Monday, January 03, 2011

A Response to Richard Curtis

Yesterday, respected agent Richard Curtis posted an article he wrote called Do Authors Make Good Publishers?

His conclusion is: No.

He cited me as one of his examples, and quoted my website. I wish he'd contacted me personally, because the quote he took is out of date.

It's my fault for not updating my website regularly, but I've since had a 180 degree change of stance on self publishing.

Authors should self-publish.

As ebooks continue to gain ground, and print continues to lose ground, and publishers and bookstores continue to report losses, this industry isn't nearly as stable as it once was. In fact, I'm not sure the industry will survive.

In an ebook-dominated world, are publishers even needed?

I can't think of a single, compelling reason to allow publishers to keep 52.5% of ebook royalties and give authors just 17.5%--especially when any writer can make 70% by uploading to Kindle themselves.

In December, I made over $24,000 self-publishing, and I'm currently averaging $1300 per day. But I'm far from the only one doing well.

Among other insights, Curtis said:

If your name is not familiar to the reading public, however, emulating Konrath will flop.

That's an easy conclusion to jump to, but it's wrong.

LJ Sellers sold 10,000 ebooks in December. No agent or prior large publishing contracts.

HP Mallory sold over 22,000 ebooks in December. No prior publishing contracts, and she just signed with an agent.

Michael R. Sullivan sold over 10,000 ebooks in December. No agent or prior publishing contracts.

Amanda Hocking recently turned down a lucrative offer from a house to continue self-publishing. Amanda sold a staggering 100,000 ebooks in December alone.

Here's a partial list of authors selling more than 1000 ebooks a month, none of who had any traditional publishing background (no deals, no agents.)

David Wisehart
B. Tackitt
Vianka Van Bokkem
Maria Hooley
Tina Folsom
C.S. Marks
Melanie Nilles
Robert Burton Robinson
Bella Andre
Lexi Revellian
Michael Sullivan
Victorine Lieske
H.P. Mallory
Lauren Saga
Terri Reid
Imogen Rose
Nathan Lowell
Ellen Fisher
Vianka Van Bokkem
David Dalglish
Sandra Edwards
C. S. Marks
Sibel Hodge
Julie Christensen
Holly A. Hook
David McAfee
Danielle Q. Lee
Valmore Daniels
Steven L. Hawk
Edward C. Patterson
William Meikle
Maria Hooley
M. Louisa Locke
Beth Orsoff*
Eric Christopherson
Monique Martin
Ellen O'Connell
Karen Cantwell
Stacey Wallace Benefiel
Aaron Patterson
Zoe Winters
Karen McQuestion
JR Rain

And this is a very small sampling of authors doing well epublishing.

If you browse the Kindle genre bestseller lists, between 20% and 90% of the authors listed there are self-published authors. In some cases, because of the higher royalties Amazon offers, these writers are making more money than traditionally pubbed authors. I earn $2.09 on a $2.99 ebook. I only earn 82 cents on a $4.79 ebook published by my print publisher.

On top of that, I'm earning $100 a day on POD books through Createspace, selling through Amazon.

I really think it's time the world stops calling me an outlier who is successful because of my platform. Here are three reasons why the outlier argument is poor:

1. If platform is the key, why are unknown newbies smoking me in sales?

2. If background and name recognition leads to huge sales, why aren't my traditionally published peers who decided to self-pub (I can name a dozen) selling as well as I am?

3. And if my name is so gosh-darn golden, why weren't any of my print novels bestsellers?

Change is scary. When it first starts to occur, people are afraid of it, and come up with excuses for it. Of course the industry wants to view me as an anomaly. If I'm not an anomaly, and others can do what I'm doing, the industry is in big trouble.

Guess what? Others ARE doing what I'm doing. And the industry IS in big trouble.

If you want to read about more self-pubbed authors doing well, check out this thread on Kindleboards, begun by Robin Sullivan.

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,47263.0.html

324 comments:

1 – 200 of 324   Newer›   Newest»
L. A. Lopez said...

Great post, and very eye opening.

Barbara Morgenroth said...

Whistling past the graveyard.

It's over for them. They shot the goose that laid their golden eggs.

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.
~ Nicholas Klein

BellaVida said...

Great article. It's important to hear all sides of the story.

Congratulations on your success.

Karen said...

My problem with all this is that authors are leaving pubishers high and dry to self publish. This has happened to me (Echelon Press) numerous times in the last six months.

Authors who signed contracts with me demanded their rights back because "I" was not selling enough books for them. What is the difference between promoting your book when it is under contract and selling 10,000 downloads or doing it yourself? What has happened is, the publisher has gone thorugh all the processes of editing, covers, marketing, submission to eBook sites, etc. incurring a crapload of expense and gets almost no sales from it. The author DOESN'T sell all those downloads when with the publisher, but immediately a month or two later they are selling those numbers because they are getting all the money.

Why couldn't/wouldn't they do the same thing when under contract instead of poking the publisher in the eye with a hot stick?

If authors want to self-publish then by all means they should, but not at the expense of their already in place publisher. I have actually had to start saying no to authors who are wanting their rights back to self-publish. This option has always been there, but now you have made it cool, so they want out of contracts.

I am thrilled for anyone out there who can make money publishing in any way, but don't screw someone else who has put their faith in you previously. Respect is a pretty cool thing, too.

Ruth Harris said...

Today in his influential Monday media column in the NYTimes, David Carr asked: "Will the book business do the math and realize that in three years — which is when any book conceived right now would be published — there will probably be more than 100 million e-readers capable of rendering books in new ways?"

So will they or won't they? Possibly more important -- and something David Carr didn't even raise -- is: what about the authors? What are they/we going to do?

100 million e-readers and a prominent commentator doesn't even think to wonder about the authors and where they/we fit in here?

IMO this tells you how skewed publishing has become over the years. Authors? Who?

Karen McQuestion said...

I guess if it makes Mr. Curtis feel better to think that, it's okay with me. Change is hard, especially when your livelihood is at stake.

To anyone who really keeps up with the indie authors though, it's obvious that the number of authors making serious money is growing like crazy. Apparently these folks have mastered the necessary "publishing skills" without having abandoned the "commitment to their muse." Best yet, they have readers buying and enjoying their work. And they did it all on their own. Imagine that.

Aimless Writer said...

Well said, Joe.
The only thing stopping me from putting up an ebook on Amazon is my nervousness about the editing process...but I'm working on that.
Now getting my book up on Amazon is my New Year's resolution.

Helen Hanson said...

The publishing turf was even up for grabs until recently. Now, heel marks streak the terrain. I've experienced the death of an industry, and those with the most invested in the old model will stand their ground until the last bullet whistles past their ears.

Meanwhile, action stirs elsewhere.

Thanks for all you do!

jtplayer said...

Thanks for the post Joe, and for continuing to spotlight all sides of the issue.

One point comes to mind relative to name recognition and success in ebooks.

While I agree with you that numerous previously unknown authors have achieved phenomenal success, statistically they are still insignificant.

You list 27 authors who sell 1k or more a month. You say it's a partial list. Even if it's 1/4 or 1/6 or even 1/10 of the full list, it's still very small relative to the overall numbers of true indies jumping onto the pool.

Not to mention there's a backstory to every person on that list. How many different ebooks comprise their sales figures, how much advertising they're doing, how they price their books, how much money they invested into their finished product to achieve that success, etc.

Sure, anybody can attempt this, and maybe even anybody can sell a lot of books, but in my mind it's still akin to catching lightening in a bottle. No one, not even yourself, knows why this thing works the way it does, why some sell so well and others die on the vine. Hell man, it's really no different than traditional publishing. Or music or movies or any other form of entertainment.

It's easy sometimes to get fooled into thinking there's money just lying on the ground waiting to be scooped up. All you gotta do is throw a bunch of product up there, make sure it presents well, and you're off to the races. We all know it really isn't that easy.

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

Look, this isn't easy money.

Joe is really excited and invigorated by e-publishing (as well he should be), so sometimes he might go a little too far in his proclamations.

But he doesn't go too far very often. I think he's dead on about what's happening in the publishing world...of course, who the hell am I?

I've only just started this e-pub thing and I'm not catching lightning in a bottle at the moment. My sales are very, very pedestrian (around 50 ebooks sold in less than a month).

But I know at least one writer with zero publishing deals and very little platform who has sold around 700 copies of one book in under a month.

It's happening. These are the salad days of e-publishing and ebooks. The good times won't last forever and it won't always be possible for new authors to step in and get noticed.

Which is why authors really need to listen to what people like Joe are telling them. I know I am.

My Blog: An E-publisher's Manifesto

Sibel Hodge said...

I think the main difference now that the traditional publishing world seems to be in trouble is that readers can choose exactly what they want to read and how they want to read it, instead of the big publishing houses choosing what reader's want to read, based on whether they think it will be a bestseller or not.

More choice for readers and authors can only be a good thing. It's a win-win situation. Change is a wonderful thing!

And many thanks for the mention, by the way!

Daryl Sedore said...

I read that post yesterday. I was surprised by it as Richard runs the "E-reads" company. He has posted in the past about changes in the industry that were contrary to this post.

He wrote the book titled, "How To Be Your Own Literary Agent".

Among the e-book publishers, one of the few to be offering advances on e-books is “E-Reads”.

“E-Reads” was founded by literary agent Richard Curtis over ten years ago. He feels that e-book rights will be a separate issue in the future (even back then), just like audio rights. This motivated him to offer a business model authors and agents are familiar with and respond to.

Talking about self-publishing in that light is a delusional stab at an industry that's crumbling or it's another literary agent attempting to steer business his way with his charm and wisdom of the business.

Authors need to stay informed and look deeper so they aren't the proverbial one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.

jtplayer said...

instead of the big publishing houses choosing what reader's want to read, based on whether they think it will be a bestseller or not

That kind of statement flabbergasts me. In all my many years of reading I have never had a single problem finding a wide variety of books to satisfy my reading tastes.

I see this comment often. It's just plain wrong, IMO. Big publishing unequivocally does not choose what a reader "wants" to read. That some kind of myth, or urban legend perpetuated by those with an ax to grind.

The reader chooses what he/she wants to read. Period. Just because every single book ever written is not published by the Big 6 does not mean your choices are diminished.

jtplayer said...

"Authors need to stay informed and look deeper so they aren't the proverbial one-legged man in an ass kicking contest"

I absolutely agree with that.

Because one thing is certain, this whole ebook revolution is not generated by big business attempting to make things right for independent authors.

It's about business, plain and simple, and those who see this as the next viable direction for books and publishing.

Everyone's it in for the money. And we'd all do well to remember that.

jnduncan said...

I think you're right in some ways here. More and more authors are becoming successful this way. There's a large pool of unpublished writers out there who have not had success through the typical routes, and are very good writers. Sadly, there just isn't enough room out there for all the good books to get published through regular publishers. More power to these writers who find success self-publishing.

Far more writers out there just aren't there yet. They need a good editor or just more time honing the craft. Many don't get the usefulness or understand how to create a good cover. Both of these things help sell ebooks. Most unpublished writers out there don't get how badly you can shoot yourself in the foot by putting something out there that isn't ready, but the temptation of self-publishing is too strong. It's far to easy and convenient to throw something out there to the reading masses.

I worry that self-publishing is going to end up swimming in a sea of poor writing that makes it difficult for good writers to get found. For me, I really appreciate the fact that I have an editor and cover artists and production team, etc. to handle the non-writing end of things. I can focus more on writing.

Self-publishing takes a lot of work. It's not the 'easy' way to get published. It's merely a different way, requiring a broader range of skills to achieve success or the savvy and money to get the things you need to up your chances (like good editing and cover art). Not that you can't get a poor editor or cover art through the publishing houses, because you can, but the odds are greater and the expense is less to get good ones.

Self-publishing is certainly viable and worthwhile for a minority of writers out there. I think it will grow in this regard in the future, but I still don't believe it will bring the demise of traditional publishing. It will change things for sure, but their advantages will remain and be the best option for many.

Joe Konrath said...

Hell man, it's really no different than traditional publishing.

Actually, it's easier than traditional publishing. In self pubbing, the outcome is always the same: the book is published. Very few books submitted to to the gatekeepers wind up getting published.

In terms of success, you may be right. The 80/20 rule is probably in place (20% of the group earns as much as the other 80%, and then this can be split over and over.)

It's hard to be a huge success in either self-pubbing or traditional pubbing. But I contend that writers can make more money self-pubbing--even a hundred bucks a month beats zero.

Joe Konrath said...

Big publishing unequivocally does not choose what a reader "wants" to read.

Yes, they do. They decide what gets the biggest distribution, or no distribution at all because they reject it.

Amanda Hocking was rejected by the industry, and she sold 100,000 ebooks in December. Big publishing decided that readers didn't want to read her. They were wrong about her, and my early books, and many, many others.

There has never been an even playing field before now, and readers never had a true choice before now. Readers could only choose what was already vetted for them.

jtplayer said...

Aaron...I like your blog. You've got some good stuff going on over there. Keep it up my man.

Now I'm off to check out some of your work ;-)

Joe Konrath said...

For me, I really appreciate the fact that I have an editor and cover artists and production team, etc. to handle the non-writing end of things.

And for that service, you get between 6% and 17.5% of the list price, vs. 70% of the list if you did it yourself.

And guess what? You're in the same boat as self-publishers, competing against a million other books. Unless your publisher is giving you a huge marketing and ad campaign, it's just as hard for you to be discovered as it is for a self-pubbed author.

If your advantage over a self-pubber is having two copies of your book, spine out in section, is a few hundred bookstores, and you know that at least half of those books will be returned, is it really worth giving up so much in royalties for that?

Joe Konrath said...

Hell man, it's really no different than traditional publishing.

Actually, it's easier than traditional publishing. In self pubbing, the outcome is always the same: the book is published. Very few books submitted to to the gatekeepers wind up getting published.

In terms of success, you may be right. The 80/20 rule is probably in place (20% of the group earns as much as the other 80%, and then this can be split over and over.)

It's hard to be a huge success in either self-pubbing or traditional pubbing. But I contend that writers can make more money self-pubbing--even a hundred bucks a month beats zero.

gniz said...

I hear a lot of editors/agents say that there is going to be a lot more poor writing floating around because of self-publishing.

You know what? They're right!

There's going to be an awful lot of garbage out there, but there will be good stuff too. There's plenty of garbage now.

Writers are going to have to market their work effectively, make good covers, write good books, and bust their ass to improve their craft.

It will not be easy and the window of opportunity for newer authors won't be open forever. Things will tighten up again in the future, that is for sure.

But it's going to be a wild ride for the next couple of years!

Aaron
An E-Publisher's Manifesto

jtplayer said...

Joe, you're a smart, savvy guy. But in my mind you're wrong on this one.

Big publishing puts out whatever fits in with their business plan.

Readers choose what they want to read based on their own muse.

Those are two separate things.

To say because I can't read what I don't know about is somehow "diminishing" my choices is illogical.

There's a lot of nooks and crannies out there in the book buying world. Books have been written and published for a very long time. The choices are plenty, and always have been. IMO.

gniz said...

JT, thanks so much, let me know what you think!

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

jtplayer said...

"It's hard to be a huge success in either self-pubbing or traditional pubbing. But I contend that writers can make more money self-pubbing--even a hundred bucks a month beats zero"

Agreed.

And I absolutely agree the opportunities presented by self-publishing ebooks are unprecedented and alluring as hell.

Melissa Romo said...

"I worry that self-publishing is going to end up swimming in a sea of poor writing that makes it difficult for good writers to get found."

I agree with this. As an aspiring fiction writer who has worked in marketing and advertising for the past 15 years, I can tell you what self-publishing is: an industry with no barriers to entry. That means a lot of entrants who will compete on price and produce a poorer quality product. That said, it's very hard to resist when you're someone, like me, with a finished novel on your hands that might not get picked up by the Big 6. An ebook feels like a better outcome than the manuscript going in a box under my bed.

gniz said...

"I can tell you what self-publishing is: an industry with no barriers to entry"

Not sure I agree 100 percent with this. It might look that way on the surface, but the fact of the matter is, you still need to be smart and professional and capable in order to entice readers.

You need a good title, a good cover, a description that makes someone want to read an excerpt. If you're doing some marketing (as I am), even the kind of writing I'm doing here needs to be good enough for someone to think they might want to read my work.

Point is, there's no barrier to entry in terms of throwing a poorly written story up on Amazon, but there's plenty of barriers in terms of getting consumers to buy your product.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Sibel Hodge said...

"Big publishing puts out whatever fits in with their business plan.

Readers choose what they want to read based on their own muse."

Yes, but the two go hand in hand. Big publishing will only put out what they think is going to make a lot of money, or stick with trusted authors for the same reason. I think they haven't wanted to take a chance on new authors for a long time. And if these authors aren't being published, readers can't choose them.

Yes, there probably are a lot of bad self-pubbed works out there, but there are also a lot of brilliant writers whose work wouldn't have seen the light of day before ebooks and self-pubbing.

It's time for the readers to make the choice on what they want to read now.

jtplayer said...

"That said, it's very hard to resist when you're someone, like me, with a finished novel on your hands that might not get picked up by the Big 6. An ebook feels like a better outcome than the manuscript going in a box under my bed"

Exactly Melissa. I'm in the same boat.

And for me, while the idea of making some good cash from my work sounds enticing, it's not the reason I wrote it in the first place.

I make an excellent living doing what I do (for over 30 years now), and writing merely represents a lifelong dream I've had of publishing a book. I struggle often with the perceived "legitimacy" of traditional publishing versus just putting the damn thing out there and seeing what happens.

I will say though, if I were doing this for a living, and I felt I was good at it, I would almost certainly go the ebook route, as it seems to make the most "business" sense at this time.

Joe Konrath said...

Readers choose what they want to read based on their own muse.

If it were up to NY, readers wouldn't be able to choose Hocking, because she wouldn't be available.

jtplayer said...

Maybe so Joe, but there are most certainly many, many Amanda Hocking's out there. Just because traditional publishers haven't put their work out does not mean a disservice to the buying public.

To knock publishers for this is just silly in my mind.

I can only speak for myself, and it's a fact that in 40 years of reading books, I've never had a problem satisfying whatever itch I feel.

Joe Konrath said...

Just because traditional publishers haven't put their work out does not mean a disservice to the buying public.

It's a disservice to both the public, and the author.

I'm not going to argue that all self-pubbed books are good. They're not. A lot suck terribly.

But I can make an argument that good, commercially viable books get overlooked by NY. I'm proof. So are the authors I've listed in this post. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.

jtplayer said...

"But I can make an argument that good, commercially viable books get overlooked by NY"

Of course they do Joe, but the whole argument is still silly, IMO. It is absolutely not a disservice to anybody. That argument will never hold water. Again, IMO.

Companies publish what they do based on whatever internal motivations they have. So many here and elsewhere try to make it a personal issue. It's business man, plain and simple.

And another point to remember. Monday morning quarterbacking is always right. If you were selling a minuscule fraction of what you do now (with ebooks), would you stand up and say the Big 6 were right in rejecting you? Same thing with Amanda Hocking, or any other previously unknown author who has found success with ebooks.

The way I read it, this is where the chip on the shoulder of some authors becomes so apparent.

There is no inherent right to have our work published, and likewise there is no inherent right for the reader to have access to everything ever written.

gniz said...

"If it were up to NY, readers wouldn't be able to choose Hocking, because she wouldn't be available."

We all know there were underrepresented niche markets like erotica, etc.

On top of that, what tends to happen with print publishing, is they get a hit like "Twilight" and then flood the market with mediocre books in order to try and replicate the success of that one hit. When those mediocre books don't sell well enough, the industry declares "vampire books" dead.

They did this with chick lit also. First the market was nonexistent, then you had a hit like Bridget Jones's Diary, after which the market became saturated. And then it was nearly impossible to sell that kind of book because so many previous ones had sold poorly.

The result of this cycle is that an author unlucky enough to come in at the tail-end of the process will have a lot of trouble finding a home for their work.

And readers that actually do want to read something new and exciting in that genre are out of luck, because those types of books won't be published for awhile.

It's not anyone's fault, it makes total sense. Only now that the technology and mode of delivery has changed, so has the entire ballgame.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Ellen Fisher said...

I don't disagree with the conclusions of your article, but I do technically have a traditional publishing background (one book published by Bantam in 1998, and represented by the Deidre Knight agency for a while). It's so long ago as to be virtually meaningless from a sales standpoint, but...

Anonymous said...

I bet a lot of authors would pay you way more than 5% of their income for you to market their books.

blog said...

Does anyone see any signs of change inside the publishers? The problem with them isn't their selectivity or occasionally botched cover/title, but with the value they add to authors. And this depends on their adaptability to changing distribution. The truth is that unless they decrease their time from acquisition to shelf (virtual or real) to just a couple months, streamline their operations, and increase their ebook royalty rates they will be out of business in 5-10 years. But it's very difficult for older institutions to make these kind of big changes.

I'm a new author (finishing revision/editing on my first novel), but I've published 13 video games and seen these same forces at work in the video game publishers. Although there the rising costs of video games (many big budget ones over 50 million dollars!) help the publishers retain value. They still aren't very flexible at all about moving away from the dying packaged goods business, mostly because the number of employees and departments at the companies that deal with this is so large. Existing departments that are growing irrelevant try and fight the change in order to stay alive, failing to realize that in the long run survival lies in rolling with the punches.

C.V. Hubbard said...

I've been soaking up your advice for sometime now. You are an inspiration, and a thorn in the side of a weak, and bloated industry. Then Amazon Studios came along and convinced me to dust off an old script and enter it in their first ever contest...The response has been great! Now I'm turning the screenplay into a novel and going to self publish it...what do I have to lose but success?

Terri Reid said...

I have over 20 years in marketing, public relations and journalism. When I decided to publish my first novel, I didn't even consider the traditional route because it took too long.
My name is one on the list - I started selling my first novel in August 2010 - I've added two books since then. In December I sold over 5000 books through Kindle.
I agree - the downside of e-publishing is there are no gatekeepers, so anyone with a computer and the Internet can download their "Great American Novel." That's what the samples are for - those are the gatekeepers. Try before you buy.
But, there are some amazing indie authors out there who have tremendous talent and now they have a place to showcase it.

Coolkayaker1 said...

I am a reader, not a writer. I don’t care who published the books I’m reading. I never remember the publisher. I find my books by word-of-mouth, online blogs and other online readers through GoodReads and the like. I do not receive print ads, look at newspapers or watch TV, so I get no ideas there. I relate to the authors I enjoy, typically through their personal websites. I buy the books written by authors I like (sometimes buying their entire canon of work if it’s priced properly) on any platform that will play well on my e-reader (personally, Kindle and iPad with Kindle app). And that, my friends, is how it works on the reader’s end of things.

That is my reply that I put (pending approval) on Richard Curtis's website.

Derek J. Canyon said...

After 3 months, I sold 122 books in December. I'm a new author and hope to someday sell 1000 book in a month. But, not everyone can shoot up to 1000 in just a few months. If anyone's interested, you can see exact numbers for my daily and monthly sales over the last months in my End of year sales report (complete with spiffy charts!).

Tara Maya said...

jtplayer: I will say though, if I were doing this for a living, and I felt I was good at it, I would almost certainly go the ebook route, as it seems to make the most "business" sense at this time.

It won't surprise me at all to wake up one day and find your announcement that you're self-publishing.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

MedrickImagination said...

I read an interesting post over at Aaron G. Niz's blog about how fast things can change and how his being over 30 makes him remember a slower changing world.

I'm 26, I played games in DOS in elementary school and now I have a Droid cellphone that connects me 100% of the time. I could probably find an emulator and play that old DOS bowling game on it. So, I wrote a response here. It's about why I love my Kindle, and how easy it was for me to make the change. I hope you get a chance to check it out, Joe!

Sarra said...

Of course a big-shot agent would say Authors don't make good publishers. He needs to believe that authors need him in order to survive. The truth is, though, sometimes an author is the best possible publisher for their own work. I'm sick of hearing author friends who are trad. published talk about how their editors made them cut out their favorite parts of their books! They always sigh and say something like, "Well, I know it was for the best. My editor knows the market better than I do." It makes me cringe!

Editors at big publishing houses are trying to predict the market two years ahead. It takes them so stinking long to get a book out, they have to consider what the trends and interest will be far in the future. Well, guess what? They are not magic creatures. Editors are human, too. And they are guessing! Perhaps making educated guesses, sure, but still, it's a crapshoot.

Since deciding to self-publish in October, I have been happier and my writing has been much freer. I love not having to worry about whether my characters or plot will pass an editor or agent's market tests. All I think about now is the reader, and in my opinion, that makes me the best qualified publisher for my own work.

In December, which is only my second month of being published, I sold over 800 ebooks. If I had signed a publishing contract with a traditional publisher, I'd still be waiting another year or so to even see my book in print.

Tara Maya said...

Derek, I love your charts.

Tara Maya

The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

Karen McQuestion said...

Coolkayaker1, thanks for weighing in. What you said was pretty much what I've always believed, but it was good to hear it from a reader's perspective.

Mark said...

Does Curtis even know that some self-pubbers get contracts with traditional publishers? There seems to be little evidence that they are averse to working with writers who are self-published.

In other words, writers have everything to gain and nothing to lose by self-publishing, even if they have an ultimate goal of landing a publishing contract.

Rivka said...

Could you share some thoughts on how e-books will affect the young adults/children's market? (Personally, I think most parents are still weary to buy their young kids something as expensive as an e-book reader, and so they continue to buy print books for their kids, even if they themselves have a kindle or whatnot. That might be one reason for the explosion in the young adults market.) Would all your advice be the same for an author of young adults books?

Travis Erwin said...

Joe,

I believe in myself as a writer and I'm proud of the following I've developed via my blog and facebook. I have won awards came very close to landing both agents and book deals but some unforeseen calamity seems to block me at climax every time it seems to be my turn. More and more I think publishing my work via ebooks is the way to go. thanks for making us all believe and for educating us on these matters. I read your every post although I do not comment often.

Robin Sullivan said...

Small correction.....

Those with * next to their names sold 1000 copies or more of a single book.

Sould be sold 1,000 or more on MORE than one book.

The Daring Novelist said...

One big thing I very much disagree with: It's not really the publishers who are choosing books regardless of reader wishes - it was the distributors and booksellers (Barnes and Noble in particular).

They are the publisher's customers, and it's in THEIR business model and best interests to use push marketing to create best sellers, and to churn the rest of the stock.

I don't know how many of you remember the disastrous nineties, when so many midlist authors had to change their pen names every three or four books to keep publishing. They were selling well enough to turn a dollar for the publishers, but BN was pushing for best sellers and would stop ordering those books.

So the publisher, who was making some money off that author, would work with the author and they'd change names to get around BN's system.

IMHO, a part of jt's differences with the rest of this group is probably his tastes in books. He likes the stuff that this system created. Me, I stopped buying new books at that time altogether. They stopped publishing books I liked. Luckily Amazon kept a lot writers in the public eye by allowing used books to be traded, and then allowing authors to set up a store to sell remaindered copies....

And now, with the dtp, I can get books from those authors again.

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks, Robin. I took off the * because it confuses me, and added more names who have joined the party.

The Vampire Years said...

Apologies if anyone pointed this out already - Curtis is not only an agent but also a publisher - is he not?

E-reads
Founded by literary agent Richard Curtis, e-reads brings back books you remember by authors you love. The online publisher's list of titles includes previously published classics in science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, thrillers and westerns as well as our large and varied selection of hard-to-find general fiction and nonfiction. E-reads is also building a stable of exciting original books by first-class authors.

Anonymous said...

I've published 3 novels with a "Big 6" publisher and have a 4th coming out later this year. I can't say the experience has been anything but great. No, I haven't made a fortune, but I did fulfill a lifelong dream, and I achieved a goal very few people are able to reach. If I had to do it all over again, I'd still shoot for traditional publishing because the legitimacy it provided will stay with me for the rest of my life.

That said, I'm thrilled about the rise of indie publishing. I've been around long enough to know that unless you're one of the big sellers, your lifespan as a traditionally published writer is incredibly short. It's good to know there's a fallback in place when that day comes for me.

Once the smoke clears in the next couple years, I'm sure a lot of traditionally published authors are going to be thrilled with this option.

Thanks for paving the way, Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

I can't say the experience has been anything but great.

That's awesome. Congrats.

I'm curious how much money you've made, how well your books have sold, and if you've signed another deal with the same publisher.

I normally wouldn't ask, but since you're posting anonymously it isn't revealaing anything personal, but it can add to this discussion.

Joe Konrath said...

e-reads brings back books you remember by authors you love

Curtis was one of the first agents, if not the first, to realistically recognize the value of ebooks.

Back in the 90s, there was ebook frenzy, and some ebook rights went for big money. But ten years passed with nothing much happening, and the industry stopped caring.

Then Kindle came along and changed everything.

Amanda Hocking said...

One clarification - it was a publishing offer, but it wasn't from a Big 6. It wasn't an unknown, but it wasn't a Big 6. It was an offer I would've been thrilled to take even six months ago, though. And that's about all I feel comfortable saying about that.

But yes, great post.

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe,

I haven't read Curtis' article yet...or any of the comments on this post... but one thought:

Sales aren't necessarily an accurate gauge. How many of the self-published authors who are smoking you in sales are essentially giving their books away at 99 cents? I doubt many of them are smoking you when it comes to revenue.

Lee

Joe Konrath said...

it wasn't from a Big 6.

I'll correct that. I assumed it was a Big 6 offer.

If you haven't had a Big 6 offer yet, and you've sold 109,000 ebooks in December, then there is something VERY VERY VERY wrong with this industry.

But we knew that, didn't we? :)

If/when a Big 6 does offer you a contract, don't consider anything less than a million a book. And even then, make sure they don't have non compete clauses, and clear reversion of rights clauses.

Joe Konrath said...

I doubt many of them are smoking you when it comes to revenue.

You'd be correct, Lee.

But I'm frankly surprised how some writers are making a lot of money on the 99 cent books.

Let's also remember that 2010 was year zero. As these authors continue to produce books, and experiment with different prices, I have no doubt we'll see some of them whipping my butt in $$$.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how much money you've made, how well your books have sold, and if you've signed another deal with the same publisher.

The deals I signed were two-book deals, and I just turned in the final book on the second contract this summer. I pitched a fifth book to the same publisher and they seem excited. My editor said she plans on making another offer, but so far nothing. We'll see what happens. If they don't buy it, I'll join the self published ranks sooner rather than later.

All of my books have been released in hardcover and followed with a MMPB edition, and I've taken home about $60,000 for each one if you include foreign sales and movie options (two options, nothing materialized). Not great, just under $200K, but not too bad for a mid-list writer.

My publisher seems okay with how the books have done, and my editor still returns my emails. The books have all had favorable reviews in good sized papers and with the four industry pubs, and that seems to make my publisher happy. Maybe that's why we have a good relationship.

I really have nothing to complain about. Sure, my ears perked up when I heard about Amazon's 70% royalty, but I can't bring myself to jump ship just yet. I'd love to make $100K a year like you, but I'm a book a year gal, and it seems like the secret to pulling in that kind of money is a steady backlist, which I don't have.

I have no doubt that ebooks are the future, and I know traditional publishing is going to change drastically in the next five years. My hope is to stay with it for as long as I can, or until I no longer get out of it what I wouldn't get out of self publishing.

Another factor holding me back is self promotion. I hate it, and I can't see myself out there selling books. I'm over 50 now, and it's just not in my personality. I'm still baffled by the appeal of Twitter.

I'll keep writing the books because I've always written, and if I don't fit in with the new age of publishing, that's fine too. I accomplished a goal I set for myself in middle school, and I have no regrets.

Joe Konrath said...

@Anon - Thanks so much for sharing.

It sounds like you've had a great experience so far, and the money you've made is very nice for a midlist author.

I hope you get a nice offer for book #5, and that you earn out your advances and start getting some royalty checks.

Pay close attention to the next contract you sign. The "no compete" clause could prevent you from releasing anything on Kindle yourself. And naturally I encourage you to release things on Kindle yourself.

Earning $60k on a book is great. But I'm pretty convinced a self-pubbed title by a midlist author can make at least $24k a year. Depending on how fast the royalties come in, you could wind up earning more money on your own after the 3 or 4 year mark. Perhaps a lot more.

Joe Konrath said...

@Anon - Thanks so much for sharing.

It sounds like you've had a great experience so far, and the money you've made is very nice for a midlist author.

I hope you get a nice offer for book #5, and that you earn out your advances and start getting some royalty checks.

Pay close attention to the next contract you sign. The "no compete" clause could prevent you from releasing anything on Kindle yourself. And naturally I encourage you to release things on Kindle yourself.

Earning $60k on a book is great. But I'm pretty convinced a self-pubbed title by a midlist author can make at least $24k a year. Depending on how fast the royalties come in, you could wind up earning more money on your own after the 3 or 4 year mark. Perhaps a lot more.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm doing my best to get on your next list of big sellers on kindle!!
One thing about Kindle books is there are no returns. That is such a blessing.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

STH said...

A lot of people seem worried about bad writing clogging up the works.

Two things.
1, of course there will be bad writing. Tons of it.

And 2, if you are good, you need to figure out how to rise above. Worthwhile things like lucrative writing careers are always going to be hard, even on an even playing field. Just because there is no longer a cost associated with storage and distribution doesn't mean there is suddenly such a thing as a free lunch.

But think about it like this, if you don't have what it takes to write a good book, how likely is it that you have so much EXTRA of what it takes to market books, that you can overcome lousy writing?

A bad writer can buy a great cover. But he can't buy great word of mouth. And after his book with the great cover fails, he'll be less likely to do all that hard work again.

But also, I think we tend to underestimate what "millions" really means. There are millions of people out there who like reading books so much that they spent $136 or more on a device to help them do it.

There is plenty of room on that playing field for everybody. Even people who want to upload bad writing.

K.D. Lum said...

I've just started reading your blog a few months ago, and your latest posts have kind of thrown my writing thinking for a loop. I'm more excited now about the notion of self-publishing and feel less like I'm giving something up if I choose to publish for myself.

Good reading regardless of which side of the debate you're on, and you just may have addicted me to numbers.

Karen said...

Actually, Morgan there are returns on Kindle. I had an author in December sold 686 downloads for her short story, but had 29 returns. There are numerous reasons for the returns, Kindle tells me. Bad formats, hated it, clicked on it then forgot to remove from shopping cart.

But they do returns.

Joe Konrath said...

I've heard the most common reasons for returns was hitting the buy button accidentally, or hitting it twice.

Mike Fook said...

I hit 387 books sold at Amazon Kindle alone in December. Not 1,000 yet - but, will get there!

Mike Fook said...

Re: Kindle Returns

I had a giant return rate - like 25% for a while when I first got started. Then I looked at how my ebooks had been formatted after Amazon converted them - pure junk.

I went back and edited them all very well (HTML editor) and now I got 1 return on 387 books sold in December.

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe,

I finally read Curtis' post. It is so filled with out-dated information and ignorance that it's hardly worth the time you spent responding to it. Let's not forget that it's Curtis who is been selling ebook editions of some of his clients' works for $15. For a guy as plugged into the biz as he has been in the past, he really has no clue what's happening with the ebook biz.

Lee

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone brought up the age factor. "Over fifty" ? In my experience this IS a deciding factor among publishers. I first started hearing this complaint among romance writers, with middle-aged women insisting their work was being passed over by agents, in favor of that written by "beautiful young men," because of the novelty of men writing romance, and the appeal to all women of the back cover photos of young males.
Once I noticed that young males were indeed being picked up by publisher looking for genre romance, I started checking the cover photos on books by female authors who had written at least 4-5 books. Eureka, many of them were indeed aging backwards! In one case, from a first book with a photo of a fifty-something author, to her last book (!) with what must have been her college graduation photo. Too funny! Perfectly understandable. I admore their determination to avoid the standard dismissal of middleaged women in our society.
While browsing a selection of books at our big B & NN, written by one of the most successful of the US female authors, a bookseller walked by & laughed & said, "she hasn't looked like that for at least twenty years! She was here for a reading last year."
Catfight indeed. Women would be well warned not to let agents figure out their real age while cruising for contracts. Agents want someone who will look good at those book signings.
It's the way of the world. Nothing to do but try and fight back by sliding under the radar, another major benefit of SP. You can publish any photo you want,or none at all.

Lee Goldberg said...

Lee wrote: I doubt many of them are smoking you when it comes to revenue.

Joe wrote: You'd be correct, Lee.
That's an important distinction that gets lost in the hype (most of it justified) surrounding the ebook business.

If you sell 1000 copies at .99, you make $350. If I sell 1000 copies at $2.99, I make $2060. That's a huge difference. So comparing the number of ebooks one author is selling to another's is meaningless if you don't know what the sales price is.

I wouldn't call a guy selling 500 books a month for 99 cents (earning $175/$2100 annually) a success.

On the other hand, a guy selling 500 books-a-month at $2.99 (earning $1,030/$12,360 annually) is on to something, earning typical, low mid-list author money...

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

Mike wrote: "I hit 387 books sold at Amazon Kindle alone in December. Not 1,000 yet - but, will get there!"

Some advice...I don't think you are doing yourself any favors putting this in the description of your books:

"Author's Note: Reviews of books usually entail other authors buying competitors books and giving them JUNK reviews. There is no way in the world someone could buy this book and rate it a 1 star out of 5 - it's just beyond the bounds of logic. I have had AMAZING feedback on this book when I launched it for free on my website for a test period.
Buy this book in spite of any bad reviews, and please, write your own review."


It screams of desperation and non-professionalism and is undoubtedly driving sales away, even at 99 cents.

Joe Konrath said...

he really has no clue what's happening with the ebook biz.

Lee, no one has a clue what's happening, except a few authors. But that few is growing.

Remember how skeptical you were in the beginning? You still recommend traditional publishing.

Give it until summer, when you're making $10k a month. :)

I wouldn't call a guy selling 500 books a month for 99 cents (earning $175/$2100 annually) a success.

Yet. That's the key. What about if he's got 10 books at 500 sales each? And selling at 500 now could mean 1000 in June, or 2000 in December.

Remember when publishers used to grow authors? It's happening again, but this time it is readers on Amazon who are growing them.

Give it time. These 1000 ebooks a month authors will be making fat bank by the end of the year. Because they're in the same position I was last year.

Last December, I made $1650. This December I made $24,000.

Selena Kitt said...

In terms of success, you may be right. The 80/20 rule is probably in place (20% of the group earns as much as the other 80%, and then this can be split over and over.)

This has been my experience in looking at royalties at Excessica - I pay out to 100+ authors, and there is definitely an 80/20 split.

Lee Goldberg said...

Lee, no one has a clue what's happening, except a few authors. But that few is growing.

Remember how skeptical you were in the beginning? You still recommend traditional publishing.


That's not entirely accurate. I strongly recommend traditional publishing for the first-time author. I still beliieve it's a mistake to self-publish your first book. (I may change my mind...these are fast changing times...but that's what I feel today).

But you're right, my views on self-publishing have changed dramatically in the last year...as has the entire publishing business.

I do NOT think it makes any financial sense for a midlist author to stick with publishers anymore.... my next non-MONK novel will almost certainly be an original, self-published ebook.

Lee

Ellen Fisher said...

"I do NOT think it makes any financial sense for a midlist author to stick with publishers anymore...."

Wow, Lee. I admit that kind of surprises me. It's been really interesting to see people like you and Joe (ie, people who know a lot more about publishing than I do!) changing your minds on this topic over the course of the past year.

Selena Kitt said...

"If it were up to NY, readers wouldn't be able to choose Hocking, because she wouldn't be available."

We all know there were underrepresented niche markets like erotica, etc.


Are you saying that Hocking writes erotica? Because if you are, just an FYI, that isn't her genre.

It IS mine. And yes, it has been very underrepresented in print for a long time. The ebook market has picked up that slack for years (literally - years - I know Joe says 2010 is ground zero, but small epubs have been publishing erotica and erotic romance for a lot longer than that, filling that niche market need).

So to say that erotica wasn't available isn't quite true - you could find it, if you wanted to. But it's the dirty little secret of ereaders everywhere (and maybe, perhaps, anyone who gets their hands on any new technology from a laptop to a DVR to a Droid to an iPad) - one of the first things people do is look for porn. ;)

As someone mentioned in the LJ Sellers post, sex does, indeed, sell. Funny how print pubs wouldn't touch it for so long. And now Amazon is in the process of deciding what they will and won't allow on their site when it comes to erotica. It's a niche market that comes with a stigma - but that's political.

I would bet you 80% of Kindles have something "adult" on them.

Joe Konrath said...

I do NOT think it makes any financial sense for a midlist author to stick with publishers anymore....

Good for you for changing your mind. Not many people are able to.

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

So using Titlez I did a quick check for Amazon Rankings for e-Reads books. The "best" title is at 3,784 and only 8 are under 10,000. For a company who "specializes" in doing e-books this is the BEST they do for kindle rankings? The "Amatures" are consistantly in raking under 1K and more than a few under 100. Do we really want to take his word for it when with all his "experience" in founding a company for this market can't beat what the KB indies are?

Lee Goldberg said...

Only a fool never changes his mind.

And my view on whether a midlist writer should take a book contract or self-publish have been evolving, more or less publicly (on my blog) for some time now.

But I have to admit my ebook royalties over the last 90 days have really sealed the deal for me. If sales stay as they are, I will earn $28,000 in royalties this year just on THE WALK...an out-of-print book published in 2004...and that's not counting other revenue streams (Nook, CreateSpace, etc.) I would have to be a fool to take a mid-list deal.

Lee

wannabuy said...

If you browse the Kindle genre bestseller lists, between 20% and 90% of the authors listed there are self-published authors.

That says it all. I was shocked to find sci-fi is 65% indie. Why? Readers want variety that was denied them. One book a year per author and discouraging authors from switching genres... why?

To think this is happening right before ebooks hit 'the tipping point.' I'm not sure when in 2011 we'll hit 20% of book dollars going to ebooks, but it is fated.

Just look at the hardware vendors trying to get into the market (e.g., Samsung). It looks like Amazon playing coy was very wise to delay the competition.

Midlist is the key battleground. It is what makes it worth walking into a bookstore (for anyone looking for a novel). If midlist defects there goes the volume for print and the 'economy of scale' discounts for the printing process.

I'm curious when people think the tipping point will be in 2011. I had posted here before it would be at 20% market share. With the ramp up in ereader production (due to demand), I think around May. Some think it will happen at 10% market share (which is about where we should be for December)...

Midlist will determine it all and it is only possible to make a full time career on midlist via Indie/Small publisher ebooks.

Neil

MedrickImagination said...

Neil,

I think the tipping point will be about 33%. When a fifth (20%) of the sales are e-book, I think the traditional publishers will pull their collective Tiamat heads out of the sands. When it hits 1 in 3 of their dollars, I think they'll really start to move.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Joe Konrath said...
I assumed it was a Big 6 offer.

If you haven't had a Big 6 offer yet, and you've sold 109,000 ebooks in December, then there is something VERY VERY VERY wrong with this industry.


I'm completely boggled that no big-six has come her way - not that I think she should take it but only a small press has knocked??? That's almost as mindblowing as selling 110,000 ina month

Robin Sullivan said...

@ Selena Kitt said...
"If it were up to NY, readers wouldn't be able to choose Hocking, because she wouldn't be available."


No Amanada does not write erotica - the reason Joe said this is Amanda had many many rejections ... basically NY saying... "You're not good enough". Then she did it on her own and proved them all wrong.

Selena Kitt said...

No Amanada does not write erotica - the reason Joe said this is Amanda had many many rejections ... basically NY saying... "You're not good enough". Then she did it on her own and proved them all wrong.

Yeah, I know. I was commenting on gniz's "niche market" remark - I'm not sure if he was implying that Amanda was selling because she was publishing in an "underrepresented niche market" like erotica or not. Just wanted to clarify. :)

Anonymous said...

The "no compete" clause could prevent you from releasing anything on Kindle yourself.

Couldn't you circumvent that by using a pseudonym?

Joe Konrath said...

Couldn't you circumvent that by using a pseudonym?

Yes, but if you're writing a book in the same genre you want the books to be searchable together.

Blue Tyson said...

jtplayer,

I'd lay pretty short money you are an American then - and perhaps for fiction you like to read books written by Americans about the USA or set in the USA.

If stuff that you want to read is that easy to find, how about you go find me a few dozen thrillers set in Australia, or similarly for spy novels, or near future SF.

And if it is that easy, make them all new books.

Plus of course we are blocked from buying a large percentage of the books (but can find lots of them for free online, of course, if we want).

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe Konrath said...
I assumed it was a Big 6 offer.

If you haven't had a Big 6 offer yet, and you've sold 109,000 ebooks in December, then there is something VERY VERY VERY wrong with this industry.


This may be a dumb question...but how would any of the big 6 know how many books she was selling on Amazon unless a) Amazon told them or b) Amanda did?

Lee

Joe Konrath said...

This may be a dumb question...but how would any of the big 6 know how many books she was selling on Amazon unless a) Amazon told them or b) Amanda did?

She's currently got 5 or 6 ebooks in the Kindle Top 100.

And unless the Big 6 are sleeping at the wheel, there are stories of Amanda's sales all over the net.

Joe Konrath said...

Plus, she has an agent, who is no doubt telling them.

evilphilip said...

"And unless the Big 6 are sleeping at the wheel, there are stories of Amanda's sales all over the net."

Isn't one of the points of your blog is that the Big 6 IS asleep at the wheel?

It would not shock me at all to discover that while many Agents may be aware of Amanda's success that the people who make the real decisions about who/what to publish have no idea who she is.

After all, we all knew she was a success, but it wasn't until December that she really broke the mold.

jtplayer said...

"If stuff that you want to read is that easy to find, how about you go find me a few dozen thrillers set in Australia, or similarly for spy novels, or near future SF"

Dude...that post makes no sense whatsoever.

I have no trouble finding all the books I want to read. What's so hard to understand about that?

And I read books from many different authors, set in locales all over the world. My reading tastes aren't limited in any way, save for the genres I enjoy.

wannabuy said...

@The Daring Novelist:
I don't know how many of you remember the disastrous nineties, when so many midlist authors had to change their pen names every three or four books to keep publishing. They were selling well enough to turn a dollar for the publishers, but BN was pushing for best sellers and would stop ordering those books.

I find that one of the best aspects of ebooks. An author can keep building their fan base and readers can find their author. Ok, I wouldn't want an author writing "Where o Where is Hugglebugglebear" and "When o When will Hugglebugglebear's reign of Terror end" under the same pen name... But otherwise that is a lame part of the system that is being left behind.

@Sarra " I'm sick of hearing author friends who are trad. published talk about how their editors made them cut out their favorite parts of their books!"
As a reader, I'm finding the ebooks fresher. Sort of like unpasteurized cheese. Yummy, just know what you're in for. ;)

I think the entities that forced the name changes are about to be "hoisted by their own petard."

Neil

PS
109,000 in a month... Who would have thought 4 months ago? Seriously. I'm reading microchip blogs and they're seeing > 6 million ereaders made 1Q2011, so we can expect healthy ebook market growth to continue. :)

Gary Ponzo said...

I sold over 800 Kindle books in December and tracking stronger in January. I just wish I'd started reading Joe's blog sooner.

Tara Maya said...

and perhaps for fiction you like to read books written by Americans about the USA or set in the USA....

But it can't be written by, say, a Brit, because apparently some publishers think a Brit can't write mysteries set in America... as happened for years to one British writer. Ridiculous.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

wannabuy said...

To refute the demand for variety, I had such a long post, I blogged it:
http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/01/pareto-principle-and-ebooks.html

Quick summary:
20% of the customers buy 80% of the books. Those customers demand the greatest variety. If 'long tail theory' holds out, what the publishers put out could only meet half their demand (at best). So the most 'intense readers' must transition to ebooks for the variety.

Neil

Gary Ponzo said...

Of course as soon as I open my mouth my novel goes an hour without a sale. Never again. I retract my last post.

modicumoftalent.com said...

Thanks for responding to that article. I read the quote and thought it was hopelessly out of date. :) Really, that seems a little... well, negligent on the part of the author of the post. I mean, if you're going to cite someone, wouldn't you make sure you had an up-to-date opinion/quote? Stuff changes.

But what do I know? I'm just a newbie indie author, clearly not cut out for the rough, rough world of publishing, no matter how much it seems like a small business, which I've run before....

Amy

Ty Hutchinson said...

Joe, thanks for everything you're doing here. I expect to be joining you all very soon.

author Dodge Winston said...

Fascinating that an agent would frown upon authors being their own publishers... not! He won't see any of the money if an author publishes their own work, typically. This sounds like a scare tactic. Then again we do need professionals to help with contract work, negotiations, and deals with big corporations and Hollywood. There are many paths. To each his own.

Jason Letts said...

Joe, FYI: B. Tackitt is not an author.

Jason Letts said...

Also, that list of names has a lot of doubles in it. Just trying to help!

Ellen Fisher said...

Curtis reposted this and posted a response:

http://ereads.com/2011/01/do-authors-make-good-publishers-j-a-konrath-weighs-in.html

He says, "Thanks to the many comments contributed by caring authors to the issues we raised, both terms have been expanded and refined and will serve as the basis for defining the new world. Good communications start with good listening. I’ve listened to your comments, and I’ve heard them."

Robin Sullivan said...

@evilphilip said...
"And unless the Big 6 are sleeping at the wheel, there are stories of Amanda's sales all over the net."

Isn't one of the points of your blog is that the Big 6 IS asleep at the wheel?


Asleep...maybe, but completely oblivious? It still boggles me.

gniz said...

Just an FYI, I did not mean to imply that Amanda Hocking writes erotica, though I can see why it came across that way.

My point was that there are multiple reasons to ascribe to certain authors having difficulty breaking into print publishing. In Amanda's case it was, I assume, a case of the "vampire books are dead" phenomenon that I spoke of...

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

jtplayer said...

All this talk about "variety" truly baffles me. I've been a fairly voracious reader my entire adult life. At times I'll read as many as 1-2 books a week. I'm 50 years old now and through all those years of purchasing books I've never encountered a single problem feeding my tastes.

Maybe it's a genre thing. I like literary fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, thrillers, and pulp fiction. I also read a wide variety of non-fiction.

I can go to just about any Borders or B&N and browse the aisles, and invariably I'll find something new and interesting. And then there's online browsing through Amazon or Alibris or Powell's Books. On top of that I have some used bookstores like The Bookman that I frequent pretty regularly.

I honestly don't get the knock on big publishing in this regard. So they don't publish everything that's written, so they chase trends, so what? Whatever "variety" ebooks represent is still lost on me until I've somehow stumbled across those new books. Until then they're as just unknown as anything turned down by the Big 6.

Just because you've discovered a new author via his self-published ebook, and that author was previously rejected by traditional publishing, doesn't mean the big publishers don't have a clue. It just means they didn't do business with that particular writer. Again, it's only business. And any criticism after the fact is irrelevant Monday morning quarterbacking. IMO.

And seriously now, we're gonna start slamming the Big 6 for not knocking on Amanda Hocking's door? First we criticize them for not recognizing her the first time around, and now we knock 'em for not getting down on their knees and shoveling the cash at her.

Amazing.

That's quite a chip some of you have sitting up there on your shoulder.

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

I checked out the kindleboard link and found it very sad. It's basically a bunch of authors shouting out their numbers to each other. Everyone seems hell-bent to tell the world how successful and important they are. Everyone has become their own cheerleader and spends their time trying to convince the people above them that they just as important, and the people below them that they're more important.

It looks like a sad, sad horserace.

Ellen Fisher said...

Yes, anon, no doubt it would be preferable to some people if none of us ever discussed our numbers, so that the old "most self-pubbed authors only sell twenty copies to friends and family" figure could get thrown around forever. But getting sales numbers out there is a way to explode myths like that, and to provide useful info to those who may want it. Authors can't reasonably make a decision on whether or not to indie publish if there is no available data on sales.

Lori Devoti said...

Tracking to make well over the 1,000 sales mark this month at Amazon. Good to know I'm incapable as an author to be my own publisher. ;-)
Lori

Anonymous said...

That's quite a chip some of you have sitting up there on your shoulder.

Freudian projection.

VincentZandri said...

I still haven't made the jump to self-publishing (Jeeze, remember a time not so long ago when an author wouldn't even consider such a thing?), but my e-books continue to sell very well via StoneHouse and StoneGate Ink, which are Aaron Patterson's popular imprints. But I am making 50% per sale and everyone of my recently pub'd novels including The Remains, and The Innocent have been Amazon Hot New Bestsellers, The Remains, having hit the Number 1 spot. Having just entered into the E-Book arena, I consider that a very good start. Now Godchild (the follow-up to The Innocent) will be published in a few days. It's not self-published but it will be my first "partnering contract" with StoneGate Ink. My resulting profit margin will be 75% and I get paid once a month instead of every six months. If this works as well as I think it will, I will enter into more partnering agreements for certain.
Vin

wannabuy said...

@Lori "Tracking to make well over the 1,000 sales mark this month at Amazon. Good to know I'm incapable as an author to be my own publisher. ;-)"

I look forward to each author being added to the list. Congrats!

@Vincent "I still haven't made the jump to self-publishing (Jeeze, remember a time not so long ago when an author wouldn't even consider such a thing?)

Not Jump? How six months ago. ;)

@Ellen: But getting sales numbers out there is a way to explode myths like that

It amazes me how many myths and straw-man arguments are thrown at ebooks. Joe has done an amazing job of breaking down the myths. I'm looking forward to his highlights on further Indie authors.

Readers are looking forward to the variety. :)

Neil

Joe Konrath said...

Everyone seems hell-bent to tell the world how successful and important they are.

That's not what the Kindleboard thread is about.

It's about a whole bunch of authors who are freakin' excited that their hard work and efforts are paying off.

In my day, getting that phone call from an agent saying they accepted you, or the letter from a publisher saying they bought your story, was cause to run around and whoop like a fool.

These days, Amazon is causing the whooping.

These aren't authors bragging. They are authors excited, pleased, and often surprised that they can actually reach readers without the gatekeepers.

Sad you can't see that.

Joe Konrath said...

Of course as soon as I open my mouth my novel goes an hour without a sale. Never again. I retract my last post.

Sometimes DTP gets stuck and doesn't report immediately. Don't sweat it. It always catches up.

Anonymous said...

"I checked out the kindleboard link and found it very sad. It's basically a bunch of authors shouting out their numbers to each other. Everyone seems hell-bent to tell the world how successful and important they are."

It's a support group for independent authors. I enjoy the camaraderie and advice there (marketing tips, experience sharing, discussion of work styles and daily struggles). Writers tend to become isolated, and a support group of peers is valuable. Thanks to the internet, writers can hang out together on coffee breaks, discuss works in progress, and celebrate their successes.

The Kindle board group has helped me to improve my marketing, and it has introduced me to some great new authors and their books.

Melissa Romo said...

@gniz

"Not sure I agree 100 percent with this. It might look that way on the surface, but the fact of the matter is, you still need to be smart and professional and capable in order to entice readers."

Yes, you're right. "Entry" just means you enter, it doesn't mean you do well.

The Daring Novelist said...

JT -

You like the selection you get from traditional publishing. You're either easy to please.... or you just happen to be their target market.

But not everyone is the same. For instance, for me, most of the cozy mystery authors I really liked in the 1990s (who were selling well enough to make a profit for the publishers) were simply put on the blacklist by the distributors after four books or so.

They no longer publish fast and dirty little puzzle mysteries like Perry Mason any more.

Not long ago I heard someone who'd done a survey of crime fiction over the past ten years, and the "crime comedy" was almost gone from the genre. (A few major authors, but nothing new.)

J. Viser said...

Since technology has changed fundamentally the publishing game, publishers need to determine how they can maintain relevance.

Many publishers may have seen themselves as the "gatekeepers" to what the public should (or shouldn't) read.

Technology has democratized publishing and now the big (and little) houses will have to change. There are precedents to "old school" industries surviving and even succeeding when faced with disruptive technology changes.

For example, Turbo Tax didn't put all tax accountants out of business, but it did force them to extend into new services (e.g., financial planning).

If publishers can find new ways to provide value to BOTH authors and readers, then they can survive and even thrive.

Fear, however, is the greatest mental paralysis drug out there. It is unlikely that a publisher reacting out of fear and protecting his or her turf will generate forward-thinking and inclusive ideas.

Until then, I'll keep self-publishing and building my fan base, one at a time (I am patient).

jtplayer said...

"You like the selection you get from traditional publishing. You're either easy to please.... or you just happen to be their target market"

I don’t think I’m either of those.

I have fairly discerning tastes in what I read, and likewise, I read so many different books I’m not sure what “target” audience I would be a part of.

Although it’s purely anecdotal, for me the issue of variety has never been an issue.

jtplayer said...

"Many publishers may have seen themselves as the "gatekeepers" to what the public should (or shouldn't) read"

Again, what’s with the idea that because a publisher chooses to not publish a particular book, they are somehow saying the public “shouldn’t” read that book?

IMO, this is just silly logic.

All it means is they made the business decision not to invest their money in that author and his/her work.

Self-publishing avenues have existed for decades. They may have been looked down upon by the more “enlightened” class, but nevertheless the option has been available for any author who so chooses.

If you don't like the decisions made by big publishing regarding your latest work, then put up your own bread and prove them wrong.

This entire criticism is a hollow one, IMO, and only serves to propagate the myth building that goes hand in hand with the new ebook revolution.

Joe Konrath said...

@jviser - Your comment is so well presented I went and bought your ebook on Kindle.

Some advice, if you're willing to accept it.

1. Kill the exclamation points on your webpage and Kindle description. It yells "amateur."

2. Tighten the product description to avoid bragging. Stick to story highlights, compare it to one or two other known writers, but don't insist that the reader will love it. While this approach works with grindhouse films, I've found that readers prefer something subtler.

Read a few back jackets from your favorite thrillers and emulate their style and tone. Tom Clancy never says "I PROMISE THIS BOOK WILL BLOW YOU AWAY!" You don't need to either.

My 2 cents.

Tim Frost said...

The UK has gone Kindle-crazy, and new owners are quickly discovering two things:

Big-name bestsellers are often priced more than the paperback.

Indie books can be just as enjoyable, and mostly cost under $1/£1.

Indies like me are making hay. I sold nearly 3,000 books in December.

You need to make a separate Author Page for the UK site, well worth doing.

Rex Kusler said...

I self-published for a little less than a year. I'm no good at it (especially promotion), yet I experienced a lot of success.

http://rexkusler.blogspot.com/

wannabuy said...

@The Daring Novelist "Not long ago I heard someone who'd done a survey of crime fiction over the past ten years, and the "crime comedy" was almost gone from the genre. (A few major authors, but nothing new.)"

Thank you for sharing these tidbits of the industry. I find it absolutely fascinating how the big6 would abandon genres (sub-genres?) that were doing well but were just not 'best sellers.' I'm convinced that the short shelf life of pbooks killed off 1/4 of the 'good books' before they had a chance to 'get legs.'

@J. Viser "For example, Turbo Tax didn't put all tax accountants out of business, but it did force them to extend into new services (e.g., financial planning)."

Good point! It is about value. My mom was a CPA (retired) and Turbotax was a blessing for her. It cut their annual software costs. ;) (Competition is wonderful.) Her last decade was done doing Turbotax with 'audit insurance.' She found value (added deductions turbotax missed, in particular, taking advantage of typos in the tax code).

The publishers need to do the same. Adapt and add value. The book market is incredibly fragmented. Unless the publishers bat 1000, they'll never fulfill every niche.


Tim,
Congratulations on the sales in the UK. Is the UK site more accessible for European buyers, or is it a truly "UK site?"

Rex,
I just read on your blog that Amazon Encore is picking you up. Congratulations!

Neil

evilphilip said...

"Yes, anon, no doubt it would be preferable to some people if none of us ever discussed our numbers, so that the old "most self-pubbed authors only sell twenty copies to friends and family" figure could get thrown around forever."

Someone made a post right here on Joe's blog a few days back along the lines of "Most self-publishers are only reaching friends and family."

My reply to that was, "I don't have 1,000 friends, let alone 1,000 friends a month."

I think the myth that if you self publish to the Kindle that you will only reach a few dozen readers is a high hurdle to jump and threads like that one on Kindleboards and posts like Joe's prove that it isn't true any more.

If you only sold a dozen copies of your book and the Big 6 never had any intention of publishing your book... what would be the loss?

Kindle publishing is kind of a Win/Win situation.

Tim Frost said...

'Tim,
Congratulations on the sales in the UK. Is the UK site more accessible for European buyers, or is it a truly "UK site?"'

Neil, good question. The UK site is just for UK residents, in theory. The German/French/Spanish Amazon sites do not list Kindle titles and I think they must buy from the US site, as UK buyers had to until last August.

The UK Kindle site has its own reviews, prices, Top 100 etc. It used to be possible for any Amazon customer to post a review on the UK site, but that's no longer the case. What is so interesting is how different the US and UK bestsellers are. Independent authors are doing much better in the rankings in the UK (although sales numbers will be higher in the US).

Tim

jtplayer said...

"If you only sold a dozen copies of your book and the Big 6 never had any intention of publishing your book... what would be the loss?

I would agree with that statement.

While I can see many reasons why an author would choose to pursue a traditional publishing deal, I likewise recognize the allure of newfound opportunities presented by epublishing.

And to say only family and friends buy self-published ebooks is plain nonsense.

Some of the rhetoric on both sides of this debate is beyond laughable. IMO.

Anonymous said...

Joe, are there any stats on how many people who spring for these low cost self published ebooks actually read them?

I ask because I have a friend who self published a book on the kindle and sold several thousand copies at $.99 - $.299 over the course of about six months. Later she signed a deal with a big 6 publisher for another book. She said with the kindle novel she never heard from her readers, ever, but with the published novel she'd get several emails a month from readers.

It makes me wonder how many people who buy these self published books actually care enough to read them.

This probably doesn't matter to many authors since most people here only seem interested in how much money thay can make, but it's something someone who wants to write for an audience might think about.

Ellen Fisher said...

"This probably doesn't matter to many authors since most people here only seem interested in how much money thay can make..."

Well, now, anon, that's a bit unnecessarily snide. People talk about their sales figures and earnings because those are concrete. We KNOW how many books we're selling. We don't have any way of knowing how many readers read our books, and any comparison between how many traditionally published books actually get read vs. indie books is merely speculative.

Anonymous said...

Not really against ebook publishing for the masses, but there's something sad about it, too.

Here it is. Just substitute "Published" for "Super" and you'll see.

Link

Jenn McKay said...

Well, I'm not a big fan of grouping people into one category and making decisions about their abilities, honestly, but this entry did leave me with one thought about agents:

They aren't competent journalists, because they don't get the most up-to-date info. tee hee.

DO you have some love to share in 2011? Love Every Day

Kbalbify said...

Thanks for your comment. I came here after reading the other article and wanted to read more. I decided to write my memoir this past August and it was published 12/10/2010. I sold a few books the first week and now I am learning about targeting my marketing. I didn't want to shop my book for 10 years and get rejected, I wanted it out there, and I will let the readers make the decision. Made no sense for me to look for a publisher or an agent at this juncture. I believe the book Bad Girl Gone Mom and the message written within will stand for itself. Congratulations and wishes for your continued success.

Selena Kitt said...

gniz said: Just an FYI, I did not mean to imply that Amanda Hocking writes erotica, though I can see why it came across that way.

My point was that there are multiple reasons to ascribe to certain authors having difficulty breaking into print publishing. In Amanda's case it was, I assume, a case of the "vampire books are dead" phenomenon that I spoke of...


Ah, gotcha. Thanks for clarifying. Although I'm not sure publishing is ascribing to the "vampire books are dead" theory yet, considering what's still being put out there. But maybe, since their lag is so huge, they've stopped accepting them and this is the backlog.

The Vampire Years said...

@anon 12:41 pm

I receive fan mail on my self-published titles, and unsolicited ratings and reviews.

However, I put my email at the end of every ebook I release and I usually remember to put a para at the end of my ebooks encouraging readers who find a book they like (not just mine!) to post reviews as reviews are one of the things authors running.

I do think with self-pubbed books, while a reader might like it, they not sure how "non-professional" writers (i.e. ones ungraced with a big 6 contract) might respond to reviews or personal correspondence. I mean, we're all "crazy" to self-publish, would you want to email one of us??? ;-)

The Vampire Years said...

gah - when is blogger going to have a post edit feature!

"reviews are one of the things that keep authors running" is what I meant to say.

Ellen O'Connell said...

"She said with the kindle novel she never heard from her readers, ever, but with the published novel she'd get several emails a month from readers."

Just one indie's experience, of course, but for most of 2010 I had just 2 Kindle books available (3 after 11/23), and I definitely get at least "several" emails from readers a month. My books are all priced at $2.99.

Joe Konrath said...

It makes me wonder how many people who buy these self published books actually care enough to read them.

I get a few emails a day about my ebooks, but very few these days about my print books.

Keep in mind that most readers don't contact authors.

wannabuy said...

Side Tidbit on Ebooks:

This Christmas I met a few young adults who are reading ebooks on their IPod touches. I was amazed how many had parents who are not 'readers;' it was more of a surprise that their parents won't buy them books ('the library is good enough,' but a 'non-reader' just doesn't prioritize going to the library).

Ironically, their parents give them gift cards for music. They're all pushing for Amazon gift cards so they can buy ebooks! (Or they utilize other store gift cards to buy Amazon gift cards.)

What is an 11 or 12 year old going to buy with a $25 ebook budget? Not quite two $12.99 ebooks or a bunch of $0.99 to $2.99 ebooks with a little left over for a few MP3s?

Neil

Stephen said...

"I am a reader, not a writer. I don’t care who published the books I’m reading. I never remember the publisher."

That for me says it all. The Big 6 missed their chance at innovation and online sales. NO ONE was better positioned than them to drive the ePublishing market, define their brand, and profit from the changes in technology. Instead, they played Marie Antoinette. Now they can eat...

I do hope 2011 is the year big publishing pulls out of the death spiral. The industry can use all the creativity and innovation that it can get. If not, there are a number of SMALL publishing houses and Indie authors filling the gap. A great place to be for both a writer and a reader.

Stephen Prosapio
Author of DREAM WAR

Karen McQuestion said...

@ Rivka, I was going to leave a comment giving my take on the YA market for e-books, but it would have been way too long, so I wrote a blog post instead.

Do Kids Read E-Books?

Anonymous said...

People act like the "big 6" are stupid because they're not jumping up and down to publish and sign-up all these "successful" kildle authors who are selling 1000 books a month.

Here's the situation. While kindle and e-books are primarily 100% of the world of self-publishers, who thus tend to look at e-books as the entire world, for the big 6 e-books are only one slice of a much bigger pie. They still primarily make their money off large print runs.

When they look at a MS, the question is whether that book will sell a large number of print copies at $13.95 or above.

The self-publishers on kindle, for the most part, simply won't sell in print. In fact, they won't even sell at a $7.95 kindle price. There's a big difference between being able to sell a .99 e-book and a $13.95 book. Thus the "big-6" have no need to pay much attention to the kindle authors, unless a reputable agent brings the author forward as someone who can actually write (as opposed to sell 99 cent ebooks)
Diff anon from above

gniz said...

"The self-publishers on kindle, for the most part, simply won't sell in print. In fact, they won't even sell at a $7.95 kindle price. There's a big difference between being able to sell a .99 e-book and a $13.95 book. Thus the "big-6" have no need to pay much attention to the kindle authors..."

Hey Anon, those are some pretty large claims you're making. And how would you substantiate them exactly? The one way we might find out is if a large publisher took someone like Amanda Hocking and pushed her books in print the way they've done with other big authors in the past.

As far as I know, and Joe and others would know much better, there has never really been such a test case of a person who sold gangbusters in e-books that could not translate to print.

You might be right but how on earth would you know?

On top of that, are you honestly telling us that taking a chance on someone like Amanda (who is a proven commodity on the ebook market) is riskier than pushing a complete unknown the way the big 6 do from time to time?

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

David Wisehart said...

Joe,

Please remove my name from the list. I'm doing well, but not that well. Yet.

I understand you got the list from Robin, and I've informed her as well.

Thanks!

David

Bella Andre said...

To counter the idea that only $.99 ebooks sell, the two biggest selling ebooks that I've put out myself (as opposed to my books with Bantam and Pocket) are $5.99 and $4.99 in ebook and $9.99 in print. In December alone I've sold over 6000 copies. And one of the books - GAME FOR LOVE (Bad Boys of Football 3) @ $5.99) went as high as #55 on the BarnesandNoble bestseller list for nearly a week over xmas. My book was bopping around on the top 100 with Nora Roberts and Steve Martin, etc. Loved it! :)

What's more, I get lots of email on the ebook titles I've released, plus a great deal of positive feedback on twitter and facebook. In fact, I feel like I've forged a much closer relationship with my readers in the past nine months than I had in the previous six years. Perhaps because ebooks have afforded me the opportunity to write and publish the books my readers have been asking for for years. My first two original ebooks - LOVE ME and GAME FOR LOVE - were both sequels to series started with Pocket. As far as I can see, it's a win-win for everyone: My readers who want these books, myself as an author because I get the pleasure of writing them, and the big 6 publisher (Grand Central Forever) who will be putting out more Bella Andre books in both e and paperback starting 2012 because these ebooks are rapidly building my audience.

:) Bella
www.BellaAndre.com

WDGagliani said...

For me, I'd say that Joe's great image of the "death spiral" is beautifully represented by the fact that today Snooki became an "author." As I posted elsewhere: congrats, publishing biz! Proof that you're flushing yourself down the tubes.

It's unfortunate that anyone will buy the stupid thing, but I cannot imagine many real readers wanting to check out A Shore Thing. Yet, imagine how much money they put into it... what a sad shame they're tossing their money away like that, when they could be offering it to any of the people on that success list... talk about misguided.

Nicole MacDonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Daring Novelist said...

One place I agree with JT: The publishers are not setting themselves up as gatekeepers who choose what the readers get to read.

They choose books based on what will do best for their business, and be good for their brand. Same with the big distributors and booksellers.

As I've said before, I blame the distributors and booksellers for the narrowing of the market - particularly in the areas I like to read. They aren't against variety, heck, they encourage it.... sort of.

They buy according to what makes best use of shelf space - not what they think people ought to read. Part of the strategy is that best sellers are the key to their profitability. But they also have learned that people like to browse, so we have the superstores with lesser selling titles....

The problem comes with the most profitable/efficient way of stocking those shelves. It's easier and doesn't cost them much if they just churn through the "long tail" books.

Except that, readers of many of the more niche market books prefer to have lots of backlist. But backlist for niche books is "risky" - and takes resources to track, and doesn't necessarily make more profit per foot of shelf space. After all, those readers will buy the new books if they have no choice.

So many genres get churned endlessly. (Which helps Amazon because if the books manage to stay in print, the readers can then go to Amazon to find the rest -- but without bookseller support, it's hard to keep the books in print.)

But none of this is a conspiracy. It's just what works best for a particular business model.

Lauryn Christopher said...

"I can't think of a single, compelling reason to allow publishers to keep 52.5% of ebook royalties and give authors just 17.5%--especially when any writer can make 70% by uploading to Kindle themselves."

I've only recently dipped a toe into the epublishing world, and my first book ("Conflict of Interest") hasn't hit the numbers you're talking about - yet. So while it's available to anyone who wants to read it as an ebook, and will come out in POD this year, the manuscript also making the rounds of trad publishers. So far I've gotten very positive feedback, but no one has made an offer - yet. So I keep the book in play.

At some point, the manuscript will land on the desk of an editor who is interested enough to give it a decent advance and the kind of visibility that will help drive future sales of it and other books (that are currently in the works). If I look at the offer and offers me a long-term benefit that is better than what I'm doing on my own at that point, I'll take the offer; however, if the book is getting enough attention as an ebook, and the trad publishing offer doesn't compete, I'll stay indie.

I just don't see the point in "choosing sides" just now - when this new world of publishing makes both alternatives available, and puts me, as an author, in the position of being able to make the decisions that will best drive my career.

Dave said...

Hi Joe!

In addition to updating your website, maybe it's time to revisit your blog's subtitle: "I'm a full-time thriller writer. Is it possible to make a living as a genre writer? Well, sort of..."

Nicole MacDonald said...

Well you convinced me a while back to self publish and I finally did *grin* Am super excited to be able to annouce that my book is now available on Amazon and soon to be available through various channels thanks to Smashwords. It was after reading exactly how much a 'published' author makes after the publisher takes their cut that did it to me. After 18 months of hard work I'll be damned if I allow someone else over 50% of the profits!! My thanks to you for an inspiring blog :)

The Arrival, now available on Amazon
www.damselinadirtydress.com

Puking for Publishing said...

Why is traditional publishing flailing and failing????

Exhibit A.

So is Snooki the narrator? It's a safe bet. The main character - Giovanna "Gia" Spumanti - certainly sounds like the pint-sized star. One excerpt reads: "I love food. I love drinking, boys, dancing until my feet swell. I love my family, my friends, my job, my boss. And I love my body, especially the badonk."

(for those of you not in the know, a badonk is a large round buttox pleasing to the touch)

Simon & Schuster everybody!!!

Jude Hardin said...

And to say only family and friends buy self-published ebooks is plain nonsense.

Let's forget about the top, say, 250 independently published ebooks on Amazon (by authors with no previous publishing credentials), and focus on the bottom, say, 250,000. How many ebooks do MOST indies sell per month? Approximately zero.

And why do you think that is, JT? You've actually provided the answer yourself, more than once.

Jude Hardin said...

I just don't see the point in "choosing sides" just now - when this new world of publishing makes both alternatives available, and puts me, as an author, in the position of being able to make the decisions that will best drive my career.

And the voice of reason finally arrives. Thank you, Lauryn.

evilphilip said...

"I didn't want to shop my book for 10 years and get rejected, I wanted it out there, and I will let the readers make the decision."

The idea of time concerns me as well. I'm 42 with two completed novels that I'm editing prior to publishing on the Kindle.

If I go searching for an Agent, that process could take a year. The Agent could take a year to place the book. It could be 24 months before the book appears on the bookshelves. (All that in a perfect world.)

During that time, even if I got a generous $25,000.00 advance, I only see 1/3 of that up front, 1/3 when I finish with the editing process and the last 1/3 when it finally hits store shelves.

That is a lot of time to tie up in a project during which my book could be selling every day, making me money every day.

At 300 sales a month of my novel I would be money ahead of the $25k by the time 4 years has elapsed.

(300 x 12 x 4 x 2.04 = $29,376)

At my age, I'm not sure I'm up for sitting around waiting on other people. I would rather sink or swim on my own.

(Or as I've been saying recently, if you want to write a novel you should jump in and swim until you can't see the land.)

STH said...

@ Derek, another good post on your blog. People starting out should take a look. Very helpful (though I'm still unable to post on it for some reason)

@ anyone who knows - since we are comparing so many numbers, I'm curious, how many traditionally published authors release at least one book in a given year? Let's say 2010. Anybody have an educated guess?

evilphilip said...

"People act like the "big 6" are stupid because they're not jumping up and down to publish and sign-up all these "successful" kildle authors who are selling 1000 books a month."

1000 books a month is 12,000 books a year. At $14.95 for a trade paperback that is $179,400.00 less about $2.00 per copy printing costs.

You stack up a list the size of the one Joe has on the front page full of authors like that -- people who are good producers but not best sellers -- and it starts to add up to a massive chunk of change.

Good business is where you find it.

If those authors are selling 1,000 books a month on their own... how many books could they be selling per month with the marketing muscle of a huge corporation behind them?

bowerbird said...

lee said:
> How many of the
> self-published authors
> who are smoking you in sales
> are essentially giving
> their books away at 99 cents?
> I doubt many of them are
> smoking you
> when it comes to revenue.

let's call b.s. on the idea that
e-books which _sell_ at a price
of $.99 are being "given away".

since -- down the line -- _most_
e-books will be sold for that....

except the ones coming from
stupid corporate publishers...

heck, that'd be the ruling price
right now, if only amazon would
pay the 70% rate at that price...

but amazon obviously _prefers_
a dollar to handle a transaction.
(i.e., 30% of its $2.99 minimum.)

for now, anyway...

but you can bet amazon is doing
all that it can to lower that fee,
and that it _will_ be successful.

(even now, amazon is willing to
settle for just $.65, as proven by
its 35% royality on a $.99 book.
but amazon makes you pay the
penalty for the lower price, by
declining to give you the 70%.
so when you drop your price
by $2, you eat $1.70 of that.)

as soon as it can live on a $.60
fee-per-transaction, amazon will
dip its $2.99 minimum to $1.99.

and authors will willingly follow,
since that will mean more sales,
enough so that profits go _up_...

and, as it makes more and more,
amazon will be able to charge
less for each transaction, until
eventually the minimum is $.99.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

ponzo said:
> my novel goes
> an hour without a sale.

um, for your own sake,
you might want to _try_
to be a bit less obsessive. ;+)

***

anonymous said:
> I checked out
> the kindleboard link
> and found it very sad.
> It's basically a bunch of
> authors shouting out
> their numbers to each other.
> Everyone seems hell-bent
> to tell the world
> how successful
> and important they are.
> Everyone has become
> their own cheerleader and
> spends their time
> trying to convince
> the people above them
> that they just as important,
> and the people below them
> that they're more important.
>
> It looks like a sad,
> sad horserace.

well, as someone said,
you might misunderstand
the purpose of that board.

but yes, "marketing" is
extremely depressing...

it's a wonder that anyone
-- anyone at all -- really
truly thinks that "it works".

do we honestly think amada sold
100,000 e-books in december
because she's a great marketer?

retract the hype, people, to let
your success happen naturally...

-bowerbird

AuthorHouse said...

Great article. It's important to hear all sides of the story.

Joseph D'Agnese said...

Name any of the great ones—Austen, Poe. Dickens, Twain—if they were alive today they'd be self-pubbing.

Anyone have any experience self-pubbing nonfiction?

Plan to try it soon. Will report back.

Anonymous said...

"1000 books a month is 12,000 books a year. At $14.95 for a trade paperback that is $179,400.00 less about $2.00 per copy printing costs."

1000 kindle books selling for .99 or thereabouts will in almost all cases translate to 2 books at $14.95. Don't believe me? Have one of the brave authors on this board raise their book price to $14.95 and see what happens.

Also, printing costs are not $2.00/book. Don't forget also all the other direct costs (advance, cover, editing, etc.) and indirect/administrative costs.

A .99 kindle wonder-author is not marketable AT ALL unless the underlying book is truly good and well written.

Simply because someone sells 1000 or more books per month does not necessarily mean that the book is any good.

bowerbird said...

> The publishers are not
> setting themselves up
> as gatekeepers who choose
> what the readers get to read.

i wouldn't be so sure of that...

for an inside gander at how the
publishing industry views itself,
look at "merchants of culture",
a new book (from wiley) that is
_about_ the publishing industry,
one that cites many "insiders"...

as the title implies, the view is
that they communicate culture.

and, if you look at the industry
as it _used_to_ exist, they did.

the old people in the industry
actually nurtured authors and
really cared about books and
the ideas contained therein,
ideas that changed lives and
the very course of society...

they were serious about books.

but then corporations started
buying up the publishing houses,
and installed office bureaucrats
and accountants to run them...

they were serious about money.

so everything changed, and
nothing is the same since...

but despite that, the industry
still has this grandiose view
of itself as the _guardian_ of
culture, even as they put out
celebrity tripe like snooki's...
(god love her, but i bet even
_she_ let out a big belly-laugh
when they told her that they
wanted her to write a book...
but hey, you write the check,
and she'll write the book, yes!)

so it will be a glorious happy day
when the corporations decide to
leave publishing far behind, and
move on to some other widgets.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

anonymous is absolutely right.

$14.95 paper-books will
never be able to compete
against e-books at $2.99.

and that's precisely why
the publishing industry
is now a dying dinosaur.

-bowerbird

wannabuy said...

@The daring novelist:" But backlist for niche books is "risky" - and takes resources to track, and doesn't necessarily make more profit per foot of shelf space. After all, those readers will buy the new books if they have no choice.

Last last sentence is one of the key 'game changers' ebooks bring to the table.

It has been commented here (on this blog, not this thread) on how readers hold out buying until a series is complete. At $0.99 to $2.99, they will then 'buy out' the series. Quite a few readers have that preference. Heck, I'm constantly searching to see if series that I started are complete in ebook form.


To others:
The rest of the 'wait on ebooks' arguments do not hold water after the tremendous ereader and ebook sales since late November. :) We'll hit the 'tipping point' in ebooks by end 1H2011. Heck, it is possible we have already transitioned through it.

I'm personally waiting for more self-published history. I used to read civil war diaries to better understand history. I'd love to see more personal accounts by veterans.

Neil

evilphilip said...

"Also, printing costs are not $2.00/book. Don't forget also all the other direct costs (advance, cover, editing, etc.) and indirect/administrative costs."

Yes, printing costs are close to $2.00 a book. The printing of a book is one of the lower cost items in that food chain.

Because Amazon charges you $8.00 on Createspace doesn't mean that the big publishers aren't getting a better rate.

As for all those other costs -- a big publisher doesn't need to have a huge New York office, doesn't need to have 5 editors and 3 administrators look at a book and pay four different artists to create covers. Those are costs that they built into their current publishing model, but everything they do can be done quicker/cheaper/faster if they wanted to streamline their business.

Anonymous said...

"but everything they do can be done quicker/cheaper/faster if they wanted to streamline their business"

Fax your resume to their board room immediately. Only you can save them.

wannabuy said...

The Year Ahead for Media: Digital or Die: Online WSJ

"All those e-readers stuffed into Christmas stockings this past holiday season will make this a record year for e-book sales as physical book sales head south."

later

"The impact of increasing digital book sales—which some major publishers estimate now account for 8% to 10% of annual revenue—on physical book sales is still unfolding.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703808704576061591797222296.html#ixzz1A7vCgNN3"

My only comment:
There is more worth reading in the article.

Neil

Anonymous said...

$14.95 paper-books will
never be able to compete
against e-books at $2.99.


I'm assuming you're talking about $14.95 pbooks produced by traditional publishers, vs. $2.99 ebooks produced by Juana B. Authors.

That's like saying a Rolex will never be able to compete against a Timex. They're both watches, but the comparison pretty much ends there.

jtplayer said...

"$14.95 paper-books will
never be able to compete
against e-books at $2.99"


Well of course that's a lame statement. If the book I want is unavailable as a $2.99 ebook, then I'm gonna buy the paper book. And I'm not alone in that regard.

Not to mention the fact that I, like many millions of others, do not own an ereader. And maybe never will.

But of course bird believes that someday very soon, all paper books will be a thing of the past, and readers such as myself will have no choice but to buy ebooks.

Fat chance of that day ever coming.

wannabuy said...

More Infor on Borders

WSJ article

"At one publishing company, Borders halted payment on a check that covered books shipped in October, according to an executive."

Note: B&N is demanding the same terms Borders receives, but I thought I was quoting too much from the article and wanted to instead quote:
"Borders had an estimated 8.1% of retail sales of new printed books in 2010, compared to 22.5% for Amazon.com Inc., and 17.3% for Barnes & Noble,"


So three months of missed payments on 8.1% of the business and B&N is demanding any payment extension/relief Borders receives...

Neil

jtplayer said...

So Neil, tell me man, do you buy any paper books anymore, or are you strictly ebooks these days?

And if so, when did you make the switch?

jtplayer said...

Btw...that WSJ link is bogus, you gotta subscribe to read the full story.

Anonymous said...

"That's like saying a Rolex will never be able to compete against a Timex. They're both watches, but the comparison pretty much ends there."

That's right. They fill very different market segments, and both can be profitable. Timex is a cheap watch, and it serves the purpose, albeit in a much less elegant way than the Rolex. It also doesn't break the bank to buy a Timex, and the wearer isn't traumatized if the watch is lost.

I can't afford a Porsche either.

The $2.99 ebook is an affordable-for-the-reader, but also highly profitable (for the author) product. It provides entertainment (arguably not high brow stuff, but the old dime novels also had their place in the great literary chain of being).

Quite frankly, I'm not looking to read Franzen every time I pick up a book for a recreational read. I can purchase 6 or 7 good reads for the same price I'd pay for one of the traditionally published products (and many of those aren't any better than the indie works -- the last one I picked up was worse, and I paid $7 for it).

It doesn't have to be the "great American novel" every time I sit down to escape into a fantasy . . . just give me a good plot, great characters, and a good writing style. Many indies provide this at $2.99, and the sales numbers indicate it appears to be working for many readers.

Jude Hardin said...

JT:

I'm 50 like you and a discerning reader like you and I got a Kindle for Christmas and I honestly don't see the point in ever buying another novel printed on paper.

That's sort of shooting myself in the foot, since I have a hardcover coming out in May, but that's the way I feel.

jtplayer said...

"It doesn't have to be the "great American novel" every time I sit down to escape into a fantasy . . . just give me a good plot, great characters, and a good writing style. Many indies provide this at $2.99, and the sales numbers indicate it appears to be working for many readers"

Which is precisely the reason why ebooks will never completely take over printed books. IMO.

You make a lot of good points in that post, in particular the one about the old dime novels.

I see a future where traditionally published books peacefully coexist alongside a large market share of ebooks, both from true indies and established name authors. I don't see it as an either/or proposition.

Because no matter how cheap ereaders become, or how many of the Big 6 go under, there's still going to be a market for good old paper bound books. And as long as there's a market, there will be companies willing to supply that market.

Anonymous said...

...just give me a good plot, great characters, and a good writing style.

You're asking for at least a Seiko. ;)

jtplayer said...

"I'm 50 like you and a discerning reader like you and I got a Kindle for Christmas and I honestly don't see the point in ever buying another novel printed on paper"

I hear that Jude, and must admit I've hovered around the purchase of a Kindle for some time now.

But for me the allure isn't finding a new reading experience, rather it's more an effort to truly understand this new phenomenon of ebooks and epublishing.

Right now I'm reading samples on my iphone, imac or PC. It's really a drag, and since I spend so much time working on a computer, I don't want to start reading on one. The e-ink looks like it might be the ticket.

I'm truly interested in reading full ebooks from real independent authors, just to get a feel for what the market comprises. Currently I'm stuck between continuing to query my finished novel, or pursuing the ebook route. And epublishing my book without ever having read a complete ebook seems kind of lame to me.

But I seriously doubt I'd ever completely abandon paper books. There's just too many I want to read that I can't buy electronically, and beyond that, I do love the feel of a real book in my hands.

Joe Konrath said...

I got a Kindle for Christmas and I honestly don't see the point in ever buying another novel printed on paper.

Awesome. Congrats!

Watch out, though. I bought over 100 ebooks in six months. It's too easy to spend money.

STH said...

Anon said "The $2.99 ebook is an affordable-for-the-reader, but also highly profitable (for the author) product. It provides entertainment (arguably not high brow stuff, but the old dime novels also had their place in the great literary chain of being)."

You are, of course, welcome to your opinion, but you sure are making some broad assumptions here. We're talking about a huge number of books and writers on both the indie side and traditional side. The idea that one side is all Rolex and the other timex is... well it's pretty broad. This just started a few months ago. How do you know whether any of it is "high brow" or not?

I don't know the answer to that either, but I have read two much hyped indie books in the past month. One was good, one was a little disappointing based on the hype. But both of them were easily as good anything current I've read in their genres.

Btw, the one I liked much better of the two? 99 cents. The other was 2.99.

jtplayer said...

"This just started a few months ago"

Huh? What started a few months ago?

STH said...

Are you kidding?

70 percent royalties started 6 months ago. What blog is this?

Anonymous said...

"The idea that one side is all Rolex and the other timex is... well it's pretty broad. This just started a few months ago. How do you know whether any of it is "high brow" or not? "

Sorry if I gave the impression that indie books are all "dime novels". They aren't. There's more than one Rolex in the Kindle indie bin . . . including some great literary fiction. Karen McQuestion's books come to mind.

Robin Sullivan said...

@bowerbird - I really have to disagree with you about all ebooks will be sold at $0.99. I think we'll actually see people coming up from that price. I'm a bit of a lone reed on pricing, except for Bella in that Michael's books are priced at $4.95 and $6.95 and even at that price he can sell 10,500 copies in a month. I don't think people reading ebooks think that this price is too high.

STH said...

Fair enough, Anon. Thanks for clarifying. It's just that, I'm beginning to get the impression there is going to be an extended battle of perception over this whole thing in the near future.

jtplayer said...

"70 percent royalties started 6 months ago. What blog is this?"

Still don't get it. You said nothing about royalties in your original post.

I'm sure you had a point in there somewhere, it just wasn't articulated very well.

STH said...

Fortunately, the person I was talking to was able to piece it all together, so it's all fine now.

jtplayer said...

"Fortunately, the person I was talking to was able to piece it all together, so it's all fine now"

Well, seems to me the person you were talking to made his point quite well the first time. You were the one who had a little trouble figuring it out.

But it's all good now...he explained it better for you.

STH said...

I seemed to have stepped into something here. I'm not going to continue this, but... you do realize that all prior comments are still visible and in their original order, right?

jtplayer said...

Yes, I am aware of that.

Have a good night.

wannabuy said...

@JT"So Neil, tell me man, do you buy any paper books anymore, or are you strictly ebooks these days?"

The truth always has grey:
1. I only buy e-books for myself.
2. I'm given about 20 to 30 print books per year (usually 2nd hand, 'I read this and you should too.')
3. I buy print books for my children.
4. We give friend's/family's kids about $150/year in print books.

On a dollar basis:
Ebooks: $500/year (myself)
Kids books:
Us $100/year,
grandparents gifts $200/year
friends/family gifts $150/year
Books we buy as gifts: $150/year
Wife: $100 to $200/year in books
She *just* started ebooks ($30 since Christmas)

I first received my Kindle in March of 2009. At first it was 50/50 print/ebook. In 2010 I read 106 ebooks to 20 print books.

Neil

evilphilip said...

"Fax your resume to their board room immediately. Only you can save them."

I'm sorry. I can only save one Anonymous loser at a time and you have proven to be a full time job.

evilphilip said...

"I'm 50 like you and a discerning reader like you and I got a Kindle for Christmas and I honestly don't see the point in ever buying another novel printed on paper."

I felt the exact same way when I got the iPad.

I'm still buying physical books for the quirky literary stuff, but anything mid-list mass-market paperback I'm not bothering with the paperback and going with the digital download.

The Daring Novelist said...

Jude -

Regarding your comments about the vast majority of indie writers at the bottom of the rankings....

You do realize that most of those are people who aren't really trying. Some are people who just scribbled out a book and put it up and have already lost interest and will never write another book. Others are literally writing for friends or relatives. Some will keep it up but are more or less posturing, and making no efforts to learn their craft or learn how to market or anything else.

I gotta say it - the people who aren't trying don't count in this kind of debate. And I've got to say this too... the people who can't write, and could never have gotten published traditionally also don't count even if they do try. (At least in terms of "is self-publishing viable.)

I can pretty much guarantee you, though, that all of them are likely selling more books than they would if they'd sent their book to a traditional publisher.

bowerbird said...

anonymous said:
> That's like saying a Rolex
> will never be able to
> compete against a Timex.

right. it won't. not if the buyer
doesn't want to spend a fortune,
and only wants to know the time.

you do know, don't you, that that
is why most people buy a watch...


> They're both watches, but
> the comparison pretty much
> ends there.

which is why most people will
buy the timex, not the rolex...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> Well of course
> that's a lame statement.
> If the book I want is
> unavailable as a $2.99 ebook,
> then I'm gonna
> buy the paper book.

and what if the book you "want"
is only available as an e-book?

once the money dries up for the
big corporate publishing houses,
they won't be able to crank their
spin machine to make you want
to buy all their books any more.


> Not to mention the fact that I,
> like many millions of others,
> do not own an ereader.
> And maybe never will.

well, it wouldn't matter to me
if you decided that you don't
want to read books any more.

millions of americans have
already made that decision,
it would seem. research says
that the majority of them read
one book (or fewer) last year.

many report that they haven't
read any books "since college".


> But of course bird believes
> that someday very soon,
> all paper books will be
> a thing of the past, and
> readers such as myself
> will have no choice but to
> buy ebooks. Fat chance
> of that day ever coming.

for someone who says that
he's not stupid, i find your
reading comprehension certainly
seems not to be as good as i'd
expect from a person who is
calling himself "a reader"...

i've distinctly and clearly said,
thanks to _print-on-demand,_
you and other people will still
have the option of printed books
for a long time, _provided_that_
you are willing to _pay_ for 'em.

now, sir, if you would be so kind
as to please stop misinforming
people about what _i_ believe, i'd
appreciate it very much. thanks.

-bowerbird

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