. I give readers more credit than that. This isn't a once-bitten/twice shy scenario. Every reader has read bad books, but it hasn't soured them on reading.

With Amazon reviews, star ratings, and preview features, bad books aren't going to sell well. The Readers (aka vetters, aka gatekeepers) will warn others against trash, and reward good books with lots of ratings and increased sales.

There is a LOT of crap on the Internet, a LOT of worthless, if not outright dangerous, websites. But that doesn't stop people from surfing.

There is a LOT of crap on Youtube. But that doesn't stop the good videos from rising to the top and going viral. The bad ones don't take away from the good ones. It isn't a zero sum game.

There can also be a lot of crap on Amazon, and it won't hurt those writing good fiction. Lee is an example. Right now, The Walk has been in the top 2000 for 18 months. It doesn't matter that there are a million other Kindle ebooks on Amazon. People are still finding him.

I've told Lee that the best thing he could do for his career is stop writing Monk books and start writing expressly for Kindle. It's a big risk in a bird-in-the-hand way, but I'm pretty sure the risk would pay off for him if he did it.

The more good books you list on Amazon, the more you'll sell.

The readers will see to it.

310 comments:

1 – 200 of 310   Newer›   Newest»
gniz said...

Wow, it's interesting because Lee talks about the "tsunami" of ebooks that have been unleashed in this article, and I JUST literally posted a blog post about the coming "flood" and started making Noah's ark references.

Joe, is it possible we're looking at a 90's style "tech bubble" with ebooks? Will there come a point where the ebook market becomes saturated, or some other game changer (such as another royalty change for the worse by Amazon or B&N)?

Do you see these kinds of negative outcomes that would make profits begin to decrease for authors rather than increase as they are now?

I mean, I just have a feeling that what comes up must go down, and that while this will always be a viable market, it won't be the paradise it is right now for much longer...

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Mark Terry said...

I tend to lean ever so slightly toward's Lee's POV than Joe's on whether unpublished authors should just go ahead and e-publish. I think there's a lot to be said about having the experience of dealing with a publisher and having the "professional writer" stamp of approval (whether it's legitimate or not). That said, who cares? Do what you want. It's your life.

I was struck by a linen by Lee's post:

I believe that any midlist author who isn’t self-publishing, either their back list or new work, is making a costly mistake.

Yes, I agree with that completely. Now is a very good time to get in on this deal and experiment and see what works and doesn't for you. I currently have 7 books available as e-books, 2 out-of-print backlist (The Devil's Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss), one by my publisher, The Fallen, and 4 that either didn't find a home that I liked a lot (and so did editors, just not enough to publish) or that were sort of outside my "brand", i.e., books for kids instead of adult thrillers): Edge, Hot Money, Atlantis, and Monster Seeker.

For 2011 I have plans to publish an anthology of short fiction, a nonfiction book about freelance writing, and quite possibly at least one more novel. And I'm also working on 2 book proposals, one for NF and one for fiction, for traditional publishers, and finishing up a novel for my regular publisher. If those proposals don't catch on, they'll be e-published. And that's one of the things I like most about e-publishing. I have more flexibility and options, but leaving the manuscript in a drawer or on a hard drive isn't one I'm choosing to take.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Hey Joe, great post from you and Lee. You're spot on with needing good betas to help you. But I also disagree with Lee that us newbies need a NY editor. With our critiquing experience, my writers' group members are great beta readers and really help us take our writing to the next level.

I actually just started my own publishing label with another author, Megg Jensen, similar to Lee and his friends, where we as authors will work together to make sure our ebooks are the best they can be. It's a great concept, not only do we work together, but can market together as well, pulling us ahead, hopefully. It's all so experimental, you never know how it will work out though!

I also hope to experiment with price this year, although I've been steadily selling a book a day at $2.99 and I've only been at this 3 months.

Karly Kirkpatrick
www.karlykirkpatrick.com
www.darksidepublishing.com

Scott Marlowe said...

Great point/counter-point discussion, guys. I think in an ideal world, as a new writer, I might go the traditional route first as Lee suggests, build name recognition, etc., and only then see what I could do via Kindle/indie/self-publishing. It's something that I think is a very personal decision. Going that route, however, if no agent or publisher will consider you, should you simply give up and never realize your potential? The world is full of writers who chose to go their own way and are the better for it (the opposite is true as well). Ultimately, I think reviewers/readers become the new gatekeepers as Joe suggests. Throw in POD and publishers become increasingly irrelevant. If not irrelevant, then at least diminished.

Michelle said...

I've been following discussions such as this for a while now, watching the slow paradigm shift. It's hard to believe what's happening, but then stories such as yours are told. I don't want to see brick and mortar stores close, but I love that more people are getting their books out there.

Here's a similar story that was making the rounds here locally yesterday: http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index.ssf/2011/01/salem_author_colleen_houck_fin.html

Although not the greatest interview, the essentials of the article about this aspiring Oregon author (who now has a 5-book deal, a movie contract, etc) rings a familiar tone. For me, it's inspiring to read about these victories, and maybe more importantly, it makes me want to immediately purchase the first book in the series for my Kindle.

Times, they are a-changing.

WDGagliani said...

Great post, Lee and Joe. It's interesting how your two points of view diverge slightly, but I think most who read carefully will see exactly what course they should take to navigate between the two. Some of us with feet in both camps will be edging toward one side or the other more as time goes by, but I think the advice is incredibly valuable. BTW, I'd love to consider joining a new thriller/horror group like TopSuspense, if anyone out there is looking for a member ... however I'm not quite clear on hos it works: are the books also purchased through the group website, or through Amazon, or...? How exactly does such a group work? Or is the group's work mainly behind the scenes in editing, vetting, and then promoting together? But thanks, this is great info!

Layton Green said...

So much to think about. Great post -- maybe one of the best yet for seeing both sides. Here's yet another side: I had an agent for the last five year or so, and my second book (The Summoner, now an ebook) went to editors just as the E-tsunami hit. Editors loved my book, but no one was willing to pull the trigger. I knew my books were quality, yet still I resisted. I debated long and hard, read Joe's posts as soon as they came up, and finally decided to Epublish about a month ago. I've sold almost a thousand copies, actually gained readers and fans (which still blows my mind), and am eternally grateful I took the plunge. I still have three more books I can do whatever I want with, but this has been an unqualfied success. I suppose to address Lee's point about getting the deal first -- at this point in the game, for those who know (as close as they can get) that their books are ready, I say epublish. It is now next to impossible to get a debut published. Build a readership online and then, if you want it, go back to NY. Publish under a pen a name if you want, and keep the rights mobile. Thanks for the post Joe and Lee-

Jack Badelaire said...

Joe, I especially want to draw everyone's attention to your comments regarding the "pulp" era of publishing.

I very quickly see a resurgence in the "dimestore novel" mentality for a lot of the $0.99 - $2.99 books available online. Short, somewhat lurid reads that make for perfect beach / commuter train / lunchtime reading.

During the era of what I call "Post-Modern Pulp" in the 60's through the 80's, Writers like Don Pendleton, Jerry Ahern, Joseph Rosenberger, and many other ghost writers cranked out an endless stream of short novels, the "Serial Aggressors" like Pendleton's Executioner, or Rosenberger's Death Merchant. Rosenberger himself wrote over 70 Death Merchant novels across the span of two decades. Pendleton's Executioners (he wrote the original 38; there are now close to 300 titles, I believe) sold over 20 million copies.

This is actually the model I hope to one day follow; writing several short (50-80K word) novels a year, books that you could read in their entirety on a lazy Sunday or over the course of a week's lunch breaks. Sell them cheap, keep a new one coming out every few months. Without the burden of having to spend resources on paper publishing and distribution, I think it's an idea that has a lot of merit in this new paradigm.

gniz said...

Although people often tout the importance of having input from professional editors at a legit publishing house, the reality is that many of the junior editors are just kids fresh out of grad school.

This is just how it is. I remember when a successful author mentioned to me once that she was shocked when she went to an industry party and all the agents and editors were her age or younger (she was under thirty at the time).

This isn't to demean them as a whole, because there are certainly crack agents and editors that can really take your work up several notches.

But beta readers, critique groups, and an author willing to put in the work can possibly bridge the gap. Especially when you consider the gap might not be as large as everyone's making it out to be.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Bella Andre said...

I love these guests posts, Joe! And as one of the mid-list romance authors who is having success with both original & backlist e-books, I have to agree wholeheartedly with what Lee said about mid-list authors. :) Been saying the same thing for a while now.

One thing to note (which is true at least for me), is except for one backlist title (candy store), my big success thus far has come from the two original ebooks I wrote and put out in 2010 (game for love & love me). Seems to me that readers can tell when a book is new and when it's a reprint. Maybe hooks and topics date themselves?

:) Bella
www.BellaAndre.com

btw - I should mention that I'm giving away a Nook Color this month. Entry details are on my web site.

Joe Konrath said...

Sell them cheap, keep a new one coming out every few months.

That's the key. Keep feeding the machine.

What I hope to do is franchise. Write a series or character, then have other writers do subsequent novels, giving me a percentage. Been thinking about this for a long time. I wouldn't mind being the James Patterson of the ebook world.

gniz said...

Joe, what do you think of the idea of authors banding together and forming their own "e-imprint?"

Would there be value in that kind of undertaking? Will imprints and publishing houses be considered important in the coming years, or will it be purely author driven do you think?

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Carson Wilder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Konrath said...

Would there be value in that kind of undertaking?

Talking with my buddies, we've been batting around a "United Authors" organization, for ebook writers.

We'd have an imprint seal, showing readers the books are quality.

We'd also have conventions, and awards, and possibly play a part in the politics of the publishing world. There is strength in numbers, and knowledge to be shared.

But I'm not interested in running an organization, and I'd rather put my time into writing more books.

Tina Folsom said...

"If you’ve never been in print before, I believe you’d be a fool not to take a mid-list paperback or a hardcover deal…even a terrible one…over self-publishing on the Kindle."

Great post - only, I don't agree with the statement above. Even authors have to eat and pay their mortgage. A traditional print deal for a mid-list author doesn't provide that kind of cash. And let's face it, most publishing houses these days do nothing in terms of promoting a new author.

I'll go with self-publishing any day. I've never had a print deal, and it doesn't bother me. I made more money in December on my latest book (Gabriel's Mate - Scanguards Vampires #3) than I would have ever gotten as an advance from a publisher. And the book continues to sell.

Sure, some authors still like the idea of being validated by a publisher. But frankly, it's enough for me to be validated by my readers who send me emails and tell me I'm their new favorite author. That's all the validation I crave.

Tina Folsom
http://www.tinawritesromance.com

P.S. Like my friend Bella Andre, I'm also raffling off a Nook Color. contest open till Jan 24.

J. Viser said...

Lee,

I have alot of respect for your work and experience, but as a new author I have disagree with the advice for first-time authors to first seek an agent and attempt to secure a traditional publishing contract first.

Why?

Based the experiences of numerous first-time novelists, including me, agents just aren't interested in taking a risk on an unknown quanitity without a platform. Some agents go so far as to say if you haven't already been published traditionally or don't have a "platform" they can leverage, don't bother submitting a query.

Okay, I will respect their preferences and move on.

I do agree that a new author needs a strong support group of constructive critics, editors and advisors to pull on. Fortunately, through Joe's blog and others, there is a network.

We newbies will learn as we go and yes, we are going to make mistakes. But, the digital format gives us an opportunity to learn, make quick corrections and advance.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

www.LieMerchants.com

Ellen Fisher said...

Thanks for the post, Lee and Joe. It's nice to see a slightly different viewpoint here (though it's been interesting to watch Lee's views slowly shift over the past year, too). We're all learning as we go, and a lot of us are changing our views along the way. Interesting times, to be sure.

And Lee, I loved The Walk! *squees fangirlishly*

L.J. Sellers said...

Lee: Thanks for a great post!

The idea of going with a traditional publisher for your first novel sounds good in theory. But landing a NY deal is such a long shot. Even if you've written a great novel. With two agent-submitted manuscripts, I had editors at major publishing houses say they loved the story, then not buy it.

And most small publishers offer no advantages, except the stamp of approval. And the time you waste waiting for that stamp of approval is insane.

However, I do think that getting professional feedback on your work before publishing is essential.

wannabuy said...

"And unless I’ve got a book I think has the potential to be a blockbuster, a novel that could break me out of the mid-list and into the upper-ranks of mystery/thriller writers, I don’t see a scenario where taking an original novel to publisher makes financial sense for me anymore."

That is the paridigm shift. Good for you Lee for looking at the facts and adapting as the market changed.

As Mark notes: "I believe that any midlist author who isn’t self-publishing, either their back list or new work, is making a costly mistake."

The costliest part is not gaining the added audience.

Authors, as I've noted before, put what book # in the series in the tile. e.g., "The Fires of Heaven: Book Five of 'The Wheel of Time'
Robert Jordan (Author) " I almost dropped Brian S. Pratt's series as I couldn't figure out which book was next! (Did I just read book #3 or #4?) I think his price is keeping him off this page (which would further books his sales):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/158580011/ref=pd_ts_pg_1?ie=UTF8&pg=1

But I also see he has the first book now free... Hmmm...

Neil

Joe Konrath said...

Even authors have to eat and pay their mortgage. A traditional print deal for a mid-list author doesn't provide that kind of cash.

Great point, and one I should haven mentioned.

The average advance for a debut novel, last I checked, was $5000. And if a new author did sign a contract, it would take 18 months before it saw print and had a chance to earn royalties.

I'm pretty sure a good book with a good cover and a low price can earn $5k through self-pubbing. Hell, it's only the 20th, and so far this month I've earned $7000 on a single title, Trapped. If I can make $7k in 20 days, a newbie should be able to make $5k in 18 months.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Mark down this date--the first time someone in the publishing industry actually changed his mind in light of new evidence.

Full evolution from "full of BS" to "I'll never self-pub" to "Well, only established authors like ME should self-pub, and then only with limited backlist" to "Hmm, it's starting to sound better, but only for people like me, the rest of you people aren't writers."

I think readers are doing a very fair job of determining who is or isn't worthy of reading, Mr. Monk. Ultimately, that is who we all work for, though many have forgotten that. Hubris will lead to the downfall of many in this new era.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Ellen Fisher said...

"I think readers are doing a very fair job of determining who is or isn't worthy of reading"

To be honest... not always. I have seen some atrocious stuff sell well. I'd like to think it won't sell well for very long, but it's a bit discouraging to see writing that bad sell at ALL. Alas, it sometimes does manage to do so, through some mysterious process I can't quite comprehend.

Katie Klein said...

"For once, I feel like I actually have some control over my publishing career and that my success or failure will be due the decisions that I make, not someone else’s poor choices or lack of enthusiasm."

YES! I have been so encouraged since I posted my first "filed away in the top drawer forever" manuscript. And though I continue to pursue "traditional" publishing avenues, I'm fully content to make whatever doesn't push past "the gatekeepers" available as an ebook. According to the numbers, it's not going to take long for ebook sales from my pen name book to surpass the midlist sales of my traditionally published novel.

Thanks for another great interview, Joe and Lee!

Joe Konrath said...

I'd like to think it won't sell well for very long, but it's a bit discouraging to see writing that bad sell at ALL.

There are a few factors at play here.

First, we'd have to establish a solid, objective line of what good and what isn't. That's pretty much impossible to do, because subjective bias comes into play.

Sure, some books are loaded with errors, and don't conform to any sort of structure, and just plain suck.

But something I think sucks might not be something you think sucks. Personal opinion counts.

I've seen some authors who had initial good sales, but those sales have plummeted as reviews come in and readers voice their opinions.

Remember how were were all told that the most valuable advertising is world-of-mouth? Amazon is proving this, with reader reviews.

Carson Wilder said...

The majority of self-published books are unreadable crap… and that hasn’t changed just because it’s easier now to self-publish than ever before. If anything, it’s made things much worse.

Sorry, Scott, but I must agree with Lee. Of course, nobody wants to think that their book is unreadable crap, but the fact is many (dare I say most) self-published books are.

That said, I agree with Joe that more money can be made by publishing independently, and I'm all about making more money.

So what's a writer like me, with absolutely no name recognition, to do? Try to find a publisher and develop a following first, or jump right in the sea of sewage and hope to float to the top?

Anonymous said...

Well I agree with Lee that a trad deal can still benefit an unknown author in a lot of ways (so I've got a book making the rounds in NY) and I agree with Joe that there's no downside to self-pubbing anymore (so I've got my other books selling).

On second thought, there are a few potential downsides to self-pubbing, and one is if you make excuses as to why your books aren't selling or why you keep getting one- and two-starred by readers. (And that's a very real danger as I read these excuses online all the time.) Because then you'll never get any better.

Another danger is in thinking high sales equals quality work when your work isn't quality and your success is actually based on a good cover, a good blurb, and lots of marketing efforts. In this booming, expanding market, that kind of illusory "success" is sustainable for years.

EC

Ellen Fisher said...

"First, we'd have to establish a solid, objective line of what good and what isn't. That's pretty much impossible to do, because subjective bias comes into play."

I don't mean somewhat unpolished manuscripts, or books with a few grammatical errors, but rather books that are pretty clearly awful-- books that read like they were written by elementary students. It's no surprise that such books do get uploaded to Amazon and B&N, since anyone can upload anything. The wonder to me is that anyone reads them.

"I've seen some authors who had initial good sales, but those sales have plummeted as reviews come in and readers voice their opinions."

I agree; this is the likely end point of such books. I'm just amazed that readers don't take the time to download the sample first. The ability to sample a good portion of the book is the best thing about ebooks, IMHO.

Jon F. Merz said...

Joe said: "I'm pretty sure a good book with a good cover and a low price can earn $5k through self-pubbing. Hell, it's only the 20th, and so far this month I've earned $7000 on a single title, Trapped. If I can make $7k in 20 days, a newbie should be able to make $5k in 18 months."

Care to put that to the test? I've got several novels available for the Kindle and I don't make anywhere near that amount right now. My sales are consistent, but they aren't anywhere near the numbers you pull in.

I'm still not convinced about ebooks, which is why I still do traditional deals. I love the freedom and the potential for income they could have but right now, I'm just not seeing it. I don't believe that *everyone* is going to get sales like what you get.

So, if you're game, here's my challenge: take one of my novels out for the Kindle change whatever you want about it (you know, aside from the actual manuscript) and I will implement those changes and post the results out here as often as necessary.

What say you?

-Jon
Jon F. Merz
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Edward G. Talbot said...

I agree with Joe about the kudos Lee deserves for not just dismissing ebooks, but trying it for himself.

Regarding what a first time author should do, I think TinaFolsom hit the quote that is the most problematic:

"If you’ve never been in print before, I believe you’d be a fool not to take a mid-list paperback or a hardcover deal…even a terrible one…over self-publishing on the Kindle."

OK, first, what new author is going to get a "mid-list" deal? Any deal at all these days is nothing short of a miracle. And I would suspect that many of the "new authors" signed to print for the first time in the last couple years have already begun building an online presence or they wouldn't have gotten the deal. Not all of them, but a decent chunk of them. And if you've built a presence, you've already begun what is needed for an ebook career.

Regarding quality, this is kind of a circular argument. If an agent accepts your book, it is almost certainly good enough for you to publish as an ebook. But as others have said, why do you need an agent to tell you that? Note - like Joe, I believe an agent can be valuable, just not for this particular purpose. Bottom line is that there are LOADS of ways to find out if your book is decent, so that argument is a non-starter.

How about the need for promotion and getting the book noticed? Well, if you're a new author, you can't expect much help from a publisher unless you are very lucky. It's not going to appear on the shelves at B&N just because you have a book deal. Even if it does, it may be relegated to a shelf where no one will find it unless they are looking for it. You're gonna have to do 90% of the work yourself - not that different from self-publishing.

Editing and other such kinds of help? Two points here. One is that I don't know why a midlist author WOULDN'T need this help and a new author would - that seems to be Lee's general feeling. It's not like having 3 or 4 books in print automatically makes you good at these things yourself. Maybe you have a better network of people to call on, but that is at least as much a function of networking as it is of having a publisher.

Which leads to point two - you can hire editors and cover designers and book layout people just like you would have expenses starting any business. You can find peers who will be willing to trade editing duties on each other's books. You can build an online presence and get beta readers. You can do what I did and release your book as a free audiobook on podiobooks.com to get feedback. There are loads of ways to do this.

Another point that doesn't often get mentioned is that different authors have different goals. Let's assume we all want more people to read our books. Beyond that, though, some of us MUST make a living writing. Others of us can afford to not make a living on it now, but are absolutely committed to eventually making a living. Others know that the odds of making a living are so low that while they do want to write and sell books, making a living writing is not a goal for them. Etc, etc. Depending on your goals, the question of whether you should go with a publisher may have a different answer.

All that said, there's nothing "wrong" with taking the time to submit to traditional agents and publishers if you want that kind of support and career guidance. But there's just not a compelling argument any more that new authors "should" do so.

Hope Welsh said...

Someone made a comment that made me think. They said they were selling 1 a day at $2.99. So, $60 per month minimum.

My book was selling at $2.99. Not great-but it was selling.

Sales tripled when I put it at .99--but I was making more $ at $2.99 due to Amazon percentages.

My question--are more "readers" better for new indie authors--or more $$?

I'm leaning toward more people reading my work--so they will buy the one that my publisher is selling for $5.99

Thoughts?

Chris Eboch said...

This is a great debate. I would like to issue a word of warning to people who think that their critique group is enough to help bring their work up to professional standards. That may be true if they're all published professionals (maybe even if they're not, but chances are much slimmer).

But I've done critiques for dozens of authors who got all the help they could from their critique groups, and were then willing to pay for professional feedback. Without exception, their books still had lots of room for improvement. Maybe they still would have sold copies, but I'd rather sell lots of copies AND have a book I can be really proud of.

Even authors with a few books published may benefit a lot from professional critiques. I sold the first novel I ever wrote (The Well of Sacrifice), and it went to print with minimal editing, but I then wrote five unpublishable novels (with help from critique groups) before I really got the hang of things. We are often not good judges of our work, and the average reader can give some useful feedback, but maybe not be able to see big picture issues that make a difference between okay and great.

wannabuy said...

"Even authors have to eat and pay their mortgage. A traditional print deal for a mid-list author doesn't provide that kind of cash. And let's face it, most publishing houses these days do nothing in terms of promoting a new author."

Sadly... most Indie authors won't pay the mortgage either. Find your niche and then 'feed the machine.'


Jon, a mixed strategy works as long as you're getting onto the shelves. Looking at the declining purchases of paperbacks and MMPB... the strategy won't work for much longer.

Did anyone else read the WSJ on kids and Tablet apps? We're now buying apps instead of childrens books.

Neil

Ursula said...

Mr. Goldberg, this is like the fall of the Berlin Wall. I have to tell you, you've been on my dartboard for years - poster child for the legion of digital-pub/indie haters I considered a bunch of luddites determined to keep us all in the dark ages of print media. There were regular 'Lee Goldberg-blog post' inspired rants in diners, over drinks, in the car - it was out of hand. Really.

Then, something unthinkable happened a few months back. My husband calls me and says, Go to Joe's blog. Lee is there. You will flip when you read his post.(See, it's even first name basis, which you know is bad.) I did go. How could I not? I expected to find more of the same old same old, and when I read your guest post back then, I thought at first we were bing 'punked'. It couldn't be real. If it was, then it was proof Joe Konrath not only practiced, but perfected, the dark arts, because this is Lee Goldberg we're talking about. Bastion of stodgey convention, enemy of progress. But, no dark arts, no flim flam man monkeyshines - Joe made a convert, and I knew - that was the single shot that defined the full forward movement of the new revolution in the industry.

When someone deep in the thick of the indusrty stands up to be counted for venturing into the brave new world (to what ever degree), and has the stones 'hey, I might have been off a bit, but this big thing here was a game changer so I'm changing too', I have to tip the hat to them and say thanks.

Seriously, you, Joe, people who have expereience on all sides of the publishing house, you're the voices that help open the doors and usher in the future. The voices that help knock down the barriers, and help others figure out what model best fits them. Way better role than loom smashing.

wannabuy said...

@Hope:"My question--are more "readers" better for new indie authors--or more $$?"

Hope, how many novels can you publish in 2011? If the answer is 2 or more, I would think keeping one or two at $0.99 is worth audience building. By all means sell some at higher prices.

But I'm just a reader... ;)

Neil

Jon F. Merz said...

Neil, thank you for bringing up the younger market. I'd be curious to hear Joe's take on that as well. Do you think more kids will convert to ereaders as well? I've got a MG/YA series out making the rounds with NYC publishers and if it doesn't take, I may put it out myself.

Thanks!
-Jon

***
Jon F. Merz
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Joe Konrath said...

@Jon - How much are you willing to invest? I've said before your covers need to be redone, and my artist charges $350 a cover.

I'd also recommend you tweak your descriptions, and your titles.

Jennifer Becton said...

Joe sez: I'm pretty sure a good book with a good cover and a low price can earn $5k through self-pubbing. Hell, it's only the 20th, and so far this month I've earned $7000 on a single title, Trapped. If I can make $7k in 20 days, a newbie should be able to make $5k in 18 months.

Jen sez: I released my first ebook September 1 at $2.99. I have only one book at this time, and I'm writing in a niche market. If sales stagnate now, I should still make $5000 before it's been on the market 8 months.

After being told by agents and publishers that my writing was good, but that "there was no market" for my subject matter, self-publishing was my only real choice. And I should have done it sooner.

Jennifer
http://www.jenniferbecton.com

Jennifer Becton said...

Ps. That's gross, not net.

Bryon Quertermous said...

Joe makes great points if all an author is interested in is money. But for so long, the money is publishing has been so bad that authors have been trained to look for benefits other than money to keep them going. Benefits like awards, peer recognition, book shelf space, and so on. Granted, all of these benefits are disappearing quickly, but right now, while they're out there, I still want them. Even more than money. And to get those benefits I need to start with a traditional deal.

There's also the issue of other media. I may be making false assumptions, but I suspect one of the reasons Lee still writes the Monk books is because they provide him exposure and name recognition in the film and television industry where he still works. I also would like to write for film and comics, and such and I believe the recognition from being traditionally published opens more doors than being self-published, or not published at all.

That said, there's also an element of fear in it for me. I have one book that I think would be a great fit for Kindle, LUNCHBOX HERO. It was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger, excerpted in a respected online journal, and blurbed by some good writers.

To this day I still get an email or two a month asking me where they can get a copy of it. I was willing to sell it to a small publisher for $1000 back in the day. I know I could make more than that with it on Kindle. But what if I don't? I'd have to invest almost a grand up front for a good cover and good formatting. What if I don't make that back? I've got two little kids and a wife. A publisher said recently that their role in the new world will be as venture capitilists for authors like me. Right now, I still need that.

Jon F. Merz said...

@Joe - that's not exactly putting your money where your mouth is, Joe. Take one of my novels and make an example out of it.

How about Parallax? That was my best selling novel for a while but I've seen sales slow to a trickle (only four this month). I think that has a great cover and description and keywords.

Don't just tell me to change something, tell me *exactly* what to change. I really want to see if this works or if things stay the same because I simply do not buy the idea that the vast majority of people who self-publish can make a living at it. And the argument being offered here and elsewhere is that they can - perhaps not in your realm, but still make a comfortable income.

I ain't seeing it. Help me see the light.

-Jon

***
Jon F. Merz
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Anonymous said...

Based the experiences of numerous first-time novelists, including me, agents just aren't interested in taking a risk on an unknown quanitity without a platform. Some agents go so far as to say if you haven't already been published traditionally or don't have a "platform" they can leverage, don't bother submitting a query.

I'm a platform-less, unknown quantity now on his third literary agent. Guess I'm just lucky.

EC

Joe Konrath said...

Don't just tell me to change something, tell me *exactly* what to change.

I get this request a lot, Jon. I simply don't have the time to help everyone who asks. I don't have the inclination, either. What's in it for me? To prove I'm right? I already know I'm right. Validation is something I stopped seeking long ago.

Email me.

Kathleen MacIver said...

The "free sample" feature that a lot of the sites are offering also really helps readers tell if the writing is junk or not. I've opened up a lot of good-looking ebooks, read the first two pages, and walked away. Anybody can do that.

Merrill Heath said...

Jake Badelaire said: "This is actually the model I hope to one day follow; writing several short (50-80K word) novels a year, books that you could read in their entirety on a lazy Sunday or over the course of a week's lunch breaks. Sell them cheap, keep a new one coming out every few months. Without the burden of having to spend resources on paper publishing and distribution, I think it's an idea that has a lot of merit in this new paradigm."

Jake, I'm right there with you. This is exactly what I'm trying to do with my Alec Stover Mystery series.

It's interesting to look at some of the series that are available in print from publishers like Penguin. To name a few:
Jake Logan - Slocum - 382 books in the series
Tabor Evans - Longarm - 385 books
J.R. Roberts - The Gunsmith - 348 books
Jon Sharpe - Trailsman - 353

These are all westerns and I don't know if these are individual authors or teams that produce these books. But the numbers are pretty incredible.

I'd love to find a receptive market and pump out 4-5 mysteries a year. As Joe said, feed the machine.

Merrill
http://merrillheath.wordpress.com

gniz said...

This question of who can "do it"--actually make decent money or a living from e-publishing is an interesting one.

BTW, it seems to me that Joe has not promised everyone a best-seller. He's simply stated that you have a better chance now with e-publishing than you did with traditional publishing.

That seems pretty clear to me. What isn't clear is what creates success, what the formula is. And I don't think there is a formula, so some people will write good books that just don't sell well.

Nobody owes us anything.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Anonymous said...

Bryon, you make some good points as to the continued benefits of trad publishing for new authors. I'm wid ya there.

Regarding self-pubbing Lunchbox Hero (which I'd like to see, especially given my feedback on the ms back in the days of MWF), there's nothing much to it, expense-wise. You could get a decent cover for around a hundred bucks (the most I've spent on a single cover, and I've sold over 10K self-pubbed books to date), and the formatting is a snap. All I do is save a Word file in htm, and that's it. Take the dive, dude, you won't regret it.

EC

Merrill Heath said...

Going back to something said previously about how the market has changed...ebooks and self-pubbing are actually moving the market back to where it was in the '50s for aspiring authors.

When my dad was getting started there were magazines clamoring for short fiction. In fact, he made a comfortable living for several years selling short stories to The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Argosy, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, etc.

He was able to build his rep and a portfolio that had agents and publishers querying him, rather than the current process of authors querying agents.

But the short story market that propelled my dad into a successful writing career virtually dried. Now, the Internet and self-pubbing has provided a new slant on that opportunity.

V. Furnas said...

This is why I love this blog! Great discussion in the post and the comments.

As a first time novelist I have been having this internal debate as to which path to take. All of this was extremely helpful.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

Joe, you wrote: "Agents are still needed. Mine sells my subsidiary rights, and is doing a great job with that."

I'd love to see you tackle this in more detail (with all your copious free time, right?). Recommendations for self-pubs in finding reputable agents expressly for that purpose, etc. -- perhaps a guest-blog by an agent or two who are making that leap to representing the work to subsidiaries, rather than repping to New York houses....

Jon VanZile said...

I'm still very interested in this question from an MG point of view, because it's my genre. There still isn't much of an MG market in e-books, except for the adult cross-overs. (The same is actually true for YA, but the adult cross-over market happens to be HUGE.)

Anyway, here is my situation: I've got two finished and polished books that were both agented and professionally vetted. Perhaps better yet (or maybe worse), both made it very far at two different, very large and respected publishing houses. In both cases, I did multiple rounds of requested revisions with top editors, and we went to acquisitions at both houses. In one case, I got the rejection in November 2008, a date that should ring some bells in the business, and in the other, it was a case where the company disagreed internally.

So now what? Most people ... at least many ... would say "Take them somewhere else. Try again."

And maybe that is the right thing to do. But it's not what I did. What I actually did was to gently part ways with my agent, write another book I didn't even bother to query and take a breather. I'm a tough guy, and I write professionally for a living. I can handle criticism and rejection and everything else. But this bordered on too much even for me. It was two and a half very long years that ended in frustration. Yes, I did contemplate quitting.

While licking my wounds, I've been watching publishing change, always cognizant of these two books cooling in my drawer, doing nothing. Now I'm at the point where I'm ready to self-publish them. They can't do any worse than they currently are (which is to say, doing nothing). But there is that nagging doubt: "There is no MG market for e-books."

One of the things I hear a lot, including in Lee's post today, is that unpublished authors (like me) shouldn't self-publish debut novels. But ... I have to wonder:

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Mark Terry said...

To John Quartermous (sorry if I wrecked your name)--you don't have to spend $1000 for a decent cover and layout. Shop around. I have a friend, Natasha Fondren, who does the layout for $50-$75. I've worked with Judy Bullard for cover art, which is usually $100. There are others that will do it for $200 to $300. I just put a notice up on my blog two days ago that my nephew, who is getting a degree in graphic design, wants to work up a portfolio of covers, so he's willing to do a couple for free. $1,000 is unrealistically high.

jtplayer said...

Great blog post Joe, and some very good points raised on both sides of the issue.

I appreciate that you make an effort to expose the full picture, and that you foster good, honest debate.

Knowledge is power, and with epublishing growing so fast the options appear limitless. Thanks for continuing to share all that you've learned.

Anonymous said...

Joe-could you explain what you mean by "writing expressly for Kindle?"

How is writing for the Kindle different?

Jon F. Merz said...

At the risk of belaboring this point...

"I get this request a lot, Jon. I simply don't have the time to help everyone who asks. I don't have the inclination, either. What's in it for me? To prove I'm right? I already know I'm right. Validation is something I stopped seeking long ago.

Email me."

First of all, let's clear this up: I'm not asking for help as much as I'm asking you to support your theory that self-publishing is the way to go for the vast majority of folks these days. You've been soapboxing your point about the demise of traditional publishing, and while you're obviously doing exceedingly well for yourself, it's not carrying over - nor do I think it will - for the majority of people you speak to on this blog. There are, of course, those who are doing well. But I'd wager there are for more who aren't doing anywhere near the level you say is possible.

Plus, if you're going to repeatedly blog and preach about how traditional publishing is failing and going the way of the dinosaur, you can't expect to not be challenged on that point. And that's what I'm doing. I'm not some holdout who naively touts traditional publishing as the be-all-end-all - I know for a fact that it has massive problems and uses an antiquated business model.

But before I abandon one business model and enter another, I'd like to know exactly what that model espouses so as to maximize my own chances of success. Simply accepting what you say and then trying to figure it out doesn't strike me as being any smarter than a lot of what New York does these days.

I appreciate the fact that you have very little time. My own time is consumed right now with my latest traditional novel The Kensei hitting stores two days ago. I'm obviously promoting it extremely hard.

I'd also argue with your claim that you're not seeking validation: each of these posts about the virtue of self-publishing is certainly a validation of what you believe and preach. I'm simply asking you to put that to the test - will your assertion work with someone like me? I'm not a newbie to this business; I know how to write books that have sold to traditional publishers - I've written 11 installments in a bestselling series from Gold Eagle, I've had a bunch of other novels come out from major NYC houses, and I've co-authored 2 non-fiction books.

With that said, why should I simply take your word for it based on your sales, when my own experiences haven't borne out the same conclusions? I'd be a fool not to challenge that.

-Jon

***
Jon F. Merz
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Joe Konrath said...

And I don't think there is a formula, so some people will write good books that just don't sell well.


That could be the case. There's a fallacy called "Texas Bullseye" that attributes significance to data after it occurs. That's worthless, of course. You need to be able to use that data to predict, not to describe past events.

But I'm pretty sure that good books on Kindle will find readers. But we writers need to make it as easy as possible for them.

Covers, descriptions, tags, reviews--these all help our books get found. The better they are, the likelier the sales.

A.P. Fuchs said...

I got on a bit of a rant on Twitter last night about this "e-revolution" and ended up putting a Twitter capture of it on my blog.

I'm listing it here for anyone who's interested.

Thanks.

http://canisterx.com/?p=2620

Anonymous said...

Is there a site / page that describes all the tech details WRT cover art and graphics for a Kindle book? Like is it just one image file (the "front cover")? What about format and size? Is producing Kindle cover art a specialized biz or do you go to someone who does hardcopy book design or ebook design in general, or can you talk to any graphic artist? Would appreciate links or info.

Also, Jon F. Merz, you should have just emailed him.

David Wisehart said...

Great post, Lee. Glad to see you're having such success with ebooks. Keep up the fighting spirit.

I do agree with Joe about learning on the job. My first novel had a few typos both I and my beta readers had missed (missing "the," a repeated word), and I fixed them. No problem.

Another reader complained that I published in courier. I republished with a proportional font. Fixed.

Ebooks don't have to ever go out of print. But they also don't have to be static.

And if a newbie puts up a crappy book that gets slammed, they can always unpublish and revise, or come back with a better book.

It's more feedback than they're likely to get from an agent submission.

I also love the pulp fiction analogy. Good stuff.

David

gniz said...

Jon said: "With that said, why should I simply take your word for it based on your sales..?"

But he's given you more than just his sales-there are stories and lists of many authors having great success, most of them without a large platform to work off. So no, you shouldn't just take Joe Konrath's word for it. But he's presented some data here and if you go on Kindleboards there are many more examples of authors doing quite well for themselves.

And a lot of this also depends on your definition of success.

In my mind, the most any writer or artist can hope for is to connect with an audience (outside of friends and family) that is interested in the artist's work.

I've ALREADY found something of an audience in a month of e-publishing. No, I'm not paying the mortgage yet, but again--nobody owes me a mortgage payment.

Some epublishers will make the mortgage and some won't.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Joe Konrath said...

each of these posts about the virtue of self-publishing is certainly a validation of what you believe and preach

I don't have guest posters because I need validation. I have guest posters for the same reason I continually post about ebooks: I believe this information is valuable to writers.

For me to list, point by point, how I think you can improve your sales, is indeed work on my part. It requires me to research your books, spend time to figure out what I think isn't working, and come up with a strategy for increasing your sales. I simply don't have time to do this with everyone who asks.

I expect to be challenged on every point I make. I welcome all debate and arguments against what I preach.

But at the same time, it isn't my job to work with individual writers and offer detailed critiques of their business plans.

However, I did say email me.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe-could you explain what you mean by "writing expressly for Kindle?"

When you right for publishers, they have certain requirements. Word count, approval on outlines, genre conventions, etc.

Writing for Kindle means I can write anything I want, when I want, and release it for an ebook audience without worrying about having to land a print contract.

Pale Rambler said...

I'm surprised the entire issue of a flooded ebook market causes some people such concern. Unlike a bookstore or a library, there is unlimited shelf space and enough room for everyone online. Perhaps it is the equivalent of a literary land rush, but unlike Oklahama there doesn't seem to be a limit to the amount of available land.

And Joe is correct -- one person's art is another's crap. Why should authors and readers suffer from self-inflicted censorship based on what is "quality" and what isn't? The beauty of ebooks is the wild West feel of it all. Wouldn't the imposition of subjective standards and bureaucratic processes crush the wild entrepreneurial spirit of the ebook market?

Mark Feggeler

Jon F. Merz said...

@Anonymous - Put a name to your post and I might be inclined to give a damn about what you say.

@gniz - granted, but there's still a problem with espousing a theory and not having a solid support system for it. I'm more than willing to jump into self-publishing with both feet, but only when I see some real measurable and sustainable results.

I'll put it another way: if someone came into the martial arts dojo I study at and proclaimed that his method of fighting was superior to what I train in, you can bet that he'd be expected to put up or shut up. Otherwise, it's just all BS.

But I did email Joe. ;)

Lee Goldberg said...

I am running between meetings today, so forgive me if I don't get around to replying to these great, and thought-provoking, comments until tonight.

But here are a few quick responses.

Jack wrote: During the era of what I call "Post-Modern Pulp" in the 60's through the 80's, Writers like Don Pendleton, Jerry Ahern, Joseph Rosenberger, and many other ghost writers cranked out an endless stream of short novels, the "Serial Aggressors" like Pendleton's Executioner, or Rosenberger's Death Merchant. Rosenberger himself wrote over 70 Death Merchant novels across the span of two decades. Pendleton's Executioners (he wrote the original 38; there are now close to 300 titles, I believe) sold over 20 million copies.

I wrote a series like that for Pinnacle and I believe the Kindle is the perfect vehicle to resurrect that genre. In fact, I'm doing it. That's one of the projects I was alluding to at the end of my post.

The series is called THE DEAD MAN and the first book or two will be out by this Spring. William Rabkin and I are writing the first couple now, and others are being done by well-known writers ...and a few who aren't yet but soon will be.

Lee


Keep your eyes open for THE DEAD MAN,

Joe Konrath said...

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Add some sex scenes so they're erotica, not MG?

:)

Okay, seriously, I'm clueless about YA and MG fiction on Kindle. It doesn't seem to be a big market at the moment. That doesn't mean it won't become a big market, but I'd guess that kids would read on their smart phones rather than a dedicated ereader like Kindle.

But if your question is keep sitting on them or epublish, I say epublish. Even if MG doesn't sell well right now, you'll be in a perfect position when it starts to sell.

Lee Goldberg said...

Gniz wrote: But beta readers, critique groups, and an author willing to put in the work can possibly bridge the gap. Especially when you consider the gap might not be as large as everyone's making it out to be.
Not if the writer is inexperienced and unskilled...and so are the other members of his critique group. You've certainly heard the cliche "the blind leading the blind" before. Well, it often applies here.

I would counsel aspiring writers to take extension courses from university writing programs and hone their work there. The writers teaching at UCLA, UC Irvine, etc are often highly experienced and highly skilled.

As for editors at NY publishing companies... just because an editor is young, that doesn't mean he doesn't know what he is doing. I have had great editors who were in their early 20s and lousy ones who were in their fifties.

I have been very lucky. Most of my editors have been smart, creative, and talented...and I'm a better writer as a result.

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe wrote: What I hope to do is franchise. Write a series or character, then have other writers do subsequent novels, giving me a percentage. Been thinking about this for a long time. I wouldn't mind being the James Patterson of the ebook world.
Me, too. We should talk :-)

Lee

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

Hey Jon, you said "if someone came into the martial arts dojo I study at...you can bet that he'd be expected to put up or shut up." I studied brazilian jiujitu for a time so I am right with you.

And for the record, Joe HAS done just that--he's put it on the line. In post after post he's broken down the math between traditional publishing with advances and their royalty structures vs e-publishing.

He's created a list of authors selling over a thousand ebooks a month--authors without previous print publishing in their background.

He's had the guest posts so you can hear the message from other authors, including ones who don't wholly agree with Joe on who should and should not take this track.

So what more do you want? I find that people want more answers sometimes than they are really entitled to get. Collect the data yourself, get more info, go on kindle boards. Joe can't spoon feed you everything.

In martial arts terms, this means it's time for you to get on the mat and spar with anyone and everyone you can, train with other academies, watch youtube videos, and basically educate yourself.

Lee Goldberg said...

J Viser wrote: Based the experiences of numerous first-time novelists, including me, agents just aren't interested in taking a risk on an unknown quanitity without a platform. Some agents go so far as to say if you haven't already been published traditionally or don't have a "platform" they can leverage, don't bother submitting a query.

That may just be a nice way of saying "I don't want to represent you because I don't like your book." The fact is, unknown writers with no platform are picked by agents all the time and new books by first-timers are released by major publishers almost every month.

Is it easy to find an agent? No. Is it easy to get published? No.

The Kindle is not a short cut to success nor, I believe, is it a classroom or critique group in which to develop your writing skills. Too many people think that it is, which is why there is so much unreadable swill on Amazon and Smashwords now.

All that said, the state of the ebook world and the larger publishing world are in an enormous state of flux, as my blog post certainly demonstrates. It's too early for anyone to say, especially me, what the best way is to launch your writing career is going to be in the new publishing world. (It's even less sure where agents will fit into that new world).

I have no doubt that some, if not all, of my advice and beliefs about the business today may be wrong and out-dated tomorrow. Remember, I've been at this a long time..I've been a published author since I was 18 years old.

But a person who doesn't change his mind in the face of changing circumstances is a fool.

Lee

Anonymous said...

Joe, another great post. I agree with the MG and YA. My novel did well during Xmas on Kindle and I hope it does even better because the MG/YA is difficult with the ereader.

Also, Joe, you mentioned the Patterson thing, any chance Phineas Trout gets his own novel as the main character?

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
SEcrets of the Magical Medallions

Joe Konrath said...

The Kindle is not a short cut to success nor, I believe, is it a classroom or critique group in which to develop your writing skills.

I mostly agree, but I think you should paraphrase this with "for many writers."

A lot of bad newbie writers will always be bad. They just don't have what it takes.

But some have talent and dedication and just need to learn some stuff. For those writers, those with open minds who are seeking knowledge, the Kindle can be as good of a teacher as a crit group.

If the student is ready, the teach appears. That teacher could be the peers at Kindelboards.com, Amazon reviewers, or even this blog. I've lost count of the number of emails I've gotten thanking me for this blog, coming from writers who are doing well on Kindle.

Will everyone do well? No.

But everyone can maximize their chance to do well. And I believe good writers who stick with this long enough will eventually find an audience.

Joe Konrath said...

any chance Phineas Trout gets his own novel as the main character?

My very first novel had Phin as the main character. I just reread it. It mostly sucks, but there are a few decent parts. Some day I'll probably rewrite it.

Lee Goldberg said...

Scott Nicholson wrote: Full evolution from "full of BS" to "I'll never self-pub" to "Well, only established authors like ME should self-pub, and then only with limited backlist" to "Hmm, it's starting to sound better, but only for people like me, the rest of you people aren't writers."

I stand behind everything I said about the pitfalls of self-publishing before the summer of 2009. Because I was absolutely right (and so was Joe when he was offering the same warnings). In 2008, it was a financially costly and stupid mistake to self-publish in the POD/ebook world.

The introduction of the Kindle, and Amazon opening up their sales platform to authors, changed everything. The same factors aren't in play now that were in play then. You couldn't publish for free and make $6000-a-month back then. Now you can. Times change and you have to change with them.

Lee

Jon VanZile said...

Joe,

That's pretty much the same conclusion I came to.

Except writing the sex scenes was just icky ... these are kids, after all.

Terrance Foxxe said...

I read the post, but not the comments. Not yet. Why? I've been blogging about quality within content for months, taking what I've learned in reaching for a contract for the last twenty years, yes twenty years, discovering a new way to think. Thinking that fits self-publishing today. I also tried to get a little talk going on marketing. I'm either full of it or not, but I know I'm also right. Quality in content can be learned, and marketing is our wall. One wall we should all work together to destroy. Look, I did my own cover, and she looks sweet. I like her. I did all the formatting, and my sample looks good for the computer, and I'll hope it looks good for the Kindle. I don't have a Kindle. I can't afford one. I worked hard to be a fast-paced professional read, doing everything myself. I worked damn hard to develope my own editing skills. I need to market A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, and do so now. I'll have to get a pay-as-you-go credit card to start posting to the Kindle boards. I saved all the comments from the last post here, and will take the advice found. But, I also want see us wash over this Earth, a wave of great writers, reaching readers. Most folks have no clue what to do on marketing, because those of us with no platforms to stand on are treated differently. More of my novels, with my own covers, my own formatting, will see the light of day, after I edit them to perfection, hoping for perfection. I'm doing what I can for my readers, because readers are everything to me. I still write what I want to read as a reader, but keep my readers in mind.

If you look at the sales figures for Kindles sold, IPads sold, and other e-readers, we're still at the scratch-n-sniff stage. We should all work together, but sadly don't.

Lee Goldberg said...

Bryon wrote: There's also the issue of other media. I may be making false assumptions, but I suspect one of the reasons Lee still writes the Monk books is because they provide him exposure and name recognition in the film and television industry where he still works.
Actually, they bring me no recognition at all in the TV biz which, despite my work in publishing, is still how I make most of my living.

My MONK books are hugely successful. There are a million copies in print now in hardcover in paperback of my 11 titles. I write two a year in hardcover and ebook editions, which are followed by paperback reprints, and foreign editions all over the world.

Yes, I could probably earn more writing books for the Kindle instead. But I enjoy writing the MONKs, and they bring new readers to my work, many of whom may not have made the jump yet to ebooks (and those who have may finish a MONK ebook and look up my other work).

For now, anyway, I believe MONK books keep me alive in print publishing (which is still a BIG business), ebooks (all my Monks are on the Kindle), and in bookstores (of which there are still thousands), introduces me to scores of new readers worldwide, and advertises the Lee Goldberg brand (whatever that may be and if I may be so bold as to assume i have one).

I am a writer... I write self-published ebooks, I write books for publishers, I write for television episodes and I write movies. I'm not sure I need or should put all of my eggs in the Kindle basket.

That said, Joe and my wife are strongly urging me not to sign a new MONK contract when my current one expires.

Lee

Joe Konrath said...

Except writing the sex scenes was just icky ... these are kids, after all.

If you make them adults with learning disabilities and childlike traits, then you can put in the sex.

(I don't believe in hell, but if it exists, I bet my comment just got me reserved seating)

STH said...

Joe and Lee said...

"Lee also said: (readers) are going to quickly discover that most self-published stuff is awful and, as a result, will be far less likely to take chances on writers they have never heard of… even at 99 cents.

Again, I disagree. I give readers more credit than that. This isn't a once-bitten/twice shy scenario. Every reader has read bad books, but it hasn't soured them on reading.

With Amazon reviews, star ratings, and preview features, bad books aren't going to sell well. The Readers (aka vetters, aka gatekeepers) will warn others against trash, and reward good books with lots of ratings and increased sales."

Gotta go with Joe here. We hear so many numbers in the news that are in the billions and trillions, sometimes I think we lose sight of how many people "millions" of e-readers sold represents. There is a vast, vast ocean of readers out there.

And good work will find an audience, bad work will not.

Also, in regards to readers being wary of self-published stuff - I think this is an important point mentioned from time to time here, but one that writers still seem to forget just because we're so into the world of writing. But people who know the difference between "Random House" and "I Just Made This Up House" are rare. And outside of a very few authors with enormous cultural touchstone books, most readers don't even remember the author's name.

"oh you gotta read this book with the awesome thing in it!"

"Great! Who wrote it?"

"Oh... I can't remember. I'll email it to you when I get home."

Write well. Publish with the eye of an artist and the concerns an entrepreneur. Tell stories that people will get excited about.

There is no time and no point in worrying about what other people are doing or how many are clogging up the works.

It's an ocean not a swimming pool.

Lee Goldberg said...

Again, I disagree. I give readers more credit than that. This isn't a once-bitten/twice shy scenario. Every reader has read bad books, but it hasn't soured them on reading.

It's having a big impact. Take, for instance, this blog post from Jen's Book Thoughts in response to news about the launch of Top Suspense:

The next item is a site called Top Suspense Group. I just learned about this group of nine established authors who are making it easier to find quality e-books on the web. While at first that may not seem like a big thing, wait until you pay for your first unedited book. I own an e-reader, but I'm very apprehensive about buying e-books for it. Not because I don't like to read on it, but I feel like if I take a risk and it turns out to be a dud, then I really have nothing to show for it. I can't sell the book or give it away or use it to prop up my wobbly table. But if it's an author I already know or books that have already proven themselves in print, I'm taking less of a risk. And while I won't have a book to sell or giveaway or prop up my table, I won't feel as though I've wasted my time and I'll have the experience of enjoying the read. I guess that's why I think this group is a great idea.

http://jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/01/stuff-to-check-out.html

Watcher said...

gniz: regarding the idea of the ebook "bubble" compared with the tech bubble in the 90's:
Let's remember what happened when the tech bubble burst.
-Internet traffic didn't go down
-Intelligent business models did not go away. Amazon is still here, and much more profitable than they were in 2000.

What happened is we washed the stupid cash out of the system. Because there was so MUCH stupid cash in the system, this had wide-ranging reverbrations.
So I don't think people like Joe will be impacted by a bursting of an ebook bubble.
What MIGHT happen is we see such a flood of trash novels that it becomes more and more difficult for a good author who's just starting out to get noticed in the crowd. It will still probably be easier than getting a traditional agent and publisher to notice you, but I think the people who make a reputation now will have an advantage that people 5-10 years from now may not enjoy.

Joe Konrath said...

Not because I don't like to read on it, but I feel like if I take a risk and it turns out to be a dud, then I really have nothing to show for it.

I've been on the fence about ebook buys before. I simply download the free preview.

Katie Klein said...

"I'm clueless about YA and MG fiction on Kindle. It doesn't seem to be a big market at the moment. That doesn't mean it won't become a big market . . ."

I can't speak for the MG market, but the YA market (overall) has exploded in the last few years thanks to the Mom-crossover appeal of a certain Edward Cullen.

I think most of us publishing YA on Kindle are hoping to reach the "older" YA audience, which is growing stronger.

A.P. Fuchs said...

In 2008, it was a financially costly and stupid mistake to self-publish in the POD/ebook world.

I have to disagree, Lee. I've been self-publishing and touting it as the future of publishing for seven years.

I was once duped by a subsidy press and it cost me a couple grand. Since then, I haven't spent near that self-publishing. (Not that going with a subsidy house is self-publishing, but I was scammed into thinking it was.)

Depending on what you do, a couple hundred bucks (or much, much less) is all it takes. I sell 20 print books direct to customer and I make my money back.

Every other sale avenue is gravy afterward.

Barbra Annino said...

Joe said: "Agents are still needed. Mine sells my subsidiary rights, and is doing a great job with that."

I've read loads of accounts latelywhere authors have done this themselves. Foreign, film, audio. I'm just wondering why you think agents are still needed.

Barbra Annino
www.barbraannino.com

Jon VanZile said...

Katie,

Yeah, that's what I've read too. Adults are increasingly crossing over to read YA titles, especially anything with good-looking vampires or even werewolves. So the YA e-book market is primarily targeting adult female readers.

As an MG writer, I wish they'd do a little more crossing over into my territory, but I get why they wouldn't. Who wants to be 13 again?

Anyway, I do agree with Joe: when that age group starts reading on devices, it'll probably be phones or tablets, not dedicated e-readers like a Kindle. I'm guessing we're still a ways out from that.

STH said...

Layton Green said...

"...finally decided to Epublish about a month ago. I've sold almost a thousand copies, actually gained readers and fans (which still blows my mind), and am eternally grateful I took the plunge."

Whoa! This came early and I'm still working my way through all the comments but, I no has asked yet and I need to hear more about this.

You put ONE book (meaning your first and only, right?) up on Kindle about a month ago and sold almost 1,000 copies? Am I mistaken or is that unheard of?

I'm not doubting you, I'm just amazed. Can you tell us a little more about this. For instance, what one or two big things did you did to get results like that so fast?

Or maybe I'm just not understanding. You said you "gained readers." The rest of the post sounds like you have an agent but no established track record. Is that wrong?

Thanks, Steve

Jack Badelaire said...

Lee wrote: "I wrote a series like that for Pinnacle and I believe the Kindle is the perfect vehicle to resurrect that genre. In fact, I'm doing it. That's one of the projects I was alluding to at the end of my post.

The series is called THE DEAD MAN and the first book or two will be out by this Spring. William Rabkin and I are writing the first couple now, and others are being done by well-known writers ...and a few who aren't yet but soon will be.
"

Awesome! By the way, care to share what series you worked on back in the day? I wonder if it's on my shelf right now.

Merril said, "It's interesting to look at some of the series that are available in print from publishers like Penguin. To name a few:
Jake Logan - Slocum - 382 books in the series
Tabor Evans - Longarm - 385 books
J.R. Roberts - The Gunsmith - 348 books
Jon Sharpe - Trailsman - 353
"

Yup, the "Men's Adventure" genre (what I call post-modern pulp) was amazing for the quantity and popularity of what was put out in those days. Some of it might have been low-brow, certainly; but it definitely had a strong market, and authors made a respectable living, even with the ghost-written titles.

Gold Eagle Books' Able Team's 'Dick Stivers' was a pen name for the series, and Phoenix Force had one as well. The Mack Bolan titles simply had no author name after Pendleton left, but the books were written by a whole host of authors over the years. All respectable work, in my opinion.

wannabuy said...

@Watcher:"What MIGHT happen is we see such a flood of trash novels that it becomes more and more difficult for a good author who's just starting out to get noticed in the crowd. "

This is where the 'brand' pays off. It will be tought to stand out for *any* author who doesn't have a platform/brand. As a reader, most authors are unknowns to me. So I can see why Lee wishes to maintain the 'Monk' brand.

Cream will rise to the top. I read ~ 10 books a month. 35,000+ new books are added to Kindle every month! So the flood is already here. Finding good books is not a challenge. I add two new authors a month (mostly Indie/Small pub) to my reading list.

I bet we have a new author who starts in 2011 to 2013 with sales that blows Amanda Hocking out of the water. Nothing against Amanda.. but there is another 'unknown unknown' waiting out there.

Unpublished authors should just publish. The 1950's analogy is correct. Unpublish crap, Review, edit, etc. But if you do not get out there, you'll never know.

@Jon F. Mertz,
Have you pulled up your books on a Kindle and looked at your covers (e.g., use the 'about this book' feature on a K2/K3)? IMHO I think you are throwing away sales right there.

Neil

Mike Dennis said...

"Tsunami of Swill". I positively love it. Does that roll off the tongue or what! Sounds like a title for something, I just don't know what.

Edward G. Talbot said...

Gotta agree with Joe and others that accidentally getting a bad book shouldn't be (and isn't I don't think) a deterrent to most readers. Because they can preview for free.

I have about fifty previews sitting in my kindle right now (maybe even for authors commenting on this very thread :). Over the next "x" months I'll get to them all, and some of them I won't like enough to download, but many of them will. The free preview that can be saved to read later is the ultimate in no-risk impulse buying.

On that note, one key thing is whatever you don't load up your ebook with anything other than content at the beginning. A couple blurbs, a copyright page, TOC (maybe) and then into the content. I have failed to buy more than one book I previewed because I only got to read 500 words of actual story after all that front matter crap. Could have been great books - and if I had known the author I might have bought them anyway - but there are too many other books out there for me to buy those given the lack of real preview.

Selena Kitt said...

Another reader complained that I published in courier. I republished with a proportional font. Fixed.

Good. I hate courier on my Kindle. HATE it. Authors, please, please, please don't publish in courier. :)

You know, it wasn't impossible to break into the ebook market back in 2008. I did it. I just found a workaround. I published on Mobipocket to get on Amazon before DTP was around. Then B&N bought Fictionwise and I got on B&N before PubIt came along.

A word on front-end material - I totally agree. If you want to put in info about your new book or other stuff, put it in the BACK end of the book please. I want a good solid sample when I sample, thank you very much.

Hey, btw, if Joe says, "email me" - dude, just email him! :P

Derek J. Canyon said...

I’m a previously unpublished author and since last October I have uploaded 3 books (anthology, novel, and how-to non-fiction). I have no backlist, no agent, no publisher. I just have stories in my head.

My royalties were $16.45 in October, $39.88 in November, $192.25 in December, and $151.33 so far this month. Total=$399.91.

I’m slowing working my way up, but I obviously haven’t broken into the mid-leagues yet.

However, after just 3.5 months of publishing, I believe that I’ll make close to an extra $7,000 in 2012. That’s a huge win for me!

In March of 2012, after 18 months of epubbing, I plan to have 6 books available. Even if my sales flatten out, that’s going to be at least $640/month, assuming I can get 80 of each of 4 novels sold a month (which is what my novel did in December).

I don’t know about you, but the thought of earning even a few thousand extra dollars a year for writing what I love to write is sweet, sweet frosting.

And, if I can do that as a newbie author in a less-popular genre (science fiction), imagine what you can do with mystery, thriller, paranormal, or romance?
Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance
Format Your eBook for Kindle
Blog: Adventures in ePublishing

Terrance Foxxe said...

I'd like the world to be fair, but sometimes it seems as if I'm back in high school. That was thirty plus years ago, and I ain't going back.

TopSuspense, as I read into the concept, is just another door slammed into my face. Sorry, Lee. My cover isn't the best, but it isn't bad, either. Has a 70s feel to it. The art also relates directly to the story. Daz 3D works for some, but even with the extras, it doesn't work for me. My next cover is a teddy bear in a straightjacket. It relates to the book, but can't be found elsewhere. I can't afford jack or shit, and shit left town. I'm all I got.

Think back to all them bad covers in the 60s, 70s, and beyond. What mattered to the readers were the words inside. I'll admit some readers will not like my story, but they can't fault me on my writing skills. All writers, like Joe said, will not be liked by all readers. We each have our personal tastes.

I'm most of the Indie Author world, too broke to do as you suggest, but just skilled enough to make things work. I'm doing what I can with what little I got. But, I'm an outsider in this high school I see forming, even right now. I'm the kid who has to wear the same shirt every single day because I don't have another shirt.

I want to work together to promote us all! All of us who care to write skill and imagination.

At the beginning of my blog I spewed all the hate I had for the monolithic publishing system, what I see happening to small publishers, self-publishing platforms that steal to survive, and more. The blog evolved to freely giving real knowledge about how anyone can take themselves up a notch, becoming the best writers they could be. Alone, if they have to. Words that work, IMHO.

I'll lower my price for the next book. See what happens. But, if all I'm being judged on is my covers, simply because I have no other choice, than it's a shallow world I live in.

wannabuy said...

@Derek:"And, if I can do that as a newbie author in a less-popular genre (science fiction), imagine what you can do with mystery, thriller, paranormal, or romance?"

Derek, it will be authors such as yourself who help revitalize Sci-fi. When is your next novel coming out?

Neil

Derek J. Canyon said...

wannabuy, thanks!

My next novel will be a YA action/adventure with SF and fantasy elements. (No vampires or werewolves, sorry.) It'll be out in a couple months.

I'll hopefully finish the sequel to Dead Dwarves Don't Dance by the fall.

bowerbird said...

lee said:
> I make more in one month
> from Kindle sales than I did
> during the two years that the
> book was in print in hardcover.

i think that sums it all up nicely.

-bowerbird

Derek J. Canyon said...

wannabuy, I almost forgot. A dozen other authors and I are collaborating on a SF and Fantasy anthology. 12+ stories by different SF and fantasy newbie, self-pubbed authors. It'll be a real good sampler for anyone interested in new SF/F authors.

Joe Konrath said...

I've read loads of accounts lately where authors have done this themselves.

I don't have a list of 100 foreign publishers, nor the time and inclination to vet the contracts. Every dime I make from those sales is a dime I couldn't have made without my agent.

Alex Greenwood said...

Great post. After two years of trying to sign with a decent agent, I gave Smashwords a try. Never looked back. I may not be making huge money, but I'm writing and people are reading.

bowerbird said...

jon f. merz said:
> that's not exactly
> putting your money
> where your mouth is

you have it all mixed up.

konrath puts his mouth
where his money is, and
that's why writers are so
appreciative of his blog.

who else was willing to
say "there's gold here",
and invite _competition?_

***

jon f. merz said:
> I'm more than willing
> to jump into self-publishing
> with both feet, but only when
> I see some real measurable
> and sustainable results.

we don't have any of that here...

so you will need to go away now.

good thing the traditional guys
are still willing to work with you.

because we sure ain't willing to.

you don't deserve the information
you've been given, and you then
presume to demand "measurable
and sustainable results"? mosca!

come back in about 10 years, ok?

by then we'll have proof for you.
so you'll "jump in with both feet".

if we need you sooner, we'll call.

don't call us, we'll call you.

thanks. that is all. good day.

-bowerbird

Lee Goldberg said...

Barbara wrote: I've read loads of accounts latelywhere authors have done this themselves. Foreign, film, audio. I'm just wondering why you think agents are still needed.

Because they are smarter about this stuff that you are. I have no doubt my agents get more for me than I would on my own...and protect me from contractual clauses that will come back to bite me in the ass. They are much more savvy about the tricks hidden in contracts than I am...and, perhaps more importantly, they can be tough, aggressive negotiators for me so I can be Mr. Nice and don't have to damage the relationships with the people I work with.

I can't tell you how many of my friends have been screwed because they tried to save a few bucks by negotiating their deals themselves. They have all come to regret it.

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Goldberg said...

Jack wrote: Awesome! By the way, care to share what series you worked on back in the day? I wonder if it's on my shelf right now.

It was the .357 VIGILANTE series by "Ian Ludlow" (so I would be on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum).

I have reissued the books on the Kindle under my own name...by they are now known as, thanks to Joe, THE JURY SERIES.

Lee

Jack Badelaire said...

Lee,

Thanks very much for letting me know. I've got a newly installed Kindle app on my iPad; your works might just be my first eBook purchases...

Tina Folsom said...

"The "free sample" feature that a lot of the sites are offering also really helps readers tell if the writing is junk or not. I've opened up a lot of good-looking ebooks, read the first two pages, and walked away. Anybody can do that."

Great point, Kathleen. What I wish Amazon and B&N would do is release data to the self-published author on how many samples were downloaded in a period so we could compare them to our sales. I think that would quickly tell whether the issue of not selling is because of the writing, or whether nobody's downloading the sample because the cover or blurb sucks.

Tina Folsom
http://www.tinawritesromance.com

bowerbird said...

bryon quertermous said:
> authors have been trained
> to look for benefits other than
> money to keep them going.
> Benefits like awards,
> peer recognition,
> book shelf space, and so on.
> Granted, all of these benefits
> are disappearing quickly, but
> right now, while they're
> out there, I still want them.
> Even more than money.
> And to get those benefits
> I need to start with
> a traditional deal.

sounds like you know
what you want. so go! :+)

you can come back in 5 years. ;+)

***

barbra said:
> I'm just wondering
> why you think
> agents are still needed.

without one, you'll get fleeced,
since you don't know which parts
of that "standard contract" are
paragraphs that are _routinely_
crossed out by the good agents.

(those cross-outs are "standard"
too, but they don't tell you that.)

so that's why... because you are
dealing with corporate crooks...

it's their _job_ to rip you off, and
if you make it _easy_ for them to
do that, they'll just laugh at you,
for being such a fool.

***

joe said:
> I've been on the fence
> about ebook buys before.
> I simply download
> the free preview.

it's really funny how one person
sees an insurmountable problem,
and the next person just solves it
without giving a second thought.

i won't buy _any_ book without
having read the preview first...
but maybe that's just me... :+)

***

lee said:
> It's too early for anyone
> to say, especially me,
> what the best way is
> to launch your writing career
> is going to be
> in the new publishing world.

you've got an extra "is" in there...

maybe lee is reticent, but
i charted the course of this
revolution a long time ago,
so _i'll_ tell you the best way
to launch your writing career.

write, and write, and write,
and then write some more...

read, and read, and read,
and then read some more...

join some writer groups where
there is a sincere desire to
help each other _improve_,
even at the expense of "feelings".

(run fast, in the other direction,
if a group wants its members
to be "supportive", as that is
a sign that people only want to
have their ass kissed, which is
the kiss of death for honesty,
and honesty is a vital necessity.
"supportive" is the flag word;
if/when you hear that, run!)

and last, but not least, put up
your work for sale on the kindle.
and the other e-bookstores too.
do that as soon as you've written
anything you think is worthwhile.

price it low, to garner attention,
and then _forget_all_about_it_.
don't obsess, or do "marketing".
get your ass back to the desk and
write write write write write...

if/when fans start to show up,
create and nurture a relationship
with 'em. they're your paycheck,
and don't you ever forget that...

when the other paychecks come,
big ones from the e-bookstores,
buy yourself some champagne
and have yourself a celebration.

live a vibrant life, so you'll have
interesting things to write about.

-bowerbird

Chryse said...

If you’ve never been in print before, I believe you’d be a fool not to take a mid-list paperback or a hardcover deal…even a terrible one…over self-publishing on the Kindle. Financially, you might make less (either in failure or modest success)...but the difference will be more than made up for in editing, marketing, wider readership, wider name recognition, and professional prestige (and that prestige does mean something, whether you want to admit it or not).

You can always go back to self-publishing...


This series of statements confuses me, Lee. I know authors who have had publishing deals and were published with *no editing* so I disagree with the editing argument. From what I've seen and understood, very little (if any) marketing is given to new authors so I don't see the pluses there. And if people don't know your book exists, then how the heck are you going to have wider readership? Then, of course, how can you go back to self-publishing if you've sold your rights? *scratching my head*. And why is there no prestige to an author in having written something that people like and want to read? To me, there certainly is.

Congratulations on all your success!

Chryse Wymer
http://www.thisdarkmagic.weebly.com
http://www.chrysewymer.com

Burl Barer said...

Lee's fan base is in mystery fiction, while the bulk of mine is in True Crime. My paperback publisher is now making my true crime books available for Kindle and Nook, and I've put "Capture the Saint" (a fiction Simon Templar adventure) and a few other items up on the Kindle. Yes, sales are increasing rapidly, but not yet to the level of Lee's income. Sad to admit, I don't own a Kindle, except "Kindle for PC." However, I think my Kindle sales will finance the purchase of a Kindle!

wannabuy said...

@Derek:"I'll hopefully finish the sequel to Dead Dwarves Don't Dance by the fall."

You have a waiting customer.

Please let me know when the 'sci-fi sampler' is out.

Authors: If you are not looking at how your books look as a reader browses from a Kindle... You might be missing an 'obvious mistake.'

Tina,
I agree that the stats on sampels should be available to authors. It would give a hint on cover/blurb versus opening chapter attractiveness.

Neil

WDGagliani said...

Burl,

Thanks for posting! I just bought your Saint novel... I love The Saint! Grew up on the TV show, then the books, and recently bought the DVDs. One of my minor influences, fwiw. Thank you for raising your hand, or I might never have found you and your officially sanctioned novel. Wow, are you planning more Saint stories? I am in fan-boy mode. Sorry. Really, thanks!

Bill

PS- I've always said this blog is great for learning stuff, and this is a sidelight: finding things to read I might not have heard of (I've bought at least one ebook by many of you, btw!)...

Allan R. Wallace said...

I've been thinking of using two characters from the cyberhug.me trilogy to do a pulp detective series.

I came across a great cheat sheet for writing pulp fiction from the thirties. For those of you thinking the same: this outline fits our needs quite well -- except length.

Lester Harry Dent wrote this, it's powerful. It's adventure. It's fun.

http://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html

Don said...

Just one data point on YA fiction and e-books. My 10 year old daughter is a voracious reader. We got her a Kindle for her birthday, and she's reading me out of house and home ! The only downside is that Amazon is convinced I'm a 10 year old girl in the 'recommended for you' links.

What I find REALLY exciting:

She is writing a 'book'. It's really more of a short story, but to tell you the truth, she has me hooked with the plot. We're helping her with some grammar errors, point of view shifts, etc., but how cool is it that a 10 year old wants to write a book ?

And she wants to publish it for Kindle. Now, I expect the audience will be me, and her grandparents, but still - the fact that there is even an outlet for that kind of creativity is extremely interesting. She can write something, and then see it for sale on Amazon, where all her favorite author's live. What a great motivational tool!

Keep up the great work Joe - thanks for helping me pass the endless flight delays and train commutes by scaring the crap out of me :)

Don from Chicago

Anonymous said...

"It isn't a zero sum game." I don't think you can repeat those words enough, J.

Just out of curiosity, do you have a FAQ entry on self-publishing? Or some kind of index? I'd really love to go back and read about your journey from the beginning.

Jude Hardin said...

Just wanted to say congrats to Joe, who has an essay in Oceanview's Thillers: 101 Must Reads (edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner), which I understand has been nominated for an Edgar.

Awesome, bro!

Ursula said...

Lee wrote: That said, Joe and my wife are strongly urging me not to sign a new MONK contract when my current one expires.

Both trad and indie have benefits and issues. I think they're right, but ask yourself these questions, to see which is best:

1) Do you want to write your next book(s) in someone else's fictional world, or your own?

2) Would that # of new readers follow into your fiction in your own world? Would those new readers along with what ever share of the revenue pie you get from the deal make it desireable enough (for what ever reason) to continue writing in that arena as compared to what writing in your own fictional world and releasing digitially on your own would bring to the table (tangible and intangible rewards)?

3) knowing the above answers, what does your gut say? Follow that. It's right more often than not, it just ends up saying spooky things.

Carson Wilder said...

we don't have any of that here...

so you will need to go away now.

good thing the traditional guys
are still willing to work with you.

because we sure ain't willing to.


Just wondering what it is with this we crap, and why anyone would want a character named Bowerbird to work with them in the first place.

Have you been appointed spokesperson for this blog? Do you carry some sort of clout that WE are unaware of?

I'm thinking not. Amazing Joe hasn't deleted you by now.

Rock on John F. Merz. Your opinion is as valid as any.

Robert W. Walker said...

This thing about the FREEDOM to win or lose, the freedom to make kindle books work for you or not, the freedom of making all the critical decisions is a huge huge reward in and of itself for an author like myself who has been tethered for a long, long time in a publisher's stable....munching on raw oats to survive out of a feed bag with the publisher's logo clearly stamped on the bag. Now I have my own damn bag.


Rob Walker
Titanic 2012 and Children of Salem

Carson Wilder said...

Now I have my own damn bag.

Congrats. Lee makes a good point, though, that it might behoove an author to go with a traditional publisher first. So I don't know...

If a new author bypasses the traditional submission process, how can he even know if his work is good enough to be published or not?

Erik Williams said...

Little late to the party on this one but want to first say what a great post, Lee. Also, great comments.

Haven't been able to read through all yet, but do want to jump in on one item Lee mentioned: the slushpile. I agree, self-publishing on Kindle and other devices has become a metaphorical slushpile. And just like in the slushpiles of old, some stuff rises to the top and some crap sinks mercifully to the bottom. Instead of some wanna-be-editor reading through slush, it's the consumer now. Instead of an acceptance, there are impressive sales. Instead of a form rejection, there are zero to no sales.

Yeah, publishing is changing, but somethings remain the same. To the writers out there who have poor sales, or sales they aren't satisfied with, I'd recommend approaching it the same way we approach form rejections. Why? Well, the form rejections tells a writer JACK SHIT about why his or her work got rejected. It's up to the writer to figure it out on there own. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with the product. More times than not, though, there is. Revise, change the cover, change the blurb, etc. If you've written for the small press, none of this is new.

Yeah, it's hit or miss with self-publishing. But isn't that the way it is with all writing? We keep writing, keep submitting (or publishing). At least on this battlefront, we have control. That's the new variable we're still getting used to.

Coolkayaker1 said...

I think Lee stated it well when he remarked that, if there is a novel (even written by Lee) that might be the next thriller blockbuster, he’d go with traditional publishing first. Even now. I agree. Who wouldn’t? I don’t care how many tens of thousands of dollars a month some midlist authors earn monthly on Amazon, the giants of literature still publish traditionally, and it’s the traditional novels that have the chance to become the next The Da Vinci Code, or the next movie, etc. Who would pass up a chance to maybe score a couple million dollar payday for a relatively small amount on e-books self-published? Nicholas Sparks sure didn’t. The list goes on and on.

So, as of Feb 2011, I am quite doubtful that an author who honestly felt they had a crack at being a giant author would self-pub their book over take a traditional contract. I think Lee has done a fabulous job of communicating a truly realistic assessment of the shifting sands of publishing, as it stands here and now, anyway. Thanks, Lee. The most realistic and honest guest post yet.

Lee Goldberg said...

Chryse wrote: This series of statements confuses me, Lee. I know authors who have had publishing deals and were published with *no editing* so I disagree with the editing argument.

this is a constant, fictional refrain among self-published authors. Who were those authors you know published by? Were they major, reputable publishing houses? Or were they one of the many tiny, fly-by-night POD and "micro" presses out there? My guess is we aren't talking about Harper Collins or Penguin/Putnam here.

I have been in the publishing business for 30 years (OH MY GOD, am I that old?) and I know hundreds of published authors. The vast majority of them would tell you that they were edited...not just by their editor, but also by an in-house copy-editor.

I don't always agree with, or accept, the editing that's done to my books, but at least I know several qualified professionals will go through my work. Today, in fact, I received the copy-edited manuscript for my next MONK book to go over...this is the second round, following my editor's pass a few weeks ago. It's amazing how much the copy-editor catches that me and my editor missed... echoing, inconsistencies, typos, grammatical mistakes, etc.

From what I've seen and understood, very little (if any) marketing is given to new authors so I don't see the pluses there.

Not everyone gets a Grisham-sized push, but every book gets some marketing. (Did you see the marketing that got behind, say, Andrew Davidson's THE GARGOYLE or Boyd Morrisons THE ARK, for instance? Both first-timers). But not all marketing is visible to readers...a lot of it goes on behind-the-scenes, like sales reps talking up your books to booksellers, sub-rights agents talking up the book at international book fairs (Frankfurt, etc), publishers buying prime display space for your title, publicists sending out galleys to key reviewers, publishers promoting the book to their mailing lists and featuring it on their websites, etc.

It's true, the marketing budgets are shrinking...but don't discount the promotional might that a publisher brings to the table, even when they are doing the bare minimum.

And if people don't know your book exists, then how the heck are you going to have wider readership?

Do you think that's going to be any easier as a self-published author? How many hundreds of thousands of ebooks are already on the Kindle? How many more ebooks are coming? How are you going to stand out on your own?

It's a lot harder than you think.

Then, of course, how can you go back to self-publishing if you've sold your rights? *scratching my head*.

Because you can always write a new book for the Kindle...even while you are being published by a NY press. I am writing MONK books for Penguin/Putnam...but I also writing books for the Kindle.

And by the way, all the money I am earning now from the Kindle is from previously published books of mine that went out of print...the rights were returned to me.

You can ALWAYS self-published. You can't always get a book deal. Especially now.

And why is there no prestige to an author in having written something that people like and want to read? To me, there certainly is.

Because everybody knows, even readers, that it isn't easy to get Simon & Schuster to publish your book...and if you manage that, it's damn impressive accomplishment. Getting your book published because you clicked a mouse isn't going to wow anybody...or mean anything. Unless, of course, you are one of the few who are hugely successful at it.

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

Sorry for all the typos and missing words in my comments. I am doing this on my iphone with my hot, fat fingers.

Lee

Anonymous said...

Don it is awesome your daughter is reading so much and writing. I wrote an article about having Kindles in the Classroom and I think the day will come sooner rather than later. As a YA author I am looking forward to school visits via Skype.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Lee Goldberg said...

Don wrote: She can write something, and then see it for sale on Amazon, where all her favorite author's live. What a great motivational tool!

So true. I never thought of the aspirational aspects of self-publishing on Amazon. An amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

It reminds me of an experience I had with my daughter.

She was about eight years old and just beginning to realize that I worked for a living. But what did I do? So I explained it to her. I write stories...the books you read and the shows you watch on TV.

She stared at me. "You mean people pay you to pretend?"

"Yes," I said, "I guess they do."

She looked at me for a long moment and said "You have the best job in the world. And the easiest."

The next time I had a booksigning, she came with me and, much to my surprise, whipped out books that she wrote, illustrated, and published herself on her computer. She called the books "Adventures of Kitty Wonder: Lots of Killing" and "Adventures of Kitty Wonder: Robots Fighting."

She sold then for a dollar each. And, by my calculations, earned more that day than I did.

I blogged about it at the time and included a photo...

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2004/08/lots_of_killing.html

She was so inspired by that experience, that she wrote another book to coincide with my next round of booksignings. I blogged about that, too...

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2005/03/frankenstein_al.html

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

I don't know why the links got cut off. Let me try again..

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/
a_writers_life/2004/08/
lots_of_killing.html

and

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/
a_writers_life/2005/03/
frankenstein_al.html

Chryse said...

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Lee. It was honest confusion and not, I hope you know, someone who has completely decided one way or the other what to do when her novel is done. I put a novella up on Kindle because it wasn't going to publish anywhere else due to length, primarily, but I'm undecided with my novel. So I'm glad to see the other side of the debate.

this is a constant, fictional refrain among self-published authors. Who were those authors you know published by? Were they major, reputable publishing houses? Or were they one of the many tiny, fly-by-night POD and "micro" presses out there? My guess is we aren't talking about Harper Collins or Penguin/Putnam here.

Dorchester, if I'm remembering right, although I know two were friends of friends so I can't be totally sure. I guess part of my gripe with this, too, is that I see constant mistakes in mainstream published novels. So I guess I'm not seeing the same quality.

Not everyone gets a Grisham-sized push, but every book gets some marketing. (Did you see the marketing that got behind, say, Andrew Davidson's THE GARGOYLE or Boyd Morrisons THE ARK, for instance? Both first-timers). But not all marketing is visible to readers...a lot of it goes on behind-the-scenes, like sales reps talking up your books to booksellers, sub-rights agents talking up the book at international book fairs (Frankfurt, etc), publishers buying prime display space for your title, publicists sending out galleys to key reviewers, publishers promoting the book to their mailing lists and featuring it on their websites, etc.

Well, somewhat ironically for your example, I'm not familiar with either THE GARGOYLE or THE ARK. However, thank you for the information here because I wasn't aware of it and these are the things I want to know.

Do you think that's going to be any easier as a self-published author? How many hundreds of thousands of ebooks are already on the Kindle? How many more ebooks are coming? How are you going to stand out on your own?

It's a lot harder than you think.


Actually, I'm a realist. It's just as hard as I think. Like I said, I already have a novella on Kindle. Everyone I know has a self-published book out so I know exactly what you mean. I've sold seven books this month (my best month) without doing much advertising so I know how hard it is. And the folks I know well who are self-publishing aren't doing as well.

You can ALWAYS self-published. You can't always get a book deal. Especially now.

This is the refrain I hear all the time, but I have a problem: I know what kind of book I have. It's a possibly once-in-a-lifetime book so how in the world could you go back and do one book over again? I have other novels I'm researching and outlining in the meantime, but what do you do with a once-in-a-lifetime story? If one way is going to leave me richer than the other, well, that's the one I want, prestige be damned.

Again, thank you so much for all the information and am glad you have 30 years of knowledge to share with us somewhat-newbies. Good luck in the future :)

Chryse Wymer
http://www.thisdarkmagic.weebly.com

Rob Walker said...

By the way, I have had my books up for a year and a half, and am now averaging 2,000 a month whereas last I reported in, a couple months ago, I was at 1,000 a month is cash I would not otherwise have had. I have one title that has sold 1689 copies alone, another at 1202, and total sales since putting my backlist up and adding new Original to Kindle titles (5), I have earned 13,687 dollars in my pocket. More important, it is first time in a career of writing and publsihing for over thirty years that I have any sort of steady income from writing. Novelists don't get a steady paycheck; it is why I teach -- in order to support the writing. This Fall, I have earned more from Kindle than in teaching part time, teaching 4 classes.

While not hitting the numbers that Joe and Lee are hitting, I am a happy camper with expectations I never had before. Thanks for this goes entirely to listening to Joe and doing precisely what he said about pricing, cover art, descriptions, and marketing tips and using my imagination in doing my own PR.
And besides, where else can I publish an historical novel that HAD to run 150,000 words.
MY DECISION

Rob Walker
www.robertwalkerbooks.com

bowerbird said...

carson said:
> Just wondering what it is
> with this _we_ crap

that's _the_royal_we_, carson...
specifically, me and my monkey.


> and why anyone would
> want a character named
> Bowerbird to work with them
> in the first place.

not a realistic thing to wish for.
i don't even "work" for myself...
so i'm sure not gonna work for
anybody else, thank you much.
not even my monkey...


> Have you been appointed
> spokesperson for this blog?

i will not run if nominated.
i will not serve if elected...


> Do you carry some sort of
> clout that WE are unaware of?

not that i'm aware of...

i think it's perfectly clear
that i speak only for myself.

and for the children, of
course. and my monkey.

and the little furry animals
with no voice of their own.

other than that, just for me.


> I'm thinking not.

isn't it wonderful how
great minds think alike?


> Amazing Joe hasn't
> deleted you by now.

joe was probably _thinking_
what i said out loud, but he
was much too polite to say it.

joe's done enough marketing
that he knows when to zip up
his lip and smile politely and
say "let's discuss it privately".


> Rock on John F. Merz.

at least i spelled his name right.


> Rock on John F. Merz.
> Your opinion is as valid as any.

what kind of "opinion" is it
when someone says, "hey,
you do all the work for me,
and i'll take all the money."


> Your opinion is as valid as any.

except mine, you forgot to say.
my opinion should be attacked,
because who do i think i am,
anyway? who appointed me?

but hey, let's ask around, ok?

does anyone have any "real
measurable and sustainable
results" that will prove that
e-publishing works, to the
satisfaction of jon f. merz?,
to the degree that you will
do all his work and let him
have the money that rolls in?

anyone? anyone?

bueller?... bueller?... bueller?...

step right up, folks, because
jon f. merz is a very busy man.
he's got a traditionally-published
novel that just dropped, and is
busy promoting it, as we speak.

ok, we'll see if anyone responds,
carson, but i get the feeling that
nobody here really gives a crap
whether jon f. merz decides to
go into self-publishing or not...

-bowerbird

Carson Wilder said...

ok, we'll see if anyone responds,
carson, but i get the feeling that
nobody here really gives a crap
whether jon f. merz decides to
go into self-publishing or not...


It's a personal decision, of course, but Joe was gracious enough to invite the guy to email him.

Joe didn't tell Mr. Merz to take a hike, so what gives you the right to? ON JOE'S BLOG???

I think you need a reality check, because ABSOLUTELY nobody here gives a crap about your approval/disapproval.

Christopher Bunn said...

Great post.

As far as the huge, steaming pile of slush that is inundating the ebook world, that's just the free market in action, isn't it? Even if a ton of ungrammatical, dull garbage is getting published, that won't stop people from buying books and reading. People read because they love to read. Heck, I'll spend an hour in a library flipping through books, reading bits and pieces until I find the one book that really hooks me. I'm happy to do that, because I love to read. I think that love and need will keep people hunting through the waterfall of sludge. I'd bet good money that our new paradigm is gonna work just fine.

Joe Konrath said...

The vast majority of them would tell you that they were edited...not just by their editor, but also by an in-house copy-editor.

This brings up an interesting topic to debate.

The last four books I sold to publishers were Cherry Bomb, Afraid, Shaken, and Timecaster.

Each of them had copy edits for house style, and nothing else.

Meaning, they were good to go as-is, and I just needed to change where I put hyphens.

Now this can be intrepreted a few ways.

1. The books were good and didn't need deep edits.

2. The publishers didn't give a shit.

Based on the fanmails, reviews, and feedback I've gotten, I'm leaning toward the books being good. After writing two dozen novels, hopefully I know WTF I'm doing at this point, and editors need not apply.

Case and point: my publisher for Afraid wanted big changes for Trapped and Endurance. I refused, released them myself, and made more money (with great reviews) in six months on each than they'd offered as an advance.

So in the battle of Joe vs. Editors, gotta say that I'm winning.

Will all writers have this same experience? No. Editing is a valuable, essential component to releasing good fiction. But I'm lucky to have a peer group who vets me, and I don't feel unprivileged because I'm working outside of the Big 6. I'm pretty sure I can do fine with my resources.

Joe Konrath said...

I am doing this on my iphone with my hot, fat fingers.

And now I'm aroused.

Carson Wilder said...

After writing two dozen novels, hopefully I know WTF I'm doing at this point, and editors need not apply.

Wow. That is definitely a bold statement. I would be interested in hearing from other published authors as to whether editors are needed or not.

Lee Goldberg said...

Carson,

My experience is somewhat similar to Joe's.

I had heavier editing early in my career than I have now. An editor at St. Martin's had detailed notes on how I should rewrite BEYOND THE BEYOND and his suggestions were absolutely right...and I was thankful for them.

These days, most of the notes I get are minor...but very helpful.
I've been told many times by my editors at Penguin/Putnam that my novels are "very clean" and need very little editing (I would hope that after thirty published novels, that I would have learned some things along the way :-)

That said, I am very thankful for the suggestions I get from my editor and, for the most part, grateful for the fixes by the copyeditor (though there is one who goes semi-colon and comma crazy and I end up having to spend hours removing 99% of them).

I will definitely be hiring a copy editor to go through my original novels for the Kindle before they are published... and I am even toying with having one of my former editors at Penguin, now on her own, look at them, too.

But even before that, I will be showing the manuscripts to some of my professional author friends for their honest feedback. (Which I also do with my spec scripts... I show them to pro screenwriter buddies for their notes...and they can be BRUTAL).

Lee

Joe Konrath said...

I would be interested in hearing from other published authors as to whether editors are needed or not.

I trade manuscripts with eight other professional authors. When we get through with each other, there are NEVER major changes made by editors.

Now, I know I'm unique and very lucky. But your really have to be a total space case to write twenty books and not understand narrative structure. Maybe some writers need babysitting, but they could probably get that same input from peers.

Chryse said...

After writing two dozen novels, hopefully I know WTF I'm doing at this point, and editors need not apply.

This is not only a bold statement but also a highly inaccurate one. Of course you need editors. What else do you need all your best selling writing buddies to vet you for? And I have a suspicion you edit yourself, too. But I think you're referring to those who work as editors and only editors.

Case and point: my publisher for Afraid wanted big changes for Trapped and Endurance. I refused, released them myself, and made more money (with great reviews) in six months on each than they'd offered as an advance.


I think you're referring to content edits, Mr. K, so I'm not going to say anything about that, but I will say that I just sent a facebook message to a writer (who is out-selling you) who has several grammatical errors in her self-pubbed book. So I don't think sales equal quality, not completely. Thanks for this series of guest posts you're running here. Highly informative.

Chryse Wymer
http://www.thisdarkmagic.weebly.com

Christy Pinheiro said...

The slush pile has gone digital and has unleashed a tsunami of swill onto Amazon and Smashwords.

AuthorHouse has been "unleashing" swill on Amazon for a decade. The same thing happens to crappy POD books as crappy e-books. They get bad reviews and then they get ignored.

Does Lee use CreateSpace for his POD versions? Remember that you didn't believe me, Joe, when I said you would make thousands. I know it still doesn't hold a candle to your ebook sales, but still-- why turn away free money?

Carson Wilder said...

Thank you, Lee. It's good to know, even at your level of experience, that editing is a crucial part of the process.

I'm wondering: Can a critique group, or a set of published-author peers, or a work-for-hire freelancer, ever match the professionalism and dedication and enthusiasm of an in-house editor whose livelihood and reputation depends on producing a salable product?

I've read scores of traditionally-published novels; I've read scores of excerpts from independently-published novels.

The difference in editing is striking.

Carson Wilder said...

I trade manuscripts with eight other professional authors. When we get through with each other, there are NEVER major changes made by editors.

So you're saying that vetting by eight professional authors=vetting by one good editor?

;)

So...what would you suggest for most newbies, who don't have access to eight professional authors and who probably can't afford one good editor?

Lee Goldberg said...

Carson wrote: I'm wondering: Can a critique group, or a set of published-author peers, or a work-for-hire freelancer, ever match the professionalism and dedication and enthusiasm of an in-house editor whose livelihood and reputation depends on producing a salable product?

A qualified "Yes." The writers I go to for feedback are hugely successful novelists with years of professional experience...they know more about plot, and character, and style than most editors, at least that I have worked with. Now, copyediting, that is a different story :-)

For my scripts, I show my work to professional, produced screenwriters, most of whom are writer/producers who not only have tremendous experience but have spent years on series, crafting stories and rewriting other writers' scripts. They know better than any network or studio development exec how to analyze and critique a script.

Lee

Carson Wilder said...

Thanks again, Lee. I'm learning a lot from this post.

Lyn Worthen said...

Carson Wilder said:
"I'm wondering: Can a critique group, or a set of published-author peers, or a work-for-hire freelancer, ever match the professionalism and dedication and enthusiasm of an in-house whose livelihood and reputation depends on producing a salable product?"


Speaking very briefly on behalf of those of us who are "work-for-hire freelancers," I'm curious - does it not occur to you that our livelihoods and reputations also depend on our professionalism, dedication, and enthusiasm for the work that we do?

You don't have to be on a corporate payroll to be professional.

bowerbird said...

carson said:
> I think you need
> a reality check,

i think i have a very firm handle
on the "reality" happening here.
this is all comic relief, carson...
you can laugh _with_ it, or you
can have people laugh _at_ you.


> because ABSOLUTELY nobody
> here gives a crap about
> your approval/disapproval.

you seem to be a quick study.
you just showed up, as shown
by the fact that you're spouting
lines that have been discounted
over and over again in the past,
and yet you know what everyone
here thinks... very remarkable...


> because ABSOLUTELY nobody
> here gives a crap about
> your approval/disapproval.

you're sure making
a lot of loud noise
for someone who
doesn't give a crap.

all those other people who don't
give a crap whether jon f. merz
self-publishes or not? can you
hear them making _any_ noise?
no, because they're all so quiet.

-bowerbird

James Harden said...

Wow. What a great post. It's like taking an advanced university course in all things self publishing and having access to the best teachers.
Thanks again to Joe and to Lee for his guest post.
And thanks to bowerbird for being bowerbird. I love a hearty argument/debate/free exchange of ideas. ;)

Bella Andre said...

Lee,

Omg, I *love* your daughter's books! Thanks for the links to your blog. I guess I can admit now that this is pretty much my dream for my kids...

:) Bella

Joe Konrath said...

Content editing and copy editing (aka line editing) are two different things.

All work does need to be copy edited, to spot typos and errors and inconsistencies. It's damn near impossible for a writer to catch those on their own.

But, as I said, I have helpful fans who offer to proof read me.

Also, it's worth stating that the Big 6 release books with mistakes on a regular basis. I've had mistakes in my books that weren't there in the copy edit.

Things slip through. But that's no reason to self-publish.

Chryse said...

Things slip through. But that's no reason to self-publish.

Well, golly, that's worth quoting. Either it's a point about copy editing in a cheeky way or it's your evil twin coming through.

And yes, I do understand about content versus copy editing. I just wasn't totally sure which you were referring to so now I know :)

Selena Kitt said...

If a new author bypasses the traditional submission process, how can he even know if his work is good enough to be published or not?

A good writer knows they're good. A bad or mediocre writer will never know they're bad or mediocre. It's the bell curve. Most folks live their lives in the middle of the bell curve. Their standards are so low they don't expect more. Readers and writers alike. Our whole country is like that. We have an "American Dream" - we don't have an "American Purpose." This is the world we live in - where Snookie is fulfilling "The American Dream" and decides to write books - and we buy them.

That said, you can still write mediocre books and make quite a good living. Truly good books find a very limited audience. It's that bell curve again.

Douglas Dorow said...

Editors miss errors too. You need to do the best you can, get others to read it for you and pay somebody to line edit, if you can. And continue to take feedback and make the product better.

I recently read and reviewed Ryne Douglas Pearson's "Top Ten". It had been copy edited and released by a Big Six publisher. I found 30 errors that I recorded and sent to Ryne.

The great thing about it now being an ebook on Kindle, he can make the corrections and reupload it so it's correct for future readers. He was also able to include scenes that the publisher didn't want in the original paper version.

I read Lee's The Walk and found five errors for him that he could fix and upload if he chooses to.

We can all do the best we can and realize that whoever edits it doesn't guarantee that it won't contain some errors. Nobody finds errors like an invested reader :)

Doug
www.ThrillersRus.blogspot.com

Joe Konrath said...

Either it's a point about copy editing in a cheeky way or it's your evil twin coming through.

I was wondering when someone would spot that. ;)

Sibel Hodge said...

"Ability is of little account without opportunity." ~Napoleon

There are so many great authors with fantastic ability who previously had nowhere to go after being rejected by agents and publishers. Now they have the opportunity of self-pubbing, and the sky's the limit.

It's time for readers to decide what they want, and good luck to anyone who decides to self-publish. The time of opportunity has arrived. :-D

Carson Wilder said...

That said, you can still write mediocre books and make quite a good living. Truly good books find a very limited audience.

Selena, it sounds almost as though you're encouraging mediocrity. Statements like that give credence to the literary crowd's criticism of genre fiction. Wouldn't we rather aspire to write truly good books? There are plenty of excellent writers who are also NYT bestsellers, so I'm not buying your argument. At all.

Carson Wilder said...

you seem to be a quick study.

Not really. Some things are just painfully obvious.

Tim Frost said...

I wrote my first novel in 2003, sent it on the rounds and got over 30 rejections from agents, some of them very rude. I was so discouraged I wrote nothing more for five years.

My second novel went straight on to Kindle. I made my own cover. Financial investment zero. I've sold 2,000 copies so far this month and yes, the first novel is now on Kindle too, and also selling well.

Of course, I'm now at work on No 3 and my motivation has never been higher.

I would advise any new author to self-publish.

Anonymous said...

@ Carson:

"Truly good books" (whatever that is) aren't always the same as commercially successful books. I think Selena knows the difference.

She's simply stating a truth: Playing to the middle is the best way to make money. Politicians do it all the time to get elected.

Ursula said...

Carson wrote: I would be interested in hearing from other published authors as to whether editors are needed or not.

Here's an early career perspective: 4 completed novels. 1 my rite of passage (aka junk) never will see ligh of day (think I burned it). Next 2 published, digital small press (Samhain) with print too. Novel #4 - going indie. I work with a crit group with 2 multi published authors and 2 pre-published.

My editor for the 2 pubbed had a 3000 level eye view. The comments improved my writing a million percent. She showed me tricks of the trade, stuff I never would have picked up on my own, and some up the sleeve stuff it might have taken years to learn.

now, I look back on those books and I think - wow, did I write that drek?. Book 4, I finished a few months ago, is light years ahead of the other two. So when guys like Joe or Lee say - we've got a legion of books behind us - that level of experience is going to push you forward and it goes beyond an editor. The edits help but that's also the internal growth coming out of the core of the author.

Even tho book 4 is better, I think it will benefit from editing, because I feel I still have much to learn. And good as crit partners are, they miss things because they're almost in my head - they have insider knowledge a 'cold reader' like an editor won't have.

I decided to hire a free lance editor. I have royalites from my previous books and this is a $ for $ write off. I picked someone who had a ton of years and street cred behind them in the romance field, specifically suspense and paranormal sub-genre. I paid for line edits, and also told her make any suggestions, no matter how off the wall, to see what she'd say.

First, it was cool to have an editor work for me. Second, it was an investment in self development and product. Third, I have a thick skin and enough schmaltz to reject things that may be over the top or irrelevant (like change your pen name).

From the intial email and three lines of feedback on 3 elements, I was able to junk a bunch of meandering text, tighten the narrative, clear up confusion and get to my point in my opening paragraph. But again, I'm a beginner, I've made some decisions about what I think I need to grow, and was looking for what used to be considered a 'developmental editor', or one who works with newer authors to help them polish up to the next level. This won't be right for everyone.

I'm not 20 books, or 30 years into this. However, I am up on street knowledge of my genre's corner of the industry and know editors, what they're known for, what books and authors they've worked with, so it's easy to identify a few that would fit what I need. Meaning, I shopped around. If you take this approach, do the research.

I'm happy, as the email feedback alone resulted in a better opening and a better book. I'm sure line edits will get me a ton of mileage as well. I have a beta reader. My husband has copy editing skills and usually does my galleys so he's my last reviewer prior to going to print. I'd say I'm using a hybrid model then, but at this stage of the game, I'm not ready to dispesne with the value I feel a solid editor offers me.

And Joe is right, there are times editorial presence in a book is minimal. So buyer beware. Know what you're getting into, who you're getting into it with, and what goals and take aways you want from the experience. Many indie authors have success without going this route, and thats something to consider too.

Anonymous said...

@Carson

Barbara Cartland published over 500 books, all of which must have sold enough to get the next one published. I haven't read them all but from the ones I did read, I doubt if the word "good" could be applied to any of them.

Everytime I read someone getting a bit "high-toned" about fiction, I think of this.

By the way, I'm just a reader who knows now to avoid any book by Barbara Cartland. But I'm Anonymous because I don't want her fans from coming after me-- they are vicious.

Anonymous said...

"Adventures of Kitty Wonder: Lots of Killing"

Best subtitle ever.

EC

Carson Wilder said...

"Truly good books" (whatever that is) aren't always the same as commercially successful books. I think Selena knows the difference.

Sure. Anyone who has ever cracked a spine knows the difference. I think you're missing my point.

She's simply stating a truth: Playing to the middle is the best way to make money.

Tell that to Dennis Lehane, Harlan Coben, Michael Connely, Laura Lippman, Stephen King, and scores of other bestselling authors who DO write truly good books.

I mean, why would anyone aspire to be mediocre? You want to dumb down your fiction for...whom? Doesn't make sense to me.

Christy Pinheiro said...

So...what would you suggest for most newbies, who don't have access to eight professional authors and who probably can't afford one good editor?

If you can't afford a copyeditor, you can't afford to self-publish. I say that from experience. Readers can be unforgiving and vicious.

You want to dumb down your fiction for...whom?

Well, for money, obviously. The cast of the Jersey Shore got multi-million dollar book deals. Even Snooki.

This is a business, and good fiction sells, but crap sells, too.

Jack Badelaire said...

Christy says: "
This is a business, and good fiction sells, but crap sells, too.
"

I think what we're trying to say here is that it's not a matter of "dumbing down" so much as making something easy and fluid to read.

You can be a very good author, and write a grammatically correct novel full of elaborate, beautiful descriptions and complex, meaningful dialogue, but if I'm the sort of person who likes quick reads where I don't have to devote 100% of my concentration to your work in order to process everything I'm reading, I'll probably not get my full enjoyment from your work.

Writing is like any other art form - you can have a complex piece that requires a great deal of deliberation and study in order to unearth every nuance and treasure, or you can have something lean, clean, and readily processed and appreciated. This doesn't mean that one is "crap", it just means it is more accessible and with less effort.

Jack Badelaire said...

And for the record, I'm not attacking Christy's point so much as looking at it from another direction.

Carson Wilder said...

This is a business, and good fiction sells, but crap sells, too.

According to that theory, then, EVERYTHING sells.

And we know that just isn't the case.

Celebrities can put anything between two covers and sell it all day long, but most of us aren't celebrities.

If you're capable of writing a truly good book, then you should write a truly good book. There's no reason to dumb anything down. If you're not capable of writing a truly good book, then you should take up another hobby and stop polluting the world wide web with your rubbish.

I'm pretty sure that's what Lee meant when he said: The majority of self-published books are unreadable crap… and that hasn’t changed just because it’s easier now to self-publish than ever before. If anything, it’s made things much worse.

Carson Wilder said...

something lean, clean, and readily processed and appreciated.

See, that's my definition of a truly good book.

bowerbird said...

i wrote a comment on editing,
but felt i had to say this first...

one irony is that the "editors"
at big6 houses no longer do
much "editing" at all. instead,
they do content acquisition,
namely the selection of books
which they think will _sell_...

that's why it's so remarkable
that most of them are young
(i.e., under 30), because you
wouldn't expect that they'd
know much about the market.

and maybe you'd be correct.

because over recent decades,
the big6 houses have become
increasingly bad at choosing
material that will hold its own.

they still manage to connect,
on occasion, and then market
those hits to the hilt, but the
_average_ number of sales on
the _average_ book has been
decreasing for a long time...

meanwhile, the average _cost_
of the average book has gone
up, and up, and up some more.

that's largely an accounting trick,
so the "losses" on average books
can be used to write off taxes on
the huge profits from the "hits",
but it has had real consequences
on the midlist authors it impacts.

plus when your costs increase
while your sales are decreasing,
your business gets put in a bind.

that's the jam where publishers
find themselves today, and their
reaction is to "let go" personnel,
like those who actually _did_ do
the editing on books-in-progress.

today's freelance editor might've
been doing that same job for a
big6 publishing house last month.

it behooves authors as a group to
befriend these freelance editors.

***

now that that's out of the way...

-bowerbird

The Russell Family said...

This post was great! I think the readers will be the vetters and thank goodness! I check the reviews and samples and I'm having more fun reading indie authors than the stuff the 'critics' are calling bestsellers. Power to the people! :)

Karen Cantwell said...

Great post and lively discussion!

I do disagree with you, Lee, that a new author should take a deal with a publisher over self-publishing. IF their only interest in publishing is for that pat on the back, maybe, but if it's to find a "wider readership" - I'm not so sure that's still the case. I know of new authors published the last few years by major publishers, and it hasn't necessarily given them any more exposure or sales than people I see publishing on Kindle and Nook themselves.

And going forward, it doesn't take a crystal ball to see that book stores are going to suffer (ARE suffering) with the popularity of eReaders growing daily. This means exposure from major publishing houses will suffer as well. I really think that in today's publishing environment, any new author needs to research both sides of that coin carefully and decide what their long-range goals are before jumping into a publishing contract.

Anonymous said...

Ok, there are a lot of guides to Kindle publishing out there. Favorites?

And how about freelance editors. There are plenty of ads in Writers Digest and so on. Not sure how much I trust em. It's probably too early in the game for a good reputable list, and besides I think the best editors are probably genre specific as well.

And finally Joe, surprised to hear that you pay for covers but not for editing. I think you could use more of it than you think, and your first comment here on editing is a perfect "case in point" ... hah hah hah. :)

Selena Kitt said...

If you're capable of writing a truly good book, then you should write a truly good book. There's no reason to dumb anything down.

I think (most) writers DO write to their capacity. I also think that most of them fall into the fat part of the bell curve. I'm not telling writers to dumb it down or encouraging mediocrity. I'm just saying that the bell curve applies, even in fiction writing.

Terrance Foxxe said...

There are eleven books I think are worth the money I paid for them. You can learn on your own to be the best. It takes time, and a lot of very hard work.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition.

The Illustrated Oxford Dictionary by DK Publishing, Inc.

The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer. Collier Books. This nifty little tome takes your across good grammar's landscape. Chapter headings are as follows: Recognizing Good Grammar, Points of Grammar, Capitalization,
Punctuation, Expressing Numbers, Spelling and Choosing Words (including words most often confused) and Signs and Symbols.

Punctuate It Right! by Harry Shaw. Harper Perennial. Subtitled: A complete, authoritative, quick-reference guide to modern punctuation and related mechanics
of writing, showing what marks to use, when, where, how, and why, including a detailed glossary of "punctuation for clarity."

Webster's New World Thesaurus by Charlton Laird. Warner Books.

Thesaurus of Alternatives to Worn-Out Words and Phrases by Robert Hartwell Fiske. Writer’s Digest Books. Which, to me, is a good way to keep clichés out, or think up new clichés to replace the old and worn out.

The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik. Henry Holt and Company. A must-have read if you want to understand the force words can have, and the voice lurking inside of you.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Illustrations by George Booth. Subtitled: How To Edit Yourself Into Print. Harper Perennial. This
book can teach editors what’s what.

The Writer's Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing.

20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them) by Ronald B. Tobias. Writer's Digest Books.

Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost. Writer’s Digest Books. It's one of the easiest books to read and understand. The man walks you through everything, and
gives you homework. Do your homework, write well. Have fun, write well. Never be afraid to tear it loose and write well.


Out of 35 "How To" books, these are the ones I kept, and keep handy. More about writing and editing for the broke and struggling on my blog.

http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Ellen Fisher said...

"I read Lee's The Walk and found five errors for him that he could fix and upload if he chooses to."

I found some formatting errors in The Walk and let Lee know about them, and he had fixed it and uploaded a new version that very same evening. The ability to fix things like that is one of the joys of self-publishing!

The Daring Novelist said...

Carson said: "According to that theory, then, EVERYTHING sells. And we know that just isn't the case."

I have to ask you to explain all those fanfic writers who have made a great living over the years selling mimeographed fiction for a high price. (And a lot of it NOT based on popular TV shows.)

There is a niche for everything. There are people who LOVE LOVE LOVE Mary Sue stories. (It's one of the reasons they write them.)

Yes, it's true, most fiction won't appeal to a broad audience (crap or not) but there IS an audience for pretty much anything. The only question is whether that audience is big enough to suit the writer's ambitions, and whether the writer can find that audience.

This is something we have to face: book publishing has gone the way of blogs.

Lee Goldberg said...

My MONK books, despite multiple readings by me, my editor and my copy editor at several stages in the process, still get published with errors. Almost every book I've ever read has had typos or grammatical errors in them. That's life. I'm not Adrian Monk...I don't sweat a few typos or mistakes in my published books or my Kindle books...whether they are the ones I write or the ones I read. Rampant errors, on the other hand, are a different story.

Joe D'Agnese said...

"Platform" is a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned. It's a word editors throw up to reject books they're lukewarm about. If they are salivating over the idea, usually in the case of nonfiction; or the writing (novels, maybe); or your sales record (self-pubbed mavericks, this means you), then mysteriously they never bring up the word platform. They could care less. But you must make them so deliriously happy that they will forget all the traditional objections. I know authors who fretted over this platform business endlessly before sending out their NF book proposals and walked away with six-figure deals. The point is, grab them with idea, writing and sales.

Thanks for a good post Joe/Lee.

P.S. Are you the same Lee Goldberg who thought "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" sucked? If so, high-five, bro!

Jon F. Merz said...

I did indeed email Joe and we arranged a time to talk today, but unfortunately something came up so we're rescheduling...

Robert Burton Robinson said...

@Lee: Almost every book I've ever read has had typos or grammatical errors in them. That's life.

Most readers will forgive a typo or a grammatical error here and there, as long as the book is not riddled with them. Although, there are some people who will give you a one-star review and rip your book to shreds if they find even one error.

I try not to worry about those people. ;)

Carson Wilder said...

There is a niche for everything.

Camille, when I say crap I'm talking about opening paragraphs about weather, word repetition in close proximity, head-hopping POVs, unintentional rhymes, sentences that don't logically follow one another, imprudent use of exclamation marks, verbs inappropriately applied to inanimate objects, adverbial dialogue tags, confusing and pointless dialogue exchanges, unexplainable verb tense shifts, pronoun confusion, nonsensical sentence structure...

Okay, that's a pretty good start on Prose 101, for anyone who cares enough to want to improve.

Those are the kinds of amateurish mistakes I see in a lot of self-published books.

Some people want to believe that "good" and "bad" are matters of opinion, but I have listed some objective criteria that anyone can apply to any book. It's not a matter of opinion. Some writing is just plain awful.

Thomas Brookside said...

The slush pile has gone digital and has unleashed a tsunami of swill onto Amazon and Smashwords.

It really hasn't, you know.

The rate of title growth in the Kindle Store is much lower than it would be, if a tsunami were under way.

Kindle Store title growth has been impressive, but when you factor in Kindle conversion of previously published books, and back out public domain stuff being posted by 50 people each, it's just not a tsunami.

The numbers aren't there.

I think there may be a problem with nonfiction titles going forward, as more and more people figure out that they can cut and paste free content on some illness or historical topic and call the resulting pastiche a Kindle book - but I just don't see the content wave in fiction that people keep insisting should be there.

The Kindle revolution is two years old. Where are all the slush pile manuscripts? Why aren't there 2 million Kindle titles by now?

Thomas Brookside said...

I'm talking about opening paragraphs about weather, word repetition in close proximity, head-hopping POVs, unintentional rhymes, sentences that don't logically follow one another, imprudent use of exclamation marks, verbs inappropriately applied to inanimate objects, adverbial dialogue tags, confusing and pointless dialogue exchanges, unexplainable verb tense shifts, pronoun confusion, nonsensical sentence structure...

Sounds like just about all the trad pub literary fiction put out in the last decade.

Especially the inappropriate application of verbs to inanimate objects part.

The Daring Novelist said...

Carson,

you obviously haven't read much fanfic. The things you listed barely scratch the surface. Sure there are fan writers who can put a good sentence together. There are many who can't.

I really do know what you mean, and really, honestly, I'm talking about work that is worse than you have imagined (especially with the list of flaws you gave - pfft! that's nothing). We're talking Vogon poetry here.

There is a market for that. It's not a market that anyone has wanted, but it's out there.

Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't delusional souls who think they are writing better than that and seek a different market. I'm just saying that there IS a market.

Barbra Annino said...

Lee said "Because they are smarter about this stuff than you are. I have no doubt my agents get more for me than I would on my own...and protect me from contractual clauses that will come back to bite me in the ass. They are much more savvy about the tricks hidden in contracts than I am."

I agree with this, but I think it's important to point out that these are the top notch veteran agents or at least the agents within large agencies. Newbies are often told to go for the young agent who is hungry for a sale- I fear that very soon people who call themselves agents will be popping up all over the place who don't have the qualifications or the ties or the experience to agent. I don't mean scammers. I mean well-intended former publishing house interns and the like.

I'd love to see a post on what you think will be the future of agents in the wake of these changes, Joe.

Barb
www.barbraannino.com

Anonymous said...

@Thomas Brookside

I agree 100%. I've had books on Kindle store for over two years, and I keep waiting for this predicted deluge of self-published crap.

It hasn't materialized. Not even close. I keep visiting the author cafe on Kindleboards, waiting to see if thousands of newbie writers show up to hawk their third-rate wares. They don't. It's the same old 200 self-pubbed authors, over and over again. Most are on their third or fourth books by now, and they appear to be experiencing success. Most are damn good writers.

Like you, I keep waiting for this tsunami of bad books, and it isn't happening.

What gives? Are they hiding somewhere? Are some of the worst writers the very same ones who are holding out for traditional publishing contracts?

Selena Kitt said...

Sounds like just about all the trad pub literary fiction put out in the last decade.

Indeed.

Someone didn't read Twilight... :)

Carson Wilder said...

you obviously haven't read much fanfic.

I haven't read any fanfic. I don't see the point of it.

Someone didn't read Twilight

Twilight is literary fiction now? LOL. I think I made it halfway through the first page before putting it back on the shelf.

Jason Vanhee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Vanhee said...

Thank you Joe for, over the last few weeks of reading your blog, convincing me that this was the way to go. Another couple months to get everything ready and hopefully I'll be joining the ranks of the self-published. All the facts and details you provide really provide a certain amount of hope that this just might work.

Jason Vanhee
thousandstoriesandonestory.blogspot.com

Mary McDonald said...

On a whim, a month ago, I sent out a query to an agent. A few minutes ago, I received the rejection. I've sold about 1700 copies of this book (my only one so far) have 28 out of 41 five stars, plus a 5 star from Red Adept--and yet, there's still rejection. There's a disconnect somewhere. Sure, I'm not a huge seller, but there's definitely interest.

I can't help wondering what the agents are looking for and thinking maybe I don't want or need one after all. Instead of the disappointment I felt last year at those rejects, I'm now just shaking my head and smiling.

wannabuy said...

@Mary "On a whim, a month ago, I sent out a query to an agent. A few minutes ago, I received the rejection. I've sold about 1700 copies of this book "

In a word, "wow." How long until your next book? Seriously, it helps the sales to have multiple titles out there. Albeit... it sounds like you put out something that was quality.

What is the price of your book? I'm amused at a rejection of a book that has already proven itself. Well done!

Neil

bowerbird said...

thomas said:
> title growth in the Kindle Store
> is much lower than it would be,
> if a tsunami were under way.

finally, someone said it. thanks!

there'll be a tsunami, some day.
but it clearly hasn't happened yet.

too many writers are still simply
unaware of the new possibilities,
and many who _do_ know are
still waiting for some "proof"...

but in the next few years, as the
corporate publishing industry
crumbles into dust, and more
midlist authors are turned loose,
they will turn to their new outlet,
uploading their backlists and their
trunk novels and their new work,
all priced low to get eyeballs...

and top-of-the-line authors will
realize they don't have any need
for publishers any more, so they
will abandon the sinking ship...

and new authors will increasingly
decide to go straight to e-books,
but even the ones who would like
to go traditional will discover that
nobody is now willing to sign 'em,
except at rates that are insulting.

and the number of kindles, ipads,
nooks, and tablet machines will
continue to blossom indefinitely,
so there will be customers too...

there will be a tsunami. one day.

but it clearly hasn't happened yet.

-bowerbird

The Daring Novelist said...

Carson Wilder said... "I haven't read any fanfic. I don't see the point of it."

The point is that there are markets outside of your ken. If you haven't read fan fic (which has a market) you can't say that the horrible dreck you've experienced couldn't have a market.

The truth is, publishing has merged with more than vanity press -- it's merged with homegrown publishing as well. (You know, the mimeographed stuff that a grade school class or club puts out for their parents.)

In this paradigm, that stuff is as legit as anything else. You've got to get past it and realize that Mrs. Swenson's Third Grade Novelization of The Trip To The Zoo is 1) out there and 2) irrelevant to you.

Same with books written by Paris Hilton, and semi-pornographic fanfic that reads suspiciously like it's based on Star Trek except it has no plot and is nothing but endless descriptions of mispelled feelings and torture scenes, and the graphic novel written by my cat. Or the work of some brilliant poet in some MFA program somewhere.

They're there. They have their purpose to their creators, and to the intended audience (even if that audience is a club of writers who write the same thing).

And they are all irrelevant to the rest of us (and to each other).

Carson Wilder said...

I see your point, Camille. I admit that there are probably books out there worse than I could possibly imagine, and that there might even be a limited market for them.

But just because it's possible to sell a steaming pile of caca doesn't mean one should.

BTW, add to my list of amateurish mistakes prevalent in self-published fiction: laughable alliteration and incredible coincidences.

Selena Kitt said...

BTW, add to my list of amateurish mistakes prevalent in self-published fiction: laughable alliteration and incredible coincidences.

It's not just in self-pubbed fiction. It's also present in traditionally published fiction, literary or not. Hence my Twilight example.

Carson Wilder said...

True, Selena, but I think these are things we should all try to avoid.

The Daring Novelist said...

Carson Wilder said...
"But just because it's possible to sell a steaming pile of caca doesn't mean one should."

But why not? I mean aside from the "Just because anyone CAN wear a thong to beach doesn't mean anyone SHOULD!" factor.

I don't want to read it, you don't want to read it. So what? Neither of us want to read Twilight either - but that's no reason not to publish it. It's irrelevant to both of us.

And if my cat does publish his famed graphic tome "1001 Things To Do With A Dead Mouse Tail," it's not really anybody's business (except maybe the 'owners' of the customer cats whose credit cards are used in purchasing it....)

There's dreck out there. We know. And?

Selena Kitt said...

True, Selena, but I think these are things we should all try to avoid.

And a writer can avoid ALL of those things and the content of the book can still be crap.

Carson Wilder said...

And a writer can avoid ALL of those things and the content of the book can still be crap.

That's where opinion comes in. I might think something is great, and you might think it's crap. And vice versa.

The criteria I listed is an objective way to judge minimal literary merit.

Carson Wilder said...

There's dreck out there. We know. And?

And we avoid it like the plague.

Justin said...

Carson -

"opening paragraphs about weather, word repetition in close proximity, head-hopping POV"

These aren't objectively bad. These are things are bad when they're done poorly.

Which, to be fair, they often are. But there's nothing inherently wrong with them in the same way that there is with poor sentence structure and the other things you mention.

HyperPulp 5000: Fresh Fiction Daily, Now With Added Pulp Goodness

Carson Wilder said...

Justin:

True! But most of us aren't literary geniuses like Ray Bradbury or Larry McMurtry, so as a general rule it's best to avoid what are usually amateurish pitfalls.

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