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 I wish he'd contacted me personally, because the quote he took is out of date.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:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 324 of 324
bowerbird said...

robin said:
> @bowerbird -
> I really have to
> disagree with you about
> all ebooks will be sold at $0.99.

there's no need to disagree...
not yet... wait... you'll see...


> I think we'll actually
> see people coming up
> from that price.

people will try. it won't work.

the stampede of new authors
seeking attention and sales
will undercut prices severely.

(some of these "new authors"
will be refugees cut when the
corporate houses go down,
so they won't be "unknowns",
and they _will_ have chops,
not to mention some backlist,
so you must take 'em seriously.)


> 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.

if you're happy with that, fine...
i'm not gonna tell you to change.

but for the people lurking along,
i'll note that, unless you do some
experimenting with price-points,
you might not realize if it is true
that you could triple your sales by
cutting the price in half, meaning
you'd make more profit _and_
build your fan-base even wider...


> I don't think
> people reading ebooks
> think that this price
> is too high.

compared to amazon's $9.99 or
the agency5 price of $12.99-$20,
it's not too high. not at this time.

but the more books people buy --
and like! -- at $2.99, the harder
it will be for them to justify even
a price of $4.95, let alone $6.95.

and you might find -- later on --
that's it would've been easier to
get their attention via low prices
"back in 2011, when it was new,
and still relatively uncrowded"...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

oh yeah, one more thing...

this year, you're gonna start
finding some rolex authors
in the timex bin... surprise!

and it won't be because they
suddenly lost all their ability
to craft a high-quality book...

in fact, you'll find that they
are taking chances that they
never took before, and that
they are succeeding wildly...

then, in 2012, there will be
so many rolex authors in the
timex bin, you won't believe it.

and the year after that, you
won't even bother looking
in the rolex bin any more...
who wants to pay high prices?

-bowerbird

AuthorHouse said...

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

Anonymous said...

Anyone see the front page of USA Today? E-book sales hit new highs. They give the average cost of an e-book at $8.75. Still too high. A guy from Amazon said he sees "e-books as an additive more than a substitute for print books."

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Jude Hardin said...

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.)

Interesting points. Yes, I agree that being a good writer and trying hard increase your chances for success. But like Joe said, it's easier to become an NFL player than to crack the Kindle top 100...

Ellen Fisher said...

Thanks for mentioning the USSA Today article, Sean. Here's a quote that jumped out at me:

"The e-book surge of the past month isn't a 'sustainable trend,' says Kelly Gallagher of the publishing research firm Bowker, who says sales could flatten this year but still could be twice as high as they were in 2010."

How does anyone really know what's a "sustainable trend" and what isn't? I imagine sales will drop back, too, but I'm just guessing. Who really knows?

Anonymous said...

Ellen I was surprised at that comment also. It seems like they want to temper everyone's excitement over ebooks which is odd. I would think they would be pushing the format.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

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

I'm well aware bird of your comments regarding POD.

Unfortunately, the true nature of my post seems to have "flown" right over your head.

And for the record I am "smart", I do "read", and my level of reading "comprehension" is just fine.

Since you brought it up.

Have a great day dude.

Hope Welsh said...

I just had to reply to this because it's so true on so many levels.

I've had a book out with a small publisher for over a year. Kewl, right? I'm "published."

Problem?

I've made more money in two DAYS with my indie books under another pen name than I have with my "publisher" in a year.

My Smashwords sales were more in 2 days than my other book in 3 months. (And my Smashwords book is only .99) It sold the first copy within five minutes--literally.

I just looked at my last royalty statement--the amount I make per book is absurd compared to what I make from Kindle. Just absurd. Why should I settle for less than 50 cents a book via 3rd parties--when I can do it myself and make more?

I rescinded my contract on my next book because thankfully, the publisher didn't publish it within the promised time-frame. (They had it over two years)

As others--I'll be buying out my contract or re-issuing when it's expired. I can do more on my own.

I don't know if I'd suggest MY choice for younger authors--but for me at my age? I'll stick with indie, thank you very much.

Hope Welsh said...

I did want to add: I think part of my contracted book 'sales' issue was the fact it didn't get to Amazon for a year.

And, to be honest, I wasn't promoting it as well as I should have.

Still--the $$ is much better as an indie.

My publisher took a chance on me--and I appreciate it--but I'd also like to make some $$ from it.

Tony said...

evilphilip 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.


Except, if the self publishers who are selling 1000 copiues a month priced their books at $14.95 instead of $.99 - $2.99, they'd probably sell 10 - 20 copies a month at most.

Not quite as attractive, is it.

Michael Felleri said...

Hey Bowerbird. What books have you written? I'd love to read one.

Anonymous said...

"Except, if the self publishers who are selling 1000 copiues a month priced their books at $14.95 instead of $.99 - $2.99, they'd probably sell 10 - 20 copies a month at most.

Not quite as attractive, is it."

You are correlating retail price with the author's take. As the author I make over $2.00 on each $2.99 Kindle sale. At $14.95 (with a traditional contract) I'm lucky to get $1.00 of the sale.

Selling 1,000 books at $2.99 is VERY attractive for the author when the royalty is 70% (Amazon). Authors are finally able to build a large audience AND make a living.

High retail price might stroke an ego, but it isn't where the money is in ebooks. Indies selling at $2.99 or less are literally cleaning up on the profit end . . . and that's why more big name authors will be self-publishing, at lower price points, in the future.

Not quite as attractive? I'm laughing. From where I sit $2.99 is VERY attractive . . . I'm making more money than I ever could at $14.95, AND my book is accessible to thousands more readers. For a writer this is VERY satisfying.

Sean said...

Not quite as attractive? I'm laughing. From where I sit $2.99 is VERY attractive . . . I'm making more money than I ever could at $14.95, AND my book is accessible to thousands more readers. For a writer this is VERY satisfying.

What's the title of your book? I'll check it out.

The Daring Novelist said...

Honestly, Jude,you're concentrating too much on the extremes. Sure, Joe is shining a light on the top 100 because it's a tough achievement - and indies are making it.

But you can make a very nice living and never get near the top 100. (Heck, most traditionally published authors never get there.) And below that, you can make a nice supplemental income.

And the cool thing is that this seems to be working like the old days, when an author could, slowly and book by book, build up that income as far as he or she was willing to go. You may never become a star, but the accumulated volume of books each trickling in an income is pretty powerful.

wannabuy said...

@anon: "Not quite as attractive? I'm laughing. From where I sit $2.99 is VERY attractive . . . I'm making more money than I ever could at $14.95, AND my book is accessible to thousands more readers. For a writer this is VERY satisfying."
For authors, 100% agree. Readers too. As I already commented, I met a few 'young adults' this Christmas who were making the most of $25 Amazon gift cards by buying indie. They're not going to buy a single $14.95 book. I'll buy over a hundred ebooks in 2010. Less than ten will be more than $6.

Over half of what I would want to read is available in ebook format only. For me, there is no going back. There are only 3 books out there that are in B&N/Borders and not yet in ebook (that I wish to read).

As to the idea that ebooks are a trend about to flatten... Exactly what technology adoption curve has followed that model this early in the adoption process? I'm not aware of one that slowed before 35% market share. (Unless it was displaced by an even better new technology.) Amazon is still backordered on certain Kindles. We'll have a seasonal 'pause' like we did last year.

Now if Amazon would only *dramatically* improve the mp3 software of the Kindle.

And improve the folders...
And improve the internet browser (I'm willing to pay a monthly connection fee... If it is CDMA)

Note: I hope this goes through. This site's firewall used to block JA's blog.

Neil

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> I'm well aware bird of
> your comments regarding POD.

so why did you distort them into
something completely different?

hanlon's razor states:
> never attribute to malice
> that which is
> adequately explained
> by stupidity.

so... was it malice all along?

whatever the case, just stop.

i am perfectly capable of telling
people what it is _i_ believe...

so you can stick to telling them
what _you_ believe. you get it?

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

"you get it?"

Little touchy there birdman?

I realize you consider yourself quite clever, but the truth is, you come off as a complete tool at times.

But I'll tell ya what...I'll stop whatever it is you think I'm doing when you stop being such a snarky asshole.

Deal?

Anonymous said...

Looks like self-pubber Hocking landed in the Rolex bin:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tonya-plank/meet-mega-bestselling-ind_b_804685.html

bowerbird said...

michael said:
> Hey Bowerbird.
> What books have you written?
> I'd love to read one.

oh, what a nice thing to say...

(i'll pretend not to notice that
this could well be a set-up.) ;+)

...but i don't write "books"...

i write poetry. not print poetry.
performance poetry. the kind
that gets up off the page so it
can dance around the room...
i don't have anything posted
that you can watch, but if you
want me to recommend stuff
by some friends, i can do that.
(rives, buddy, shane, sekou.)

i also write software, especially
e-book authoring-tools, which
help authors make e-books that
are both powerful and beautiful.
e-books should be easy to make.

i also write blog comments, but
you probably already knew that.

i did save all my blog comments
for 2010, and i might decide to
put that file on amazon as just
a little experiment for myself...

i've also written about e-books
on various listserves and forums
over the past 25 years, so if you
want a list of those, i'll make it.

and -- as far as i'm concerned --
joe's blog here is ground central
for the e-book revolution, so i
will continue to make posts here
for as long as joe allows me to,
so you can just read me here...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> I realize
> you consider yourself
> quite clever

there you go again,
trying to tell people
what it is that i think.

that's _exactly_ what
i told you to stop doing.

you just don't get it...
do you?

so let me reroute this,
and tell everyone else
that jtplayer doesn't
seem to have the
foggiest idea what
i believe, even when
i spell it out clearly
in black and white.

-bowerbird

Jude Hardin said...

I've been wondering if it's possible to manipulate Amazon rankings. It appears that it is:

http://consumerist.com/2010/12/author-claims-to-manipulate-amazon-rankings-by-buying-own-book-every-day.html

dr.cpe said...

@bowerbird... waving from rooftop... when you said, "i also write software, especially
e-book authoring-tools, which
help authors make e-books that
are both powerful and beautiful.
e-books should be easy to make." and noted that you are a performance poet (mi tambien), I wanted to ask if you can help with the hard returns needed for poetry in ebks.... do you think there will be any way that this very now 'done by hand, line by line' can be done more easily? So the poor reader who magnifies the page doesnt w
ind u
p with th
is?
or this:
Morning has broken. Blackbird has spoken like the first bird. Praise for the singing, praise for the morning. Praise for the springing fresh from the Word.

instead of (not sure Blogger site here will allow hard line breaks either):

Morning has broken,
like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken,
like the first bird

Praise for the singing,
praise for the morning

Praise for the springing
fresh from the Word.

words ©1931,2010, by E. Farjeon

thanks.

jtplayer said...

"you just don't get it...
do you?"


Look man, we can knock this one around all day, but I think I'll pass.

Suffice to say, I do get it. In fact, I recently chided Neil for "telling me what I think".

But the fact remains, IMO, you routinely post snide bullshit here, and position yourself as some kind of ultra-hip, connected dude.

And to that end, you come off as a complete tool at times.

Dig?

Anonymous said...

Jude, it's much easier to manipulate hard copy rankings (NYT bestseller list), and that's been done for years (Joe Kennedy had a basement full of JFK's book -- he purchased thousands to get his son onto the bestseller lists). Palin was boosted the same way . . . conservative groups bought thousands and gave them away as premiums for membership drives, etc., boosting the ranking of the book to bestseller on NYT list.

This is the first I've heard of such a scheme on Kindle store, and it appears Amazon is on to it. Look at his product page now:

http://www.amazon.com/Wealth-Hazards-Surviving-Recovery-ebook/dp/B003UHVZHW/

dr.cpe said...

@ Jude: "I've been wondering if it's possible to manipulate Amazon rankings. It appears that it is: http://consumerist.com/2010/12/author-claims-to-manipulate-amazon-rankings-by-buying-own-book-every-day.html"

I'd just mention Jude, starting about ten years ago, I first became aware that some people-- self pub'd authors as well as authors pub'd by reg long time publishers-- were sending emails around to I guess their entire address book, asking all to buy their book on a certain day at a certain time from amaz...and the email stated that this was in order to push the book to first place in 'bestsellers' on amz. I guess so they could put on cover of book #1 Amazon bestseller. Your notice sounds like a similar re ebks. Not sure the Great Oz wd agree to this way of forcing the bloom, so to speak. Sounds like with your article link, maybe Toto is tugging at the wizard's curtain? I'd be interested at some point on Joe's blog to hear his and others' ideas about what is 'kosher' in merchandising. I know the big 6 and other pubs move to position works as strongly as they can. And I know that some gx have tried to position certain political books on the NYT by buying up huge amounts every week and then returning them later. As I understand it, this is why NYT has a vague notation as such on their list sometimes. Do you recall the way they handle those ? something about noting that there have been high 'bulk' sales?
thanks.

The Daring Novelist said...

Jude,

I do believe it is possible to cheat a system like that for a short time, but just from my experience with SEO and various algorithms, I have to look at that particular author/site as a complete scam.

He's selling a book. "You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes!"

Sure, there are "black hat" methods out there, and the people who used them get caught and blacklisted. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to do the kind of thing he's talking about... and then every couple of weeks, Amazon (or Google, or whoever operates the algorithm they're trying to cheat) changes the algorithm, and it's a whole lot more effort to do it all again.

It's a lot easier to do it once, and then publish a book all about how you did this, and sell it to suckers. It's even easier to never do it at all and still write and sell that book.

In the end, that's the only purpose for doing it - to sell books to suckers. Ranking doesn't mean that much. It's just a small part of Amazon's algorithms.

Amazon may not be as rabid as Google about blacklisting people who use blackhat techniques, but their systems spot that kind of thing really fast - because of the difference in browsing and sampling behavior compared to the sales.

jtplayer said...

"But I cannot edit properly myself. It's just not possible"

I found this comment from Amanda Hocking interesting, and worth passing along.

The interview with her in the Huffington Post link is eye opening, to say the least. I urge everyone to read it.

She sounds like a fine person, and well deserving of her success.

Tara Maya said...

Just confirming what we already know: ebook are outselling print after the holiday e-reader rush.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

Tara Maya said...

Bowerbird, do you have a link to your software? Is it ready for consumers?

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

Anonymous said...

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?"

--Rodney King

jtplayer said...

Checked out the link Tara.

Interesting.

But I must say, talk about misleading headlines. It should read "some ebooks are outselling print".

Joe recently called PW to task for their "skewed" article. Seems to me they aren't the only ones playing that game.

dr.cpe said...

@anonymous... re rodney king. I ever remember the look on his face when that diamond shined through his so difficult life.
Thanks for the quote.

But, also, could all the 'anony-mouses' on Joe's comment site, please take a pseudonym that distinguishes. There are so many anonymous's ... reminds me of the stories my father from the Old Country used to tell... (Creator had a fool for each village but in end, many fools were left over, so made a village just of fools only) wherein all men are named... Avrohim.

Not saying 'anonymouses' are fools. Just saying it's hard to distinguish who's who. Seems to me, one could be just as 'unknown' with the name "Eddie the Trawler" or Mr. Vegevitamix."

thanks

Anonymous said...

JT mentioned buying print books for kids. I see more kids turning to the ebooks and with costs rising schools would be well served, long run, to switch textbooks and novels to Kindles. Educationally they seem to fit for an individual education where you can challenge the higher lever kids and help the ones who struggle with reading. It might also get those reluctant readers in there because they can use a Kindle. Just a thought.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

eBook Queen said...

A long time ago in a far away land Joe Konrath speculated that books might be free to the consumer if they'd tolerate a few ads.

Take a look at Google's strategy and think about their bookstore. Most Google-developed services (maps, gmail, etc) are free (ad supported). Is this the model they are trying to build with books as well? Is this a threat to Amazon? Or not?

Read the following article --

http://www.tightwind.net/2011/01/android-isnt-about-building-a-mobile-platform/

dr. cpe said...

@bowerbird: thanks for the clear lesson on physics re the current ereaders and line lengths in poetry. I understand now. I'd thought of 'taking pix of each page" and having an entire book of
images of poems' that could also be enlarged-- to a point-- and yet... do you think it possible that an ereader can be eventually created for quotes and poem lines and other 'eccentric' hard line breaks... maybe one that would enlarge, but only to a point so lines could stay as written? Or not possible with different config regardless?

Is your ebook app across all systems, mac and windows?

In my book, anyone who can code well is a god. If your app will work on my cpu, I'd like to offer to be one of those helping to beta

thanks

wannabuy said...

@JT "
Suffice to say, I do get it. In fact, I recently chided Neil for "telling me what I think".


JT, why did you bring up my name? But since you did, Browerbird has a point. You are so intent on making your points that you ignore the points other commenters make, including at times myself.

To keep things simple, In my words Browerbird's points:
1. If the only way to buy certain variety of book is ebook, one will buy ebook.
2. If one is deciding between two equivalent books, most people will buy the less expensive option.

Added point by myself:
Ebooks are so commonplace they are now a utility. For millions of us, ebooks are no longer techology. Ebooks are just another modern convienience that we're used to and don't think about much. Sort of like an IPod... just a given.

JT, I know you haven't found a compeling reason to adopt ebooks Obviously the posters here have.

My main examples:
1. In my favorite genres, half of the books are available only in ebook format as of December 2010 (or expensive POD, which I won't consider due to points #2 and #3)

2. Indie authors are equivalent to anything out of the big6 for myself. There are a dozen big6 books I'd love to read, but sub $7 Indie books that crop up from these *now established* authors get my clicks.

3. Text to speech increased my consumption of books by 30% due to the ease.

I'm on travel now for 4 to 14 days at a rediculously remote location. I'm not lugging an extra bag of books anymore. One print book and my K2. At this point, I do not enjoy 'turning pages' as much as I do 'just reading' on a Kindle. The Kindle is that much more invisible to me that turning a page is now a distraction while reading. I still enjoy print, but not as much as reading on a Kindle.

Neil

jtplayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jtplayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tara Maya said...

jt But I must say, talk about misleading headlines. It should read "some ebooks are outselling print".

True. I believe they really meant bestsellers are doing better as ebooks.


Tara Maya

The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

jtplayer said...

"JT, why did you bring up my name? But since you did, Browerbird has a point. You are so intent on making your points that you ignore the points other commenters make, including at times myself"

Give me a break Neil, how am I any more "intent" on making a point than any other poster around here?

Lots of folks have strong opinions about things. Nothing wrong with expressing those opinions.

At all.

And despite any notions you may have to the contrary, I could care less about proving the things I post here.

It's just people talking Neil.

Maybe you oughtta keep that in mind.

Also, perhaps you could explain how it is you know what things I choose to "ignore".

You make a lot of assumptions Neil, particularly about me. And in case you haven't noticed, this ain't about me.

Btw, I only brought your name up because it was relevant to what I was posting. Nothing more or less.

And bowerbird still acts like a tool. IMO.

jtplayer said...

Well Tara, this is what the article actually said:

"e-book versions of the top six titles will have outsold their respective print versions for the previous week. And of the top 50 books, 19 have higher digital than print sales"

A far different reality than "bestsellers are doing better as ebooks".

Just keepin' it real.

Tara Maya said...

jt A far different reality than "bestsellers are doing better as ebooks".

Well, it's a pity when headlines hype overmuch, because by the time ebooks are outselling print OVERALL, actually, everyone is going to shrug and say, "Didn't that happen already?"

But I personally find these little roadmarkers very interesting. Each one, taken by itelf, is not a big deal, but one day we all wake up in a world where the way we read had completely changed.

I find change fascinating. That's why I like to study history and write science fiction.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

jtplayer said...

Oh, I absolutely agree it's a significant development.

But I also see it as more related to the "holiday rush" than anything else. Time will tell if the trend is sustainable.

And yes, History is good. One of my favorite genres ;-)

Joe Konrath said...

But I also see it as more related to the "holiday rush" than anything else.

There was a holiday rush on 2009. Sales have kept going up since. And I haven't seen a single report that ebooks are more than 15% of the market.

We got a long way to go until they reach 50%. Or 95%.

Plus, in a digital world, there's a true world economy.

Give it a few years, and I'll be selling just as many foreign copies as English copies. Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German... this market can never be saturated.

TheSFReader said...

Give it a few years, and I'll be selling just as many foreign copies as English copies. Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German... this market can never be saturated.
Yes, except than you'll have to forego part of the foreign copies royalties to translators ... Unless you plan to translate by yourself ? ;-P

L.J. Sellers said...

In response to this comment/question:
"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?"

The difference is both simple and huge. When authors can see the direct results of their efforts and get paid for those efforts in a regular and timely matter, it's very motivating. That's why salespeople get constant feedback and earn incentive pay. It works.

On the other hand, when you're working in a vacuum with no information and no chance of seeing a paycheck for nine months, it's hard to keep putting in 2-4 hours a day...day after day.

Mark said...

"Yes, except than you'll have to forego part of the foreign copies royalties to translators ... Unless you plan to translate by yourself ? ;-P"

Why can't he hire someone to translate, just like he hires someone to do his covers, format his ebooks, etc. You think only big publishers can hire translators?

dr.cpe said...

@mark, you're right. and joe and others will.

You said "Why can't he hire someone to translate, just like he hires someone to do his covers, format his ebooks, etc. You think only big publishers can hire translators?"

translators dont typically take royalties unless it's their project they thought up themselves with their name first on the cover. Typically, it's a flat fee, and needs to have a few pages 'tested' at first (vetted by another trusted translator), then the go ahead for the entire rutabagus. Given how many translators there are on many of our facebook pages, living in the mideast, asia, na and sa and just everywhere; it will not be hard to find translators. And the cost of a good translator who becomes a multi-book translator will just be part of doing business. In major markets (for US authors at least) Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, China, the north countries, the E.Eu, etc.... the sales will be sturdy and absorb the costs of translation easily, I think. Most important is translation of style, not just words. That can make all the difference.

thanks.... and ps, the irony of the last comment on Richard Curtis's piece about how self pubs cant do the work... the gist of the comment: maybe self pub'd authors may not yet know the decades of experience that big pubs have... but then, few big pubs probably would be able to write books by themselves either.

dr.cpe

jtplayer said...

"Give it a few years, and I'll be selling just as many foreign copies as English copies. Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German... this market can never be saturated"

Well one thing's certain...it's a wide open market that will only go up, at least for a very long time.

And anyone who denies that is blind, or willfully ignorant.

Speaking of overseas sales, do your print books do much business outside the U.S. Joe?

Joe Konrath said...

do your print books do much business outside the U.S. Joe?

I have no idea. Once you sell foreign rights, they really don't ever contact you again.

I'm in twelve countries, and have a rough estimation of print runs, but the UK and Oz are the only two places I ever see royalties.

wannabuy said...

Last year's holiday rush Only had a shallow dip due to the 'ebook tiff.' Please recall those graphs only include the 14 Publishers who report to the AAP and miss Indie and small publisher ebooks.

There are posts on the Kindle forums on people complaining that for some Kindles the ship date is 10 days out. :) A classy problem for Amazon.

@Joe: "We got a long way to go until they reach 50%. Or 95%.

Plus, in a digital world, there's a true world economy."


Yep. I can only guess the potential from India. :) Not to mention translations.


@JT: "And in case you haven't noticed, this ain't about me."

True. It is about books and in particular ebooks. :)

I make no assumptions. I really think you're extrapolating what I write.

Again the main points:
1. For millions of readers their ereader is a utility. Like a coffee pot. A taken for granted tool.
2. A number of readers, including myself, have found Indie authors that are just as good as big6 authors.
3. People are price concious.

I also blogged Kuo's information. The last link in my post is the most informative. Amazon is buying chips to make 4.5 million K3's in the first quarter of this year.

Slow down? More likely an acceleration. :)

Neil

all-things-andy-gavin.com said...

Don't be in such a hurry to drive the price of novels down to $2.99 or $0.99 cents. This is only good for readers, and not for anyone in the book business, authors included.
True, a self published author might make as much on a $2.99 ebook as a regular published author does on a print book at a much high cost, but that doesn't mean that lower prices are a good thing. Wait until that self published author is competing against best sellers and highly edited books at the same price point.
Lower prices will probably increase unit sales, but not by the same ratio as the price drop. Readers are FAR FAR more limited by time than money. What serious reader doesn't have a book pile years long waiting for them?
This unequal ratio means that the publishing business will have less $$ flowing through it. Just as the music biz does now than it did 15 years ago. This is bad. Less money to go around. Sure authors might get a higher percentage -- which is good -- but of a smaller pie.
Consumers easily get trained to pay less for a product. This is happening in software right now with the rise of cheap apps. It's not a good thing for software developers. It favors cheap/fast toy apps. Nor will it be for authors in the long run.
I'm talking about the lowered prices. E books themselves and the further democratization of publishing is/will be very much a good thing.

jtplayer said...

Neil...good luck in your travels.

Stay safe my man ;-)

bowerbird said...

all-things-andy said:
> Wait until that
> self published author
> is competing against
> best sellers and
> highly edited books
> at the same price point.

that competition will happen
down the line, regardless...

collaborative filtering will
sort it all out for readers...


> Lower prices will probably
> increase unit sales

"probably"? i believe economists
have found it's a near certainty.
you could look it up, you know...


> but not by the same ratio
> as the price drop.

actually, some of the very best
controlled experimentation has
found that e-book sales increase
by more than one would expect.

a price-cut in half will usually
increase sales from 3-5 times...

as i've said before, if you _fail_
to get the increased sales, then
you'll know you've cut too far...

likewise, if you can raise prices
_without_ suffering a shortfall,
you should certainly do _that_...

pay attention to your _profit_.
there's almost no reason today
to take less profit than you can,
_especially_ if that strategy will
also produce more fans for you.

just beware of the naive belief
that a higher price will give you
more profit. odds are it won't...


> Readers are FAR FAR more
> limited by time than money.
> What serious reader
> doesn't have a book pile
> years long waiting for them?

um, did you think that through?

yes, the serious readers _do_
purchase more books than
they will ever read, i agree...

and that means they'll buy even
_more_ books when books are
priced at "impulse item" levels.

indeed, there will come a time
when that is the _only_ price
that they'll be willing to pay...

oh, and let us not forget about
the "non-serious" readers too...
their money's good, you know...

it might -- or might not! --
be good if we could "protect"
authors from the dynamics of
the marketplace. but we can't.
low prices are simply inevitable.

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

"Consumers easily get trained to pay less for a product."

Yep. I've been saying that all along. Amazon has a majopoly on the market (not for long anymore, maybe, depending on what happens this year with the Nook and Google Editions but it's a crap shoot) and they're setting the prices.

Jude Hardin said...

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

You are so right, Joe. Amazing how addictive it is. Of course that's a good thing for authors. :)

Rose said...

One thing that needs to be considered about price points is that I, like a lot of people who read reams of genre fiction, used to save money by buying used. I would generally pay a quarter to $3 at used book stores. Now with my Kindle, I buy new books instead.

No royalties when I bought used, royalties when I buy new.

Now that I can loan them out at least once with Amazon's program-- at least most of the books I have bought recently are loanable, I can still share books I enjoy with my friends. That was something I missed with ebooks.

evilphilip said...

Except, if the self publishers who are selling 1000 copiues a month priced their books at $14.95 instead of $.99 - $2.99, they'd probably sell 10 - 20 copies a month at most.

You missed the point I was making, that if an author is good enough to move 1,000 copies a month of a book on their own that with the marketing muscle and services of a Big 6 publisher and distribution to national chains, they should see similar sales... even at $14.95.

I think that any big publisher looking at that list on the front of Joe's blog should be seeing dollar signs. The public has vetted those authors for them.

The Daring Novelist said...

Rose is absolutely correct - we're expanding the market here with a large, high-consuming group which is price sensitive. (And as the post just above that with Jude pointed out - actually, people HAVE been spending more on books overall. So the unit price and the amount spent are higher. One of the reasons is that the TBR pile isn't in the way.)

But I think that's beside the point in terms of prices. I just did a blog post on this - on how books are not commodities, but rather they are like pastrami sandwiches.

Artisanal goods are priced not by 'market efficiency' but by two things - desirability, and a negotiation between the particular seller's needs and the particular buyer's budget. People pay a fortune both to purchase and ship my sister's jam, and for the fabulous bread from Zingerman's Bakehouse.

If it were true that low prices were to force down other prices, then why hasn't the Gutenberg Project put us all out of business yet? They have been operating since before there were ebook readers (or even laptops). They're well established, have a great catalog.... And yet Penguin doesn't seem to have trouble selling their books at full trade paperback prices.

Don't worry about price. It will settle itself out.

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Tara Maya said...

all-things-andy-and-gavin Readers are FAR FAR more limited by time than money.

This is so sadly true. But this reader, despite not having enough time to read all the books I have, still wants to buy more books, and would, if they were all cheap enough or I were rich enough.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

Anonymous said...

"What serious reader doesn't have a book pile years long waiting for them?"

Me. Evidently I'm the only one in the world, but the fact is I've never, before Kindle or now had a TBR pile. I'd buy 1-3 books and read them before getting more. Nowadays I download samples of anything that sounds interesting, read them and either decide against the book and delete or get the book and read it - buy it for the Kindle if it's reasonably priced or put a hold on it at the library and read it for free if it's overpriced for me.

Then again surely I can't be the only one in the world this way?

Ellen O'Connell said...

The above post about my weird reading habits was not supposed to be anonymous. For some reason it posted without giving me a chance to fill in info.

evilphilip said...

"Evidently I'm the only one in the world, but the fact is I've never, before Kindle or now had a TBR pile. I'd buy 1-3 books and read them before getting more."

My TBR pile is probably 600 books.

Mark said...

"Don't be in such a hurry to drive the price of novels down to $2.99 or $0.99 cents. This is only good for readers, and not for anyone in the book business, authors included."

Amazon is setting those prices, more or less. Some writers will price higher, but it looks like the majority of indie writers I see are pricing at the minimum Amazon allows.

Clearly, readers will pay more but one of the only marketing advantages indie writers have is pricing. It's difficult for the big publishers to sell at that price, though there's really no reason why they can't sell backlist at a lower price. Is there any reason Agatha Christie's novels need to be more than $2.99 as ebooks? What expense needs to be covered beyond the conversion process, which is a one-time expense?

jtplayer said...

"My TBR pile is probably 600 books"

Wow...that's a lot of books to read!

I never used to have a backlog either. I'd literally buy 1, maybe 2 at a time, and when finished go browse for another, sometimes spending an hour or more in the bookstore just hanging out.

Of course for me, that was part of the appeal, the process of browsing and discovering new authors.

It wasn't until I started writing that I began stockpiling books to read.

First it was buying the remaining unread books by authors I love and whose work I'd fallen away from, like James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly.

Then I started rereading stuff just to get a feel for what made it so good the first time around. James Ellroy's work comes to mind. Unfortunately I didn't own those books anymore, so I went out and bought them again.

And then I started buying the damn things from Amazon, and got completely hooked in by no sales tax, free shipping, 4 for 3 offers, the whole shebang.

The net result is a pile of maybe 125 fiction and non-fiction books waiting to be read. That number includes a fair amount of short story collections, a previously unexplored area of writing for me. My Amazon wish list has maybe another 50 titles sitting in it.

And I continue to purchase from the brick & mortars. A few days ago I picked up 6 titles used from The Bookman, and on another day I got 2 from the bargain bin at B&N.

I have absolutely no doubt that should I purchase a Kindle, my wallet's gonna take a big hit.

But this is also the reason I honestly believe that many, many of the indie purchases being reported never get read. It's just too cheap and easy to buy armloads of ebooks. And once they reside inside your virtual library, I can see them getting lost in the shuffle. Literally. At least with paper books the darn things take up space somewhere, and when the pile gets really big it's kinda hard to ignore them ;-)

evilphilip said...

"But this is also the reason I honestly believe that many, many of the indie purchases being reported never get read. It's just too cheap and easy to buy armloads of ebooks."

With millions of new readers purchasing eBook readers (Kindle, iPad, nook, etc.) every month, it there is an almost limitless supply of people who are going to load up their Kindle with cheap eBooks from indie publishers.

That said, every book I have purchased on the Kindle for my iPad I have read at least part of that book. I can't say the same for the physical books. When I get a physical book, I drop it onto the top of the nearest stack and I may not look at it again for months.

wannabuy said...

Barnes and Noble had a good Christmas:

Same store sales up 9.7%. Good for them!

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Barnes-Noble-Reports-bw-41319196.html?x=0

B&N.com sales up 67% and B&N sold out Nook inventory:

http://seekingalpha.com/article/245222-barnes-noble-nook-leads-holiday-sales-to-67-increase?source=yahoo

Two-Ten Book Press said...

Ah yes, this vortex of news motivates me to new limits! The more I delve into your information, the more I realize I have been on the right track all along. Keep it up JA!

The Daring Novelist said...

I do think the issue of loading up with books you never read will sort itself out. Beginners may buy lots and lots of cheap books because it's cool and they can...

But after a while the joy of sampling sets in. Once sampling becomes a part of your routine, you're less likely to outright buy any book you aren't sure you want - no matter what the price.

Mark LaFlamme said...

It seems to me that no matter which way you publish, you're going to have to bust your ass to find success. You can either bust ass groveling to agents and publishers, hoping your book will find some love and make it to the shelves in two years. Or bust ass producing quality work, self-publishing and marketing the hell out of it.
I just started publishing my work to Kindle in December. In my estimation, I'm working harder at promoting my books now than I did when they were paperback only. It's the same kind of grind a writer experiences sending out his queries and samples, but the rewards are more immediate. It's like crossing a stream with three big rocks rather than a dozen little ones.
Mr. Curtis makes some salient points, but Mr. Konrath clearly has a better grasp of how the world of self-publishing works. You get the feeling that J.A. could sit back and caress his bank book, if he wanted to. Instead, he's doing a ton to encourage and help other writers. You have to wonder why he'd do such a thing if he didn't have earnest belief in the potential of self-publishing.

jtplayer said...

"You can either bust ass groveling to agents and publishers"

Well if that's the way you want to look at it, go right ahead.

I really don't get the characterization of "groveling". Sounds like a self-esteem issue to me.

I'm not saying for you necessarily, but for anyone who views pursuing their goals in such a way.

If more writers would view publishing as strictly a business transaction, which ultimately it is, then maybe some of the more "emotional" criticisms would go away. IMO.

Selena Kitt said...

You get the feeling that J.A. could sit back and caress his bank book, if he wanted to. Instead, he's doing a ton to encourage and help other writers. You have to wonder why he'd do such a thing if he didn't have earnest belief in the potential of self-publishing.

Well it's not ALL altruism. this blog gets lots of traffic, more blog posts equals more visibility equals more traffic equals more readers checking out Joe's books and hopefully getting hooked, eh?

I have no doubt, and he's proven it, that Joe cares about authors and believes in self-publishing. But let's not pull out the Nobel Peace Price here...

Although, since Obama won it... hey... there's an idea...! *grin*

bowerbird said...

mark said:
> I just started publishing my
> work to Kindle in December.
> In my estimation, I'm working
> harder at promoting my books
> now than I did when they
> were paperback only.
> It's the same kind of grind
> a writer experiences, sending
> out his queries and samples,
> but the rewards are
> more immediate.

i always think it's funny when
people think they can judge
the results of self-publishing
one month out of the gate...

it reminded me of a blog entry
by lee goldberg a while back, so
i went and dug it up. it's here:
> http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2009/07/you-can-become-a-kindle-millionaire-part-5.html

one month in, he draws all these
conclusions on what works and
what doesn't, and how he'll treat
this way of exposing his work...

i'll repeat what i posted there:
> self-publishing like this
> is a long-run game,
> not something you can
> evaluate in a month...
>
> if what you put out is
> worthwhile, then it will
> continue to earn money
> for a very long time...
> (of course, if it's weak,
> it will nosedive faster.)
>
> this is why you'll earn
> more in the long-term
> than you do from the
> big publishing houses,
> because their window
> of opportunity is short.
>
> this will become even
> more the case once the
> power of collaborative
> filtering kicks in, and
> hype (and even reputation)
> become secondary.

now, of course, 18 months later,
we hear lee goldberg say here
that he has changed his tune...

so, mark, i'll say the same thing.
you can't judge this in a month.

moreover, you're overestimating
marketing's effect on success...

it _feels_ like marketing "works",
because you tell people about
your book, and they go buy it.

so if you tell them all at once,
and they all go buy it at once,
it makes you feel very powerful.

but then what do you do?

you have to go find new people,
and tell them, and then _more_
new people, more and more,
until you use up all your juice.

but this is not a short-run game.
it's a marathon, not a sprint, so
if you start with a big push and
then stall out, you didn't do a
favor to your long-term success.

far better to adopt a "go-slow"
mentality from the beginning...
don't rush out to tell everyone
that you've got a new book out!
let it come up in conversation...

yes, the build will be slower...
but it will also be more natural,
and it won't stall out, so you'll
have a better long-run success.

few things are more pleasant
than an author with a new book.
(akin to a newborn's mother!)

but nothing can be as grueling
as an author who's obsessive to
the point of being hellbent on
_marketing_ their new book...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

this didn't post earlier...

***

jtplayer said:
> Suffice to say,
> I do get it.

so it _was_ malice...

i never like to jump
to that attribution,
not right off the bat,
since i much prefer
to give most people
benefit of the doubt.

but now i know that
you don't deserve it.

i'll remember that...

***

cpe said:
> I wanted to ask if
> you can help with
> the hard returns
> needed for poetry
> in ebks....

not really. (sorry!)

since, in large part,
it's insurmountable.

you just can't put
a large something
(like a long line)
in a small container
(like a small window).

it's simple physics.

so the best options
that we have are:

1. to use an image
to present poems.
it works. ...until
the letters become
too small to read.
but even then it
won't be a jumble,
it's just unreadable.

2. to create each line
as its own paragraph,
indented a bit, with an
equal negative indent
on the _first_ line, so
-- if/when it's broken --
the first line displays
flush left, while the
subsequent lines are
displayed as indented.

***

tara said:
> Bowerbird, do you
> have a link to
> your software?

when it's up, it'll be at:
http://jaguarps.com

"jaguar publishing system"


> Is it ready
> for consumers?

it'll be available for free,
so i don't really think of
my users as "consumers".

but it's not up yet, no...

and before i do put it up,
i'd like some early testers.

so if you, or anyone here,
would like to test it for me
-- i promise it is stable --
you can send me an e-mail:

bowerbird at aol dot com

-bowerbird

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

"but now i know that
you don't deserve it"


Boo hoo...please, don't break my heart like that. So glad you took the time to make sure that "posted".

Also, you forgot to add "in my opinion" to that wonderful sentiment above.

So dig this bird, I think this blog would be a much better place if you just ignored me, and I'll do the same to you. Deal?

Have a great day dude.

Kelley said...

I thought you were full of shit about e-books, Joe. Seriously. As in overflowing.

Then I ended up agent-less. For the second time in two yrs. Andddd I had two dead manuscripts for souvenirs.

So I started to think maybe you were only partially full of shit. Or. Okay. Maybe two-thirds full.

I mean, my books were dead. I'd been told they couldn't sell--no one wanted the funny, esp anything the editors decided was remotely chick litty in tone. All those romcom fans had disappeared, apparently.

But. My books. They'd been good enough to get multiple offers from agents. Good agents. I'd been on sub. How could they now suck so pitifully?

Sooooooooo. I started to think about the yrs I'd spent writing, querying, revising, subbing. Without pay. And it hit me. Um. What if they were wrong?

I decided I still thought you might be full of shit, but I could find out for myself if you truly were, right? So I decided to run an experiment. I pubbed my books.

PubIt and Kindle. Under a pseudo. No ISBN. Did all the work myself. Did no promotion at all. Priced at $2.99.

Heh.

I did everything they said would guarantee failure and oh, wait. My books sold. About one a day.

I no longer think you're full of shit. Or, not when it comes to e-books.

Joe Konrath said...

I did everything they said would guarantee failure and oh, wait. My books sold. About one a day.

If they're good books, with good covers, they'll sell more than one a day. Join the forums at kindleboards.com, buy an sponsorship on Kindle Nation. It's fun to see how many people started at one a day, and now are paying their mortgage.

Edward L Cote said...

So the huge e-book sales of December 2010 are just a fluke? What do they think is going to happen when all those millions of e-readers that were also purchased throughout the same holiday season start filling up with $2.99 indie e-books? If anything, our sales should go up. I can't wait to see the numbers for 1Q 2011.

Tara Maya said...

Mark LaFlamme: It's the same kind of grind a writer experiences sending out his queries and samples, but the rewards are more immediate.

jt: I really don't get the characterization of "groveling". Sounds like a self-esteem issue to me....
If more writers would view publishing as strictly a business transaction, which ultimately it is, then maybe some of the more "emotional" criticisms would go away. IMO.


I have nothing against agents. The ones I've met at conferences, through their blogs and in correspondence during querying are all extremely nice people.

Nonetheless, the query process still represents an incredible investment of a writer's time (and often money). Years of polishing query letters, attending writing conventions to pitch to agents (some agents only take queries from conventions), charts of publishers, etc.

And after you go through all of that... you still have then start promoting your book. Going indie allows you to cut out the first step and focus on the second.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

wannabuy said...

@Tara: " And after you go through all of that... you still have then start promoting your book. Going indie allows you to cut out the first step and focus on the second."

That is an important point. Unless you are designated as a best seller, the big6 do zero promotion for the author. 6 weeks on a bookshelf is not worth the cut the publishers demand for novels(unless a 6+ figure advance was negotiated).

I'm certain there are some genres where store shelf space is worth more.

But the author must ask, what does the investment of time required to publish return? Could that time spent working be better utilized (write another book?).

@JT "If more writers would view publishing as strictly a business transaction, which ultimately it is"

Exactly. Once a book is writen, it is all about ROI (or $/hour of author effort). Delaying the income stream reduces return on investment (ROI). Spending hours that do not improve the book reduces the $/hour and reduce the ROI (due to increases expenses).

Many critisize here the discussions about money, but the reality is an author needs an income in order to keep writing.

My main critisism of the old system was the one book a year. Good authors, who earn enough to ditch the 2nd job, should be able to publish 4+ novels a year. Of course certain books will take longer; I'd expect a history book to take 2+ years to collect the research unless a professor had an army of grad students to assist. ;)

Neil

jtplayer said...

Yes, you are correct about all that Tara.

But in my mind that still doesn't equate to "groveling", and anyone who views the process that way has some other issue going on.

We must believe in ourselves first and foremost, and unfortunately, many creative types don't, and they seek validation and approval from what is essentially a business process.

Anonymous said...

My main critisism of the old system was the one book a year. Good authors, who earn enough to ditch the 2nd job, should be able to publish 4+ novels a year. Of course certain books will take longer...

I would say that in Lit Fic four novels a year is unheard of. (Four in a decade is closer to the mark.) In genre, there are some authors who could do four or even more a year, but plenty complain about having to produce one a year contractually.

EC

jtplayer said...

Couple of points Neil about your post.

First, I agree a writer needs an income in order to keep writing, "if" they make their living from writing full time. Many do not. Maybe they would if they could, but it certainly does not apply to all writers.

Secondly, 4 books a years is a lot of writing, and calls for a fairly prolific muse. Unless of course an author is simply rewriting the same story over and over again, or turning out mediocre crap, or just going through the motions because he can and his audience excuses it.

But for me, I'll take quality over quantity any day, and at any price. Sure, there's times I read throwaway stuff, like the old pulps and dime novels I enjoy so much. But more often I want a well written, well plotted, engaging story to read.

This is the reason I questioned Joe about his goal of releasing 7 books in 2011. Time will tell if all seven of those books are really good, or even just ok. And as all of you point out continually, the public will vet his work and let him know if he's putting our mediocre stuff.

But to me, it looks like a money grab, like he wants to strike while the iron is hot. Nothing wrong with that. At all. And maybe he's got seven good books in him, and 7 more after that, and...well you get the idea.

Just because the gatekeepers are dying off and writers can publish anything they want doesn't mean they should. IMO.

Anonymous said...

Just because the gatekeepers are dying off and writers can publish anything they want doesn't mean they should. IMO.

Consider that if an author shouldn't publish then s/he probably doesn't have the skills to recognize that fact. Consider there's no downside to publishing a bad book. (Obscurity is the starting and ending point in such a case.) Consider that publishing a bad book leads to useful, actionable info via poor sales and reviews.

By the way the gate keepers aren't "dying off," at least not yet, there are simply two gates now and two sets of gate keepers.

EC

Jason Jack Miller said...

Whose fault is it the industry’s going to crap? Somebody chooses to represent or publish Hilary Duff and Lauren Conrad and Snooki over writers who’ve been practicing and polishing their work for a lot longer than I have. St. Martin’s Press published J-Wow and Ronnie’s book, NEVER FALL IN LOVE AT THE JERSEY SHORE. EPubbing represents real writers taking their work directly to readers and I'm still wondering why so many people are hung up on the idea that the road to real publication goes through New York City.

STH said...

@Tara: " And after you go through all of that... you still have then start promoting your book. Going indie allows you to cut out the first step and focus on the second."

I agree 100%, Tara. Another important aspect about agents that makes it particularly difficult when trying to break in - when talking strictly from a business sense and ignoring how good a book may be, a really "good" agent shouldn't want a new novelist with no platform to speak of. Yes, theoretically they are all looking for the next "Twilight," but realistically they are looking for something beyond just a well written book that they can use to sell the publishers on the author. So all newbies are really climbing uphill in that regard, Add in the "blockbuster or bust" mentality of the people agents must sell to, and the odds get even worse.

Kindle is ideal for establishing a platform, proving yourself as a writer who can move books. If a writer can prove it here, starting at zero but on a level playing field, it should be much easier to not only get an agent, but a "good" agent to boot.

That said, I'm completely unconvinced about why any newbie would sign with a publisher unless they offered the moon in writing. Which they won't.

But an agent is a different story. Audio books, foreign rights, connections to the film industry. All great things an agent could play a huge role in.

Anonymous said...

When talking strictly from a business sense and ignoring how good a book may be, a really "good" agent shouldn't want a new novelist with no platform to speak of.

This is not so. The very, very top agents consider unknown and unpublished authors all the time. I'm a new novelist with no platform and not long ago Molly Friedrich was on her second read of my ms, having asked for a change, when I signed with another big shot agent, and my story is just one of many. It's a hard truth, but sans platform it really does come down to the writing.

EC

Mark said...

"I would say that in Lit Fic four novels a year is unheard of. (Four in a decade is closer to the mark.) In genre, there are some authors who could do four or even more a year, but plenty complain about having to produce one a year contractually."

I think Franzen has produced four books in about 25 years.

Someone writing genre books complaining about having to write one a year must be a very successful writer. I think genre writers can easily produce four books a year. And many could write quite a few more than that. Two thousand words a day is a novel a month.

I think with self-publishing you are going to see how some writers have been held back by traditional publishers. Remember why Stephen King wrote under a pseudonym? They thought it would hurt his sales if he produced too many books. He was writing them faster than his publisher was willing to publish them.

Anonymous said...

It's my impression that Stephen King and Joe here are the exceptions, not the rule, in speed of production. We'll see how this plays out over the next couple of years, now that authors are unleashed ...

EC

wannabuy said...

@JT"This is the reason I questioned Joe about his goal of releasing 7 books in 2011."

I see no reason Joe couldn't publish 7 novels of quality. Write, revise, send out to for Edit and Cover, and then proof read once more and Publish.

Look at Amanda Hocking's publishing schedule:
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
November 2010
December 2010
+ novella in December.

One per month with a vacation in June and October. Few writers will be able to do *that* pace with Amanda's quality. But Amanda would have a tiny market with one book.

Nathan Lowell is my favorite new 'find.' He is publishing two books per year (backed off from a much more agressive schedule): http://solarclipper.com/get-the-books/production-schedule/

So why not all could do 4+, some can. And yes, Amanda is the exception... but I bet we see a half dozen new exceptions in 2011. :)

@JT"First, I agree a writer needs an income in order to keep writing, "if" they make their living from writing full time. Many do not. "
We can agree on that. If I cannot find a review on a book that explains why the reviewer 'didn't like this book, but you might,' it isn't worth buying. Only well writen works gain those types of reviews. I won't pre-buy again.

Neil

Mark said...

Genre writers who know their stuff can produce a lot of work. Look at how many novels Agatha Christie wrote, or John D. McDonald, etc. I believe Dean Wesley Smith has had something like over 100 novels published since the early '90's -- many under pseudonyms.

Back in the days of the pulps there were plenty of writers writing a book a month. Two thousand words a day is two to four hours for a confident writer who knows what he is doing.

STH said...

@ Anon "This is not so."

Of course, nothing is "so" 100% of the time. Everything is subjective. But we were discussing blind, mass querying.

"It's a hard truth, but sans platform it really does come down to the writing."

That also is very subjective. If it were a "truth" then John Kennedy Toole might still be alive.

Also, there are many different kinds of books and levels of quality between Snooki and Shakespeare, but if readership and sales are any indication of what's "good," then shouldn't JK Rowling have got in on the first query instead of the 500th?

wannabuy said...

@Mark: "I think Franzen has produced four books in about 25 years."

I didn't mean to imply every author should put out 4 per year. There are enough who have the ability and market to do so. :)

A limit of one book per year prevents most authors from 'establishing a market.' I'd like to see more authors make a career of writing.

Neil

Mark LaFlamme said...

Producing four books in one year would be ambitious. Seven in a year would be something like superhuman. But don't forget that most authors who have been at it a while typically have a few so-called trunk novels kicking around – novels that were finished but still need a good tweaking; unfinished novels awaiting a killer ending, etc. I have three of those, myself. Someone like Joe may have twice that number.

bowerbird said...

one side had all the power.

the other side "submitted"
manuscripts, and hoped to
"be accepted", because such
acceptance meant their work
was "good enough" and thus
would receive the "stamp"
of _publication_, which was
the seal of a quality writer,
and a chance for a paycheck
(or at least a lottery ticket)...

but hey, don't take it
_personally_, because
-- you know -- it's
"just business"...

is it any wonder that
such a system created
angst in the other side?

but now the world has
changed, irreversibly.

now the _other_ side
has all of the power...

fancy that...

-bowerbird

The Daring Novelist said...

Different books require different paces... but I gotta say this:

It's absolute bull that a full time writer could not produce seven excellent books in a year.

It is easy to produce 1000 or 2000 good words in a day - it's the pace of the background development that can take time. But you know, you can write other books while a book 'develops.'

Literary writers tend to be academics, and tend to write a lot of short fiction as well. These are things that take a lot of the same kind of energy as writing a novel. So the slow production of a literary writer is not really a good measure of what he or she can do. (Plus, frankly, a lot of the less stellar literary writers are not very good specifically because they lack the experience that high output gives you.)

But back to overlapping development -- writers usually have a LOT more ideas than they have time to produce. Those ideas sit on the shelf and often develop. Once a writer has been working long enough, it's easy to put out more books because you have so much material in your head.

And aside from that... Fred Astaire did not become Fred Astaire by just thinking about dancing. Magic Johnson did not get his magic by standing around the basketball court thinking about what move would be best. My great grandmother did not become so great at making pie by fussing over her first crust.

I think I'll blog about this tonight: You get to Carnegie Hall by PRACTICING!

Carmen A McCormack said...

I wanted to say this was a very interesting post to read from Joe, and the additional comments were also great...I am not entirely familiar with the nitty-gritty of publishing etc, however I wanted to say this - I live in Australia and the availablity of books is nowhere near to that in the US (in term of DTB versions). IF not for my purchase of a Kindle late last year I would have NEVER found Joe, who is closely become one of my favourite authors. I am in full support of self publishing - anyone who attempts to argue that publishing houses DON'T restrict what we read has blinders on - it is no different to the film industry where production companies and studios dictate what we see, how we see it and when. Sure there may be a wide selection of genres you can select from, however if the pub company decides you don't fit their vision ($$$) then adios and the readers miss out on a wonderful new writer who may add something new to a genre that already exists (as I have most certainly found with Joe).

And at the end of the day, irrespective of there being a wide selection out there, I would much rather have the opportunity to decide myself what it worth the $$$ rather than have a pub company decide for me - anyone who wants to argue this only needs to walk into a DTB store and try and find some of the self-published authors to the extent they are available online.

MBee said...

The only author in that group that stands out to me is Amanda Hocking. I stumbled on her stuff and gave it a read. It's enjoyable, but it could be SO.MUCH.BETTER. It needs editing and tightening, etc. I don't know if she's gotten herself an editor now or not, but I worry that people who self publish are putting out Good stuff, but not necessarily great because they don't have the support and knowledge background of an agent & publisher. I'm not saying it's the case for everyone, but since I've gotten my Kindle I've read quite a few self published authors and it seems to be the case.

/and I admit I haven't read the 300+ comments so I could have missed something or someone could have mentioned this already

Terrance Foxxe said...

I know what I produce is good. I worked hard to be 99.8% mistake free. I’m fast paced,
entertaining. I got reads from agents, only to be told I’m not marketable due to present trends.
Twenty years of this crap, always just this short of a contract. Almost isn’t good enough. Despite
my slow start I’m doing everything myself. Cover art, formatting, whatever, and doing it on a
zero budget. I’m happy now. I’m thrilled. I feel good about the future I chose for myself, and my
eight finished novels. Marketing myself, I proved to myself that’s a must. I’m just getting started.

http://www.amazon.com/Post-apocalyptic-Story-Love-ebook/dp/B003XNTCZU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1281243446&sr=1-1

The Daring Novelist said...

Actually, McBee - I understand Amanda Hocking does use a professional editor. (I'm assuming copy editor, not line editor.)

There are levels of editing that are in the eye of the beholder. She's obviously doing well for her audience, since she got where she is by word of mouth.

I don't read paranormal stuff, so I haven't tried hers. But I can tell you this: I don't argue with success. It comes off sounding too much like sour grapes.

Tony Benson said...

I think this is a huge opportunity for agents. I have no publishing history, and I plan to self publish when I'm ready.

If a competent agent would take on the task of promoting me, both online and otherwise (or at least helping me to be effective at it) then I'd pay them a percentage of the ebook sale price. Looking at the performance of successful ebook publishers an agent could make a good income this way while offering a fundamentally useful service.

However - it wouldn't interest me if they wanted a set fee or up-front money. A percentage of sales is all I get as an author and it's all I can offer to an agent.

Great article. Thank you.

Rose said...

@MBee: "I stumbled on her stuff and gave it a read. It's enjoyable, but it could be SO.MUCH.BETTER. It needs editing and tightening, etc. I don't know if she's gotten herself an editor now or not, but I worry that people who self publish are putting out Good stuff, but not necessarily great because they don't have the support and knowledge background of an agent & publisher."

She has an agent for some rights-- Steve Axelrod-- has a very good reputation as a literary agent. You should probably check out her blog where she writes about her history of trying to get published traditionally. From 18 to 25 apparently.

I've read a couple of her books and even though I'm not the target market-- am I ever not the target market!-- I enjoyed them and I'm recommending them. Plus I would like to see her succeed. She sounds very-- oh god, I'm going to say "unspoiled". Sorry, Ms Hocking.

Stephen said...

Literary agents must feel terribly threatened by the tremors of continental shift shaking their crumbling world.

Mr. Curtis is a very talented agent who apparently feels compelled to share his perceptions, ex cathedra, with the rest of us. Many authors swear by him, others about him. Ten years ago he passed on a new book of mine while in his next sentence soliciting my reverted backlist for his ebook stable. (Be interesting to know what became of that stable.)

He opined that those of us culled in the midlist purges of the 80's weren't up to writing for "today's finicky publishers." He also shared a few salient insights into my proposal--sparking a rewrite :) -- and graciously wished me well. As agents go, Curtis is one of the good guys.

The more nimble-witted of agents will surely create niches for themselves as publishing's new topography becomes clearer.

There'll be much more outraged, wounded bellowing before this is over: dinosaurs and absolute monarchs never go quietly.

So what was all this nonsense about Americans not liking to read, thus lowering book sales? Perhaps it was merely that they couldn't afford to read? Now that they can, they're reading more.

The ebook revolution is the greatest change in mass communication since Gutenburg in 1439 invented movable type, sparking the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution.

Thank you, Joe, for leading us out of the darkness.

Cheers,

Steve

http://www.stephenamesberry.com/

Jackson Dunes, Pug At The Beach said...

Regardless of the format in which a body of writing is presented, the bottom line is always going to be the skill of a writer.

My belief is that every voice is important and every story is worth being told, but not everyone is a good writer.

Self publishing opens to door to a dream come true for folks who have held the dream of becoming an author but might not have been able to do so otherwise.

Regarding e-books, after hearing about Mr. Konrath (via Karen McQuestion on NPR's The Story) I added to my existing Amazon/Kindle collection a few of my books that were waiting for the right opportunity.

My fans have appreciated having access to these books which may have gone unpublished because they might not fit into a traditional publisher's idea of successful such as poems about drinking with Hemingway or short, short stories in the manner of Guy de Maupassant.

http://amzn.to/JacksonDunes

Jackson Dunes, Pug At The Beach said...

The bottom line is always going to be whether or not the writing is any good.

I believe that every voice is important and every story is worth being heard, but not everybody is a good writer.

Regarding e-books, this format has opened the doors for many folks who have long held the dream of becoming a published author.

I know with my own work, many of the fans of my Pug At The Beach books have appreciated having access to otherwise unpublished material that traditional publishers might consider not successful (poems about drinking with Hemingway or short, short stories in the manner of Guy de Maupassant.)

Here's what I mean:
http://amzn.to/JacksonDunes

Justin Jordan said...

Joe's books are around 70,000 words, so seven a year comes out to 490,000 words.

If writes 2,000 words a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year (i.e. a regular working year for most people) he'll have 10,000 words to spare.

2,000 words a day is not a particularly grueling pace, especially when you're not working another job.

The bigger issue is whether you have the ideas to do that much, and how much you feel the need to rewrite and edit.

Helen Hanson said...

Not all writers will find their vision of success.

Congratulations to all those reaping the benefit of hard work!

Susie McCray said...

The industry is in trouble. It's a shame that they have their eyes closed or their fingers in their ears pretending they don't know what's happening.

Jesse Waites said...

Fantastic article! I started a company that does eBook conversion for authors: Check it out at www.BeaconHillApps.com

Chicago cleaning service said...

I am impressed with the content of the article. I have been trying this method and I have seen some real improvements. This method is very useful.

JS said...

Very inspirational, I am so glad I found this blog.

I'm in the process of co-authoring my first book. It's non-fiction and I already have some access to and credibility in the market, though I feel the potential for this book is huge and didn't want it being limited by deal with a small press.

I was already think about self publishing, but hearing this all from you, Joe, has really solidified my plan.

What I take away most here is pricing my book at 2.99 on Kindle. I never would have thought to do that, especially with the notions of perceived value and whatnot, but now it makes sense to me.

Thanks again Joe, I'll send you a free copy in a few months when it's done.

dirtywhitecandy said...

I don't know if anyone will see me squeaking down at the bottom here, but I just have to agree with you - epublishing, particularly Kindle, is creating a brave new world that authors badly need.

1 - While self-pubbed print books may sometimes look amateurish, the Kindle is the Kindle. All books look the same. So no off-putting typsetting, squished leading, unreadable measures and so on.

2 - Readers can browse the first few pages, so every book has its chance to make a great impression if it is good.

3 - The price of a Kindle book is much more attractive, so a reader is willing to give an unfamiliar book a chance as an impulse buy. Except for those from mainstream publishers, because their marketing people demand they keep pace with the print books. Authors don't have to charge nearly as much for a Kindle book to earn decently from them.

Mainstream publishers have held back innovation in the book industry with their punitive contracts and greedy pricing.

They have also held back the artform by insisting on books being a certain length, regardless of whether the content is being artificially padded or condensed to the point of suffocation. Now books can be as long or as short as they need to be. They have stultified literary innovation by turning down perfectly good books because booksellers wouldn't know where to shelves them.

Ereaders have put power back in the hands of readers. And that means writers can once again write for readers, not booksellers.

J. Alexander Greenwood said...

I'll just add my voice to the chorus of indie authors who tried the traditional agent/publisher route for years to no avail and couldn't bear to see a decent book locked in the closet. Smashwords gave my book a chance at life. Though I'm not burning up the bestseller lists, I have done pretty well in the Thriller category; so much so that I went ahead and offered a POD paperback version on Amazon and B&N. Now local book clubs are reading my book and local stores are arranging signings. Livin' the dream. Having some readers is better than no readers, any day.

Edie Ramer said...

I just added my sales for the month. Between Kindle and B&N, I've sold 942. I should make 1000 by the end of the week. Yes!

The most sales are for my 99-cent book, Dead People, but I'm still happy. I'm making more than I was last month, and next month I expect to make even more.

I'm for sure making more than a year ago when I was querying agents and editors. Thank God I don't have to do that any more.

sgtrock said...

jtplayer said:

Secondly, 4 books a years is a lot of writing, and calls for a fairly prolific muse. Unless of course an author is simply rewriting the same story over and over again, or turning out mediocre crap, or just going through the motions because he can and his audience excuses it.

But for me, I'll take quality over quantity any day, and at any price. Sure, there's times I read throwaway stuff, like the old pulps and dime novels I enjoy so much. But more often I want a well written, well plotted, engaging story to read.


The counterexamples that I would suggest you think about are Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. All three were very prolific authors from the 1930s until their deaths in respectively, 1992, 2008, and 1988. Quoting from Wikipedia:

"Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards."

The bibliography page for Clarke lists 33 novels, 31 non-fiction books, and 13 short story collections.

"Heinlein published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 collections during his life. Four films, two TV series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game have been derived more or less directly from his work. He wrote a screenplay for one of the films. Heinlein edited an anthology of other writers' SF short stories."

All three of these authors were masters of their craft. They basically set expectations for an entire genre. Asimov also wrote at least one chemistry textbook that I'm aware of, a history of Europe, mysteries, and a ton of humor. He wrote well over 200 books.

(Side note: Among other things, Clarke wrote a proposal describing geostationary satellites in 1945.)

Asimov clearly demonstrated that it _is_ possible to write four books a year. Keep in mind that for virtually all of his career, he was doing it by banging on a manual typewriter. Then there was wading through the painful editing process with manual markup with all the exchanges by courier instead of email. How much faster can people be with the tools available today, especially if they aren't hung up in the slow turnaround times typical of traditional publishing?

tim said...

Right on, Mr Konrath! I love your blog! Read it regularly.

Tim

LK Watts said...

The ebook industry is fantastic because it gives both the authors and readers a greater choice. The authors can write what they want, without having to worry about crossing genres, or sticking to a particular genre. And the readers can choose what they want to read for a cheaper price.

caligirl88 said...

I have been writing for many years now, and have had several of my works published. However the hardest part I always come to when I am writing, is getting it published. Most would say writers block, but I have had the hardest time getting my work published until I started self publishing my own work through a great resource I found. I found that their unique transfer software allows just about any body submit their books from any manuscript layout software they use. Soon enough they will then publish a book in trade quality from as many copies as you desire. It even takes only a week to get the published copies. Instantpublisher has saved me so many different troubles when it comes to writing.

Mila said...

I've just discovered your blog and I'm loving it! I moved here to Chile 6 years ago--ditching a lucrative career--in the hopes of writing "The Great American Novel." As I started looking into agents/publishers and the like, I lost faith in myself and my ability to produce something that would get anyone's notice.

These past few days, 6 years later and the burning desire to spin my yarns intact, I began to see little ads for Kindle self-publishing all over the place. I stumbled onto your site and have decided that this is the route I will take.

Thank you so much for this blog and for encouraging so many of us to pursue our dreams.

Look for me soon...
D. Mila Bulic

Mila said...

oh, also thanks for all the references to other great sites which are now neatly bookmarked and soon to be read.

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