Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The End of the Bestseller

Blake Crouch and I interview each other in the latest issue of Crimespree Magazine.

I've given up doing interviews, because I get a lot of requests and they all ask the same questions. While it's flattering, I hate taking time away from my writing, and I'm making enough money to stop doing things that I dislike.

That said, I did do a quick interview with Kirkus for Shaken, which is being released in print on February 22.

Some folks may be thinking, "But Joe, interviews are free publicity. If you stay out of the public eye, they'll forget you and stop buying your ebooks. Aren't you shooting yourself in the foot?"

I don't think so. Lots of authors shy away from the spotlight but still sell well. And I'm 99% convinced that name-recognition isn't what drives sales.

So what does?

In the print world, distribution is the Number 1 factor in sales. The more places your book is for sale, the more books you'll sell. It's very much a self-fulfilling prophecy that goes like this:

1. Publisher prints a shitload of books, gets them into as many retail outlets as possible.

2. Publisher buys coop in bookstores and big box stores, offering steep discounts for multiple copies, so the books can be sold for under the cover price.

3. Readers buy these books because they have little choice in places like drug stores, supermarkets, airports, etc, and because in bookstores it is the first thing they see when they walk in; big stacks of discounted books by familiar, safe names.

I don't believe an author becomes a bestseller, and then becomes available everywhere. I believe an author is available everywhere, and that's why they're a bestseller.

If you look at the Kindle bestseller lists, a lot of the ebooks selling well mirror their print counterparts. But more and more, self-published ebooks are creeping onto these lists, displacing traditionally published ebooks.

Obviously, distribution and coop don't play a part in ebook sales, because indie ebooks don't have any.

This allows me to make a rather startling prediction about the future.

The current print bestsellers dominate because they're available everywhere. Readers are creatures of habit. Used to buying Patterson in print, many of them will buy Patterson in ebook form because he is safe and familiar.

So let's do a thought experiment. Let's imagine that every place Patterson has a print book for sale, I also have an equal number of print books for sale. But whereas Patterson's paperbacks are $8.99, my paperbacks are $2.99.

Do you think he'd still outsell me in print?

Remember, for every book he has on the shelf, I have one that is equally displayed. Though he enjoys a much larger fanbase and name-recognition, if there were displays touting my price, I think I could outsell him.

A pipe dream? Hardly.

Because I DO outsell Patterson on many of the Kindle bestseller lists, simply because I have a lower price.

Now, if we take away Patterson's print sales (or at least reduce them when ebooks sales overtake print) it is simple to predict what will happen.

Ebooks are all equally distributed. They have an infinite shelf-life, and infinite shelf-space. Everywhere Patterson has an ebook, I have an ebook. And I can beat him on price, so I can beat him in sales.

Kindle readers are still buying overpriced bestsellers because that's how they're used to shopping. However, the many of the ereader owners I've spoken with are changing their buying habits.

At one time, the majority of readers bought what was widely distributed.

But with ereader owners, price is often a major factor in a purchase.

The Big 6 can't publish ebooks priced low enough to compete with me. They have fancy NY offices, lots of employees with benefits and expense accounts, and a whole industry to support.

With print, they know how to create a bestseller. They buy it.

They buy the real estate. They buy the advertising. They buy the discounts.

But in an ebook world, their money offers no advantage. They can't get more shelf space or a longer shelf life than I can, and they can't discount for less than I can.

Now certainly bestselling authors will still have fans when the print industry collapses, and those fans will have no choice but to switch to ebooks.

So far, those fans have been willing to put up with $9.99 and $12.99 prices.

I don't see this happening forever. Right now, we're in a transitional period. The stranglehold NY publishing has had on the US, forcing people to read what they decide to make available, is loosening up. When given a choice, readers will buy books other than those vetted by NY. The Kindle bestseller lists prove this. My sales prove this.

In the future, coop and distribution won't be the main reason a book sells. Price and content will be.

In said future, will Patterson be happy with 25% royalties on a $9.99 ebook when he could make more money self-pubbing a $2.99 ebook which would sell ten times as many copies?

I think not.

"But Joe," you may say, "When Patterson is self-pubbing at $2.99, how will you compete?"

That's the beauty of ebooks. There is no competition.

When I used to buy music, I was limited by price, by space, by the physicality of the object, and by the places it was available.

Price was prohibitive. A $15 CD meant I had to be picky and choosy when buying, lest I run out of money.

Space was prohibitive. After you buy a few hundred albums, you run out of places to put them.

The tangibility of a CD gave it weight, both physically and psychologically. It was an object that existed, which gave it value and permanence. Buying something valuable and permanent meant actually thinking about whether or not to make the purchase.

Often, I had to visit different stores to find the CD I wanted. This process took time, and effort.

Then iTunes came along.

Price was no longer prohibitive. I could cheaply buy whatever I wanted.

I didn't have to take up a shelf when I bought the music--it fit right on my hard drive.

Because it was one-click buying, I was more apt to download something than buy a tangible object. Which meant it required less thought. Ask any Kindle owner if they buy more books now that they own an ereader, and the overwhelming majority will say yes. Especially since the don't need to leave their house, or their sofa, to do so.

So let's apply this to books.

In the past, a reader would have to physically visit a store, then decide to buy Patterson's new hardcover for $15.99 or my new hardcover for $24.99 (if mine was even available there). To make this decision, the reader had to come to grips with the fact that they were buying an expensive, permanent object, that once purchased will take up space in the home.

Making decisions is tough. Especially when it comes to your entertainment dollar. Why take a chance on an unknown author for $25 when NY publishers make it easy to get a sure thing for $16?

So Patterson has vastly outsold me in print.

But with ebooks, it is much easier to make decisions. Cheap, intangible downloads don't require as much thought. Las Vegas has proven that once you take away cash and credit cards and replace them with chips and tokens, people are freer with their spending. The same thing applies to clicking a BUY NOW button on a computer or Kindle that is hooked up to your account.

So I'm no longer competing with Patterson. If he's $2.99 and I'm $2.99, readers won't hesitate to buy both of us.

In fact, once he and all the other bestselling authors start self-publishing and come down in price, that will leave more money in readers' pockets to spend on unknowns like me.

The next obvious question involves time. If every ebook is cheap, and readers pig out on them like we do at an all-you-can-eat buffet, where will anyone find the time to read all of those ebooks?

Answer: they won't.

Admit it, you've bought books before but haven't gotten around to reading them yet. Just like you've rented movies you didn't watch, bought music you haven't listened to, and bought a DVD set of some TV show that still has two discs you haven't gotten to yet.

We all have to-be-read piles. The Kindle has just made them bigger, cheaper, and easier to attain.

There is a lot of allure to pressing a button, getting an ebook download, and having it on your device to be read later. It's like a squirrel storing up nuts for winter. It gives us comfort knowing we have it.

Conclusions?

In the future, we will no longer have the same bestsellers we have now. People will be buying more books, but more of them will be going unread. There won't be competition, because no one goes to a buffet and gets the pizza or the lasagna--they get the pizza AND the lasagna, even if they don't eat one of them.

Ebooks will continue to gobble up market share once held by print books. Chain bookstores will close. Publishers will have to downsize or go bankrupt. Big name authors will self-publish, making less money than they did before, but having more control and getting a larger percentage of royalties. The playing field will truly be even, readers will find what they want to read without having it crammed down their throats by NY, and the cream will rise to the top.

And that, my friends, is a fairy tale ending in every sense of the term.

237 comments:

1 – 200 of 237   Newer›   Newest»
Mikaela said...

"We all have to-be-read piles. The Kindle has just made them bigger, cheaper, and easier to attain."

Before I got my Sony I didn't have TBR pile. I devoured a book as soon as I got it.
Now? Now I have 52 books labelled with TBR in Calibre. Most of them are PD books or books offered as free reads, either by the publisher or the author.

Garry M. Graves said...

As my ebook sales continue to go up, now with two offerings...the satisfaction from that...remembering the years I solicited publishers through the query process...and today, richly enjoying what's happening to NY publishing. And your stinging comments to further drive home their pending demise, it's fun.

Ed Renehan said...

You are spot-on, as usual. Along the same line, note my recent essay Snooki, Dinosaurs and 'Creative Destruction' in the Book Business.

Louis Porter Jr. said...

Always interesting...

Ellen Fisher said...

Not to be paranoid, but sooner or later it seems likely that traditional publishers will try to somehow push indie publishers off Amazon and B&N (in order to regain the "real estate" they've lost in stores, and to make sure that there ISN'T an "even playing field"). Hopefully they won't succeed. But once they figure out that e-publishing is where the money is, this would seem to be their logical next move.

Ey Wade said...

Nicely said. Encouraging.

rdlecoeur said...

I agree with your long term prognosis but it will take quite a while for people's buying habits to change. This could take years & although you say that its you versus patterson @$2.99 it's really top names versus a billion self pubbers @$2.99 or indeed in most cases $0.99.
Having followed your blog for the past 2 years I always think that in your cost analogies of buying paper books you always miss out the actual real cost of traveling to town, parking etc. It's OK for Americans where gas is free, but in the UK/Europe its about $8.00 per gallon and then parking is about $8.00.
Last week I went to buy the latest in a series(not yet avail in ebook) and I reckon it cost me nearly $32 for 1 paperback which is outrageous in the scheme of things.
Great blog, keep up the good work.

Excuse Me, Miss said...

As always, I think you're spot-on with your comments. The digital era of books is an exciting development to say the least. Having lived through the trad pub experience I can second the "anatomy of a bestseller" model. I would've loved that front table space in B&N and Borders etc. I love the freedom ebooks provide the author and the fact that their distribution does in fact level the playing field. More opportunities. And yes, my TBR pile definitely increased once I received my Kindle. I've been likening the impulse to download books to iTunes for a while, as well.

Joe Konrath said...

I agree with your long term prognosis but it will take quite a while for people's buying habits to change.

I was just reading my blog posts from early 2010, and it's eerie how quickly ebook adoption has accelerated.

I've been pretty spot-on with the majority of my predictions, but I never thought things would get so big so quickly. For example, I surmised I'd be making $40k a year. I made $40k last month.

It's happening damn fast, and we haven't even reached the 35% saturation point, when the bell curve really takes off.

Barbara Morgenroth said...

There is no cachet anymore. Literary books have gotten all the fawning, the top writers of the commercial bestellers got all the excited publicity. Juvenile books--no one has cared since Judy Blume. "Important" nonfiction was touted, everything else ignored. With ebooks all categories become equal in the eyes of readers.

Linda S. Prather said...

You pretty much said exactly what I said to my publisher six years ago. It was impossible for me to compete price-wise with the big name authors. I did well in public one-on-one settings, but sitting on the book shelves of stores did nothing for me. I for one hate to see the bookstores close, but you make a very important point--price-wise I can buy a lot more books now, and I read a lot of books. The ebook explosion is a good thing for both authors and readers, and I too think it will continue.

Steve Umstead said...

Anyone have any thoughts on the Kobo ereader just dropping below $100? Got an email this morning from Borders with the new pricing, and I immediately thought of Joe and his predictions of a sea-change when they hit that magic number.

Great read, Joe, keep 'em coming.

Stevie said...

ASDA in the UK, (part of the wall mart family) have just launched and ereader for £52. Another move in the continuing rise in ebooks.

http://direct.asda.com/View-Quest-5in-eBook-Reader/000505974,default,pd.html

author Scott Nicholson said...

Well, clearly I fully agree and wish, dammit, you'd stop encouraging all these starving authors to self-publish! (Well, actually, like you, I agree it's not really a competition among authors, but a competition between a corporate power structure and a libertarian, unwieldy thing bubbling into a revolution).

I just heard Macmillan is now requiring OWNERSHIP of the copyright instead of merely eternal license to a work. And STILL writers will get in line for the "validation."

I do dispute one point--money will still be a major factor. You saw yourself what Amazon did with Shaken. Publishers (and authors) an still buy ads and placement, it's just virtual instead of physical. Money can still win, but the point of diminishing return makes it easy to compete with zero or little overhead.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Heather said...

Everytime I read something like this, I get just as excited as a reader as I do a writer. Joe's absolutely right (as usual) - I love sitting on my couch saying "I need something new to read" (orjust to stockpile in the TBR bin of my Kindle) and say "I'm going shopping" and not even have to stand up to do it. I agree with Joe's predictions 100% and its so exciting!


www.heatherhildenbrand.blogspot.com

Heather said...

p.s. - love the mag pic, Joe!



www.heatherhildenbrand.blogspot.com

author Scott Nicholson said...

Also, perhaps you saw from Bookscan data that Snooki sold fewer than 9,000 books in January, launch month. All that money, "platform," energy, hype, coverage, book tour added to a huge loss. If I owned stock in S & S, I'd be outraged, yet it looked like a "safe bet."

Meanwhile, I personally know several dozen indies who outsold her and made more money. I think the safe bets are sucker bets now. The Patterson/Cussler/Clancy factories will soon be shuttering.

Scott

Ellen Fisher said...

"I just heard Macmillan is now requiring OWNERSHIP of the copyright instead of merely eternal license to a work."

What???! As in, it's in your contract that they OWN the book forever? Link, please!

Robert said...

I hope you're right about the demise of the novel which becomes a bestseller because the publisher pushes it. But I'm not sure about the end of competition. Surely some will still become bestsellers, either by word of mouth or because of an author who finds ways to keep them in the public eye. Others will fade because ranking systems will show them up as one-star rubbish.

Jessica said...

I have two TBR piles right now. One of print books in an actual pile next to my desk. There are 8 of them.

My digital TBR is somewhere north of twenty.

Before I started reading ebooks I averaged probably 3-4 books a month. In January I read 17 and I don't even have an ereader yet.

Anonymous said...

Really got a hate on for Patterson, hmm?

The color green does not become you, bro.

AnneMarie Novark said...

Another great post, Joe.

I'm kind of with Ellen though. Now that my sales are beginning to grow, I'm wondering if it's just a fluke or dream and how long will it last?

I wonder how long before the Big 6 start throwing money at the "ebook problem" and squash the indie pubs?

And OMG! about the copyright clause!!!

Joe Konrath said...

Really got a hate on for Patterson, hmm?

Hell, no. I love Patterson. I think he's a genius. He's just a good example to use because everyone knows him, and he writes the same kind of stuff I do.

Merrill Heath said...

A few thoughts...

1. I've never heard anyone say, "I'd love to buy this book but I don't know where I'd put it." I don't think the physical space argument holds water.

2. Cost and price point are still critical factors. I don't buy a hardback unless it's something I want to have in my library. And then I look for a used copy that's in good shape and for sale on Amazon or somewhere for the price of a paperback. It's true that people can and will buy more books at $2.99, but cost is still a factor. Most of us live on a budget, some on a very tight budget, so pricing is critical.

3. But the primary advantage to ebooks are the availability. Someone mentioned the cost of actually going to the book store to buy a book -- gas, parking, time, etc. Well, there are a lot of people who live in towns and locations where there isn't a decent book store and even the library has a very limited selection. My dad, lived in a town of just over 6,000 people. The nearest bookstore that offered a decent selection was 45 miles away. The library in his little town offered a very limited selection and when a new book came out by an author he liked, he had to get on a waiting list and sometimes waited months before getting the book...from the library!

But with ebooks that's not a problem. We can go on-line and find a huge selection of books to choose from. For some people access to the books is the most important factor. No waiting lists. No effort or cost to physically go to the bookstore or library. We can read the sample and download it and continue reading immediately. And the purchase doesn't blow our budget.

Of course, you can buy printed books on-line and get them for a cheap price if you're willing to do a little searching. But you still have to wait for the book to be shipped to you...and there is an additional cost for shipping. With ebooks it's, read the first few chapters, click the "buy it now" button, go make a fresh cup of coffee, and settle in to enjoy the book you just purchased. Very easy, very cheap, but most of all very AVAILABLE.

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

John D said...

"What???! As in, it's in your contract that they OWN the book forever? Link, please!"

By Far The Biggest Issue:

In the new Macmillan contract is clause 6. (b) Copyright on Derivative Works. To state bluntly, this clause gives the Publisher the right to create “derivative works” based on the work they are buying from the author. And to add insult to injury, the publisher owns the copyright to any of these “new works.”

Eyebrow raise.

Yes, it is as bad as what you are thinking it means.

Edie Ramer said...

Speaking for myself, my reading habits have changed. I'm hardly even reading library books lately -- and I've been feeling guilty about it. As if I'm cheating on the library.

Ellen Fisher said...

"I'm kind of with Ellen though. Now that my sales are beginning to grow, I'm wondering if it's just a fluke or dream and how long will it last?"

It's not so much that I think it's a fluke (the ebook does seem to be inarguably the wave of the future), but that the big publishers would probably like to put a halt to indie publishing if they could manage it somehow. I'm not sure how they would manage that, but it does worry me a bit.

"To state bluntly, this clause gives the Publisher the right to create “derivative works” based on the work they are buying from the author. And to add insult to injury, the publisher owns the copyright to any of these “new works.”

Wow. Wouldn't sign that in a million years. Who on earth would?

Merrill Heath said...

Ellen said: "To state bluntly, this clause gives the Publisher the right to create “derivative works” based on the work they are buying from the author. And to add insult to injury, the publisher owns the copyright to any of these “new works.”

Wow. Wouldn't sign that in a million years. Who on earth would?


For the right price I would. If a publisher wanted to give me a million bucks for my Alec Stover mysteries, and the rights to derivative works about Alec, I'd take the money and run. I'd let them have that series and start writing another one. I've got more ideas for books than I have time to write them. So, as they say, if the price is right...

Joe Konrath said...

If a publisher wanted to give me a million bucks

I used to think that too.

Now I think that a million bucks isn't a lot of money.

Michael said...

I don't care for Patterson. The books aren't particularly good and he doesn't write them, anyway, so far as I know. I'm not sure why they continue to sell except that readers are creatures of habit, like everyone else. And yes, it's nice to go into McDonald's every once in awhile and know exactly what you're going to get, even if that something is always mediocre.

lauralynnelliott said...

I agree with your post and am very happy, both as an author and an avid reader, that things are shifting this way. The reason I keep my prices so low is so that readers can choose lots of books instead of just one or two. Your predictions are almost always right on the money.

Merrill Heath said...

Now I think that a million bucks isn't a lot of money.

It's not what it used to be but it's still a lot of money to me. Hopefully I'll get to the point where I'd have to study on it. But right now...I wouldn't blink.

Fawn Neun said...

I think eBooks are perfect for providing what writers really have to offer. You are not offering a lump of pulped woodchips, you're offering an experience.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks Joe! So true and inspiring! Also love the magazine cover! I'm really pleased with my epub experience so far. This is *awesome* !!!!

Lovely said...

I'm reading more now that books are so portable.

I've got both the Kindle and Nook apps on my smartphone with about a dozen or so books downloaded.

I take advantage of even a few minutes of down time - like waiting in the Starbucks checkout line or my doctor's office.

Don't tell my boss, but I even read while waiting for meetings to start.

I'm definitely an ebook convert.

wannabuy said...

Joe is 100% on, the change is already happening.

rdlecoeur said...
"I agree with your long term prognosis but it will take quite a while for people's buying habits to change."

People will adapt with book store closings. :( I doubt anyone wants fewer bookstores, but ereader sales are accelerating, not declining.

@Merril:" I've never heard anyone say, "I'd love to buy this book but I don't know where I'd put it."

I've said that. I've read down my existing collection (instead of buying more) due to the clutter. It wasn't money, it was the book clutter.

To everyone:
What wasn't mentioned is that ereaders are consuming more ebooks. For myself, having a selection of books in the diaper bag via the Kindle makes all of the difference. When I start a Robert Jordan Tome, I want to finish it. Before it didn't travel (too large), now it does. Text to speech also increases my 'consumption' by about 20%. :)

My pring TBR pile is about 80 books. My ebook TBR pile is 21 plus 40 free classics that I might or might not ever get to (current rate, up to 4 classics per year).

That McMillan contract is a deal breaker. Who would sign that? Let's be real, those being offered $1 million could make $2 milliion via ebooks.

Neil

Joseph D'Agnese said...

I'm liking all of this. I wish more publishing folks read your blog, because we'd probably be treated to more delicious rants from them about how publishers can't "make" a bestseller. You see, guys, there's some ineffable quality to a really good book that somehow shines through, regardless of the size of its marketing budget, and readers just magically seek it out, though it's hidden on the fourth floor of the bookstore, spine out.

I once had an indie bookseller ask if my next book would be in the next monthly "box" due from a major indie org. I had never heard of this magical box of hand-picked books that would receive special treatment from mom-and-pop booksellers. I think I was shocked to learn that the same game of coop was going on the indie level too, but now the scales have fallen from my eyes.

I think the end of your piece touched on something I find fascinating: the issue of unread books. That seems to reinforce for me that ereaders are toys we are all just loving to play with, buying up a storm and stockpiling goodies the way a squirrel hoards nuts. You're right: it's hard to do that with hardcover books, but we've done it. With the ereader, though, books have finally achieved equal status with all the other STUFF in our lives. As an author I am tempted to feel bad about this, because if people are buying but not reading, is that not somehow bad for me? I think not: it's certainly not a bad model for gyms and companies selling workout equipment or the manufacturers of all the other unused crap I have in my garage. At least in the case of a digital book, it won't hurt to read someday.

Poolsider said...

Joe,
I would go one step further and predict 'The End of the Hardcover!' Paperbacks will continue to be produced and sold (a function of price, of course). But, soon, a BigSix publisher will announce it will no longer be killing trees and the hardcover will end. Ebooks will be blamed, and rightfully so. Vive la revolution!

RMDoyon
www.upcountry-the-novel.com

wannabuy said...

For those who have doubts on book clutter, look at what is happening in Japan:

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/japans-diy-ebook-revolt-20110207-1ak2a.html

"Do it yourself ebooks" or scanning services.

The readers I know in Manhattan, who all work outside of publishing, are loving their ereaders.

Neil

JL_Bryan said...

First - Great picture on that magazine cover!

I agree with the points in this post. After lugging countless heavy boxes every time I moved, I did gradually slow down my book-buying quite a bit. I buy a lot more books now that I have a Kindle--and usually from indie authors, since I know a bunch of them now.

I think "the end of the bestseller" is a good thing. I'd rather see 10,000 authors make a comfortable living than see one become a billionaire. (Especially if one of those 10,000 is me:) )

Claudia Lefeve said...

I just finished commenting on another post on how readers also benefit from indie books...I love the fact that I can now read several books a week instead of a month. Yesterday, I purchased 3 self-pubbed books without a second thought. Low priced ebooks from indie authors means I can buy more books and indie authors get more sales!

JL - I swear I'm not following you around! I think we just have the same blog travel itinerary today!

KevinMc said...

Sounds a lot like what Kris Rusch was writing on her blog, a few weeks ago. These changes strongly favor the prolific, skilled midlist writer - at the expense of the bestseller writers, especially those who only write a book a year or less.

Dean Wesley Smith has been calling it a new Golden Age of fiction, akin to the pulp era, where writers can succeed through their ability to tell good stories and work hard - where more hours worked churns directly into more success.

I've been following this blog, and their blogs, for months now. It's been very interesting watching the points of view slowly merge. ;)

Tom Geller said...

"Ebooks are all equally distributed. They have an infinite shelf-life, and infinite shelf-space."

For the moment you're right, but I don't think that'll be true for long. Amazon (et al.) will eventually start to charge "slotting fees", just like real-world retail markets. You (and I) will have to pay to remain on their lists in any way that'll be seen by prospective buyers.

Those who can afford it will pay, so it's a potentially lucrative revenue stream. Why wouldn't they take advantage of it?

EB said...

Excellent analysis and predictions. The readers will now decide what they deem "good writing" in terms of great stories, plots and characters. The formulaic crap that has been spoonfed by the major publishers will be replaced by a wave of innovators splintering the market into a thousand niches. Writing will actually become creative again rather than a straight up numbers business.

Erik Blakkestad
www.ebookeconomy.com

JL_Bryan said...

Claudia- Hi again! As long as you're stalking me, don't forget to comment on my blog tour stop today :)

See you at the next blog...

Ashley said...

I mostly agree with Joe, but I also agree with Ellen's prediction that the Big 6 are not going to sit tight while they go bankrupt. I think the rise of the ebook is still coming, of course. Sooner or later, most of the country's reading needs are not going to be physically met by hardbound and paperback books. However, I assume eventually the Big 6 will catch on and, as they scale back production of physical books, they will dramatically increase social marketing or email marketing campaigns to compete with Indie authors online. It's still not going to be equal footing, not when a big company with money for advertising is competing with a student, homemaker, basement office writer, etc.

I don't think that's going to prohibit indie success stories, but I disagree that it will be truly equal. Someone will find a way to tip the scales back.

Chuck said...

Thanks, Joe. You clearly put a lot of time into today's post.

I'd suggest the below rewrite of your last 2 paragraphs, though.

Ebooks will continue to gobble up market share once held by print books. Chain bookstores will close. Publishers will have to downsize or go bankrupt. Big name authors will self-publish, making NEAR OR MORE money PER BOOK than they DO NOW, {but} having more control. The playing field (distribution) will truly be even yet remain subject to the influence of advertising/marketing. Instead of a stack of books in front of the store, Google/Yahoo/Bing/AOL/FB will be happy to link that new release beside every search report. As big as Patterson is -- remembering that his background is as a national account advertising executive -- he could flood the market with a $.49 copy of the prequel to his new release. How does newbie compete with that?

Stephen T. Harper said...

Ellen said...
"Not to be paranoid, but sooner or later it seems likely that traditional publishers will try to somehow push indie publishers off Amazon and B&N (in order to regain the "real estate" they've lost in stores, and to make sure that there ISN'T an "even playing field")."

I think it's inevitable that they will "try." And I think it would be wise to think about about it from their point of view. As in, what can they do?

If we ask a question like "whose side will Amazon ultimately be on?" The answer is obviously "Amazon's." So, what can corporations do with their big tool (money) to make Amazon their ally?

One thing they could do is purchase Amazon. That would flip the game back their way in a heartbeat.

Is that likely to happen? I don't know enough about Amazon to answer that. Anyone?

Stephen T. Harper said...

Or is it more likely that the overlords who own the big publishing houses just shrug their shoulders and let them dissolve.

That actually sounds more likely to me.

Stephen T. Harper said...

Ashley said... "However, I assume eventually the Big 6 will catch on and, as they scale back production of physical books, they will dramatically increase social marketing or email marketing campaigns to compete with Indie authors online."

Yes, but anything they do that I couldn't also do by myself means they have to pay people to do it. Maintaining an army of robots or even a handful of people creating websites and engaging in social media costs money.

That means they still can't reach my price point.

shana said...

As always, good, thought-provoking discussion.

Edie Ramer said:
"Speaking for myself, my reading habits have changed. I'm hardly even reading library books lately -- and I've been feeling guilty about it. As if I'm cheating on the library."

I'm right there!
I've been a life-long library champion, and I still am, but the low price of ebooks has prompted me to buy more than I borrow.
That's something I NEVER thought I'd say.

Tom Geller said:
"Amazon (et al.) will eventually start to charge "slotting fees", just like real-world retail markets. You (and I) will have to pay to remain on their lists in any way that'll be seen by prospective buyers."

That's a scary thought.
My first reaction was: that's scary enough to be true, but now I'm not so sure.

You could make an argument that such a slotting-fee-kind-of-system is already in place, and it's the Top 100 rankings.
No, the authors don't pay to be on these more visible lists, but AMAZON, et al gets paid--in the larger royalties the books on these lists bring in.

Jamie Sedgwick said...

I too, am worried about how the big publishers are going to react. Will these corporations just go down like a sinking ship, or will they fight like a dog backed into a corner? I think one thing working against them is the sheer mass of these companies. They're slow to turn, slow to react, and by the time they have a plan it may already be too late. Bankruptcies come on fast, like icebergs in the night. And even though we all know $9.99+ for an e-book was an outrageous pricing model, they can't go too low because they have so much overhead. Maybe there's nothing they can do to stop this.

As a side note, i received a Kindle for x-mas, about the time I published my first book. I've changed my mind on a lot of things since then. After owning one, I now do believe that e-readers will replace paper almost entirely. I'm 40 years old and I'm surprised at the way i've taken to this technology. And that's nothing. You should see my kids. I'll be buying three more of these e-readers shortly.

For those of you enjoying what's happening right now, can I boldly suggest e-readers as gifts for the children in your life? Oh, and let them take it to school so the other kids can check it out, too. :-)

Jon VanZile said...

I agree with your big points, but don't agree that the era of the "best seller" is over necessarily. No matter the distribution, etc., reading is a communal activity in many ways. Books become hot, and people like to read the same thing all their smart friends are reading. Just like movies, big books are events. So I don't agree the market will fracture away from blockbusters permanently.

Of course, there's nothing saying those blockbusters won't be indie books :)

Jon VanZile
Zig Zephyr and the Forever Diamond

Moses Siregar III said...

This was a really good one, Joe.

BUT, I've learned that the only way to get a response from you these days is to attack or argue with you, so with tongue planted firmly in cheek I will now thrash Joe Konrath!

Joe, Nostradamus with the arrows in your back, lil' ol' self-publisher dude, a month ago you wanted to be interviewed on our podcast, Adventures in SciFi Publishing. Now you're giving up on interviews?

Come on, man!

We've interviewed Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Charlaine Harris, Cory Doctorow, Terry Goodkind, Kevin J Anderson, Guy Gavriel Kay, Michael Moorcock, Dan Simmons, Tad Williams, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brent Weeks, Peter V Brett, and over a hundred more. Many episodes have been heard more than 10,000 times.

Free publicity, sucka!

You've never published a SciFi novel before. You're going to need to get the word out to that community so that your book takes off with a whole new crowd. Interest those folks with your SF and you might see sales explode on your works in other genres.

Talk to me over Skype for 20-30 minutes some time--God knows you spend enough time on the internet--and your SF novel will get a ton of momentum. Heck it might even do so well that you'll have a big incentive to keep writing more.

I thought you were smart, man??? I guess not :P

/viciousbarrage

Marie Simas said...

I love the magazine cover, Joe. You look so relaxed. I know that's good cognac.

I'm so happy for you-- your success mirrors the success of so many others and the public diary of your journey has been a roadmap for so many others to follow.

I think I'm about 18 months away from living that life myself.

Here's my little secret. I've been subscribing to all kinds of "getaway" magazine for years-- Coastal Living, Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast, etc. It was a dream of mine to live somewhere exotic and beautiful. For the first time ever, I'm pretty sure it's a dream that's going to come true.

I sound like a total fanboy, but thanks for lighting the torch for all of us.

Chryse said...

Ebooks won't kill physical bookstores. I'm not giving a Kindle to my 2 1/2 year old to slobber all over. There are children's ereaders, but there's no cataloguing connectivity. They are *more* expensive than physical books, just offer a different experience. I really believe bookstores in the future will become much more niche. I don't know anybody who buys technical books on Kindle either. I can't see myself working on my car with a Kindle next to me, and I don't see getting my anatomy books on a Kindle.

Coolkayaker1 said...

"In said future, will Patterson be happy with 25% royalties on a $9.99 ebook when he could make more money self-pubbing a $2.99 ebook which would sell ten times as many copies?"

Joe, you constantly miss the key "one step further" prediction for publishing whenever you make your accurate prognostications: the next logical step is that Amazon and the otehrs stop paying you (and Patterson) 75% per book, and give you mere 25% or less per book, and they're the only game in town, and guess what... you're drive for blogging and writing ebooks will wither like a clematis in autumn, and your reflections on the "golden days" of e-publishing will be the fodder for your blog.

KevinMc said...

Folks keep talking about the death of the big publishers... But most of their money doesn't come from fiction, guys. In fact, they make more from K through college textbooks than they do from fiction.

I think we might see some consolidation of fiction imprints, and some shrinking of the overall companies, but I am really not thinking there will be any Big Six bankruptcies.

Robert W. Walker said...

And so it goes...more readers looking for cheaper books and unique, new voices...voices other than the ten or so that keep getting reshuffled on the bestseller lists. Indie Power! (Raise Your Books in your Fist to the sound of The Theme Song from The Magnicent Seven here)

Rob Walker

Stephen T. Harper said...

"and give you mere 25% or less per book, and they're the only game in town, and guess what... you're drive for blogging and writing ebooks will wither like a clematis in autumn"

That only works if Amazon really becomes the only game in town. And also if "clematis" is a real word and not the thing you had to type in to verify that you are not spam.

Anyway, I hope you're wrong because if not, I'm going to have to take this yacht back the dealer.

bowerbird said...

joe-

as i was reading through this,
i kept thinking that i would
have to make a comment on
this, that, and the other thing,
but you kept addressing the
points i was going to make...

so, in the main, you have
gotten it correctly here...

but not quite completely...

so, without disagreeing, much,
let me hit the shortcomings...

first of all, in the short run,
the corporate publishers _will_
indeed die, but they will _not_
go quietly, or without a fight...
they have money, and lawyers
too, so it ain't gonna be pretty.

(they have military weaponry too,
we should acknowledge, but let's
hope that it won't come to that.)

possible actions could take many
different forms, so i won't make
predictions on what they will be,
but you can be certain that the
greedy bastards in corner offices
will not just let you take away
their pretty green cash machine
without mounting a challenge...

now, like i said, they _will_ lose.
they do not understand the new
(their d.n.a. is based on the old),
so there's no way they can win...

but they _will_ give a hard fight,
and if you're not ready for that,
you'll find yourself knocked out.

***

second, in the medium term,
the "we're not in competition"
attitude won't last very long...
yes, at cheap prices, customers
can buy _lots_ of books and not
just _some._ but they can't buy
_all_ the books amazon stocks.
not even with a million dollars.
choices _do_ have to be made.
even at a buffet, you don't see
people loading up _39_ plates...

***

third, and last, in the long run,
prices will not bottom at $2.99.
they won't even bottom at $.99.

eventually, people will be able to
get as many books as they want
-- high-quality, desirable ones --
for _free_. authors will begin to
receive voluntary payments from
their fans, and -- just as you are
now shocked by how much cash
you're making by selling e-books
even in this relatively early time
-- the writers of tomorrow will be
shocked by the amount of money
that their fans give _voluntarily_.

many will decide that it's enough
they can live on it comfortably,
and that it strengthens them in
artistic and humanistic senses to
be free of the capitalist market,
so they'll _embrace_ the change,
and thus create a virtuous cycle...

i see these artists leading the way
to a new type of society based on
the old model of gift-exchange...

maybe you will be one of them...

-bowerbird

Basil Sands said...

While I really hope that ebooks succeed in unimaginably amazing ways, I have five ebook thrillers on Amazon myself, I am wondering about the unintended consequences of the gradual fall of traditional publishing. Specifically, on a radio talk show I was recently hosting I discussed an article in which it was pointed out that while the US has the highest manufacturing rate in the world (still slightly ahead of China) we have a very low number of actual workers performing / getting paid for the work due to the technical automation of those jobs. Therefore there is more stuff, but increasingly fewer people who can afford to buy it as the unemployment rate moves up.

That being said, part of me is really hoping that the trad publishing industry, or at least those who will soon lose their jobs in it, figures out how to change the way they think and act in regards to making money. Cuz cheap and plentiful ebooks mean nothing if folks eventually can't even afford 99 cents for a story. And then the world dissolves into a vicious fight for readers and cannibalism amongst authors seeps into crevices of society soon rendering us all mindless penny book readers devouring stories by the dozen as we consume the flesh of our irritating neighbor.

hmm...got a little carried away there..but that sounds like a book

Joe Konrath said...

@ Moses - Sorry. I'm an asshole. But this asshole has stopped doing interviews.

I also agree with Ellen's prediction that the Big 6 are not going to sit tight while they go bankrupt.

They had a chance. In fact, I told them four years ago what they needed to do to stay in the game. I was asked to speak at the Unbon conference on behest of Google, and my speech was eerily predictive.

Joe's Google Speech

Later, I added to it, saying publishers needed to develop their own ereading devices and sell ebooks on their websites.

I've spoken out against every single stupid thing publishers have done wrong: windowing, high ebook prices, poor royalties, rights grabs, the agency model.

Recently, I've been reading some of my old blog posts, and boy oh boy were they a blueprint for success if anyone wanted to follow my thoughts. I know I lived it, but I'm pretty damn proud of how many things I predicted that turned out to be right.

Writers listened to me. Publishers did not.

Publishers aren't going to weather this storm. They won't throw a hail mary pass and save the game. It's too light.

Many are functioning at slim profit margins, or they're already losing money. A full year of being in the red will kill them, and this is the year. Expect downsizing, fewer books being published, layoffs, delayed royalty payments, companies merging, companies being sold, bookstore closings, and a feeble attempt to game the ebook industry that simply won't work, just like nothing else they've done has worked.

The meteor already hit the planet. The dinosaurs may have a few years left to scour the land, scrounging for food, but their reign is over.

Joe Konrath said...

I see lots of paranoia about Amazon changing royalties. I suppose it's logical to be paranoid--we've lived through an era where publishers screwed us every chance they got, so why not expect more of the same? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

It could happen. But will it?

Right now, Amazon is competing with other ereaders. They don't have a monopoly, and they'd be silly to lose authors by offering them less than the others offer.

As publishers die out, more and more authors will flock to Amazon, and Amazon will make better profits from those authors than they do through the publishers, because they'll sell more books. I believe that part of Bezos' passion for selling Kindles was to eliminate the shipping, warehousing, and return costs associated with a print book business. Ebooks require far less overhead, and mean bigger profits.

Could we all drink the kool ade then get burned? It's possible. But I see no reason to jump the shark just yet. We have plenty of time to make money before we need to start worrying.

Basil Sands said...

@bowerbird said:
eventually, people will be able to
get as many books as they want
-- high-quality, desirable ones --
for _free_. authors will begin to
receive voluntary payments from
their fans, and -- just as you are
now shocked by how much cash
you're making by selling e-books
even in this relatively early time
-- the writers of tomorrow will be
shocked by the amount of money
that their fans give _voluntarily_.


Having first hand experience with this via the free podcast versions of my novels I can say that yes, when worked right the voluntary pay system does work. It made me enough to set up a rather nice recording studio and paid for a good number family nights out to a restaurant.

Coolkayaker1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coolkayaker1 said...

Joe-- I agreem, not time to jump the shark, but time to write, write write! Epub while the pubbing is good. I appreciate that you have an open mind to this possibiliy (in my opiniomn, probablity), and you're right to write, write write. As you are doing instead of intervieweing. Great! Fabulous.

Now that it;s clear that epubbing is taking over print, and publishers will one day falll, and Amazon and other epubs may eventually cut royalities, and the best wikll still sell well and many weak novels will also sell, the blog might well address the real killer of written novels: video. Video is the feature on blogs and websites and easy on handheld devices, and although someone pie-in-the-sky may say that we'll always love books, I think the new gen (other than Stephanie Myers fans -- and even then they love the movies!) will be video biased. That, my friend, will hurt book sales. faster, more ubiquitous web will and is pushing video content.

Anonymous said...

Just to offer my (hopefully totally wrong!) minority report on the future predictions, Joe. You are most likely right in the short-to-medium term. E-books seem to follow the pattern of iTunes, YouTube, netbooks, etc : if it's easy, cheap and ubiquituous, it will be popular, even if it's not big-brand stuff. But let's take that one step further, as some commenters have already suggested in various ways. Music (and movies) are moving towards streaming. You don't buy recordings, you subscribe to a channel. A book could be seen as a recording of story told - the streaming version would be something like the blog-serial book, or blook, or whatever. Some think we'll hit a "magical point" when book readers go below the 100$ price point; but what about the free browsers (Mozilla, Chrome, etc.) that makes a "reader" of every web-enabled gadget with a screen from playing-card size and up? The publishers made their "recordings" of stories "displayable" only on the specialiezed paper screen we call a book; e-publishers make their recordings displayable on the specialized e-screens called book readers. When the iPad and its imitators place an ubiquitous web-enabled computer within reach of every potential reader (human story reader, I mean), then who will want to download books? I hope I'm dead wrong, but I'd appreciate your comments. In the famous words of Jubal Harshaw (quoting from memory) : anyone can clap and cheer, but praise worth its while will be found in a nice pile of folding green money." Anyone can do a few stories for the hell of being praised by kind fans, but to CONTINUE it and produce more than lucky amateur shots (all that I've ever done), I'm not sure claps-and-cheers will be enough. And I still like good stories ;o)

Mike Dennis said...

You really drive home the point, Joe, when you talk about how easy it is to buy ebooks. No getting off the couch, putting on heavy clothing (if you live in the cold climates), starting the car, going to the bookstore, etc, etc. One click and presto! One book!

I think this is the principal factor in driving ebook sales in general. After that, as you say, there's no real competition except in price.

Nicholas La Salla said...

There's no question that the publishing world is changing -- I recently got into the game when my wife bought me my Kindle and I've been reading tons ever since. It's inspiring to find that Amazon has provided such an amazing field to work with. If they change royalties, we'll deal with it.

Perhaps begrudgingly, but we'll deal with it... ;-)

- Nick
My Publishing Shenanigans

Moses Siregar III said...

No problem, Joe. The offer stands if you'd like to do it later on.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Wow, Joe, only 26 people commented on your post from Jan. 2007 that included your speech to booksellers. How things have changed. Now most of your posts get hundreds of comments.

Yes, you were ahead of the curve, and still are. But the publishers are still not listening.

wannabuy said...

Joe, from your speach: "there are 150k titles in an average bookstore."

True in 2007? Maybe. Certainly not true in 2011. The number of books per bookstore is well under half that today. But boy is that coffee stand and toy section nice...

@Shana:"You could make an argument that such a slotting-fee-kind-of-system is already in place, and it's the Top 100 rankings."

That is a good reason for Amazon to stay out of the way. Competition for the top 100 will drive customers to Amazon. 'Pay to Play' creates a more expensive ecosystem that puts in inefficiencies that would drive customers to other web sites.

Amazon sells too much other crap to want to drive away customers.

Neil

Zoe Winters said...

I may be a cheapskate, but I always download samples to my Kindle when a book looks good, then put it on my sample shelf. Then when I'm looking for something to read, I start reading samples. Books that don't grab me during the sample, I delete, books that do, I buy and read. Ebooks have actually reduced/reversed my book hoarding. (Like I STILL have print books on my shelf I haven't read yet.) Not so for ebooks. Though I know *my* way of buying isn't everyone's way. I just see no reason to stock up on a ton of books just because they are there and I *might* want to read them later.

I'm totally with you though on the wanting to dial back more and more from marketing and just let the word of mouth sell the books, so I can devote more time... to writing better books. Later, rinse, repeat. It's less insanity-producing than obsessively running around everywhere promoting. I still do some, but not as much as I did. And I want to do even less so I have more time to write. And I think yours and Dean Wesley Smith's blogs are the only ones I read anymore with total regularity and ever comment on.

TheSFReader said...

Even if Amazon changed it's royalties rates, they are NOT alone on the ebooks market/reselling, and now that the game's rules are "set", I don't think they'll be able as easily to change them back : Authors can ensure that it keeps this way by publishing to other resellers : BN, Kobo etc ...
And even if some of theese ebookstores go the way of the dodo, my take is that they'll be replaced by new ones : after all selling ebooks needs "only" a website ...

BookBarista.com said...

Interesting, Joe. Although with more $$$ a big name author can purchase the best online advertising available. As you said, the more your book is out there in stores, the more it will sell. The same applies to online advertising.

So all my fellow writers... check out http://www.bookbarista.com

It is FREE advertising for authors (indie and commercial). I made the site for all of us. It is a level playing field:)

Mike

Watcher said...

You make some good points, Joe, but your picture is not complete. J.K. Rowling didn't become a billionaire because she figured out how to get her books in more locations than anybody else. She figured out how to write a story that people became so obsessed about that they would wait up at midnight to buy the next installment for thirty bucks. Her next book will sell millions because its from her. Name recognition, when flagging a "brand" like hers, counts a lot.

William said...

Bravo!
Well said, as usual Joe.:~)

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Very interesting post and I can see things heading in that direction. Content will be a key in the future. Sorry to hear about the cessation of interviews. Sure many of them ask the same questions, but there are those that are different. To each his own, but I'm sorry to see an author thinking he's made too much money to grant an interview and talk to his fan base, even if he's done dozens or hundreds before. The fans buy the books and they don't mind a little extra something from an author.

Walter Knight said...

The "Customers who bought this item also bought" feature at Amazon.com is the marketing genius idea that puts my books "out there" to be seen, as you say.

People genre shopping see a successful book, or one they have already bought, and find my book as a "Customer who also bought this item also bought" book.

You mentioned competition. When I see another author in my genre doing well, I don't get jealous (well a little) but rather I hope they sell more books, because that means my book will be seen more as an "also bought" book.

Like the bookshelf at the mall, I'm on the E-book bookshelf, and no longer have to advertise or self promote. Like Patterson, I'm "out there" now.

For paperbacks there is the NY publishers barrier to break through. At Kindle there is the "Customers who also bought this item also bought" barrier. Once a new reader breaks through, you've made it!

Every time I see B.V. Larson sell a "Mech" book, or one of his other Sci/Fi E-books, I see my "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" series listed in the "Customers who bought this itme also bought" Kindle catalog. His success just means more free advertising for me. Sweet.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Boy, was I glad to see Zoe Winter's comment. Sometimes I think I'm the only reader in the world with no TBR pile. When I read paper I never bought more than a couple of books at a time - bought them, read them. with Kindle sometimes I have as many as half a dozen samples on the K, but so far never more. I read a sample, zap it or buy the book and read it before buying another.

And I never got the car out for no reason except to go to a bookstore. Maybe because I live out in the country, but if I go to buy things, it's several stops and more than one thing.

I share Ellen Fisher's concern that this great indie ride is going to crash to a halt somehow. It's probably just pessimistic inability to believe something this good is not only happening but can continue.

Anonymous said...

"One thing they could do is purchase Amazon. That would flip the game back their way in a heartbeat."

Google is waiting and watching. And surely so is Facebook. This is not a one-player game. The stakes are too high.

John Mitchell said...

This isn't a fairy tale so much as delusion. So you can compete with Patterson at 2.99? Great: bank your earnings, and enjoy the money. But what about when a writer comes along who's even more greedy and naive and short-sighted, and willing to sell at 1.99, 0.99, 0.01? You're foolishly, enthusiastically - and perhaps cynically - pursuing a race to the bottom, and the fact is, nobody benefits from that. Not publishers - whom you gleefully want to see put out of business (which comes across as bitter resentment that they failed to recognise your talent.) Not authors, for whom writing as a career will become impossible on this new level playing field, starting and ending at zero. And not readers. We all know that many conventionally-published books are dreadful (Patterson, for instance) but they're masterpieces compared to the average self-pubbed novel. With gatekeepers gone and readers wallowing in crap, people will simply read less, even if they download more. It's sad to see a vital part of our culture in terminal decline: even sadder to see writers aiding its destruction, when you could instead be trying to promote the value of books.

Joe Konrath said...

I was hoping someone would disagree with me...

But what about when a writer comes along who's even more greedy and naive and short-sighted, and willing to sell at 1.99, 0.99, 0.01? You're foolishly, enthusiastically - and perhaps cynically - pursuing a race to the bottom, and the fact is, nobody benefits from that.

Lots of writers ell very well at 99 cents. Which is awesome. As the essay said, this isn't a competition. It's better for all writers if a reader buys 25 ebooks at 99 cents each than a $25 hardcover.

Not publishers - whom you gleefully want to see put out of business (which comes across as bitter resentment that they failed to recognise your talent.)

They failed to market me adequately. Once I broke free from them, i found (very easily I should add) a huge audience for my books. Big epic fail on the part of the publishers. But its seeing their inept way of dealing with ebooks that will prevent me from shedding tears when they go belly up.

Not authors, for whom writing as a career will become impossible on this new level playing field, starting and ending at zero.

Read my blog. I've listed dozens of writers making great money with low priced ebooks.

And not readers. We all know that many conventionally-published books are dreadful (Patterson, for instance) but they're masterpieces compared to the average self-pubbed novel.

Strike three for you. Or is it four or five at this point?

Look at some Amazon rankings and star ratings for some indies before you go making silly claims like this.

With gatekeepers gone and readers wallowing in crap, people will simply read less, even if they download more.

Which is why ebooks sales are plummeting.

Oh... wait. They're up 2000% from last year.

It's sad to see a vital part of our culture in terminal decline: even sadder to see writers aiding its destruction, when you could instead be trying to promote the value of books.

I'm not aiding the destruction of anything. The destruction happened without me. I'm just helping the phoenix rise form the ashes.

But thanks for playing.

Alastair Mayer said...

Good stuff, as usual. But do print sales help at the start?

Not that my sales (so far just short SF stories) are enough for meaningful statistics, but I did notice a print-related jump in my Kindle sales this month. At least, I think the bump is because I have a story in this month's issue of Analog SF magazine. It's had a couple of good reviews.

Although I may have screwed up the stats by also finally putting some of the stories up on Pubit and Smashwords (with a few sales there already), but would that have bumped the Amazon sales too?

Shrug. I'm going to keep selling to the magazines until my e-sales reach the point where the publishing delay costs me money. At least with those I get the rights back pretty quickly.

Lundeen Literary said...

@Scott Nicholson

"I just heard Macmillan is now requiring OWNERSHIP of the copyright instead of merely eternal license to a work. And STILL writers will get in line for the "validation." "

Oh, wow. I'll never be in THAT line! What a load of trash!

Now, the clause is really saying that they can work-for-hire someone to write a sequel to your book using your characters, and you don't get paid, and they own THAT copyright. I guess that they are trying to control and capitalize on what seems to pay off for them - series that they purchased before the author got clout. Still awful.

Also, on the Snooki thing, she's actually Tweeting her followers and thanking them for making her a NY Times bestseller. O_O She got her paycheck, so I'm sure she's happy with the situation, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn't want to be on that list if I could just make more money instead.


@Merrill Heath

I personally do have used the physical space argument to convince myself that I don't need a book - but that decision was made before I had the book in my hand. I have repeatedly elected NOT to go to the bookstore for that reason. Once the book's in my hand, I'm kind of done for.

Lundeen Literary said...

@Joe

I have to disagree with you on one point - when you say that publishers and indies have access to the same shelf space amount and time, I think it is important to take into account that Amazon will not let indies price their books under $.99, and a "real" publisher can make freebies available to boost marketing efforts. Also, I've never gotten an email ad from Amazon promoting indie books. The shelf space is equal, yes. But Amazon takes advertising dollars in order to point a vast number of people towards a particular bit of the shelf, and I guarantee the cost would be prohibitive (unless there is someone doing as well as you are who is willing to pay for it). Hmmmm… makes me wonder what the costs are to market on Amazon via email…

As to your comment "Could we all drink the kool ade then get burned?"
Possibly. But that's easier to weather when you made $400k/year for a couple of years. Build nest eggs first, folks! ;)


@Edie

Um, my husband and I both feel like we're cheating on the library… and he's a librarian!! (honestly, that was about 30% of my initial agreement to go on a date with him. The other 70% was that he was nice, HOT, and had a job)

Tara Maya said...

Merill Heath: I've never heard anyone say, "I'd love to buy this book but I don't know where I'd put it."

You're either lucky, or you have a bigger house or smaller library than I do. I used to have this argument with my family all the time. "Don't you have enough books already? Where are we going to PUT them all?"

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Mark said...

At some point a lot of people with e-readers are going to figure out they can check out e-books from their library. I think 5-10 years from now every library will have a significant e-book collection. I wonder if that will have an impact on sales? You can get a membership in the Philidephia library, which has a large ebook collection, for $15 a year and you don't need to live in the city or state. I checked out and read the latest Elmore Leonard book. It's a great service. I get the feeling that a lot of people don't know about ebooks at libraries, though.

"The Big 6 can't publish ebooks priced low enough to compete with me. They have fancy NY offices, lots of employees with benefits and expense accounts, and a whole industry to support."

How low can they go? I saw that Harlequin has an ebook only imprint and they are pricing them at $4.99. That's not $2.99, but it's getting closer.

wannabuy said...

@John Mitchell"With gatekeepers gone and readers wallowing in crap, people will simply read less, even if they download more."

ROTFL

Quite the opposite is happening:

http://www.suite101.com/content/kobo-reading-life-app-debuts-research-says-apps-increase-reading-a341484

Note: Before debating the above link, do a Google search first and realize that there have been other studies done and *all* point to increased reading with ebooks. :)


@Joe: just helping the phoenix rise form the ashes."

:)


To those who doubt:

I love how some 'book lovers' are effectively arguing Indie ebooks are a worse use of time than video games. On multifunction devices (smartphones/tablets), that is the
choice often being made... I see the shift every pediatrician visit. :)

Neil

wannabuy said...

@Tara:"I used to have this argument with my family all the time. "Don't you have enough books already? Where are we going to PUT them all?"

I'm so happy when I find out about other people who also suffered from 'book clutter.' Please, do not get me wrong, this is not schadenfreude...

Side thought: ebook market share doubled from December 2009 to January 2010 and then 'stuck.' I'm thinking we'll see a larger spike this year...

Neil

Joe Konrath said...

At some point a lot of people with e-readers are going to figure out they can check out e-books from their library.

I just uploaded my ebooks to Overdrive, which supplies 10,000 libraries.

I'll blog about this venture soon.

Don said...

Totally agree Joe. I just got an email from Amazon with their 10 'Best Kindle Books of February'. One was $9.99. ALL of the rest were more, including one that looked pretty good, but was priced at $13.99.

Screw you Amazon ! No way am I paying $14 for an Ebook.

So I'll buy a few more of Joe's, or Blakes books instead.

But what are they doing ? Is this some kiss-up to the publishers ?

Joe Konrath said...

But what are they doing ? Is this some kiss-up to the publishers ?

This is coop. Those emails are paid for.

But Amazon also does this for my books, which i don't pay for. I've seen my books in several emails.

The funny thing is, publishers paying Amazon for coop, then charging too much for their ebooks, probably isn't recouping their investment. The downward spiral continues...

Tara Maya said...

On one point, I disagree with you, Joe. I think there will always be bestsellers. I don't believe that's just a matter of shelf space. I think some books genuinely have the potential to strike a chord with a larger percentage of people.

The long tail model of ebooks means there will be more niches, and a vast midlist, but there's also going to be plenty of books than never sell more than 12 copies. And one day, not long from now, we're going to see an indie author billionaire. That's my prediction.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Ellen Fisher said...

"With gatekeepers gone and readers wallowing in crap, people will simply read less, even if they download more. It's sad to see a vital part of our culture in terminal decline: even sadder to see writers aiding its destruction, when you could instead be trying to promote the value of books."

So by writing and selling books, we're aiding in the decline of reading? I am failing to follow your logic somehow.

"It's probably just pessimistic inability to believe something this good is not only happening but can continue."

Probably, but a little pessimism never hurt anyone. Then again, as Heinlein said, pessimists and optimists are right approximately the same amount, but optimists have more fun:-).

evilphilip said...

"Joe, Nostradamus with the arrows in your back, lil' ol' self-publisher dude, a month ago you wanted to be interviewed on our podcast, Adventures in SciFi Publishing. Now you're giving up on interviews?

Come on, man!"


Good luck with your blog, us Phoenix people have to stick together!


I have the iPad and honestly, my TBR pile is a lot smaller on my iPad than my physical book pile. I almost never purchase an eBook unless it is something I'm going to read right away. There is something about not getting the physical copy that lends itself to limiting my purchases to only those things I plan to read right away.

Joe Konrath said...

I think some books genuinely have the potential to strike a chord with a larger percentage of people.

Some will. But do you truly beleive every book on the NYT bestseller list is there because it strikes a chord?

McDonald's sells the most burgers because it has the most restaurants. Ditto bestsellers.

wannabuy said...

@Joe:"But do you truly beleive every book on the NYT bestseller list is there because it strikes a chord? "

Publishers are certainly worried:
"What has Hildick-Smith really worried, however, is whether publishers have concrete plans to protect their bookstore base. If not, they need to quickly find an alternative primary source for the discovery of new books, especially for nonfiction, debut, and midlist fiction titles that, at present, sell in much fewer numbers as e-books than fiction does."

From PW:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/45861-amazon-ups-its-edge.html

I like how this quote was burried in the end. Note: The article minimizes Kindle sales far below the 'chip count' Amazon has purchased.

This article might help explain why publishers seem to be supporting bookstores instead of diving into ebooks; many ebooks are being purchased after being browsed in a bookstore. What happens when that advantage goes 'poof?'

Neil

shana said...

@Joe said:
"I'm not aiding the destruction of anything. The destruction happened without me. I'm just helping the phoenix rise form the ashes.

But thanks for playing."

Score!

Book Barista: Thanks for the tip!

Shana Hamaker
NORTH OF FORKS, Book Two of the short thriller series:
Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

Merrill Heath said...

Tara said: You're either lucky, or you have a bigger house or smaller library than I do. I used to have this argument with my family all the time. "Don't you have enough books already? Where are we going to PUT them all?"

Probably not a bigger house or a smaller library...but I stand corrected. I guess there are some who have this issue. I never have...then again, I make room for books...

Funny story - when my father died we looked at the thousands of books he had...most of which were hardbacks...and considered our options. My wife had the brilliant idea that we'd first go through the books and see what we wanted to keep...then set aside the 1st editions that we could sell on ebay...and donate the rest to the local library.

What we discovered was that most of his books were first editions...many of them signed by the author...

We kept what we wanted...and got rid of some things to make room for them...then donated a great collection of 1st edition, signed copies to the local library.

Merrill Heath
Violent Saturday by W. L. Heath

Stephen T. Harper said...

@ John Mitchell,

Mister, I don't want to fight with you, but everything you said about quality and who wins and loses is wrong. Everything.

If you click that picture of King's X in the corner and buy the first one for 99 cents, it will prove it to you point by point.

Or better yet, get the free sample download from Amazon, and see if you don't eventually buy all four Episodes for 99 cents a piece, and you can prove it for me.

praetorian75 said...

First, I want to thank Joe for your great blog. I've read this blog front to back (or actually more like back to front) and bought the ebook (my first ever, thank you very much).

I'm 85,000 words into my first book, and I've taken a great many suggestions from your blog in dealing with that, but the best, by FAR, is your outline for Bloody Mary. I modeled one for my own heretofore outline-less novel on that, and lo and behold, I knew where the story was going to start and stop, and how it got from one to the other.

As a writer (I figure this far into a book I can call myself that), it's not often that words fail me. But they simply cannot express the relief I experienced when I completed that outline. There are simply no words.

So thanks for that, even if a mere "thanks" doesn't begin to cover it.

The reason I'm commenting on THIS post in particular is that I had an interesting discussion with the lady who cuts my hair the other day. She mentioned she had just bought a new book for her Kindle (I forget which it was), and that launched us into an hour-long discussion about ebooks, somewhere in the midst of which I received my haircut (which was excellent as always).

The most important things I took away from this conversation were:

A) She buys MANY more books than she has time to read;

B) She looks hard at books that are priced high. She said (without prompting) that her favorite price is $2.99;

C) She LOVES her Kindle more than regular books because she can carry them all with her, and has given no less than 14 to various friends and relatives (Kindles, not books)

All of these support your ongoing arguments, obviously.

Friends ask me more and more now "when is the damn thing going to be finished?" as I update them on my Facebook about the progress of the book, giving teasers here and there (I'm a closet guerilla marketer). But the one thing they ask me more than any other is where they'll be able to get the book.

I tell them it'll be $2.99 on the Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and the Sony eReader. And if they want a paper copy, it'll be available through CreateSpace.

They give me a look as though I'm crazy for not pursuing a traditional print deal, but I just sit back and smile... just like I will when I'm counting the royalties I never would've seen otherwise.

And THAT, dear sir, is due all to you. So thanks again, and if I ever happen to see you somewhere, somehow, your first few rounds - of whatever you prefer - are on me.

Jason

P.S. - I know you probably won't have time to read it, but I'll send an autographed copy your way when it's done. Just in case. ;)

Anonymous said...

So what makes a bestseller? If before it was shelf space that made a bestseller, what about all the books that had huge pushes and massive shelf space by their publisher and still fall flat?

Now, since shelf space doesn't exist and the playing field is wide open, what makes a bestseller now? Is it just a good cover and a good price? You've said before that you don't think quality is a factor because it's subjective, so what is it?

Why do the few sell so well while legions of self published ebooks don't?

Joe Konrath said...

what about all the books that had huge pushes and massive shelf space by their publisher and still fall flat?

Luck still plays a part. You can lead a horse to water...

Publishers used to "grow" authors, year after year, then give them a big push to hit the NYT list. Almost all of the perennial authors on the NYT list got on there with this method, and it is what prompted the bookstores to order a lot of copies.

Some authors snuck on the list with their first book, but even then it was pre-printed on the Times list given to bookstores.

Why do the few sell so well while legions of self published ebooks don't?

If a book meets a minimum quality standard, then it is just a question of readers finding it.

How readers find ebooks is a mystery to me. But I have noticed that the number of books an author has can play a big part in being discovered. As does price, a good cover, a good book, a good product description.

The majority of successes I've seen meet these criteria.

Because ebooks are forever, it is too soon to label any ebook unsuccessful.

A better way to describe ebooks that don't sell is: "they aren't successful... yet."

If a writer keeps writing good books, my guess is eventually they will start selling. Because they actually have a chance to find an audience, unlike books in bookstores with limited shelf space and shelf life.

Jude Hardin said...

Dig that Crimespree cover!

I don't believe an author becomes a bestseller, and then becomes available everywhere. I believe an author is available everywhere, and that's why they're a bestseller.

I think it happens both ways, but it's definitely easier to get noticed with a large print run and coop placement.

But will ebooks taking larger and larger shares of the market make those things irrelavent and obsolete?

I don't think so.

Even if bookstores disappear, racks in grocery stores and big box stores will continue to sell mass market paperbacks in big numbers, and those same covers that thousands of people pass by every day will fuel the sales of the electronic versions of those books. So traditional publishing will still have that edge, I think, even when ebooks rule.

Joe Konrath said...

Even if bookstores disappear, racks in grocery stores and big box stores will continue to sell mass market paperbacks in big number

This I doubt.

Lots of folks, me included, are fond of comparing the ebook boom to the mp3 boom in music. But many folks are quick to point out that CDs are still a billion dollar industry, and continue to sell.

But that's a flawed way of looking at things.

Sure, CDs still sell. But what do buyers of CDs do with them?

The rip the CDs onto their computer and make mp3s out of them.

When was the last time you saw someone listening to a CD player? They're all but extinct. It's even getting hard to find stereo equipment these days.

Once bookstores start dying, people will be forced to buy ereaders. But unlike an iPod, which can play CDs once you buy one, a Kindle cannot read mass market paperbacks.

Once people get a gadget or device, they tend to fill it up. So they won't buy paperbacks. They'll buy ebooks.

Paperbacks will be available for late adopters and laggards, but they won't sell in bestselling numbers. Especially since those drug stores selling paperbacks will also be selling $59 ereaders.

Once Borders crumbles, the midlist will crumble. That will fuel ereader sales, and cause the demise of print across the spectrum.

hosted exchange 2010 said...

A great post indeed! Very insightful! Already bookmarked your blog! Keep posting more! Cheers!

Tom said...

Joe's been slowly (well, quite quickly actually) winning me over with his e-book domination philosophy, and as I'm considering giving the indie thing a go (my first print book came out last year) I'd like to ask a question: Is word count a factor?

I get that the more books you have out there, the better you'll do as you'll have more electronic shelf space, but what about the actual length of those books? I've noticed that some e-books seem quite short or even very short in my opinion. The three books I've written so far are all over 130k words, but it seems that e-books go as low as 60k. In print this would be about 220ish pages, which is hardly a novel these days. I wouldn't dream of buying a print novel that short when I can get twice as much for my money.

So, does word count affect sales of e-books? Can any indie author out there shed some light on this? I'm asking because instead of writing one 130k word novel for self publishing, would I be better off having two books out there for 65k words?

Indie Anya said...

"That's the beauty of ebooks. There is no competition."

I'm not sure I agree... At least I think there is still the matter of making yourself stand out amongst countless other ebook authors, be they indie or traditionally published.

I have one indie novella on offer right now. I've followed your blog for years, and have found people like Amanda Hocking and Zoe Winters through you, watched what they do, and done my best to echo their protocol, so to speak. My novella is cheap. The cover is not professionally done, but I don't think it's ugly or off-putting. I've submitted it for review, I've blogged, tweeted, and facebooked (s that a verb?). I know I'm a good writer. I've worked incredibly hard for many years to be a good writer.

And yet my sales are no better than my print sales with small presses and epublishers. I'm fighting to be heard in a room full of people yelling. And of course I plan to make more work available, but I don't necessarily think quantity is the answer in and off itself. So maybe there isn't competition the way you mean it, but there's still a hell of a lot of other people vying for readers' attention, and just as with print books, we can't all be bestsellers no matter how good we are.

I genuinely believe the indie/ebook market is the way forward. I'm not convinced yet that's an easier route that traditional publishing.

Anonymous said...

Anybody see JA make it into USA Today today? Article is called "Authors Catch Fire with self-published e-books" Good pub and wish they would have gotten more in depth.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Anonymous said...

Another thing to consider with ebooks which goes along with their inherit lack of physicality, used books. I think just about every town I've ever lived in has a used bookstore. I mean, towns that don't even have commercial book sellers have used bookstores and thriftshops.

Used paperbacks go for about $2.50 at the used bookstore with the promise of a discount when traded in. Even with the trades, most used bookstores will only discount up to 50% of the price, so you're always laying down some cash. Ebooks will kill some of the secondary market which will make the first run profits for authors grow. I consume most of my commercial fiction through secondary markets and my dollars aren't contributing a dime to authors. I would gladly purchase fiction, fiction that I know I probably won't even get around to reading, if it retails under $3. The added idea that an author profits directly from sharing his idea, not a physical product, and is getting paid makes it all the better. Hell, it's getting to the point that gas to get to the used book store is costing more than the books.

Authors, the artists, are slowly becoming central focus again. The snowball has been compacted and is starting to roll, growth will come. The REAL THREAT is the decline in overall readers, but that is another kettle of fish. I'm just thankful that a lot of globaliztion is being done in English.

nigel p bird said...

sweet talking

John D said...

Indie Anya,
I just checked out your blog and your Twitter profile page. After a quick examination of both, I still have no clue what the title of your novella is and where it's on sale. No banners, no links, not even a mention of the title in your profiles.

In order for a marketing platform to work, you have to tell your audience what your product is and where it's available. I'd suggest posting a graphic of the novella's cover with links to the ebook stores that sell it. The easier you make it to find the novella, the easier it is to buy. Jusy my $0.02. YMMV.

Karen McQuestion said...

I'm glad Sean mentioned the USA Today article. If anyone is interested, it's here:
Authors catch fire with self-published ebooks

Jude Hardin said...

Once bookstores start dying, people will be forced to buy ereaders. But unlike an iPod, which can play CDs once you buy one, a Kindle cannot read mass market paperbacks.

Ah, so maybe publishers will use those racks formerly filled with paperbacks to sell ebooks on CD. :)

Or, maybe they'll just set up cardboard boxes the size of paperbacks with pictures of the book covers on them to advertise the ebooks for sale online.

One way or another, the folks with the deepest pockets and access to the best real estate will figure out a way to come out ahead. They always do.

Anonymous said...

@Indie Anya

What/where is your book?

If I went to Amazon or any other market and searched for "Indie Anya", would I find your product? No.

You didn't link it in your post.

Your Livejournal page attached to your name doesn't list or show the book anywhere on the page.

Livejournal is an off-putting platform to visit with the annoying ads everywhere.

How do you expect people to find/buy your book? You shouldn't be surprised that your sales numbers are low if you aren't observing basic marketing rules. Make it easy to find your book(s).

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

Or, maybe they'll just set up cardboard boxes the size of paperbacks with pictures of the book covers on them to advertise the ebooks for sale online.

Years ago I said that bookstores wouldn't sell books--they'd be like giant catalogs where people could come in and browse shelf copies, then buy them by downloading to their reading device of having the store do a POD version while they waited.

I know people bring their ereaders into bookstores and libraries to find things to download. It would make sense to monetize this.

jtplayer said...

I think it's fact check time for USA today. In talking about Amanda Hocking, they said this:

"More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books."

I seem to remember reading over at the Kindle Writer's Cafe that as of January Amanda had sold a total of nearly 500k since she started self-publishing.

She did sell 100k in December, as was noted here on Joe's blog.

Am I reading this wrong?

wannabuy said...

@Joe:"Once Borders crumbles, the midlist will crumble. That will fuel ereader sales, and cause the demise of print across the spectrum."

Yep. Without Borders the midlist volume plummets.

I personally think the future bookstore is a coffee shop with a little rack space and a POD machine. There will still be floor space for the book clubs and reading of children's touch screen books.

Neil

wannabuy said...

From the USA today:"A recent survey shows 20 million people read e-books last year,"

Only 20 million... There is room for market growth!

Neil

Anonymous said...

@Karen,

Show off. :) I don't know how to create links! I really wanted to but I am beyond computer tech challenged. It was a great article.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

jtplayer said...

"It's even getting hard to find stereo equipment these days"

Go to Amazon and type in "cd players" and filter for "home audio & theater" and you get 1,107 results.

Quite a large selection there, including many with built-in turntables. Odd, considering vinyl went the way of...oh wait, it didn't.

The point is this, over 15 years on from the advent of the mp3, and over a decade since Napster started making waves, people still buy and play compact discs. Maybe not at the level they used to, but a viable market still exists.

And they certainly don't all rip them to mp3's and forget about the physical disc.

In my mind, books will follow the same trajectory. But it's always fun reading Joe's "predictions".

J. E. Medrick said...

@JT:

You're not reading it wrong. Amanda exploded in January. Do you read her blog? She's very lucky :)

J. E. Medrick

Joe Konrath said...

Go to Amazon and type in "cd players" and filter for "home audio & theater" and you get 1,107 results.

When was the last time you saw someone with a Sony Discman?

I see lots of mp3 players at the gym, biking, walking, in airports.

Haven't seen a portable CD player in well over a year.

I also don't have a single friend who hasn't ripped their CD collection to mp3.

Amazon sells everything, even old stock. Go into a Target and count the CD players vs. digital media players. Try to mix and match stereo components at a Best Buy.

Digital is dominating.

Selena Kitt said...

I sold around 50K books on B&N in Jan and I never made it past #5-ish or so on the PubIt list. With the #1, 2 and 3 spot on the BN Pubit list, plus her other books bringing up the rear there, I wouldn't doubt that Amanda sold that much in Jan, and I believe she hit #1 overall on Amazon at some point in Jan and is still hanging around #3. Half a million ebooks in a month seems crazy, but knowing my own sales and looking at her rankings, I don't doubt her word. Christmas Nook giving really gave a boost to January ebook sales :)

As for the ebook revolution and the death of print... I saw a commercial last night for those cell phones for low-income folks and it occurred to me that at some point, there will be the same thing for ereaders for people who can't afford them. They're going to be seen as a necessity sooner rather than later, I think.

Laurin Wittig said...

I've been following your advice with my backlist books and have been seeing steady sales - it already looks like I'll join the 1000 sales a month group this month for the first time -- and, for the first time ever, two of my books are hitting Amazon bestseller lists, including two lists that include print and eformats. The old bestseller pardigm is dying and the new one is rising in its place. Gotta love this new freedom to publish!

Absolutely agree with your predictions for the future - but the picture at the top almost made me fall off my chair. Now that's the life of a modern author!

Anonymous said...

Indie Anya:

What is the title of your book? I couldn't find it on your website, nor could I find your actual name to do an Amazon search. If people can't find you after they see your web presence you won't sell any books.....

From An Interested (but stumped) Reader

The said...

You're not reading it wrong. Amanda exploded in January. Do you read her blog? She's very lucky :)

Luck belongs to the prepared. And the talented.

A.A.

Justin said...

"Digital is dominating."

Dominating, but it hasn't destroyed the CD format. You can, in fact, still buy a CD player at virtually any electronic store, and buy CD's all over the place.

Good luck trying that with VHS tapes and players.

My point being that you can pick and choose your examples, but the general trend seems to be that a format gets replaced when a new format is really well and truly superior.

For people who play a lot of music, and carry it with them, downloads are better.

For a lot of people, though, people who buy a couple of CD's a year and listen in their home or in their car, there's not enough benefit

E-Readers do offer advantages to dedicated readers. Absolutely. But this is more like the difference between MP3 players and CD's - if you read a lot of books, it'll really help.

If you read a couple of books a year and do it mostly at home, which is a lot of people, then it's not as big of a deal.

I don't think books are going anywhere anytime soon. I don't think Big Publishing is going anywhere any time soon.

That's not to say that ebooks aren't going to keep rapidly growing or that they're not an awesome thing for authors.

But they aren't going to kill books, probably every, and if they're the dominant form anytime before 2020, I'll be shocked.

But books? Not doing so badly. At all.

But, you know, I could be wrong.

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

Lundeen Literary said...

Joe sez: "Paperbacks will be available for late adopters and laggards, but they won't sell in bestselling numbers. "

I have to disagree with you a little here, but not much. They'll continue to sell in 'bestselling numbers' because bestseller lists like the NY Times and USA Today lists will report the same bestsellers they would have before - the numbers will, however, be less that what was once required to be on those lists. It's not that the bestseller status changes, it's that everyone on those lists have ALL gone down a few rungs on the measurement ladder because the purveyors of those lists have not changed their metric. They'll still sell in bestselling numbers, but the amount that constitutes bestselling numbers (for the bestseller lists) will have decreased dramatically.



Anonymous 6:53 am has a point:
"Ebooks will kill some of the secondary market which will make the first run profits for authors grow."

I agree 100%. In fact, I think Anne McCaffrey (whom I credit with saving my life. literally.) didn't get money from me for probably the first 10 years that I read her. I was a poor kid, and therefore got her books from the used bookstore, the cheap store which sold book overruns, and the library. I am now working my way through her catalog, but in e-form, so that I can repay her in some small bit. At the very least, I will feel as though I have finally bought her work, despite years of having paid for it.


@Neil
"I personally think the future bookstore is a coffee shop with a little rack space and a POD machine. There will still be floor space for the book clubs and reading of children's touch screen books."

You forgot one thing: wi-fi through which customers can access that store's ebookstore, and a variety of ereaders on hand with which to read those ebooks. B&N is already headed that way.


Selena said:
"As for the ebook revolution and the death of print... I saw a commercial last night for those cell phones for low-income folks and it occurred to me that at some point, there will be the same thing for ereaders for people who can't afford them. They're going to be seen as a necessity sooner rather than later, I think."

It wasn't so long ago that the cheaper, month-to-month cell phone places did not have smart phones with web access. The first iphone was 3.5 years ago. Now, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, and the cheap Tmobile plans have full-out Android phones available, and it's been that way for at least a year and a half. I'm just gonna have to agree with you 100% as well. ;)


Jenna
@lundeenliterary
lundeenliterary@gmail.com

EB said...

Concerning checkout counters at grocery stores, there won't be books, magazines or cardboard/paper anything. There will be an interactive video screen where you will be able to select your type of publication, emag, ebook, etc then search genre, then swipe your cellphone over the QRS code to get either a) a summary of the book, b)an SMS code to use to swipe at checkout to debit your account to purchase the ebook and/or c) a mobile coupon towards a discount for immediate or future purchase.

Also, there will be gift cards for Amazon, B&N, IPad, etc. Also (once Facebook gets in the game) there will be Facebook Credit gift cards available for using to purchase ebooks within Facebook using their virtual currency. This is the future of social commerce. You can already find Facebook Credits virtual currency gift cards at Target, Best Buy etc for purchasing digital goods within social games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

For the record, eBooks are virtual goods and this is a HUGE marketplace. Check out Visa's acquisition of Playspan today for $190 million on TechCrunch and get your head around the virtual goods marketplace ASAP.

Erik Blakkestad
www.ebookeconomy.com

David Wisehart said...

Amanda Hocking stated on Kindleboards recently that she had sold over 100,000 in the previous week.

Yes, the USA Today figure does look like a typo. It's not a typo.

It's an opportunity.

Knock, knock.

David

Selena Kitt said...

Yes, the USA Today figure does look like a typo. It's not a typo.

It's an opportunity.

Knock, knock.


And they said YA paranormal fiction was "dead"... :P

jtplayer said...

"Digital is dominating"

New flash kids, compact discs are digital. MP3 is simply an audio compression format.

Joe said this:

"When was the last time you saw someone listening to a CD player? They're all but extinct. It's even getting hard to find stereo equipment these days."

He is wrong. CD players are not even close to being "extinct". Likewise, it is definitely not difficult at all to find stereo equipment, as I pointed out with the search results I found on Amazon.

Granted, brick & mortar stereo shops have mostly gone away, but that doesn't mean you can't buy what it is you're looking for.

Lundeen Literary said...

Selena said"

"And they said YA paranormal fiction was "dead"... :P"

BWAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAHAAAAA!!

Oh, the short-sightedness! It burns!!

I have a writer friend who's been selling like gangbusters in fantasy for 25 years. She keeps telling her agent that she wants to write a western, and her agent always gets a terrified look on her face and says "But Westerns aren't selling well!"

I bet you can guess what I told her to do. ;) I'd really, really like to read that books someday...

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

Joe Konrath said...

Granted, brick & mortar stereo shops have mostly gone away,

Like most record shops have gone away.

Like bookstores will go away.

Except you can put a CD on an iPod. You can't put a paperback on a Kindle.

You didn't answer the question: When was the last time you saw someone listening to a Sony Diskman?

Go to the gym. Get on a train. Go jogging.

You'll find plenty of people with headphones on.

None of them are attached to CD players.

jtplayer said...

Ease up Joe. I was simply responding to what you wrote. And IMO, what you wrote is wrong.

Period.

This has nothing to do with how many people "use a Discman".

CD players are still manufactured and sold. CD's are still manufactured and sold. Millions of them. It is not a niche market. They are plentiful and readily available.

Those facts are real. Despite how many people may or may not use a discman.

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon also sells buggy whips

http://www.amazon.com/Tough-1-Driving-Whip-Black/dp/B000FFDVLU

My argument is sound. CDs can be used with new technology and devices. That's why they still exist.

Paper cannot.

Kris said...

Thanks for sharing your insight and experience and backing it up with numbers and facts that make sense. Until I read about Amanda Hocking and found your blog, I had no idea this was a possibility.

Now I know with some hard work, rewriting, and self-marketing I can be a successful published writer.
Thanks for the inspiration!

jtplayer said...

Sure Joe, whatever you say.

You know the old saying...it's your world, I'm just livin' in it.

Have a great day dude!

Jude Mason said...

As an e-book and print author, I totally agree with your assessment. Print will hang on, possibly remain as a way to archive certain books, but e is the future. With the cost of e-readers going down, which make them more accessible to more people, there's no reason why the ebook field won't explode in the near future.

I do hate to think one out of every two or three books won't be read, but I love knowing the best sellers who don't deserve the title, will be on an even playing field with us nobody's.

Well done!

Jude

Ellen Fisher said...

I think Joe's got a point, personally. When I buy a CD (which is very, very rare nowadays-- usually I just download from iTunes), the first thing I do is put the tracks I want to listen to onto my iPod. The only time I've listened to a CD in the past year or two was the day my daughter swiped my iPod and took it to school, leaving me with no music in my car.

I do have several hundred CDs, but I never listen to them-- the tracks I want are all on my iPod.

EB said...

I also agree with this statement:

"Paperbacks will be available for late adopters and laggards, but they won't sell in bestselling numbers. Especially since those drug stores selling paperbacks will also be selling $59 ereaders.

Once Borders crumbles, the midlist will crumble. That will fuel ereader sales, and cause the demise of print across the spectrum."

Another example of why ereader sales will accelerate is on the distribution side. Let's say you're at Wolfgang Puck's eating dinner and you notice on the back of the menu that there is a message from WolfGang promoting his new recipe eBook for Seafood. All you have to do is scan a QRS code with your cellphone to receive 5 free recipes and a mobile coupon for purchasing the ebook on Amazon. Theoretically, you could still do a similar promotion using a printed version from Amazon, but as Joe has said before, Bezos is probably licking his chops at the idea of mothballing his warehouses and going all-out digital (more Kindles sold, much less overhead). Another concept would be see the movie, get the free ebook or vice-versa.

The point is, the traditional methods of distribution are now outdated. Distribution is now possible from anywhere. Useful and intelligent promotion is possible from anywhere via mobile. Delivery is instantaneous to a myriad of platforms. Print has nowhere to run. The demand for ereaders will explode and that's it, game over.

jtplayer said...

I have close to 2,000 cds, and yes, they are all imported into my itunes.

Yet I still listen to the discs in my car, at home, etc. As do many, many millions of other folks. This is not as uncommon as some of you like to think.

But none of that matters, because the fact is a market stills exists for the physical product, and the devices and equipment necessary to play them on.

Likewise, printed books will remain viable for those who prefer them. And it won't be from some POD kiosk at the supermarket. Not exclusively at least.

Tara Maya said...

Amazon also sells buggy whips.

Oh, good. I've been looking for one ever since the hostelry down by the sawmill went out of business.

Tara Maya
still doing interviews until I'm as rich as Joe, ;)

Ellen O'Connell said...

@Tom - "So, does word count affect sales of e-books? Can any indie author out there shed some light on this?"

I can't tell you how word count affects sales, but it seems to bring fans. I have two romances out, both are well over 100,000 words and I regularly get comments from readers that they're so glad to have found books long enough to have really developed the characters.

I also see comments on forums from people who like and want novellas, but I think you have to be sure to label things so that readers don't expect one thing and get another.

Stephen T. Harper said...

If print books disappear altogether, what documents will be used to form the basis of Ape Law after the radiation subsides?

Michael said...

I sure hope that books don't go away or become a niche market. I love my Kindle, but I still like physical books.

Also, mp3-type players have done damage to the art form of the album. Will we ever see something like Dark Side of the Moon again, when most people listen to music one song at a time?

Stephen T. Harper said...

Michael, You are right. Dark Side of the Moon is infuriating if you download it from itunes.

jtplayer said...

"Will we ever see something like Dark Side of the Moon again, when most people listen to music one song at a time?"

I hear you Michael.

Never fear though, there's still lots of great artists out there producing terrific music, as a collection of songs meant to be listened to as such.

Not everyone is into the ala carte flavor of the moment music listening experience. It's no different with ebooks vs printed books.

subcreator said...

It's really all a question of timing.

Humans are creatures of habit and a very large percentage of us do not like change. Sure, there is a segment that laps up all the changes that come their way and always likes to be on the cutting edge. The type of people that adopt every new technology. And then there's the segment that follows the cutting edge people a little later, once something is proved to be useful. But there's also a large segment of people who will stick to the old ways as long as physically possible and I don't believe that they are a negligible percentage.

I think ebooks and e-everything are indeed the way of the future, but a future a bit farther out than some anticipate. It's not easy to look past your own segment, which tends to be the people you surround yourself with. Everyone here part of the blogging community on the internet is part of the adopting segment. Even if it takes a little time, we're not afraid of technology and we don't reject change. We also probably don't have the best knowledge of the reluctant segment, because we're not part of it. And we generally underestimate it, because we feel it is a bit foolish to reject technology and advances for the sake of nostalgia and comfort.

True 100% changes in technology usage and format don't take a few years. They take generations. They require that a generation grows up with the new technology and the old generations that didn't die off. Until that happens, print books and ebooks will live side by side for many years. And it will be a long, long time for paper books to go away entirely. They've been around for hundreds of years and I think there will be a specific market for them for a long time to come yet, even if it is vastly reduced.

Ellen Fisher said...

"So, does word count affect sales of e-books? Can any indie author out there shed some light on this?"

My bestsellers are my erotic romance short stories. But The Other Ellen is correct; you have to mark them carefully, and even then I keep getting reviews complaining that they're too short (I just got a two-star review complaining that my book should be marked as a short story, when it clearly says SHORT STORY in the description *sighs*). However, those are erotic romance, and people are more willing to buy short erotica than other types of books, it seems to me.

Under my other name, my bestsellers are novellas (25-33,000 words). I don't know why; perhaps my style lends itself well to shorter books.

"Also, mp3-type players have done damage to the art form of the album."

I don't see that this is necessarily true. You can listen to full albums on an iPod, too.

"Not everyone is into the ala carte flavor of the moment music listening experience."

Agreed. I like to listen to Bach and Dvorak and Schnittke on my iPod-- not really flavor of the moment music, I should think. Then again, I like Nickelback, too:-).

Selena Kitt said...

Amazon also sells buggy whips.

Oooooo pretty! Want!

Re: short stories and marking them

This is SO annoying to me.It's $0.99 and it's marked as a "SHORT" - how much clearer do I have to be?

SO I have now "branded" all my short stories with a black band that says "SELENA KITT SINGLES" down the side and "AN ELECTRONIC SHORT" across the bottom. Perhaps this will keep folks from leaving those *-star "this was a short story?? wtf?" comments! :P

Probably not. But a girl can dream...

Now I'm going to go drool over that lovely whip s'more...

Quit distracting me, Joe!

Anonymous said...

But but but when Patterson & Coban & Steele are also selling for 99 cents, it seems to me that we will be right back where we began, the big guns controlling the captive market of shoppers & travellers. At least it gives everyone a chance to break through the wall. I am trying not to get too happy about all this yet.

J. E. Medrick said...

@subcreator:

Yes, but please don't underestimate the amount of technology children are already exposed to. My 16 year-old cousin complained to me that her Ipad was stolen... so she'd have to go back and use her old one from two years ago.

My little brothers are 13. By 11, they could already run the complicated system of maneuvers required to change our digital cable box/HDMI tv/VCR settings to access every piece of gaming equipment (PS3, Xbox, Wii). Sadly, they could DVR shows before I could. I'm only 26 :/

I think our local school system starts the kids on computers before the age of 7. They're growing up with a lot more than I (we) had.

It make take a generation (10 years) for the technology to really inundate the younger folks, but consider that it may already be 5 or even 7 years into that process!

Don't overestimate the time we have left until things like that are the norm ;)

J. E. Medrick

bowerbird said...

subcreator said:
> And it will be a long, long
> time for paper books to
> go away entirely.

sigh.

paper-books will _never_ever_
"go away". (unless trees should
go extinct, in which case we will
have a lot more serious stuff to
fret over, like _our_ extinction.)

especially with print-on-demand,
we'll have _more_ paper-books,
at generally _cheaper_ prices...
(the cost is now a penny-a-page,
with a $1 charge for the binding.)

what we will _not_ have are the
corporate bookstores which sell
books from corporate publishers.

***

that being said, the movement
towards e-books is cascading,
even as we speak here now...

note that in november, amanda
last-name-no-longer-necessary
sold 10,000 copies of her books.
and we were all amazed by that.

in december, she sold 100,000.
we were completely blown away.

in january, it was 400,000, or...
i dunno, maybe "only" 300,000.
and we are starting to get used
to the total going up that fast,
so we're not all that surprised,
even if we know at some level
that it _has_to_ level off soon...

but there's absolutely no doubt
that the future will point to this
time we are in, right here, now,
as a very vital inflection point...

after decades of turtle-like sloth,
things are happening _very_ fast
for electronic-books. very fast...

***

joe said:
> having the store do a POD
> version while they waited.

i don't know why so many people
think that that's how it will work.

most bookstores will have copies
of a number of books pre-printed,
so people can thumb through 'em.

when you decide to buy a book,
you'll just take it to the cashier,
pay for it, and walk away with it.

_then_ the bookstore will print
another copy to put on the shelf.

for books in heavy demand, they
might have lots of copies already.

for a book which is _not_ printed,
because it's a niche item, you'd
order in advance to get it printed,
so it was done when you arrived.

so... no reason anyone must wait.
customers do not like to wait...

***

that jtplayer! just can't grasp the
fact when he's badly outmatched.

-bowerbird

Ellen Fisher said...

"This is SO annoying to me.It's $0.99 and it's marked as a "SHORT" - how much clearer do I have to be?"

It makes me feel better to know that this happens to you too, Selena. I thought it was just me:-).

jtplayer said...

That bowerbird...so fixated on "outmatching" people.

German Reader said...

@Selena and Ellen

What is your definition of short and what does the reader expect?

I'm willing to pay 99 cts for a minimum of 10k words. If your short story is only 7000 words I would complain too.

Ellen Fisher said...

"I'm willing to pay 99 cts for a minimum of 10k words. If your short story is only 7000 words I would complain too."

Mine are *clearly* marked in the description, as in, "Length: Short story, 8200 words." I don't have a problem with readers complaining about length, but it annoys me when I warned them about it in advance.

Tom said...

@The Ellens

Thanks for the info, ladies. Really appreciate you taking the time to respond. If length isn't that important to sales, maybe I'll just continue to write as I write then, but the idea of taking up as much electronic shelf space can't be ignored I guess. And, in purey mercenary terms, if an 80k word novel sells the same as a 140k word one, shorter is better. Hmm... I shall continue to ponder this.

Oh, I don't even own an e-reader but I can see from the file size of the e-book an approximation of length, so I'm not sure why people more used to the format can't do the same. Though I guess if they don't pick up it's a short story from the description they're hardly going to analyse kilobytes.

German Reader said...

"Mine are *clearly* marked in the description, as in, "Length: Short story, 8200 words." I don't have a problem with readers complaining about length, but it annoys me when I warned them about it in advance."

OK, then it's clearly the readers fault.

But not every author mentions word count and on Amazon you only see a file size that is meaningless because the file can be artificially enlarged.

EJ said...

On the mark as usual, JA.

Ego Detector said...

In the print world, distribution is the Number 1 factor in sales. The more places your book is for sale, the more books you'll sell. It's very much a self-fulfilling prophecy that goes like this:

1. Publisher prints a shitload of books, gets them into as many retail outlets as possible.

2. Publisher buys coop in bookstores and big box stores, offering steep discounts for multiple copies, so the books can be sold for under the cover price.

3. Readers buy these books because they have little choice in places like drug stores, supermarkets, airports, etc, and because in bookstores it is the first thing they see when they walk in; big stacks of discounted books by familiar, safe names.

I don't believe an author becomes a bestseller, and then becomes available everywhere. I believe an author is available everywhere, and that's why they're a bestseller.


And that's why every single big 6 published book is a bestseller.

What an absolute load of horse shit.

Your print books didn't make bestseller because of lack of coop or marketing, Joe. They didn't make it because the public didn't want to read them.

I'm all for self publishing, but seriously, do you really believe you could have had the same success as Patterson if only your publisher had spent the dollars?!

If so, you really are a fiction author.

Stephen T. Harper said...

"Your print books didn't make bestseller because of lack of coop or marketing, Joe. They didn't make it because the public didn't want to read them."

Um... but... they do want them. They are reading them. A lot of them. Without coop and all of those other things.

I understand saying something out loud that sounded good in your head but turns out to be kind of stupid after it's too late. But you WROTE that comment down. Wtf?

dr.cpe said...

today Nook at 1saleaday - they have the Barnes and Noble Nook
on sale today - $79.99. I know nothing at all about these, but interesting.

Ego Detector said...

Read the comment Harper. It said PRINT books.

Umm... but... that's what the post segment was about.

BTW:

If you click that picture of King's X in the corner and buy the first one for 99 cents, it will prove it to you point by point.

Or better yet, get the free sample download from Amazon, and see if you don't eventually buy all four Episodes for 99 cents a piece, and you can prove it for me.


WTF?!

I could say that you are one truly delusional individual given the above statement. Maybe I'm not your 'ideal reader', you know, a reader who assumes authors are actually capable of writing in sentences that don't resemble toddler non-sequiturs?

I've read better spray on a toilet bowl. Be grateful I don't review it on Amazon.

But wait, your favorite authors are Steinbeck and Joyce. I can surely understand the Joyce connection, after all he is known for writing one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language.

Be proud, you've eclipsed him.

Stephen T. Harper said...

You said print books, that's true. But does that make your comment less absurd?

I'm lucky you don't do a review of my book... without reading it? Meaning I'm lucky you aren't enough of an ass to to give me a 1 star review out of spite? Okay. Thanks, I guess.

As for the rest of what you said - I doubt that you don't know what a non-sequitur is. But you are using it incorrectly in attempt to insult another person's intelligence.

"Irony" is a word people often misuse as well.

And mother always told me not to get in pointless arguments with cowardly, anonymous trolls. I should have listened to mother.

Moses Siregar III said...

Also, mp3-type players have done damage to the art form of the album. Will we ever see something like Dark Side of the Moon again, when most people listen to music one song at a time?

'The Hazards of Love' by the Decemberists is an outstanding recent concept album IMO.

Teabag My Shit said...

I've read better spray on a toilet bowl.

You read toilet bowls?

Indie Anya said...

@Anon 8.23

"@Indie Anya

What/where is your book?"

Anon, I'm working pretty damn hard at promoting my book in a lot of different places. I chose not to use my real name here because I'm not here to plug my book, I'm here to add my opinion to the discussion. I'm sure I do sound whiny, but that wasn't my intention. I just wanted to point out that, from my perspective, there's still a lot of barriers to get past before we're all as successful as Konrath, Hocking, et al.

Naomi Clark said...

I jumped into the indie waters last month, having tried without success to "make it" the old-fashioned way. Obviously I'm not making millions yet, but there's a lot of satisfaction in knowing something that was rejected by agents and publishers (ie my upcoming drug addict-turned-werewolf YA novel) might still find readers who'll love it. I see ebooks as a massive part of the future for readers and writers.

On the other hand... I love my physical books. I'd be very sad to see the end of bookshops and libraries (although I guess it's inevitable. I live in Cambridge, UK, and we're a university town with only two high street bookshops, which is just depressing). I'm a late-adaptor when it comes to technology - 27 and without so much as an ipod! What will people say? - so I don't have an ereader, and although I have the Kindle for PC app, I don't make much use of it. I'm kind of hoping I'll make enough money from my Kindle books that I can buy an actual Kindle...

Ego Detector said...

Teabag my shit: You’re 15 right?

Harper:” You said print books, that's true. But does that make your comment less absurd?”


Absurd? Because I said that people didn’t want to read his print books?

But they want to read his ebooks?

“You know, Harper, what the hell. Stop admiring your own cock for a second and come over here. Look, we got ourselves one goddamn kick-ass publishing house here, let’s back this Konrath guy all the way. Whatdya say? Shit, I’m betting this ace can sell tens of thousands of ebooks at a coupla bucks a piece. Put him in the stores. Call production, tell em 50,000 first print. Hardcover. Fuck it. 100, 000. Foil. Emboss. The fucking works. We’ll blow this guy sky high. Paterson won’t know what hit him.”

Seriously, Stephen, do you truly believe publishing success is about high print runs and marketing? About receiving preferential treatment? That is the biggest misnomer in our industry. Only authors believe it. Disgruntled ones.

Dan Brown used to be a mid-list author until he wrote something worth marketing. 10,000 ARCs they gave out! Why didn’t they do that for the other crap he wrote? Because it wouldn’t have given them a bestseller. He needed to write a bestseller first. Joe didn’t write a bestseller. Still hasn’t. I didn’t decide that, the public did. Amanda Hocking, however, has written a few. She’ll go to traditional print eventually. And she deserves success there too.

All this constant whining about the industry not floating authors properly is trying to say the least. They gave Joe a shot at hardcover, maybe they should have just left him in no-man’s land and waited a decade to trot him out in ebook.

He should be grateful that it turned out the way it did. Barry Eisler is probably wishing he had the same luck. Instead his publishers hung onto him. Probably not to his benefit. There are many mid-list guys in the same boat.

But it’s not the industry’s fault.
Sadly, the big numbers just aren’t there for some authors. Not everyone can have co-op, MSM marketing, high runs.

I’m happy it played out that way for Joe. He’s far better off. I hope he has further success, but really the endless whining about how the industry didn’t do this-and-that just makes him look like a sore loser.

You’re winning, Joe. Be humble. Or take a risk and print your own books and report back on how easy it was to break into the bestseller list at #1. Apparently it just takes a bit of co-op, a big print run and a few ads… and then everyone comes running with their cash.

You’re making 40G a month, what’s stopping you from doing for yourself what the publishers wouldn’t?

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> That bowerbird...so fixated
> on "outmatching" people.

i don't have to be "fixated"
when you persist like you do.

and it was joe who was
outmatching you today.

but since your reasoning was
as lame as it was, i guess you
have a point with the "quotes"
around "outmatching" there...

is it really necessary for someone
to mop the floor with your weak
positions before you give 'em up?

-bowerbird

Susan said...

Put me in the same boat with Ellen, Tom, and some others. The playing field in ebooks is level now but I don't think it will remain that way. Once the traditional publishers turn their eye to it they will use their influence to perpetuate something similar to what they had in brick and morter - A way to get "more visibility" for $$'s. To show up as a featured book, or to get Amazon to email requests might cost $20,000 and while a publisher would be wiling to pay that kind of cash, most indies will not.

J.T. Bock said...

Don't know if you already know this, but you were mentioned in a USA Today article about how authors are "catching fire" with self-publishing.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2011-02-09-ebooks09_ST_N.htm?csp=usat.me

As always, thanks for all this amazing information!

Joe Konrath said...

Yet I still listen to the discs in my car, at home, etc. As do many, many millions of other folks. This is not as uncommon as some of you like to think.

That's because your car has a CD player.

Lots of new cars don't. They have a jack for an iPod or mp3 player.

As the years grind on, fewer and fewer cars will have CD players. Remember when cars used to have cassette players and 8 tracks?

The CD had become more of a physical delivery system for the mp3, rather than as a way to play music. Some folks like this physical delivery system (it is displayed on the wall, it's permanent in case a hard drive crashes...)

But if your CDs were no able to be put on your iPod, I'd bet CDs would sell far fewer copies.

Hence my prediction for print books.

jtplayer said...

sad little bowerbird.

so obsessed with being the "smart" guy.

reduced to picking fights on the internet with strangers.

it's ok b.b., you will get over it someday.

Joe Konrath said...

And that's why every single big 6 published book is a bestseller.

Publishers DON'T grow all authors and give them all big pushes. That's why every book isn't a bestseller.

If I had been grown and given that push, I'm confident I would have hit the bestseller lists. I've seen too many examples of it, and the fact that once we take the publishers out of the equation, my books ARE bestsellers.

Any idiot can draw the conclusion that a lot of people want to buy my books, because a lot of people are buying my books. But my books never had a chance to reach a lot of people in print, because my publisher never grew my audience and gave me that push.

Joe Konrath said...

Seriously, Stephen, do you truly believe publishing success is about high print runs and marketing?

Absolutely not. It's all about quality.

(snort)

Actually, distribution IS the key to selling a lot of books. But I'm done arguing with anonymous trolls. You're too combative. Cool down a notch or I'm deleting you.

jtplayer said...

It's cool Joe.

You're always right dude.

And if you're not...no worries, because you've got bowerbird for a wingman.

Joe Konrath said...

You're always right dude.

And yet you foolishly try to oppose me.

For the record, I'm not always right. But when I say something on this blog, I say it based on my experience, and I'm able to back up what I say with facts and logic.

You saying that Amazon sells CD players isn't a good argument--they sell a lot of obsolete things.

Best Buy is a much better indicator of the health of CD Players--and they have far fewer than they have mp3 players.

The fact that you own an iPod, and now a Kindle, is good anecdotal evidence that technology changes how people consume media.

But you can't copy your paperbacks and put them on your Kindle (which would be pretty damn cool if you could).

As more people buy ereaders, fewer people will buy print. If you follow that trend to the obvious conclusion, we'll get to a world where the bestseller paradigm has shifted.

Anonymous said...

"Seriously, Stephen, do you truly believe publishing success is about high print runs and marketing? About receiving preferential treatment? That is the biggest misnomer in our industry."

Yes, it is about high print runs and marketing because publishing is a BUSINESS. The shareholders come first -- not the editors, not the authors, not the consumers.

Decisions are made based on what editors PERCEIVE to be the next great thing. It will always be a bit of a crapshoot. They up the odds by grooming a few top names (brands) and searching out the "sure thing" (Snooki, Sarah Palin, hey, Bristol Palin now has a book contract -- you think she's got the writing talent of Joe's pinky finger?).

Digital publishing has leveled the playing field for writers . . . they have the distribution channel they need to test market their work. It's no longer necessary to rely on the black box query system and the business decisions of a few publishing concerns.

The bestsellers will, increasingly come from the indie system (Hocking is an excellent example) because the publishing industry is inherently flawed. Limiting risk means sacrificing a lot of great writing (and treating authors like crap) to maximize profits to shareholders and focus on the "marketable" -- shallow celebrities, "proven" brand names and overworked formulas.

If Joe is frustrated I believe it is due to this inherent flaw in the traditional publishing system. It couldn't be helped . . . big publishers are for-profit institutions, constantly trying to lower input costs (screw the creative talent as much as possible) to max out profits, and they controlled access to the distribution channels. Being profit-driven meant that the lowly author is at the bottom of the food chain.

So Joe's books weren't given the marketing push of others. Maybe it was a simple calculation -- they already had enough in the genre, and Patterson (or whoever it was at the time) was their big name brand. Maybe they didn't need another one because they perceived that market niche as filled. These business decisions may or may not have anything to do with the quality of writing.

It's business, and "fair" doesn't enter into the equation.

Joe Konrath said...

It's business, and "fair" doesn't enter into the equation.

This is why I still allow anonymous posts.

For every dozen flaming trolls, there is someone who actually has has something smart to contribute.

I'm reading a book that was recommended to me by a friend, one that all authors should read.

Before I talk about it, I want to say that my buddy and I were talking, he mentioned that I'd like it, I agreed, and while on the phone I logged onto Amazon and immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle for $7.50.

THAT is the strength of word of mouth, and I wonder how many times that scenario is repeated with my own ebooks. Without Amazon, I would have maybe written the title down, then looked for it the next time I was in a bookstore, if I remembered to bring the paper with me.

But Amazon has allowed for instant point of purchase, and that's a game changer.

continued...

Joe Konrath said...

...continued

The book is called The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mloninow.

I FREAKING LOVE THIS BOOK.

It pretty much confirms a lot of stuff I've always believed, and does it using math and logic. It also has a nice opening chapter about the book business, and the movie business.

On of the many smart things it proves is that success is a random event.

So many folks have said I "deserve" the success I've had. I always reply, "I got lucky."

Guess what? The math agrees with me. It also goes on to say the harder you work, the luckier you get. A time worn axiom, but one that's actually proven in this book.

This book also makes a damn good argument that publishers and movie studios have ZERO idea of what will be a hit.

Randomness and probability--things we usually dismiss--are big players in how our lives turn out.

This is especially good reading for writers.

Richard said...

I'd like to add to the argument about what becomes a bestseller and its relation to the "push" given by the publisher...

I had my first print book come out last year and my publisher didn't get it into many stores and as such it got a very small print run. The publisher is a major one, by the way. So, even though nothing was said, I got the distinct impression my second book wouldn't be seeing the light of day based on this abysmal start.

However, my book received exceptional reviews from both readers and critical publications, and eventually had a second print run. My publishers were amazed at the turn around, saying it was almost unheard of. Ultimately it was only a modest seller, but a much bigger success than everyone thought pre-publication and its a better seller than other similar books by bigger named authors from my publisher.

Clearly people who read the book, for the most part, loved it. Yet it was very hard to get hold of. On release, it wasn't even in big Barnes & Noble stores. People "stumbled" upon it months after release and assumed it had only just been published. I can't help but wonder how it could have sold had things been done differently. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume, if 70% of readers on Amazon give it 5-stars and 20% 4-stars, that had it had a big release, it would have sold much, much better.

The quality of the work is not always enough to achieve success, otherwise all bestsellers would be brilliant and non-bestsellers would all be poor. But we all know that isn't the case.

Linas said...

I think the future is in ebooks, but I still preffer paper books :)

Anonymous said...

USA Today is running on their front page "Hope For Small Bookstores" good article about what is happening to the bookstores. Lot of focus on Borders and even if they will be around in 2012.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Stephen T. Harper said...

"Seriously, Stephen, do you truly believe..."

Since this keeps getting quoted, I'd just like to point out that I never actually said anything about this topic.

But I'll chime in now.

Joe mentioned the movie business.

The movie business is a great example of how talent and hard work creates something great and maybe even "successful," and then huge corporate money steps in after the fact to generate massive-scale "success."

Great filmmakers work incredibly hard to make that first great film. And they do it on their own (actually with a team of talented but equally unknown true believers). Before it comes out, before it forces its way on to the scene by its undeniable "this is really interesting" factor, that filmmaker is a nobody in the grand scheme of the movie business.

Doesn't mean they don't have talent, but they have to prove it. The big budget mega success they later have, sometimes with a great movie, sometimes with a not so great movie, comes when massive corporations give them A list projects, A list stars and A list money to work with because they proved they could deliver.

The comparison with publishing is this. It is possible - although incredibly difficult - to raise enough money to make an indie film by spreading the risk around to enough investors who might earn a profit or be willing to to take a tax write off, to get your tiny film seen by enough people to give it a stamp of public approval. Thus granting access into the film world.

Until recently talented novelists trying to prove the worth of their material had almost no access to the audience. Writers only had access to the gatekeepers, through things like contests, conventions, and querying. Gatekeepers aren't the same thing as a real audience of paying customers. Gatekeepers try to anticpate what real readers might want on a large scale. Real readers just buy what they like.

Now they suddenly access to real readers is there for anybody. And with access, writers now have no excuses. If you can find an audience in this new playing field, then you can find an audience. You've proven it. If you can't... maybe you need to try harder or maybe you need to try something else. But the great news is, it suddenly has nothing to do with anybody else. It's all in your hands.

Michael said...

Joe: "The book is called The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mloninow."

Damn, and here I was sure you were talking about The Devil's Deep (well, except for that pesky $7.50 part mentioned above). But that kind of proves your point. Word of mouth has always been important to the success of a book, or lack thereof. The difference is that it was once 50%, with the other 50% being placement, advertising, print runs, etc.

With ebooks, word of mouth may not be everything, but it's 90% of everything. The world has never worked quite like that before.

Tara Maya said...

Dan Brown used to be a mid-list author until he wrote something worth marketing. 10,000 ARCs they gave out!

I had no idea. This actually seems to prove Joe's point.

As for the comparison with TV....

I hate, hate, HATE the television industry. They are no friends of sf fans. Over and over again they have destroyed the best speculative fiction shows, sometimes even when it defied financial common sense. Once again this year I've had to part with sf shows that the big boys decided to cancel even though fans love them.

Even though I'm an author, I didn't really feel the problems with the publishing industry were as bad.

But the present model for the television is PURE EVIL.

I cannot wait until tech makes possible a transformation of how tv is made that parallels the change in how books are published. I don't know if it's possible, although I've seen some signs.

I am waiting for a day when Firefly or Stargate Universe doesn't get cancelled, where something purporting to be the "SyFy" channel is actually proud to call itself SF and where people who hate speculative fiction are not the ones with the power to cancel shows and replace them with a reality tv show about legshaving.

Tara Maya
Conmergence: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Joe Konrath said...

If you can't... maybe you need to try harder or maybe you need to try something else. But the great news is, it suddenly has nothing to do with anybody else. It's all in your hands.

I agree. But there's a bit more complexity to it.

The factor that determines if a reader stumbles upon an ebook is largely luck. Once they do, their opinion of the work can help elevate it so others stumble across it, or sink it so no one buy it.

You *can* write good books that don't get discovered. It happens all the time. But in the print world, once it ran out of shelf life and space (or coop dollars) the book faded into obscurity.

Ebooks are FOREVER.

If you're writing good books that aren't selling well, keep writing more and more of them, maximizing your chances at being discovered.

You will be discovered eventually. And then things like reviews and rankings will determine if you keep selling or not.

But I'm convinced that writers have a *much* better shot of finding an audience through self-pubbing, and also will sell more books this way, than through the gatekeepers/

Stephen T. Harper said...

Tara said, "Over and over again they have destroyed the best speculative fiction shows, sometimes even when it defied financial common sense."

The amount of influence from money is necessarily too great in TV and film for it to be otherwise. Authors of books - now that distribution is available so easily - can pretty much do it themselves with little or no overhead cost.

But TV? Between overhead, production, and distribution, the money is mind-boggling. Even for the Syfy Channel. There are simply too many people involved in the success or failure of a given show who have too many different agendas to serve.

Sometimes viewers get lucky and "Friday Night Lights" lasts for 4 years. But that kind of a thing is an amazing confluence of events that has only a little bit to do with how great the show is.

Everybody in the business is either very creative or very smart,and sometimes both. But so many cooks in the kitchen with so many masters to please. Everything that happens in that environment is a small miracle.

If you like something, better just enjoy it while it lasts. People are working their asses off to keep it on the air, but... it's a crap shoot. Unfortunate but true.

Tara Maya said...

But TV? Between overhead, production, and distribution, the money is mind-boggling.

I'm hoping that's what will change. First Music. Then Books. Then TV. We've already seen the rise of webshows, but the shift hasn't occurred yet where people download most tv rather than rely on networks. However, I'm clicking my heels together and chanting, "There's no place like the internet, there's no place like the internet!"

TV, next! TV next!

Stephen T. Harper said...

Joe, I agree with all of that. But what is meant by a "good book" is relative. A book can be really high quality and still not appeal to me as a reader. What's it about? How does it make me feel? Etc.

Some books will always be capable of striking a chord with a higher percentage of readers.

Amanda Hocking. Writing books that sell like hers is a talent, separate from writing books that are "good" or "great" in other ways. And she has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she has that kind of talent. At a minimum.

Anyway, I agree with you. All boats will rise here, a little or a lot. And you can't sink below Zero, so there is no real risk in self-publishing that I can see. But I definitely see this playing field as a proving ground for what kind of talent and determination we all have.

It is so much fun finding all these great authors with so many books doing well outside the traditional business model. Just fantastic to see.

Stephen T. Harper said...

"However, I'm clicking my heels together and chanting, "There's no place like the internet, there's no place like the internet!"

TV, next! TV next!"

Maybe. We can certainly hope, and I'd drink to that for sure. But it's a lot easier with books.

bowerbird said...

jtplayer, even worse than your
lame argumentation are these
petty squabbles you perpetrate.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

wingman. yeah, right.

read my posts in this very thread.

-bowerbird

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