Monday, March 07, 2011

Ebooks Ain't A Bubble

Elsewhere on the internets, I've heard the current ebook boom being described as a bubble. One that will eventually burst.

That's incorrect.

A bubble is when people invest more money in something than it is actually worth. Real estate, technology, dot com companies, housing, the stock market, etc. all are investments that might not pay off, and have been called bubbles.

Ebooks aren't an investment. We're not dumping money into them, hoping we can sell them at a profit later on.

Rather, ebooks are more like a commodity. But not quite, because they don't conform to the rules of supply and demand, as there is an endless supply. But I believe there is also an endless demand. I come to this conclusion by looking at other digital media, and seeing the never-ending, constantly regenerating market.

An ebook is forever. Forever is a long time to find readers. I'm selling over 1000 ebooks a day, but it would take me forty-one years to completely saturate the current Kindle-owner market (assuming there are currently 15 million Kindle owners.)

However, people read ebooks on more than just their Kindles. There are Kindle apps, Nooks, Kobos, smart phones, computers, tablets, and so on. I could sell 10,000 ebooks a day, and it would still take the rest of my life to saturate the current market.

But the market won't stay current. Ebooks will become the dominant format for reading fiction. They'll proliferate the US and Canada, the UK and Australia, and eventually the world.

There's no ebook bubble. There is only unlimited potential sales. I referred to it in an earlier post as a Gold Rush. But, unlike a Gold Rush, where there is limited gold available, I don't see this gold vein ever running out. The gold is readers, and there are billions of them. It doesn't matter how many miners are trying to get rich. There is enough for everybody, assuming writers work hard and stick with it until they get lucky.

Now, while I consider the ebook forecast for the next few years to be bright, with a high chance of riches for me (I'm currently earning $1300 a day), there is a tech precedent that might show otherwise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_video_game_crash_of_1983

That article is worth reading, because it shows what could happen in the ebook world once there are no longer any gatekeepers. If the market gets flooded with crap, consumers could stop buying ebooks and instead do something else with their time and money, just as they did with videogames.

But there are some key differences.

First, there is now unlimited retail space, and consumers and etailers have made it easy to find the worthy books.

Second, while there are competing ereading devices, authors can make their work easily available on all of them without an extra time or money investment.

Third, there is no boom/bust bubble, because we don't have to dump money into development, advertising, or speculative stock trading. We don't have to spend money to make money.

Also, even though the 1983 video game crash ruined many companies and temporarily soured the public on videogames, by 1985 videogames were back, and they've been growing ever since. Videogames now make more money than Hollywood.

I've also seen some authors who are doing both self-publishing and legacy publishing, calling it diversification.

That isn't diversification. It's buying a ticket on the Titanic.

I could make a logical, persuasive case for chain bookstores disappearing (as chain record stores and video stores have), and then draw the obvious conclusion that ebooks will replace print as the dominant format, but I've done that often enough to bother repeating it all here. Go back to April 2009 and read my blog from then until now if you want a blow-by-blow report of how the publishing industry is collapsing and ebooks are taking over.

Instead, I want all authors reading this to ask themselves two questions.

1. Will ebooks eventually outsell print books? (hint: they already are in many cases)

2. Do you want to give up 70% royalties and instead accept 14.9% royalties by signing with a legacy publisher? (assume you'll be locked into the contract forever, because you will)

How you answer those questions is how you should approach the next legacy publishing deal you're offered.

For years, I've talked about the importance of luck. You can't succeed without it.

But writers need to fight Stockholm Syndrome and escape the siren song of legacy publishing. For decades they were the only game in town, and trying to get accepted by the gatekeepers has become imprinted on our brains. Getting lucky meant finding a publisher.

These days, signing with a publisher, who will give you an advance in return for the majority of all your royalties, forever, isn't lucky at all. It's like signing a balloon loan, where the payments get bigger every year. Or a life insurance policy, where you keep paying more annually for fewer benefits.

A much better route to take is self-pubbing. At least there, if you get lucky, you get to keep most of your money.

167 comments:

Megg Jensen said...

I've been out 3 weeks and already made back the money I advanced to myself to cover costs. Everything else on Anathema is pure profit. I've been reading your blog for months, but never really believed I'd sell to anyone other than my mom. ;)

My engineer hubby is so impressed by how this works - taking something from imagination & turning it into pure profit. He's asked if our indie community can now work on cold fusion! LoL!

Thanks for another inspiring post!!!

Megg Jensen
www.meggjensen.com

Joe Konrath said...

A note on saturation. Pink Floyd still sells an estimated 9000 copies of Dark Side of the Moon, per week.

If an album that debuted 38 years ago can keep finding an audience, ebooks should be able to do the same.

The market will never become exhausted.

Joe Flynn said...

Nice to wake up on a Monday morning to find encouraging words from you, Joe. Even better to wake up and find encouraging numbers — overnight sales.

Last month, my ten e-book titles passed the thousand books per month sales mark. This month they're doing even better.

Can't wait until they approach a thousand sales per week, knowing that even a thousand sales per day isn't out of reach.

Jon F. Merz said...

I sold my 1000th ebook of the month yesterday at only six days in - which for me is a very nice increase in sales over last month. This is an incredible opportunity and I'm amazed at the enormous potential it holds.

Simultaneously, I'm also amused at the perspective so many who make their living in the print side of the industry cling to. I mentioned "Read an E-Book Week" on Twitter yesterday and an indie bookseller scolded me for driving people toward ebooks. I've heard agents lately telling people that ebooks simply aren't accounting for that much traffic and when I asked them when they thought the ebook royalty would go to 50/50, the response I got was "a few years."

Screw that.

These last couple months have given me a ton of ammunition to try to renegotiate a certain deal on the table right now. If that renegotiation doesn't happen (and I doubt it will, actually) I will be walking away from it.

Mike Dennis said...

Joe, I just returned from Sleuthfest in Fort Lauderdale, a great crime fiction writers conference. Every single panel I attended, regardless of topic, eventually eased into a discussion of the ebook explosion. One panel actually started off discussing it.

What was amazing was that the panelists--all of whom were traditionalists--saw it as overheated assertions by a few digital authors who got lucky and that when all the smoke cleared, there wasn't really anything to worry about.

I wrote a complete blog on it. You might want to check it out: http://mikedennisnoir.com/sleuthfest-more-like-denialfest/1738/

Anonymous said...

So you're dissing Amanda Hocking now?

interesting...

http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2011/03/some-things-that-need-to-be-said.html

Jim said...

I'm kind of new around here. What does "legacy publisher" mean?

Mike Dennis said...

No way am I dissing Amanda Hocking. Far from it. But people at Sleuthfest did. Read my blog.

billie said...

With three titles up and a fourth very close to being, I am seeing sales grow each month since November. Nothing dramatic or newsworthy but there has been enough movement (my middle grade magical pony school series book one went up to #8 one day) that I am seeing how this thing works and feel like I have a good shot at doing the things I need to do to get that to happen again.

And again.

The best part about it for me is the ability to take action on my own behalf. I am not waiting on anyone else to do it for me. And meanwhile I am still writing and loving it, especially now that there is a "home" for the books. I can get them out there without years of waiting on other people to do it for me.

I have a question: what is the Kobo experience like? I have a number of Canadian readers who are wanting my books I was surprised to learn they weren't available on Amazon Canada - I've emailed Kobo for info but would love to hear from anyone who has done the uploading of titles for that market.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I have to say, too: that some small press publishers are good to sign with. I love mine and am happy with them.

My ebook royalties are more generous than what I've seen posted as ebook royalties from most other publishers. And, my small press is really active in the ebook arena. They do still publish trade paperbacks, but they focus on the ebook quite strongly.

I was surprised when my biggest checks came from sales from Kindle--guess I shouldn't be surprised? I can't overlook that at all. While I talked and talked up indie booksellers, and brick and mortar bookstores, actually having them order books and keep them doesn't often happen - with a few wonderful exceptions out there; so I have to consider that as well.

It's facinating to watch what is happening and I wonder where it'll all lead to.

Congrats on your success!

Danielle said...

Nice post, Joe.

Agree on all counts. I think ereaders are too convenient for the public to pass up, nevermind the instant gratification factor.

Press a button, buy a book. Even I've become hooked. Not only that, both my kids have shown interest. I think the number of ereader owners will explode over the next 3 years. No one else in my family has one yet, but every time I take mine somewhere, they all want to see/touch/investigate.

Even if the devices evolve--and they will--all the material will still be digital and simply transfer over.

Also; writing novels is difficult, time consuming work. Even if there is a tsunami of ebooks, I don't think those who aren't serious will stick with it, leaving prolific writers who gain readership plenty of maneuvering room.

There'll be readers enough for everyone with a platform that's here to stay.

Time for caffeine. :)

Danielle Bourdon

CT Stout said...

Another inspiring post. Thanks Joe! I've pretty much given up on trying to convince anyone I know how awesome e-publishing can be. The authors I know who are in print say they're happy. The ones who aren't published but are determined that only print will make them happy refuse to give themselves a chance through other means. There's a lot of talent being wasted out there, sitting in some slush pile waiting to be returned unread. E-pubbing may not guarantee success, but at least it gives authors a fighting chance. Thanks for reminding us of that!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, bad timing.

I meant that Joe is discounting Amanda's post where she clearly points out that there is a place for print publishing and she doesn't see it going away any time soon.

Print isn't going away. Neither is self-pubbing. And only a fool puts all your eggs in one basket.

Even a "rich" fool.

Paul Skelding said...

Another great post Joe and of course your correct, there is no ebook bubble that will burst. As people turn towards tablets and use them as ebook readers sales will only increase. I think many are so focused on Kindle that they have ignored the larger trend the tablet + Stanza/Aldiko/iBooks combinations. This revolution will only gain momentum.

- Paul Skelding
paulskelding.blogspot.com

Sarah Woodbury said...

I read such a post yesterday and went--really? It's almost as if she meant that she thought ebooks were a fad. That would imply, however, that readers would go back to paper books, or that reading on ereaders is somehow going to disappear. People could stop buying books entirely, but then, that wouldn't help the legacy publishers either.

www.sarahwoodbury.com

Ellen Fisher said...

"So you're dissing Amanda Hocking now?"

"I meant that Joe is discounting Amanda's post..."

"Dissing" doesn't mean "discounting" or "disagreeing." It isn't disrespecting someone to disagree with them. Clearly Joe and Amanda have a somewhat different perspective on things, but it would be a dull, dull world if we all agreed on everything.

AnneMarie Novark said...

Great post, Joe. As usual.

And so timely. I needed to hear this.

My sales are speeding up and I'm in awe. Nothing huge, but I just sold my 2000th book today over 5 titles. I hit 1000 on February 6th. I only hit 100 in December, so it's quite a jump.

I'm so afraid I'll wake up and find out it's only a dream. It's almost too good to be true.

I'm actually making money on my writing!!!

Keep up the good work!!!

A Match Made in Texas

Merrill Heath said...

Joe, I agree with your opinion that ebooks aren't a "bubble." But to say there are 15 million Kindle owners and it will take forever to saturate that market is not a valid argument...unless all 15 million Kindle owners read your genre. Your example of Pink Floyd makes the point much better and illustrates that there are new consumers entering the market every day who will discover and purchase your ebooks.

Another point...I keep hearing people talk about "when there are no more gatekeepers..." Well, there will always be gatekeepers. They may not be editors at publishing houses. They may, instead, be reviewers and marketing people at ebook distributors. But, primarily, they will be readers. Word of mouth still sells more books than marketing campaigns. Amazon's reviews and "people who bought this book also bought..." recommendations are becoming the gatekeepers for shoppers on that site.

It's an interesting development. With the advancement of technology and the ability to self-publish, the slush pile is moving from the publishers to the distributors. This is a better option for writers and readers, as well. At least this way the readers are deciding what they read, not the publishers.

Megan Duncan said...

Another brilliant post Joe :o) If eBooks are a bubble then the only thing it is going to do is expand and swallow up the whole world! Mwhahahahahaha ... Ooops, did I just reveal my evil genius side?


http://meganduncan.blogspot.com/

Jacqueline Howett said...

Many are in denial of the new teq. What I like about it is how we get to meet so many authors across the board where everyone's equal. Chat to a celeb or a new author via Facebook, Twitter,Blog or book tours online that are all related. I just started up some months ago selling my eBooks and I'm just beginning to feel the returns. Thanks Joe for this inspiring post.

Joe Konrath said...

I meant that Joe is discounting Amanda's post where she clearly points out that there is a place for print publishing and she doesn't see it going away any time soon.

Has Amanda signed with a Big 6 publisher?

If not, that pretty much reveals her stance on the Big 6, doesn't it?

I didn't say print will go away. It won't. But chain bookstores will, and ebooks will become the dominant format. Print will become a subsidiary right.

Actually, it won't for most, because no one but mega-bestsellers iwth huge advances would sign away 70% royalties.

Joe Konrath said...

overheated assertions by a few digital authors who got lucky and that when all the smoke cleared, there wasn't really anything to worry about.

Of course they said that.

As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Judy Croome said...

I agree e-books are not a bubble. They're more like a sea-change.

And, as a rather infamous past president of ours said (in pre-democracy days), we have to "adapt or die".

Judy (South Africa)

PS In case you're wondering, the President was PW Botha, also known as The Krokodil (the Crocodile)!

Edward G. Talbot said...

One more difference between those video games and ebooks - price. Activision was cheap compared to Atari, but not close to 99 cents or even $2.99 in 2011 dollars.

I do think it's at least theoretically possible that if several trad publishers go belly up, people will start having difficulty sifting through the crap. It seems likely that before we'd get to the point of severe readership dropoff, we'd instead see someone make money with effective ways to identify the good and the bad. But we certainly can at least acknowledge a small risk. I just am not sure that in the scheme of things that risk means a whole lot.

Anonymous said...

Also, one thing to keep in mind is that there wasn't a superculture back in the time of the video crash like there is today. Within that superculture is a rating and scoring system like you get on the websites at Amazon or B&N or even bookblogs and the like. In the past people have tried to cheat these systems, but there are a lot of watch dogs out there that don't allow for an easy con.

I understand the frustration of downloading crappy books. The last week I managed to find three that I'm less then thrilled with, but reading books is my hobby and it's what I do for fun. I don't see a few discouraging downloads stopping me any more than I did when I bought them for $20 a pop at the bookstore. I just bought less of them because I couldn't afford to pay for more.

Jus' sayin'

Josie Wade

Stephen Ames Berry said...

Grieving begins with denial: No matter the wishful thinking of the Big 6, the ebook market isn't going to vanish like the June snow. The internet doomed monopolistic publishing, though it doesn't yet recognize its own death throes.

The ebook market, as Joe says, isn't going to collapse--it's not some venal sham of Wall Street witchery: it's real people buying real products--it fulfills a need: good books. That readers are willing to wade through the oodles of edreck out there to identify good stuff stands testament to how deeply felt that need is.

The ebook market will eventually find its level, but that's a distant haze--the potential consumer base has hardly been touched.

Enjoy your champagne but keep your powder dry: This isn’t over. Those forces that so brilliantly corporatized traditional publishing and communications will try to do the same to ebook publishing, arguing that they’re bringing much-needed order to the mad confusion of bulging virtual shelves, helping readers make the best choices. And that they've the resources to identify and sell good books, to separate wheat from chaff.

Takeover could follow takeover until there is but One Source, albeit with different tributaries, Smashwords being the first logical acquisition target.

A counterargument's that more competition would then spring up on the Internet. The architecture of the Internet, though, has been quietly altered since its inception and is itself vulnerable to centralized control. (Messy, but doable.) At which point we'd have more to concern us than finding a good read.

Cheers,

Steve

Anonymous said...

If the market gets flooded with crap, consumers could stop buying ebooks and instead do something else with their time and money...

I'm glad you brought out that point. I think this is a valid point for authors to worry about.

Since starting this whole ebook journey myself, I have checked samples of dozens of authors and the truth is there is an overwhelming amount of CRAP. Nobody wants to say this, but it is a fact.

By "crap," I don't mean subjective aspects like whether the plot moves fast enough or the characterization is deep enough, etc.

I'm talking about objective criteria - meaning spelling errors, grammar errors, and typing errors.

Out of the dozens of samples I checked (including those by well-known indie authors selling large numbers of copies with many five star reviews), almost every single one of them had multiple and obvious spelling errors, grammar errors, and typing errors in the samples. In many cases, they even had these types of errors on the Amazon description page.

For those of us who take the time and have the capability to produce nearly error-free work (of course, an occasional typo will slip by all of us no matter how diligently we edit), it is very discouraging to see the crap rising to the top in sales.

I don't even know how it is happening. Those same books will have one star reviews warning people that they are riddled with errors, yet people are buying them.

Have we gotten to the point that our poor educational system in America has rendered most average readers clueless to even the basic, objective aspects of good writing?

Merrill Heath said...

Anon said: I understand the frustration of downloading crappy books. The last week I managed to find three that I'm less then thrilled with, but reading books is my hobby and it's what I do for fun. I don't see a few discouraging downloads stopping me any more than I did when I bought them for $20 a pop at the bookstore.

I have 5 books I recently brought home from the bookstore. 4 were disappointing and set aside unfinished. Only 1 is entertaining enough to keep reading. So this is nothing new and certainly not a problem that is unique to ebooks. I think most readers understand this and aren't too disappointed by having to cast aside a few duds in search of a gem. Hell, that's part of the fun in "discovering new talent."

Chris Eboch said...

Reading this blog for a couple of months has convinced me -- I'm preparing my first two self-published books for sale, after 12 traditionally published or work for hire books. But there are circumstances where an author may be forced to continue traditionally for while. An author may not make enough money to live on through self-publishing for months or even years after her first book is released. In the meantime, an advance can help pay the bills.

The trick is finding the balance in order to make the transition. I know too many talented authors who spend so much of their time doing work for hire, teaching for an hourly wage, and so forth that they hardly have time to write original work, let alone figure out how to self-publish it and market it. And I imagine there are some who will squeeze out time to put up one book, do nothing with it, fail to build their shelf space, and then consider the experiment a failure and go back to the old way.

I decided not to pursue a possible $6000 work for hire job, because I wanted to spend the time getting my work out on e-books. It was the right decision, but I sure hope I get decent royalties next month on my first traditionally published book (the only one making royalties so far, The Well of Sacrifice), so I can avoid going into debt. I doubt my new e-books will be paying well enough that quickly.

Chris Eboch
The Well of Sacrifice: a Mayan adventure for ages 9 and up
Read an excerpt: http://www.chriseboch.com

Joe Konrath said...

Have we gotten to the point that our poor educational system in America has rendered most average readers clueless to even the basic, objective aspects of good writing?

Actually, I think we're becoming tolerant of errors because they are so prevalent in the increasing way we communicate through the written word.

No one "talks" correctly. We don't use correct sentence structure, we use fragments, we repeat ourselves and use speech hesitators, and so on.

Now, with email and Twitter and texting, there are more typos than ever before. And we're getting used to it.

Watcher said...

Steve,

Huh? In what way is the internet subject to centralized control that would prevent a new ebook distributor from setting up shop?

J. R. Tomlin said...

Even with very modest sales Wings of Evil, I've made back what I invested in less than one month. On the one month anniversary of Wings of Evil, I expect to get another novel on the shelf. So I am taking your advice and running with it. Thanks--for this post and all of the advice over the last year.

shana said...

Joe said: "Actually, I think we're becoming tolerant of errors because they are so prevalent in the increasing way we communicate through the written word."

That's true and for those of us who care about such things, it's incredibly frustrating to see the proliferation of errors not only in self-pubbed ebooks but EVERYWHERE in the WORLD,
but guys that's what the samples are for! That's what the reviews are for!
Take a deep breath and calm down.
We don't need the Gatekeepers to keep the crap out of print, because as others have said, they never kept all of it out anyway.

Download the samples and read the reviews and don't let it bother you if others spend their money on poorly-written, error-riddled fluff. It's not a big deal.

Shana Hammaker
Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

K.L. Dillon said...

Forever is a long time. I'm not sure which one, but one of Stephen King's many books are selling more than most authors. Unless you take the book offline, the potential for sales is limitless.

People will continue to cling onto an ideal for so long, despite its epic decay. But that's just human nature.

Joe-and everybody else--I suggest everyone check out Nathan Bransford's new blog. He's a former agent and he realizes the strength self-pubbing has.

blog.nathanbransford.com

-Kevin Dillon

K.L. Dillon said...

tons of typos in the last post

-*new blogpost

-*and one of Stephen King's first books is still outselling the majority.

-and again, forever is a magnificent word.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Joe, I am doing a blog post on what to look for in writing a good novel blurb (something I find VERY difficult) and would like to quote your blurb from Origin. Could I get your permission to do that?

Thanks, Jeanne

Hendrik said...

Joe,
The answers to your questions are obvious, but I have two for you.

1. Is the ebook phenomenon genre-centric?

2. And, regardless of the answer to #1, what is the probable fate of genuine literary works in an ebook universe, in other words, how would writers like Melville, Joyce, Faulkner or even Cormac McCarthy fare if they were submitting their debut novels today?

Much of Amanda Hocking's luck is that she tapped into an extended vampire fad. And you, Joe, appeal to a diverse audience that enjoys mystery, horror, etc. Good as they are, these are all genre works that, on average, entertain more than challenge. My favorite is hard-boiled noir PIs a la Ross MacDonald -- 60% to 70% of all the books I read are genre books of one kind or another, but I also like to keep the my edge sharp with difficult, challenging novels that address much larger issues than whodunnit. I fear there is little room for them in the ebook world you promote.

Gary Ponzo said...

If the market gets flooded with crap, consumers could stop buying ebooks and instead do something else with their time and money...


This is the most preposterous comment I've heard yet. So if a bunch of Indie Bands put out loads of crap then music fans will be turned off and stop listening to music? Because they've never heard of reviews or word of mouth, or Pandora or social media sites which allow free streaming samples?
Really?

Michael Allen said...

'If the market gets flooded with crap...'

It seems to me that one person's crap is another person's great read.

For example...

A while back, Robin Sullivan borrowed some space on this blog to list 26 indie writers who had sold 2,500 copies in December alone. One of those was Vianka van Bokkem. Download a sample of Vianka's work and you will find that her grasp of spelling and punctuation is far from secure. She writes patients when she means patience, and aloud when she means allowed. And so on. And occasionally she gets a very bad review. But she also gets some five-star reviews.

I suspect that new readers are emerging. Smartphone owners who never read a printed book in their lives. But they're attracted by a fancy cover, they sample the story, and if they like it they spend the price of a cup of coffee. Then buy again.

These are readers who don't re-read Proust every couple of years. But they do read. And they buy.

Rex Kusler said...

A year ago, when I went to Kinko's to make copies of my tax forms, I glanced at the B&N next door and wondered which type of store would eventually replace it. Maybe an antique store?

Saturday I went to what used to be Kinko's to make copies of my tax forms and noticed the B&N is gone. The Borders is now closing down also, leaving no bookstores here in Fremont, CA, except for Half-Price Books. I never thought it would happen this fast.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Hendrik, I ABSOLUTELY disagree that genre works are not or can not be challenging. In fact, most of the classics ARE genre, whether it be Austin, Dickens, or Hammett.

J. R. Tomlin

Sean said...

With the way gas prices are going these days, no one will be able to afford to drive to a bookstore soon anyway. Amazon should put that in their ad for the new Kindle.

Btw, I love how agent blogs always center on how to get an agent. How to woo them. How to serve them better. Their pompous desperation has turned me away from traditional publishing altogether. Plus their blogs smell like my grandma's house.

Thanks for the post, Joe!

Aaron Patterson said...

I think it is funny how so many people fight what is coming and already here. eBooks are not going away. Print will change and bookstores are on the way out as we know them. Joe and others like myself are not the ones who did this, we did not create the eBook craze but we see and are preparing to meet this new world of books.

I find the ones who are so against eBooks are the authors that can't sell a eBook or bookstore owners that want to live yet another day with their head buried in the sand.

The other thing I can't stand is how we put all the classics up on this pedestal. As if the writing of today is so much worse... have you read a classic lately? HG Wells... are you kidding me? Some of the best writing in our human history has been in the last 20 years. How would they hold up? Not, most would have to print through Lulu.

We are not giving up quality or great writing just because of eBooks. We are making the content easier to get. It is all about content and speed. People want it now, they do not want to wait and pay shipping etc... If you think you are different, why do you get angry if your Starbucks takes to long?

I am smiling as I write this, not cuz I am glad bookstores are having a hard time. But because the Big 6 are for once in their life going to have to be nice. To give authors a good royalty and if they don't they will crumble. The Kingdom is about to tumble and in its place we the authors have the power. Do you want to control your own future or do you want to sell it for a few grand?

Thanks Joe, great post.

Aaron

Coolkayaker1 said...

E-books are not a bubble.

Reading novels in the age of internet and video is a bubble.

But e-books, no bubble.

Anonymous said...

Hendrik said:
***Much of Amanda Hocking's luck is that she tapped into an extended vampire fad. And you, Joe, appeal to a diverse audience that enjoys mystery, horror, etc. Good as they are, these are all genre works that, on average, entertain more than challenge. My favorite is hard-boiled noir PIs a la Ross MacDonald -- 60% to 70% of all the books I read are genre books of one kind or another, but I also like to keep the my edge sharp with difficult, challenging novels that address much larger issues than whodunnit. I fear there is little room for them in the ebook world you promote.***

I'm not sure really how much I want to get into this argument -- let's just lay the Amanda Hocking issue down and move on.

As far as genre fiction vs. 'serious' fiction the lines are a bit bunk to begin with. Literary fiction is as much a genre as any other type of fiction. People just feel freer to write endless metaphors that usually go nowhere in particular and waste much of their brain hemming and hawing about the difficulties of being a 'serious' author than those of other genres.

Yes, in the best of these (as with the best of other genre fiction) you can uncover a little piece of your soul, but the majority is still as dicey as it is with any other type of genre.

And people who like literary fiction and who own e-readers find it the same way someone who like romance or hard pulp slasher fiction you click on the category in at the website labeled 'literary fiction'.

Josie Wade

Merrill Heath said...

Hendrick said: 60% to 70% of all the books I read are genre books of one kind or another, but I also like to keep the my edge sharp with difficult, challenging novels that address much larger issues than whodunnit. I fear there is little room for them in the ebook world you promote.

Why? Do you think people who enjoy deep, thought-provoking, challenging novels don't have ereaders or read ebooks?

Bearing False Witness

Kendall Swan said...

I find it ironic that indie authors who love shouting about the change in publishing being a good thing are having such a hard time with the change in language (i.e. grammar/typos).

Language has never been fixed, even though it may feel that way. It is always evolving. The point of language is not to preserve is rules but to communicate thought. As long as that objective is achieved, the language is successful.

Change is hard, even for indie publishers.

Kendall Swan

NAKED Vampire

Coolkayaker1 said...

“If the market gets flooded with crap, consumers could stop buying ebooks and instead do something else with their time and money, just as they did with videogames”—Joe Konrath.

I agree. I see that self e-pubbing thus far has been limited mostly to genre fiction, “pulp fiction” some could call it, and while there’s an audience for that writing, there is always the question of literary fiction. Sure, I know traditional literary fiction sales are never as lofty as Patterson or Grisham, but it’s yet to be seen if there will be a self-pubbed author who can produce high quality, eloquent prose, strong and eternal themes like J. Franzen, M.Angelou, B. Kingsolver, Cormac McCarthy, Norman Mailer, John Updike, etc.

Will the next F Scott Fitzgerald, J. Steinbeck or J.D. Salinger spring forth from the self published e-world? As a reader, oh how I long for it. I see, as yet, no examples of the highest quality literary fiction on self published e-works. I pine for it, amongst the “kingdom of dirt”, as Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash once sang.

Tara Maya said...

Harper Collins now offers this: qbend

"The future of publishing is digital. Qbend helps you to be ready for the future with delivery of digital content to desktop and laptop computers and a wide variety of supported ebook readers. The digital books have the ability to have highlighted text and adding annotations. With the worldwide eBook market estimated to grow at 42% each year for the next three years, now is the best time to be in the digital book business. With Qbend, your investment is minimal and you get remarkable savings in publishing and distribution costs."

Hmmmm!

Tara Maya
Initiate
Conmergence

Kathleen Dienne said...

I am one of those people planning to diversify by self-publishing stories while I continue to sell to publishers. (To be clear, I'm still selling erotic romance to e-publishers, not pursuing Big 6 publication. The timeline in traditional publication is too long for my needs.) The reason is simple:

Readers.

There are lots of readers willing to take a chance on self-published authors, and from what I can tell, a lot more who aren't. Ditto book bloggers. Those readers (who are still the majority) want a publisher name on the cover.

Well, okay. I want to reach those people. I think that once they read my work, they'll be willing to read my self-published material. They may not even realize it's self-published, since it'll just be sitting there on my Amazon shelf with all the rest.

If having a publisher's name on some of my covers brings in readers, I'm glad to give them what they want. I can always write more stories, and I will get the right back eventually - I even have the reversion dates on my calendar ;)

Eric Christopherson said...

Reading novels in the age of internet and video is a bubble.

Novels can take people places that video and the internet can't, particularly interior places. If you really want to know what it's like to be someone else, where can you go besides a novel?

Stephen T. Harper said...

Danielle said... "Also; writing novels is difficult, time consuming work. Even if there is a tsunami of ebooks, I don't think those who aren't serious will stick with it, leaving prolific writers who gain readership plenty of maneuvering room.

There'll be readers enough for everyone with a platform that's here to stay."

I completely agree with this.

Stephen T. Harper said...

Joe said... "I didn't say print will go away. It won't. But chain bookstores will, and ebooks will become the dominant format."

Every time I read this blog (which is every time Joe posts I think), somebody accuses him, or "all these indie authors," of saying print will go away. I'd just like to say to Joe, you have been perfectly clear about this all along. And I don't think I've ever read anyone actually saying that "print will go away," anywhere else for that matter. This straw man is so old.

J. Viser said...

Yes, there is a lot of self-published crap out there. Guess what? There is a lot of crap published by traditional publishers too.

But at 99 cents, the risk/reward ratio is nice for readers, as they can take a small risk in exchange for finding their next favorite read. Also, it enables literary entrepreneurs (most of the people reading this blog) to gain recognition, increase their perceived value and make money. What is more American that that?

There's always going to be a market for print books (it is hard to sign a Kindle!), but Joe is right, ebooks are here to stay. At this point, it is just a matter of how much long-term market share they will acquire.

Max Munro said...

I'm find your comment on the video games industry interesting.

"it shows what could happen in the ebook world once there are no longer any gatekeepers. If the market gets flooded with crap, consumers could stop buying ebooks and instead do something else with their time and money, just as they did with videogames."

Do you think there should be an App Store/XBLA/Steam for ebooks? A place where you know the items on sale are of a certain quality?

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

I am happy to report that I am $8.90 cents from break even on my first novel, which I should cover with today's or tomorrow's sales. This is the best thing I've ever done and thanks for the inspiring post.

I love the idea of things being infinite...people still by albums from years ago and will continue to do so. Just wait until ebooks are global...the sky is the limit!

*takes giant sip from Konrath Kool-Aid* mmm mmm, good!

Cheers!

Karly
www.karlykirkpatrick.com
www.darksidepublishing.com

Jordan Marshall said...

Hilarious. Looking at today's stock market, our local and global economies, the price of commodities like gas and energy, it's funny that someone would take the time to call e-books a "bubble." The comparison is beyond rational. It's desperate.

This thing that is happening right now is an opportunity for everyone who ever wanted to be an author. Millions will write books. Tens of thousands will do well. Sounds a lot like traditional print to me, but larger in scale. Certainly there will be more to shuffle through, and those who work the hardest will probably receive the biggest payoff.

Since publishing my books in January, I've already made more than I invested. I'm not in the 1,000 sales a month club yet, but I'm counting downloads in the hundreds and I'm still working. I'll have at least three more titles out this year, and I'm making money on everything I've written so far. Is there any greater validation for a writer?

Helen Hanson said...

To further the video game analogy . . . I worked in the industry during the early ‘90s, specifically, the coin-op side. I manufactured large-scale ride-on video games that went into the arcades. At the time, arcades were still a destination for gamers. In Japan, entire arcades targeted specific age groups: mommy-pullers, teens, dating couples.

The economics of home systems (high-quality graphics, multi-player, internet-based) killed the arcade business. Now you buy a system and add titles at will. When I visit arcades in 2011, I see games I made back then. The only new games are the redemption games offering tickets for trinkets.
For gamers, the arcade experience isn’t worth the on-going cost. Most twenty-four ounce hardbacks aren’t either.

The Kindle, iPad, Nook: each is a PlayStation and here to stay.

Anonymous said...

Novels can take people places that video and the internet can't, particularly interior places. If you really want to know what it's like to be someone else, where can you go besides a novel?

"The book was so much better than the movie."

How many times have you heard this on the way out of the movie theater? I could get rich if I had a dollar for each time I heard this after seeing a Harry Potter film.

The reading experience is always richer and more satisfying for a very large portion of the population.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those authors who recently "diversified" by accepting an offer for one of my books from a traditional publisher. It's true that I'll probably loose some money from eBooks, if that is the only line item considered.

There are other line items, though. I'll also be getting a number of things I didn't have, namely a third party will pay me an advance, sink $30-40K into printing my book, get it reviewed by the biggies (hopefully), get it into stores (hopefully) and into hundreds of library systems (almost certainly). My work will reach many readers who had not previously heard of me. That, hopefully, will lift my entire series.

So, it's always complicated and requires weighing a lot of different factors. One size does not fit all.

M.P. McDonald said...

Just a year ago, I was very depressed about not finding an agent. Fast forward, and now I'm so glad I didn't! This journey has been incredible and my success is all mine. I own it.

Tara Maya said...

I read somewhere that legacy publishers used the profits from genre fiction to pay big advances for literary novels. Most of the literary novels never paid out their advances, but occassionally one would win a pulitzer or something, winning prestige for the publisher, so publishers kept doing it. Meanwhile the money-making midlist genre writers got $5000 advances and lousy royalties to pay for this system.

If that was true, then the new system might indeed hit literary fiction hard. Literary writers are less likely to write multiple books, so unless they do write a pulitzer, they aren't likely to make the same kind of money that genre writers do, and if no one is there to steal genre writers' royalties to pay them a seven zero advance, how will they write?

Ok, I don't mean to sound too snarky. There is one indie literary writer I really admire, Wanda Shapiro. Go check her out.

Tara Maya
Conmergence

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> Actually, I think we're
> becoming tolerant of errors
> because they are so prevalent
> in the increasing way we
> communicate through
> the written word.

wrong.

the people who cannot spell
cannot even recognize typos,
since.. well... they can't spell.
so they always were "tolerant".

but those of us who _can_ spell?
typos continue to irritate us,
a lot, and the fact that there
are more of them now than ever
just means we're more irritated,
not that we're "more tolerant"...

so don't try to convince yourself
that "it doesn't matter"... to us,
it _does_ matter, it really does.

we suggest you use spellcheck.

seriously. it's not that difficult.

-bowerbird

Eugene said...

A reality check for the linguistic purists and pessimists by Alexis Madrigal: "Perhaps I've been inured to this sense of a fallen English language because I've rooted around in the history of technology. If your vision of the past is mostly Melville--the stuff that's endured--then, yeah, English seems like it's in damn sorry shape. But if it includes all those other low and middle-brow writings, the bad letters, the telegraphs, the stupid poems, you end up with a spikier, less formal take on language. Consider that in 1870, 20 percent of the population was illiterate. Surely, on that basis alone, we now live in a far better place for words."

Heidi C. Vlach said...

Ah, the video game industry! That's actually my personal inspiration for my writing. Here's another relevant link: http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/10/1018nintendo-nes-launches/

I think ebooks do face the same risk that the video game industry faced in the mid-80s. Hurrying to put out poor-quality material will only teach people that your material is poor-quality. But it's also possible to dig out of that hole and convince people that your particular product has merit. If Nintendo circa 1985 had pitched their products to other companies, they'd have been told in no uncertain terms that video games were impossible to market. But Nintendo persisted, worked hard, and became one of the most well-known names in a thriving industry. It's possible to beat the marketing department's expectations if you give it your all.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Anonymous wrote: "The book was so much better than the movie." "The reading experience is always richer and more satisfying for a very large portion of the population."

Potential sales:

E-books sell, if lucky, in the tens to hundreds of thousands (e.g. Amanda Hocking).

Traditional books (still) sell,if lucky, in the millions...

Movies, even if unlucky, sells in the tens to hundreds of millions.

Doesn;t matter if the book is better than the movie, people want the movie.

I'd take a nickel for every movie dollar before I'd take a quarter for every book sale on the same story.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Hell, I'd take a penny on every movie before a quarter on a book.

Coral Russell said...

As far as all the crap out there - it just goes to show that if the STORY is good, then it really doesn't matter that much.

I also agree with Kendall, language evolves and is evolving. Manual of Styles are great, but even they say that making understanding clear is really what punctuation is about. That being said, I will jump through hoops to make sure a story is in the best shape possible. But then, you can always edit an ebook. I send oops to authors quite a bit of books I'm reviewing.

The next exciting news for me will be universal ereaders. There's an app for that, but I know these are just around the corner. With programs like Calibre, you really don't need it, but still.

http://alchemyofscrawl.blogspot.com/

anthony newman said...

My daughters's school had suggested that to save money in the next few years, they may have certain classes use an e-book reader and have the textbooks placed on the device instead of the kids carrying all those books around. They say it will save the district thousands pere year. I also heard that some colleges are planning this in the future as well. I think that the ebooks are the wave of the future and will be around for a long time. Just as Itunes has pretty much destroyed the sales of cd's, tv on demand and netflix though the tv has killed off dvd and blu ray sales, ebooks will do the same to print in the near future.
I think only certain items that people covet(bibles etc) will still sell in print or old timers who like the feel of an actual book in their hands.

Tony said...

Some of the best writing in our human history has been in the last 20 years

I love ebooks and self publishing as much as the next guy, but you're obviously too biased to take seriously. This above quote of yours only shows that you either haven't read widely enough or you have no idea what you're talking about.

I'm going with the latter and assuming you want it to be true so badly that your perspective is completely out of wack.

Just for the record, the majority of books published in the last 20 years have been shit. The literary stuff is diluted by MFA programs, the genre stuff is trite and formulaic to fit into what the corporate publishers want to sell, and now the majority of self published ebooks are amateurish, which I guess is to be ecpected since the people writing them are, well... amateurs.

To say traditional publishing has been operating at their pinnacle for the last 20 years is absurd.

Justin said...

"Hell, I'd take a penny on every movie before a quarter on a book."

I realize that you're not trying for hard math, but you're comparing dollars to sales.

A nickel on a dollar would be something like a dime on a dollar for hardcover, if you want to make that particular comparison.

It's kind of ridiculous anyway you cut it, because most authors will never get a cut of the gross and will certainly never get five percent of the gross.

Yeah, Rowling might, but she's an abberration in more ways than one.

All that aside, there are a couple of thousand movies made each year. The vast majority (largely indepentent filsm) are seen by a handful of people, if any. A fairly small percentage of that get wide release, and a percentage of that actually make a real profit.

If you can get some to option your book...

If that movie actually gets made...

If you get some decent backend...

If the movie suceeds...

Lotsa if's.

You're vastly more likely to make money from books than from movies.

Justin said...

"Just for the record, the majority of books published in the last 20 years have been shit."

The majority of books published ever were shit. Sturgeon's law.

The thing about shitty entertainment, in general, is that it gets forgotten. The past looks brighter because you only see and remember the stuff worth talking about.

Anonymous said...

One thing to wonder about is where ebook pricing will settle? Songs are $0.99. Lots of apps and games are $0.99. DVD rentals are $0.99. Is there any reason to think that ebooks won't eventually be priced at $0.99 for the most part?

If you look at the music industry, are the musicians making a boatload of money from digital downloads? I could see writers eventually being in a similar situation.

My guess is we will see a flood of new indie books in the next year. What happens to pricing when instead of a 600,000 products for sale there five times that many?

Anonymous said...

I've got a new eBook that I want to be successful with, and a $1000 marketing budget. What should I do to make it happen?

Dustin Wilson said...

The question of language is simple.

Bad writing distracts the reader, and pulls them out of the story. Good writing attracts the reader and pulls them into the story.

You'll notice above that I used them, a technical error. I made the conscious decision that attaching a sex to the pronoun would be more distracting from my point than the technical error of using a plural, sexless pronoun in place of a singular sex-specific pronoun.

That's the decision writers make when they choose to break rules. Is this distracting, or does it work.

Obviously this is audience dependent. If you know who you are writing for then you'll have an idea whether or not your non-standard written structures are going to be distracting or effective.

Nothing is wrong for everyone, but everything is wrong for someone.

On a side note, an example of this is Blake Crouch. His stories (well, I admit I've only read RUN, so his story) are very tight, suspenseful, and dramatic. But, the constant abuse of silly and weird fragments constantly distracted me from the action.

This is a case where the situation was so tense, and I so needed to know what happens next that I was able to endure the questionable prose to keep going.

So there's the second point. Story is more important than style. Excellent story can carry mediocre style. Perfect style will not; however, make a dull story interesting.

A.P. Fuchs said...

Glad to finally have traditionally-published authors on the self-publishing train. What took you guys so long?

Anyway, I agree the bubble won't burst, but the caution about "souring the public" is a real one because, yes, a lot of crap can flood the market and unless the good stuff is made blatantly known to Joe and Jane Reader, they won't find it. "The creme rises to the top" argument only goes so far. If consumerism has taught us anything, it's that customers want to have the product easily accessible without the need to dig. (Think about the last time you went to Walmart to see what I mean.)

On a side note, I followed Scott Nicholson along for his 90-day blog tour. Sadly, I didn't win a Kindle, but I did keep a catalog of all my responses to his entries. Some of it is chit-chat, but most of it is thoughts on writing and publishing based on whatever it was he talked about that day. Sometimes we agreed. Sometimes not. Regardless, it might be informative reading for those who post here.

Just go to my blog at www.canisterx.com. Today I posted the 17th entry in the series. Click on the "Self-publishing" link on the bottom left corner of the entry for more.

Kendall Swan said...

@Coolkayaker1

I agree with you on the revenue side of things. However, authorprenuers should be looking at the expense side of things as well.

TV and movies are so completely expensive to make!! Even with all the new technology for shooting and editing and web distribution, it still costs a ton of cash of shoot a movie or a pilot.

Books, on the other hand, are relatively cheap to produce- even print books. Print costs suck but they are so minor compared to other artistic endeavors.

There is a reason we indie/epubbers are blissed out about this opportunity--it's because the costs (and therefore the risk) are so dang cheap!!

I worked at a small studio in Hollywood for a bit (right out of college-- great party job!) so I'm not making this stuff up.

I would take a penny (of profit) of every ebook before I would take a penny (of profit) of every movie.

Kendall Swan

NAKED Vampire

Joe Konrath said...

I'm one of those authors who recently "diversified" by accepting an offer for one of my books from a traditional publisher.

Congrats. I hope it does very well.

It's true that I'll probably loose some money from eBooks, if that is the only line item considered.

It's all your publisher considers. They don't care about you, or your book. Oddly enough, some of the business decisions you'll see them make will make you wonder if they care about money as well.

They do care about money. They just aren't good at making it.

a third party will pay me an advance, sink $30-40K into printing my book, get it reviewed by the biggies (hopefully), get it into stores (hopefully) and into hundreds of library systems (almost certainly).

An advance is nice, but as I said in this blog post, it's like a balloon loan.

Would you borrow $50k if you knew, in ten years, it'll cost you $500k?

Because when you compare 70% to 14.9% over ten or fifteen years' worth of sales, that advance is just cheese in a mousetrap.

As for reviews, most major newspapers have cut their review section, and no one much cares about the few reviewers that are left. I was never reviewed by the NYT or People or EW.

Stores? I hope there are still stores left when your book comes out.

Libraries? Me too. My ebooks will soon be available in more than 10,000 libraries.

My work will reach many readers who had not previously heard of me. That, hopefully, will lift my entire series.

I can look at my legacy sales numbers and compare those (and those of the majority of my peers) to my self-pubbed numbers, and I'm reaching A LOT more people by self-pubbing.

So, it's always complicated and requires weighing a lot of different factors. One size does not fit all.

I agree. But your reasons for going with a legacy publisher don't make much sense to me.

Then again, I've had legacy publishers, so I know what to expect. There are a lot of new authors who really do think signing a deal is a good thing.

Which is why I keep beating my drum...

A.P. Fuchs said...

1. Is the ebook phenomenon genre-centric?

First, the eBook phenomenon covers all books. But, it's an issue of WHICH books that sell a whole ton, whereas others don't regardless of quality, price point, covers, etc.

This is my controversial experiment I'm aiming at launching at the end of the month.

It might upset a lot of writers if indeed my theory is true, but I am convinced based on what I've seen and even experienced myself, that genre is a KEY factor to success. More specifically, THE factor. In fact, I'm so sure that I went out of my way and wrote a vampire trilogy to prove it. They'll be released all at once end of March, assuming all goes well on the production end.

I'm going to explain my theory on my blog, post sales, etc. to prove it.

Hopefully some beneficial information will be gained for all tuning in.

Okay. Back to work. Later.

A.P. Fuchs said...

And my post before the last one got deleted again.

It's happened before. Maybe it'll resurface like the others sometime later today.

As you were.

Anonymous said...

@bowerbird

I agree with you about spelling and typos. I just wish you felt the same way about capitalization. Your replies are generally insightful, even if I don't always agree with you, but I find them difficult to read, and tend to skip the longer ones.

Anonymous said...

"I agree. But your reasons for going with a legacy publisher don't make much sense to me."

The secret when you have multiple titles is to not become too nearsighted and focus only on one thing (one book, one format, one year, etc.). The entire series or collection is the focus.

The books are like individual players on a team. Sometimes someone bunts to advance a runner to third. Sure, you get an out at first, but you may end up winning the game.

Those who get ahead will be those who aren't afraid to take risks. Inevitably, those risks must be weighed against future events, which are not known, although change is certain. Publisher are already raising eBook royalties (sorry, can't disclose numbers) and in the same vein Kindle royalties may fall come 6/30/11 when Apple's app policy goes into effect (assuming it does).

Everything's a crapshoot. The important thing is to be in the game and be shooting.

Nancy Beck said...

but those of us who _can_ spell?
typos continue to irritate us,
a lot, and the fact that there
are more of them now than ever
just means we're more irritated,
not that we're "more tolerant"...


QFT. For me, anyway. :-)

I've been working in the corporate world as a secretary/admin. assist./exec. assist./whatever for...longer than I care to admit. ;-) It drives me absolutely nuts when I come upon typo after typo...or punctuation mistakes.

I'm anal that way ;-), and I'm not about to change. Get the spelling and punctuation down (and throw in a little bit of that grammar stuff, too), and I'll definitely give it a look-see.

I might "tolerate" it if there's only the occasional typo/whatever, but I'll pass if I see such stuff in almost every paragraph.

we suggest you use spellcheck.

seriously. it's not that difficult.


And I'd suggest not to depend entirely on spellcheck. Have someone else look at it, or use the Read Out Loud function in Adobe Reader.

Joe Konrath said...

<(sorry, can't disclose numbers)

LOL. You're ANONYMOUS, and afraid to disclose numbers?

Are you anonymous and also smoking crack? :)

I've seen some of the new numbers that publishers are offering. They still suck.

Anything under 50% sucks. And why would I take 50% when I can get 70%?

Anonymous said...

>>I'm talking about objective criteria - meaning spelling errors, grammar errors, and typing errors.<<

Yes, same experience. Unfortunately what we are tapping into is the slush pile. But the advantage is that we get to read a sample, which should be the virtual gatekeeper for us.

I don't understand why authors can't employ a proofreader if nothing else. Doesn't have to be a big time editor or copy editor, just an experienced proofreader, preferably not your Mum / Mom.

JD Rhoades said...

The reference to some writers talking about "diversification" may be a reference to this post I wrote over at Murderati:

http://www.murderati.com/blog/2011/2/23/diversify.html

Or it may not. I'm pretty vain but I don't think every song's about me.

And if it is, that's cool; Joe and I have disagreed before, and I assume we're still friends.

But I stand by the ideas I mention in the Kristine Katherine Rusch blog post I reference in that post, to wit:


I personally want readers and I want as many readers as possible. More readers equal more money—of course—but more readers also equal a long-term career. If my book is in print from a Big Publisher, then theoretically the book is attracting readers. If my book is in print from my self-publishing arm or an indie publisher, then theoretically the book is attracting readers. And that, my friends, is really what matters.


The whole Rusch post is worth a read:

http://kriswrites.com/2011/02/10/the-business-rusch-beginning-writers-again-sort-of-changing-times-part-17/

In fact, the whole blog is worth bookmarking.

Thing is, while e-books are growing, there's still a substantial audience out there who prefers a a paper book. And when it comes to getting lots of paper books out, "legacy publishing" is, right now, the best at that. And that's why I diversify.

Peter Darbyshire said...

The diversification is sometimes necessary, depending on where you are and your place in the market. I'm a Canadian writer, and we're definitely behind in the ebook revolution. My print copies outsell my ebooks by a pretty considerable margin in Canada. Could my ebooks sell more in the long run? Probably, but in the meantime my career is being made by print here, not ebooks, so it's hard to walk away from that.

That said, I'm strongly considering self-pubbing my latest book on Kindle in the U.S. rather than trying to sell American rights (it's already published in Canada with HarperCollins, and that's where it will stay for now).

I actually just wrote an article about Canadian writers experimenting with diversification for the paper where I work. It seems like a lot of Canadians are in the same canoe.

I don't know -- maybe legacy publishing in one place and self-pubbing in another?

Interesting times.

Joe Konrath said...

Dusty, I'm making $100 a day on the print books I self-pubbed.

I'm not saying people don't read print. I'm saying you don't need a publisher to get your print books in peoples' hands.

I haven't read your essay (I will right now), but if you look through the comments you'll see that I've shown you can reach more readers through self-pubbing.

More readers do equal more money. But self-pubbing gets you more of both, in the long run.

Anonymous said...

"I've seen some of the new numbers that publishers are offering. They still suck."

I have good information that some publishers are paying 30% off the top, i.e., for a $10 sale the author gets $3.00. Those numbers are for midlisters. I'm sure the name authors are negotiating even better deals. The point is that the game is changing.

Having a book in the legacy system (print and in the traditional distribution channels) may make sense to some authors. It did for me. It might not for someone else. One size doesn't fit all, and any one answer is not necessarily the right one for everyone.

The good news is that anyone who becomes successful at self-publishing and then gets a legacy offer will already know the game. That person will know what factors need to be weighed and how to weigh them.

Joe Konrath said...

Good article, Dusty.

But you failed to make a decent argument for why anyone should continue to go with legacy publishing. You made a much better argument for self-pubbing.

Joe Konrath said...

I have good information that some publishers are paying 30% off the top, i.e., for a $10 sale the author gets $3.00.

It ain't 70% off the top. SO it ain't good enough.

The good news is that anyone who becomes successful at self-publishing and then gets a legacy offer will already know the game.

Well, they'll know one side of the game (self-pubbing.) To know the other side, you have to have done it.

I've seen a few successful self-publishers take a nibble at the mousetrap cheese, and it pains me. Because I know how the story will end--less money, more heartache.

I know this from experience. Not just my own, but from the dozens of peers I've discussed this with.

I know hundreds of writers. But less than a dozen of those have truly been treated well by their publishers. And those that have been still have some pretty substantial complaints.

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

"anonymous" said:
> I agree with you about
> spelling and typos.
> I just wish you
> felt the same way
> about capitalization.

i am acutely aware
of the irony... :+)

and that is specifically
why i encourage people
to skip my posts rather
than be irritated by them.

***

nancy beck said:
> I'm anal that way ;-), and
> I'm not about to change.

well, i _wish_ i could change.

i don't like to get irritated,
especially by something so
small and insignificant, but
i just can't help noticing it.

luckily, i am able to keep it
somewhat in perspective...

i just didn't want anyone to
get the impression that it is
now ok to ignore spelling,
since we're "more tolerant".

if you write "patients" for
"patience", or vice versa.
then i am _not_ "tolerant"
of your ignorance of words,
and i think less of you as
a writer, and i'm less likely
to enjoy your book, and
to remain your customer.


> And I'd suggest
> not to depend entirely
> on spellcheck.

i agree. but i would be
happy if some people
used it as a first step or
even as a bare minimum.

when i see typos which
woulda been flagged by
spellcheck, that tells me
the author doesn't care.
not even the slightest bit.


> Have someone else
> look at it, or use the
> Read Out Loud function
> in Adobe Reader.

yes! i can vouch that using
text-to-speech is a most
_excellent_ way to proof.

it also helps point out
clunkiness in phrasing.

i recommend it _highly_.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

"It ain't 70% off the top. SO it ain't good enough."

True, 30 isn't 70. An author can take the 70% and run as far as he/she can get by themselves, on their own, maybe far, maybe nowhere.

Or, an author can give up 40% and in return gain entry into the print distribution system and garner a wider readership.

There are pros and cons both ways. If you have multible books (not to mention the ability to write more), it doesn't hurt to have a few placed with a legacy publisher.

Ellen Fisher said...

"when i see typos which
woulda been flagged by
spellcheck, that tells me
the author doesn't care.
not even the slightest bit."

I concur. None of us should be releasing a book that has overt misspellings that could be caught by spellcheck. It's not good for your career, and it's not good for indies as a whole. It's not as if running spellcheck on a document is a really challenging procedure:-).

kathie shoop said...

Readers! Readers! Readers! I want readers!

Yes, I'd love critical acclaim.

Yes, I'd love for my fellow authors to gush over my work. Who knows maybe I'll be lucky enough to find some praise in those places, (so far from most trad. pubbed authors who I "know" it's been crickets regarding my decision to s.p.) but as I finish my pre-pub prep (The Last Letter will release May 1) all I can think is, how do I get to readers?

For so long we've been told average person can't discern a good book from "bad," but really, readers make the literary world go 'round.

If the only people we needed to please were the publishers, agents and fellow writers, then I'd be in big trouble.

But the more I talk to READERS, the more I see they don't give a damn where a book is published if the story intrigues them.

And, frankly I'm tired of the rhetoric that says readers are too dumb to decide what they like. Read on America!

Joe Konrath said...

Or, an author can give up 40% and in return gain entry into the print distribution system and garner a wider readership.

Ack. The "wider readership" argument doesn't hold water.

I had seven books published by the legacy system. My last publisher bought an ad for me in USA Today, and toured me.

By last count, that book, Afraid, reached about 50,000 people in two years of sales.

Right now, with my book The List, I'm selling 700 copies a day. I'll reach 50,000 people, on my own, in less than three months.

And that doesn't include the 25,000 copies of The List I've already sold in the past two years.

When you see your first royalty statement (18 months from the pub date) you'll stop the "wider audience" talk.

J. Noel said...

Almost a commodity for sure. Lots of choices, lots of ebooks will continue to be made. Readers will have tons of choices.

From FREE to $3 a pop, it's inexpensive to take a risk on a new indie author. eBooks will continue to grow, and traditional publishing will be forced to either adjust or disappear.

Selena Kitt said...

Can you read this?

"I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too."

The truth is most people don't even SEE the typos. Those that do, if they enjoy the story, overlook them.

The method of telling a story is changing - but the storytelling isn't. Writers TELL STORIES. If you are a good story teller, you will succeed, typos be damned.

We are going from print to ebook... there was a time when we went from oral storytelling to written storytelling. But the stories themselves... those were the thing. That was the commodity, that was what had value.

That is what has value still.

It might drive publishers (and some readers and authors) crazy - but the story was ALWAYS what mattered.

BTW - did I miss something? Did Hocking sign a Big 6 contract?

Tara Maya said...

Doesn't have to be a big time editor or copy editor, just an experienced proofreader, preferably not your Mum / Mom.

But she needs the money!

JD Rhoades said...

Good article, Dusty.

Domo arigato, sensei. :-)

But you failed to make a decent argument for why anyone should continue to go with legacy publishing. You made a much better argument for self-pubbing.

Which is what I was, and am, announcing that I'm doing in the article (and if I may be permitted a moment of BSP, my first novel, the Shamus Award-nominated THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND, is now back on sale for Kindle for only .99)

http://tinyurl.com/5rwctkn

But I don't see an argument that they're mutually exclusive. Why turn my back on a whole part of the audience?

Joe Konrath said...

I loved The Devil's Right Hand. Everyone should go buy it.

JD Rhoades said...

The truth is most people don't even SEE the typos. Those that do, if they enjoy the story, overlook them.

The method of telling a story is changing - but the storytelling isn't. Writers TELL STORIES. If you are a good story teller, you will succeed, typos be damned.


The problem is, for me, a typo is like a mental pothole. It's a jolt of wrongness--and it reminds me that I'm reading. The most sublime moments for me come when I'm so enraptured by the story that I'm not thinking of it as a book any more. I'm THERE...and then a tiepo comes along and knoks me bak to realitee.

And I HATE relaitee.

Selena Kitt said...

I loved The Devil's Right Hand.

But what about his left?

*ducking*

JD Rhoades said...

I loved The Devil's Right Hand. Everyone should go buy it.


As always, many thanks, my friend. And your stuff rocks as well, but I suspect these nice folks already knew that.

And hey, if your readers want to throw so many sales my way that I reconsider my position on diversification, everybody wins, no?

Lee McAulay said...

After months of reading this blog (and relevant others) I self-published a few short stories and a novella last month (Feb 2011). I made my first sales last week - how happy am I now :-D? Thanks, Joe, for all the advice and encouragement. Keep up the good work!
Lee

Sam said...

Great post (and comments)!

I find it interesting that so many are talking about Amanda Hocking, but nobody's mentions John Locke, who now has the #1 and #3 books on Kindle (plus 4 or 5 more in the top 100).

I've only read one sample from his books, but they seem to contradict some of the "rules" for successful indies (such as: have a professional cover, write a great product description, and have a big internet presence). He has many 1-star reviews, but also seems to have a real talent for entertaining readers.

Not knowing what, if anything, he's done to promote his books, I'd guess the major success factors are the crime/suspense genre, delivering what his target audience wants, plus 99 cent prices. Oh--and luck! :-)

Anonymous said...

"The "wider readership" argument doesn't hold water."

Option A (Self): Ebooks only (plus some limited POD sales)

Option B (Legacy): Ebooks plus books in libraries plus books on store shelves. Plus much greater chance for foreign rights sales. Plus at least some chance for a movie option. Plus follow-up TP and MM editions, again on store shelves. Plus reviews and name recognition at PW, Kirkus, Booklist, LJ, etc., which can be used to sell other books in the series.

There's ceretainly an argument that Option B will result in a larger readership for just the one book at issue, not to mention lifting the entire series overall.

Ty Johnston said...

--snicker--

Joe, I recently bought Dark Side of the Moon in CD. Again. For the fourth time. Hadn't heard it in years and wanted a copy for my Explorer, which has cassette and a CD player.

Whatever happened to my other three copies? Ya got me. Between moves and life, who knows?

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Robert Bruce Thompson said...

books in libraries

Don't count on it. Library budgets are getting cut dramatically. In fiction, most libraries focus on bestsellers and mid-list authors who are already popular with their patrons. Even there, many of the midlisters are being shut out.

And libraries aren't going to be in the fiction business all that much longer. They're about as endangered as bookstores, at least as fiction sources.

plus books on store shelves

Again, for how long? Best realistic case, one or two copies of your book may remain on the average store shelf for a month or so, spine-out.

I write non-fiction, so my experience may not be directly applicable for a novelist, but in the last 15 years I've seen my sell-in on a new title go from ~15,000 to 20,000 copies to maybe half that. Bookstores that used to order a dozen or two dozen copies now order two or three. Fortunately, most of those that aren't bought stay on the shelves for much longer than a typical novel, but even so.

Plus much greater chance for foreign rights sales.

Has any author actually made much money on these. Usually, at best, foreign rights bring enough for a nice dinner.

Plus at least some chance for a movie option.

You might as well bet on being struck by lightning. Also, I was under the impression that most novels that are optioned were intentionally written for that purpose.

Plus follow-up TP and MM editions, again on store shelves.

Again, not for long, and that's assuming the store shelves are even there by the time your book hits print. Chances are good they won't be. Borders is shutting down, and B&N B&M stores probably will start closing soon as well. Unless you expect to get your books in airport shops and WalMart, this really isn't much of an argument.

Plus reviews and name recognition at PW, Kirkus, Booklist, LJ, etc., which can be used to sell other books in the series.

Nope. These are all increasingly immaterial. What counts is the number and average of your reviews on Amazon.

chris said...

@Sam:

I bought two of John Locke's ebooks and I thought they were brilliant.

I wouldn't buy them as print books but as 99 cent ebooks they are just right. They're easy reading, super fast and pretty damn funny.

He's going to make a killing on these titles.

In fact, I think he has the perfect product for the 99 cent price point.

Anonymous said...

I saw this on Sunday night.

Andy Rooney talks about how he's heard that the traditional book is dead (and how he hates e-books -- no surprise).

I thought you might be interested in what he said.

http://tv.gawker.com/#!5778076/andy-rooney-hates-e+books

Josie Wade

bowerbird said...

selena said:
> The truth is most people
> don't even SEE the typos.
> Those that do,
> if they enjoy the story,
> overlook them.

this attitude amuses me.
go ahead and believe it...


> "I cnduo't bvleiee taht
> I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd
> waht I was rdnaieg.

selena, i dare you to format
your future books this way...

i'll write the program to do
the scrambles automatically
if you say that you'll use it.

put your money where your
mouth is; then i'll believe you.

***

j.d. rhoades said:
> a typo is like a mental pothole

that's the best description ever!

(some people don't even
_notice_ the potholes...)

-bowerbird

Tara Maya said...

I can't see typos. You could have entire words missing, and because of the way I read, I'd just fill them in with my mind unconsciously and keep going. But poor grammar and clunky prose, PoV mistakes, confusing plots and unconvincing world-building will kill a book for me. I do love elegant style. However, unimaginative prose with a few typos but a strong story will make me happy even in the absence of elegance.

Tara Maya
Conmergence

Stephen T. Harper said...

Kendall said... "However, authorprenuers should be looking at the expense side of things as well.

TV and movies are so completely expensive to make!! Even with all the new technology for shooting and editing and web distribution, it still costs a ton of cash of shoot a movie or a pilot.

Books, on the other hand, are relatively cheap to produce- even print books. Print costs suck but they are so minor compared to other artistic endeavors."

So, so true. The books I plan to put out into this market over the next few years will mostly be based on the spec screenplays and tv pilots I've been writing. That's why my head is spinning over this opportunity that's suddenly being presented to all of us.

In the mean time, my one book is moving right along in development. But the idea that I could be earning income on books forever, just for writing them, without the need for a massive investment of cash and man-power, while continuing to create new things for other mediums... well it's just a dream come true.

Any writer whose work has come to maturity in the last couple of years is incredibly lucky. This blog reminds me of that 3-5 times a week.

Joe Konrath said...

Option B (Legacy): Ebooks plus books in libraries plus books on store shelves.

You keep trying, but sorry, no cigar.

I've sold a few hundred copies on bookstore shelves. My old bookseller buddies have ordered them and are stocking them.

As for libraries, I'm using Overdrive, which supplies ebooks to 10,000 libraries.

Guess what? 10,000 libraries haven't bought my Jack Daniels books in print. So again, I can do better on my own.

Plus much greater chance for foreign rights sales. Plus at least some chance for a movie option.

Just landed my first foreign rights deal for a self-pubbed ebook. It will be the first of many.

Also working on another film option for a self pubbed ebook. Just got a bite today.

All of my ebooks have been sold to audiobook publishers.

Plus follow-up TP and MM editions, again on store shelves.

Again, store shelves don't mean much. I sell more ebooks on my own than print & ebooks combined through a legacy publisher, because they price them too high.

Plus reviews and name recognition at PW, Kirkus, Booklist, LJ, etc., which can be used to sell other books in the series.

I've been reviewed in all of thos,e miltiple times.

And yet, I sell more of my ebooks which weren't reviewed in those journals. So how important are those journals?

Answer=not very.

There's ceretainly an argument that Option B will result in a larger readership for just the one book at issue, not to mention lifting the entire series overall.

Dude, again, for the nth time, I DID OPTION B SEVEN TIMES!

Option A, self-pubbing, will sell more books, and earn more money.

Anyone who chooses Option B is pissing away potential cash.

Tara Maya said...

And yet, I sell more of my ebooks which weren't reviewed in those journals. So how important are those journals?

I think this is an important point. The digital/indie model does not just include new production and distribution methods but new promotion methods.

Tara Maya
Initiate
Conmergence

Selena Kitt said...

selena, i dare you to format your future books this way...

i'll write the program to do the scrambles automatically if you say that you'll use it.

put your money where your mouth is; then i'll believe you.


Don't have to. Lots of authors out there outselling me who have pretty much done that already. And no, I'm not naming names. :P

Wouldn't it be great if the cream really did rise to the top and the really well written and crafted books were the ones that sold the most?

Reality is very different from our ideals.

Ellen O'Connell said...

"The truth is most people don't even SEE the typos. Those that do, if they enjoy the story, overlook them."

Sorry, I don't believe this. Yes, people overlook some typos or flaws for a good story, but mistakes like the previously mentioned "patients" vs. "patience" or other blatant errors in a book's description or in the Kindle sample? Maybe the book will still sell, but it's going to sell a lot less than it could when readers like me zap it without ever getting far enough to register the supposedly great story.

wannabuy said...

Joe,

The 1984 video game crash only can partially apply (as you probably know). In that crash, the ROM cartridge video game market fell apart most as the floppy based video game market was taking off.

Kindle and Nook have insulated themselves against that by being available as hardware and an application.

The danger of ROM based video games was the manufacturing cost. Floppies were less, but still require inventory. Ebooks just require enough servers. Amazon only has 'an issue' if total ebook demand plummets (unlikely) or out-paces their server capacity.

Since Amazon can handle video distribution... I think they can handle ebooks. ;)

@Joe:As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Love that quote. It is why they talk about ebooks as a bubble and not like streaming video vs. Blueray.

Physical media has high inherent risks if the seller miss-predicts demand. You either make too few and miss a hot selling season or, as is typically the case, make too many and incur those costs.

Physical media also requires 'economy of scale' to make cheaply. That is going away...
Neil

Neal Kristopher said...

Bowerbird,

Is there a reason you format your responses that way? Is it intentional?

I keep getting disappointed when they don't rhyme...

Good post, Joe and I agree entirely.

Neal

jtplayer said...

To say typos are ok is the same thing as saying half-assed is "good enough", IMO.

There's absolutely no reason for sloppy writing or formatting. Take pride in your work and do it right, and do it professionally.

Mark said...

Ebooks aren't a bubble, but perhaps ebook pricing sort of is -- it's higher now than it will be in the future.

Joe, you have predicted that ebooks will one day be free and ad-supported. What percentage of writers will be able to make a living in this kind of environment?

Again, I look at other industries and I see prices dropping once they switch to digital downloads.

I just wonder when there are three million ebooks for sale if most of them will be priced at $0.99, and if writers will be able to make a living at that price?

Robert said...

I just wonder when there are three million ebooks for sale if most of them will be priced at $0.99, and if writers will be able to make a living at that price?

The good ones will. Because the cluttered marketplace will adapt by providing all kinds of reliable reviewing, voting, and quality screening options, to help the prospective customer separate the wheat from the cliche. That kind of service will become a growth industry, and reliable recommendations and "pointers" to works of quality will become increasingly valuable and necessary.

Amazon customer reviews already give us some of that: real live readers telling us what was good, what was crap, and why. Over time, the various regular reviewers themselves will acquire a cachet among readers for their relative objectivity and reliability.

Bottom line: Fear not. Quality rises to the top -- maybe not immediately, but over time, as the word gets out and authors develop their individual "brands."

-- Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Anonymous said...

"Just landed my first foreign rights deal for a self-pubbed ebook. It will be the first of many."

I'll agree with that. It used to be that no one was interested in buying foreign rights unless the book was published in the US by a legacy publisher. The legacy was the gatekeeper for the rest of the world, in effect.

That's changing, slowly and not by much yet, but changing nonetheless. I foresee those who buy foreign rights starting to hunt down good selling US indie authors the same way agents are already doing it.

Mark said...

"The good ones will. Because the cluttered marketplace will adapt by providing all kinds of reliable reviewing, voting, and quality screening options, to help the prospective customer separate the wheat from the cliche. That kind of service will become a growth industry, and reliable recommendations and "pointers" to works of quality will become increasingly valuable and necessary."

My response to this is look at the music industry. Has self-publishing and digital downloads created thousands of new musicians now making a living off music sales?

I don't know the answer to this but my guess is no.

And with the sea of songs available, is it easy to screen out the bad ones and find the good ones?

Again, I don't know. I think it's worth looking at a similar industry that has been at the digital download game longer to see how things have shaken out for it.

My prediction is that unknown self-publishing writers will eventually be pricing most of their work at $0.99. Once a writer gets a reputation, he or she may be able to price higher.

The other unknown factor is what is Amazon going to do eventually? It wasn't that long ago they only offered 35% instead of the 70% they offer now. I wouldn't be surprised to see them scale back royalties once they feel the ebook market is mature -- clearly now they are trading profit for growing the ebook market, but eventually, perhaps soon, they will be unwilling to do that.

The other unknown from Amazon is will they continue to list poorly selling ebooks? At some point they may feel the customer experience is being degraded by too many ebooks being listed. Or perhaps not.

Thing is, when I see Joe make monetary projections based on ten years of sales, he's assuming that things will stay just as they are today. That's a lot of assuming.

jeroen ten berge said...

Accepting typos in tweets I get. When I use skype or gmail chat (I don't twoot) I can be slack too, but hate it when I read back sent messages with blatant typos and mistakes. But nobody cares and probably rightly so.

Emails are a step up - blogs even more so, and should be as flawless as possible. A blog represents what you stand for, bad writing gives the impression you're either sloppy, don't care, don't know better or all of the above. That said, when I read someone's blog with grammatical mistakes and typos I usually don't care much - I'm entering someone else's house, their rules apply, and it's free.

With books, however, it pisses me off. For the exact same reason J.D. Rhoades mentioned... I see the darn typos and mistakes, and they destroy the flow I'm in. Find one - that can happen, find two - I become annoyed, more than that I put the book away, unless I'm really digging the story.

Assuming people like me are far and few between is a mistake. Not using your talent and skills to the best of your capability is a crime.

Just sayin'

Lundeen Literary said...

"yes! i can vouch that using
text-to-speech is a most
_excellent_ way to proof.

it also helps point out
clunkiness in phrasing.

i recommend it _highly_."


So do I, but be prepared. TextEdit for Mac has a read aloud function, too. I used it on a piece of work lately as a test, just to see if reading aloud really did help. O_O ...yeah, that MS is back in the "to-edit" pile after only 3 pages read. Sounded AWFUL. Glad I'm taking another look before thinking about release...

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

Zoe Winters said...

Thank you for saying this. I'm so tired of hearing about the "gold rush". First it was: indie authors can't make any money. Then once several of us have started making our livings this way it's: "Those indie authors better enjoy it now, because they have 3-5 years tops to make money before the bubble bursts."

It's not literal gold. It isn't a limited resource. The truth is that most self-published authors are not going to make a living most likely. But, if YOU can make a living, that's all you need to do. As selfish and horrible as it sounds, you don't have to worry about whether or not "everybody" can do something. Only if you can. And there are so many factors that go into who succeeds and who fails and why and to what degree, that most of us really have no clue about anybody else's writing career path. Peeps need to keep their eyes on their own paper, look for opportunities, capitalize on opportunities, and ignore all this Chicken Little BS.

Sanguine said...

I'm so shocked by people who don't see what is going not only with e-books but digital media in general. We're fast reaching a point where good quality media can be produced by anyone. Provided they have the drive and talent.

And folks, don't we all recall a little thing called a 'vinyl record'. Try to find one those in a store today.

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

"And folks, don't we all recall a little thing called a 'vinyl record'. Try to find one those in a store today."

Actually, vinyl records are quite popular these days, and many new releases come out in that format, as well as compact disc and digital download.

Granted, there aren't many record stores around, but Amazon has plenty of new vinyl for sale, and lots of other online retailers do as well.

Also, my local Target has at least half a dozen record players for sale. Imagine that.

The compact disc has survived digital downloading, vinyl has survived compact discs, and paper books will survive ebooks.

You can count on that.

Ellen Fisher said...

"The compact disc has survived digital downloading, vinyl has survived compact discs, and paper books will survive ebooks.

You can count on that."

I agree. However, I think the relevant question isn't so much, "Will paper books survive?" as it is, "Will paper books become a niche market?... and if so, when?" Bestsellers in airports, POD, chapbooks-- these probably aren't going anywhere. But a better question is, when will ordinary readers become more likely to download an ebook than to buy a paper book?

Personally, I think it'll be a while. But we shall see.

Joe Konrath said...

The compact disc has survived digital downloading, vinyl has survived compact discs, and paper books will survive ebooks.

Vinyl is niche, like print will become.

Compact disks survived because they ARE digital, and can be played on iPods.

Good luck reading your print version of War and Peace on a Kindle.

David Alastair Hayden said...

I'm certain there is a small bubble effect due to certain readers I know purchasing ebook versions of books they already own for the convenience of carrying them around all the time. This bubble is off-set for now by all the new readers pouring in, many of whom do the same. Eventually, this will taper off and the small bubble will retract, probably without anyone noticing.

Coolkayaker1 said...

e-books will be 95% of books within ten years. The other 5% will be catalogues and non-fiction (e.g. travel books), unless devices get better with "flipping" around books.

That said, there's so much rubbish being thrown onto e-pubbing already, it's hard to find the jewels.

Joe Konrath, a fine writer of his genre, will get lost in the shuffle as every couch potato reads this blog and decides to schlep their half-witted vanity novel on Amazon and sell it for 99 cents. Readers, like me, have only so many quarters burning holes in our trousers, and can't buy every book, even for 99 cents, just to find the gems.

Anyone with the ability to assist readers to locate the best of the best (like an Oprah's book club, online) will be the future of e-retailing.

Unfortunately, the crap is flying onto "the cloud" faster than the Indians can do their rain dance.

Todd said...

How's Overdrive working out for you in terms of library pick-ups?

Archangel said...

being pub'd legacy big 6 which sometimes has been brilliant big 6 and other times bozo big 6-- and growing up rural... the new presumed 30% royalty is chaff. We want wheat. You can replant wheat seed. Chaff is only dry shuck.

dr.cpe

Archangel said...

It's a good point about typos and wrong words being distracting. I try hard to be scrupulous about spelling and scrying for typos so reader not trip over my own fractures. Yet, too, I think of those of us for whom English is not first language, (or second) or growing up in our immigrant and refugee families who couldnt speak English well. We have idiosyncrasies in our speech that is typical of our dialect. It doesnt fit "standard English." I think too of those of us with a form of dyslexia (I call it lexdixia... that's an inside joke amongst us 'whats gots it,') that hinders painfully when we have to choose between two similar looking spellings in spellcheck. We have and will hire and/or ask for 2nd and 3rd readers to comb through , but prof. proofreaders are best and do cost $... which brings me to ...
some say there is little cost to writing books. I think of immense amounts of time I've spent... sometimes 80%+/- throwaway of my pouring over pages of pages. I think of months of research, plowing through even when sick, and onward. It seems that cost of writing is very high. Been self employed 41 years. 5 recessions. It ain't without cost. Not even counting cost of covers, editing, paper, printer, computer et al. $s for proofreading has to be set into the equation for those of us who 'cant see' our own work after a while. Costs upfront are not little, I think. Unless you're like the fellow who wrote a bestseller in two weeks, by his claim... 'britches of the madman and counting'... ok ok bridges of madison county. Tha's what he said.
Just my .02

Rock on joe

dr.cpe

AstroNerdBoy said...

As someone who tried and failed to get a novel published years ago, I'm going to have to go through your entire blog now and absorb the information you are providing. I never even remotely considered the possibility of actually selling stuff on ebook platforms that were self-published.

I do wonder about chaff though. I could write some piece of crap and while it wouldn't sell (and doom on me for it), I can envision a scenario where it becomes more of a chore to try to sift the good from the bad.

Thanks for taking the time to help wannabe writers like me. ^_^

Lesley Galston / Sloanwriter said...

Hi Jo

I do love your posts, it inspires me to continue with ebooks. My husband now loves reading books on his Ipad.
I have a Sony reader, and love trying new authors that I probably would not try in hardback.
Keep up the great work, you certainly inspire this reader.

Marcia Colette said...

Great post!

People want to apply the "bubble" to ebooks because they're looking for it to fail. When you compare the price of an ebook to a print one, the only bubble I see is the one about to burst in traditional publishing.

I think one reason why ebooks haven't taken over the market is the price of ereading devices. They're coming down. Fast. When they reach the right price, the only *whoosh* you'll hear is the rest of the traditionally published authors flooding into self-publishing where it's an open field.

jtplayer said...
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jtplayer said...
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jtplayer said...

"Compact disks survived because they ARE digital, and can be played on iPods."

No Joe, compact discs have not survived merely because they can be converted and played on an ipod. They've survived for the same reason vinyl has survived, because there are still many, many consumers who want their music in that format.

Just like paper books will survive, niche or not, because many, many people will always prefer their books in that format.


"Good luck reading your print version of War and Peace on a Kindle."

I don't have to "read" my print version on my Kindle, because I can download the electronic version, and read it alongside my print version.

Just like I can go buy the new REM on cd today, and vinyl, and if I really want to contribute to Mr. Stipe and Co. I can buy all the songs individually as digital downloads.

See how that works? Choices man, plenty of choices...enough to suit everyone.

Mister Snitch! said...

I think the best way to describe e-books is that they are a trend. Just as the move away from CDs was a trend, just was the move away from VCRs to DVDs and now to on-demand streaming was/is a trend.

And the same way we're not going to reverse these trends, we are also not returning to paper-based publishing.

Loved the 'Stockholm Syndrome' analogy. Dead-on.

I've been reading your blog for just a few days, and enjoy it very much.

Robert said...

People keep interpreting Joe as being anti-print. I don't see him saying that at all.

Because his argument is not about ebooks vs. print books. Those are mere means; they are not the end.

As I understand him, Joe is pro-author. That's his end. Because he is pro-author, he's anti-legacy publisher. Specifically, he's anti-legacy publisher because they give authors poor deals on print books and worse deals on ebooks.

So, being pro-author, Joe advocates self-publishing over legacy publishing. Why? Because self-publishing is the most pro-author route.

Now, it just so happens that in driving the self-publishing route, the ebook is a new vehicle that is so fast and fuel-efficient that it can usually out-perform the print book. That doesn't mean the print book isn't a good vehicle for some purposes. After all, when you buy a new car, you don't have to stop driving your old car; you can simply turn the latter into a second car, and drive it when it's more useful or convenient.

So this isn't about the vehicle. Primarily, it's about the best route for the author to drive. I read Joe as arguing for authors to abandon the legacy publishing route, because it's a dead end. He advocates the self-publishing route for authors, because it opens us to limitless horizons. And he recommends that we select the ebook to drive that route for the most part, because it's faster and more fuel-efficient than yesterday's print vehicle. Even Joe still keeps his old print vehicle, because it's useful for specific purposes; but it's the spare car in his garage.

So, Joe: Are the analogies apt? Or have I just driven myself off the metaphorical cliff?

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Mister Snitch! said...

Going back through the comments, where I saw jtplayer's comment. I don't disagree - older formats have their place, and will linger for a long time.

But not every new song comes out on CD today, and far fewer still on vinyl. Few (if any!) new VCR cassettes are made.

Sure, older formats still exist. I can still buy old 8-tracks if I want them. But newer formats are superseding the older formats, which are fading into the background.

And some older formats, inevitably, WILL cease to be made. Polaroid's out of business. I understand some small company saw a market opportunity and began producing their film, but Fuji and (I think) Kodak went out of the film business.

Laurin Wittig said...

Joe, I love reading your blog. This post is another one that is spot on. And I've been meaning to thank you for some time now. I started following your blog when you did your blog tour, maybe two years ago. I've followed all your advice and put my three backlist books up over the fall. Since Christmas, sales first rose nicely, then last month exploded (over 3500 sold). They are exploding again so far this month (2000+ in one week). If sales stay at my current average for this month I'll make more than the combined advances on all three books from my NYC publisher (which were spread over four years) in one month. Mind you those advances were 5K each and I was expected to turn around and "invest" those advances in promoting my books.

The best part is that my first book, which at 4% royalties and a sucky print run never earned out, is now my best seller. Instead of 24 cents per book, I'm making more like $2 and the price of the book went from the publishers 5.99 to my 2.99. How is this not a win-win for authors and readers?

I can't see a scenario where I will ever give over control of my books to anyone else again. Why would I? In addition to being bad for me and my career, it would be bad for my readers.

Again, thanks for sharing your experiments in epublishing. The lessons have been invaluable.

jtplayer said...
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Coolkayaker1 said...

Robert B -- You don't understand Joe.

Robert said...

Maybe, maybe not. But I'd prefer to hear that from Joe.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Selena Kitt said...

Well I'm not Joe, but I think Robert is spot on. :P

Nicholas La Salla said...

haha, I like your Pink Floyd comparison, Joe. I think you're spot on in any case --- the sheer number of e-reading devices out there is mindboggling, and most of us have a lot of interests, fiction wise.

My sales are picking up nicely...particularly considering how I just uploaded my novel length modern ghost story One More Day two weeks ago.

Thanks again for a great blog, as always!

Nick
One More Day: A Modern Ghost Story: Only $0.99 Now!

Michelle D said...

Thank you for the inspiration! Doomsayers like Scott damper my enthusiasm for the future of e-books. But, you give me hope that this will be an enduring market.

Joe Konrath said...

No Joe, compact discs have not survived merely because they can be converted and played on an ipod.

Yes. They have.

You see many CD Walkmans these days?

How many new cars have CD players rather than mp3 jacks?

All of my friends who still buy CDs immediately rip them to mp3s.

The CD exists as a storage device, so its contents can be played on new technology like iPods and smart phones and Android tablets. That's why they're still around.

But they won't be forever.

Joe Konrath said...

Robert B -- You don't understand Joe.

Yes, he does.

But you, Coolkayaker, don't seem have a clue.

This blog is about helping authors. Always has been. Hence the title "A NEWBIE'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING."

I've learned through hard-won experience that legacy publishing is a huge mistake, and I use my blog to inform authors of this Very Important Fact.

I'm not anti-print, or anti-publisher. In fact, for years I've been trying to show publishers what they're doing wrong.

They choose not to listen. Their loss. Their big loss.

But lots of authors ARE choosing to listen.

That's the thing about beating a drum. It may sound old to those who have heard the tune before, but there are many more who haven't heard the tune yet. So the tune is worth repeating.

That doesn't make me venomous, or vindictive. It doesn't mean I have a crusade against legacy publishing and want to watch it burn.

It simply means I want to write for a living, and I found a way how to do that.

I'm sharing that way with others and warning them against ways that don't work.

Legacy publishing is broken. It's a dinosaur, and the meteor has already hit the earth.

Worse than that, it harms authors. Financially, and emotionally.

jtplayer said...

"You see many CD Walkmans these days?"

Walkmans aren't made anymore. But I can go into my local Target or Walmart and buy any number of portable cd players. Hell man, they even sell portable cassette players. Imagine that dude.

"How many new cars have CD players rather than mp3 jacks?"

Uhh...they have both. I recently bought my daughter a new car, and every single model we looked at had both. And we looked at a shitload of cars.

"All of my friends who still buy CDs immediately rip them to mp3s."

Yeah, so do I. In fact, I just did it last night with the new R.E.M. disc. So what? People still play the cds.

"The CD exists as a storage device, so its contents can be played on new technology like iPods and smart phones and Android tablets. That's why they're still around."

That is simply an ignorant statement. Period.

"But they won't be forever."

Riiight...like ebooks will be forever.

Sorry to say Joe, but it is possible for you to be wrong sometimes. Like now. Have a great day dude.

Joe Konrath said...

Walkmans aren't made anymore.

Exactly my point.

jtplayer said...

Dude...you have no point. Not on this one anyway.

But keep up the good work, seriously, as the information you put out is invaluable.

Joe Konrath said...

Dude...you have no point.

New tech outsells old tech. Always.

You're being thick.

jtplayer said...

OK Joe, whatever you say, I'm thick...you're not. Been down this road with you before dude. It's your world after all, the rest of us are just livin' in it.

Carry on man.

Adam iwritereadrate said...

Hi. Totally agree that it's not a bubble - ebooks and indie publishing offer writers a new medium to connect with their readers, and with global distribution through the Internet.

I really see it as similar to the revolutions in online music and other formally physical industries going online for a wider, more social experience than offered before.

Enjoyed the post, thanks.

Adam
iwritereadrate.com

Sweet Sweetback's Baaaadasss Song said...

JTPlayer,

After reading your exchange with Joe, I agree with Joe. In one instance he said "new technology outsells old" (which is just common sense), and you even disagreed with THAT! o:O

I think your answer was "whatever, man" or something like that. You start off with "Dude" and end with "Man" after every sentence. You just sound like Wayne's World to me. I think you're just trying to get a rise out of Joe to see how far you can push him. And you failed. People come here to listen to Joe, not you. Why not go argue on your own blog...DUDE?

Sweet Sweetback's Baaaadasss Song said...

JTPlayer,

After reading your exchange with Joe, I agree with Joe. In one instance he said "new technology outsells old" (which is just common sense), and you even disagreed with THAT! o:O

I think your answer was "whatever, man" or something like that. You start off with "Dude" and end with "Man" after every sentence. You just sound like Wayne's World to me. I think you're just trying to get a rise out of Joe to see how far you can push him. And you failed. People come here to listen to Joe, not you. Why not go argue on your own blog...DUDE?

Rasana Atreya said...

Thanks a lot for another terrific post!

I'm in an unusual position. I was offered a contract by a mainstream publisher in India. My unpublished MS was also shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia prize for unpublished manuscripts.

But I refused the publishing contract. My author friends think I'm nuts considering this is my first book.

Perhaps I am. You talk about 14.9% royalties. Yeah right. I was offered 8% and told this was the industry standard (we don't have literary agents here). And royalties on ebooks? 25% (of the 70% that Amazon offers). Since I'm a no-name author, I can't imagine selling ebooks for very high. I'm hoping to price it at $3.99. I'll also be offering it for review to as many book bloggers I can.

I'm paying for a cover designer, an editor and a print book formatter (for CreateSpace). Formatting for ebooks is about all I can manage.

Am I crazy? Only time will tell.